by Chelsea Cabral, Staff Writer
On September 12, another ceasefire began in hopes to end Syria’s violent five-year strife. Now, the world watches and holds its breath to see if it’s successful.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russia’s Foreign Affairs Minister Sergey Lavrov came to a tentative agreement with a ceasefire renewal in Syria this past week in Geneva, Switzerland.
Both Kerry and Lavrov said that the deal would help in discontinuing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s air force from flying combat missions in any location where opposition forces are present. This would allow routes for humanitarian aid to bring medicine and food to ravaged parts of the nation.
In a press release, Kerry describes “that [the ceasefire] should put an end to the indiscriminate bombing of individual neighborhoods.”
He also regarded al-Assad’s air force as the “main driver of civilian casualties,” and the cause for migrant flows.
If all goes well and the truce holds for seven days, Russia and the U.S. will set up and coordinate their military air forces in attacks against the Islamic State and the al-Nusra front.
Also, finally, it can allow room for the Syrian government and rebel groups to negotiate and put an end to the civil war.
The plan would be extraordinary, especially considering the small amount of leverage that the U.S. has held in this situation.
There is optimism all around the world that the ceasefire will be successful, like that from Ben Solomon, a junior Political Science major.
“I’m glad the ceasefire was able to be negotiated; it seemed impossible. It’s a good sign to me because of all the issues we have had with Russia and diplomacy lately,” he says.
However, it all seems really unlikely if you consider both parties who had a say in the ceasefire deal.
The two major world powers, the United States and Russia, hold very different national interests and goals for this ceasefire. They both want a truce, but the sought after end game is different for both parties involved.
Secretary of State John Kerry wants all sides to be pushed towards negotiation and wants a new kind of government to be set up, one that would slowly ease al-Assad out of power.
On the other hand, Russia, the nation who sent planes and troops to boost al-Assad, mainly seeks to have the government stabilized.
The power hungry Assad wants to keep all of the control he’s attained by using the ceasefire to expand his military and diplomatic positions. And that is exactly what he did with Russian help last year during a brief ceasefire, which ultimately failed.
You might be thinking practically and asking yourself: how is this truce even going to be enforced?
In an interview with the LA Times, former U.S. ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford, said, “For a ceasefire to work, you need a monitoring group on the ground—and there isn’t one.”
What if Assad violates the deal? It seems like there are many long term risks associated with the ceasefire.
If the U.S. and Russia are successful in defeating the al-Nusra front, there’s really nothing to stop the Assad government from just restarting the war in the smaller and weakened parts of Syria.
Kerry stressed the fact that the success of the operation relies on the goodwill and trust of those involved.
There really is no clear path to success with the peace negotiations Kerry wants—even if the government and the rebels do show up.
However, if there’s one thing at stake here, it’s the lives of millions of Syrian people.
In the five-year time that this war has been going on, over four million Syrians have been forced to flee their home and over eight million have been displaced inside the country according to the UNHCR (United Nations Refugee Agency).
Thousands of civilian causalities have been reported since mid-September, with the activist group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reporting over 15,000 children have died.
The dire humanitarian state for civilians on both sides is pushing for an urgent resolution to the fight, and Kerry deserves credit for bringing about this ceasefire, even if it ends up being a brief one or not.
At the moment, it’s hard to say if this ceasefire is indeed the last hope for peace in Syria. Only time will tell.