The Syrian government and the main elements of the rebel opposition have announced their conditional acceptance of a ceasefire proposed by both the United States and Russia. This agreement will reportedly take effect on Saturday, the 27th of February.
Though the international community hopes this draws the sides closer to the Geneva negotiations, there is some uncertainty as to the details behind this newest agreement. According to a report by Hassan Ammar from the Associated Press, the five-page plan “leaves open how breaches of the ceasefire will be identified or punished.”
Ammar states that this truce would not cover groups such as ISIS, al-Qaeda (also known as the al-Nusra Front), and other groups labeled as terrorist organizations.
The Syrian Civil War has dragged on for over five years now, and has gone through its share of conditional ceasefires. Meanwhile, it continues to ensnare dozens of countries and has caused the displacement of millions of civilians who have flooded neighboring countries, as well as Europe and the U.S., with refugees—stirring emotions and providing a back door for potential terrorists looking for ways to exact their violent plots against the civilized world. In addition, this conflict has renewed tensions between the U.S. and her Cold War arch enemy, the pseudo-democratic state of Russia. Some are concerned that this could quickly spin out of control, repeating the alliance-led catastrophe that became World War I.
Adding to the list of sovereign hands in the pot, Saudi Arabia may soon be joining the efforts to force an end to the meat grinder that is Syria. Their hands full, the Saudis have been working to end the threat by Houthi rebels south of their border in Yemen. However, their eyes remain fixed on the seemingly never-ending instability to their north in Iraq and Syria, which is much too close for their comfort. As they move into their annual military games, Northern Thunder, they are not-so-covertly sending a message of their strength in allies and their ability, despite opinions to the contrary, to fight a war on two fronts.
The next steps by Saudi Arabia are still not apparent, but their proverbial fur is up. What’s more, their normally laissez-faire attitude has been shed, replaced by more hawkish statements. Adel Al Jubeir, the Saudi foreign minister, has called for the removal of al-Assad by political process or by force. However, this new ceasefire might be just what the Saudis and the rest of the world have been hoping for.
A resolution to this conflict would be welcome news for the world and would free up forces, such as those from Russia, the U.S., and Saudi Arabia, to focus on things more pressing to worldwide security. Concerns such as ISIS, which, according to a report by Reuters, has been forced on the defensive due to some encouraging gains being made by the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq and, to a lesser degree, in Syria. These reported results further bolster the idea that if the Syrian Civil War could be resolved or even diplomatically halted, we could find ourselves in an ideal position to deal a death blow to ISIS.
The world anxiously awaits the results of this ceasefire, effective at midnight on Friday, and whether this will lead to actual results. However, many in the Pentagon and CIA are convinced that Russia will not adhere to the terms of this new agreement. One can only hope the bear in the north will allow peace a chance. The U.S., its allies, and the world watch with baited breath.
(Featured image courtesy of npr.org)