Monday, February 15, 2016

MIDEAST - While Syria Burns

"Russian airstrikes continue despite fragile Syrian cease-fire agreement" PBS NewsHour 2/12/2016

You didn't actually expect Russia to honor the agreement, in fact there was a built-in loop-hole.


SUMMARY:  Seventeen nations led by the U.S. and Russia offered a Syrian cease-fire agreement in Munich Friday, to be enacted in one week.  But Russian airstrikes in the region have continued unabated, President Bashar al-Assad is still vowing to retake all of Syria, and rebel groups, who were not part of negotiations, may be reluctant to comply.  Chief foreign affairs correspondent Margaret Warner reports.

MARGARET WARNER (NewsHour):  Moreover, the agreement allows continued airstrikes against ISIS and similar terror groups.  That provision could let Russia continuing attacking any rebel groups fighting against its ally, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

It’s a point not lost on rebels on the ground today.

MAN (through interpreter):  I do not like the idea of cease-fire, because it might be for our benefit only for a short period of time.  But the things we’re watching right now, including airstrikes in the northern and southern rural areas or in the liberated areas that we are in, this is not called cease-fire.

MARGARET WARNER:  As if to confirm it, Assad told Agence France-Presse in an interview yesterday, before the deal was announced, that he means to retake the whole of Syria.   He said: “This is a goal we are seeking to achieve without any hesitation.  It makes no sense for us to say that we will give up any part.”

Indeed, the Syrian military and its allies, backed by Iran and by the Russian airstrikes, are now on the verge of cutting off Aleppo, the country’s largest city.  They have severed all but one of the rebels’ vital supply lines to the north from Turkey, and continue gaining ground.  That would leave Assad stronger than he has been in years.

All this leaves the various rebel factions in a precarious position.  They were not part of the Munich agreement and must now decide whether to abide by what was approved there.  Today, the main opposition umbrella group, which supports the cease-fire generally, called this one a weak agreement.

An adviser for the group predicted the Russians will intensify their bombing in the coming days, telling the “NewsHour”: “The Russians are setting the pace on the ground and they still will.  The agreement weakens us and moderate allies, while allowing Assad to set the terms.”

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