Secretary of State John Kerry’s precarious deal with Russia has opened an opportunity for Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad to consolidate his power and destroy any remaining threats to his rule.
“Russia courts John Kerry like a high school prom date whose pants you want to get in to,” Michael Rubin, a former Pentagon adviser and current Middle East scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “[Russia is] willing to tell Kerry whatever Kerry wants to hear in order to achieve [it’s] goal. I think Kerry is the loosest girl at the prom at this point.”
Just hours before the ceasefire began Friday, Assad said he was determined to “reclaim every area from the terrorists, and to rebuild [the country].” Assad and his Russian allies draw no distinction between the Islamist terrorist organizations, such as the al-Qaida-linked Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (JFS, formerly known as the Nusra front), and traditional Syrian opposition groups like the Free Syrian Army (FSA).
“There is no international definition of terrorism,” Rubin told TheDCNF. “‘We are opposed to terrorism except for those causes with with which we agree,’ and Russia plays this masterfully.”
Rubin noted that Assad and Russia regularly take advantage of the unclear terrorism label to fit their own purposes.
The cessation of hostilities agreement, brokered by the U.S. and Russia, calls for a “genuine reduction of violence” between all parties in Syria for one week starting Monday. According to the agreement’s terms, Russia and the U.S. must notify one-another and before bombing any terrorist targets in Syria, however, it is unclear how Assad fits in to the equation.
“There is no penalty worked into the ceasefire arrangement, no enforcement mechanism. So that if anyone violates it, there’s nothing anyone can do,” explained Rubin, who noted this is an issue the Syrian opposition has often complained about. The lack of an enforcement mechanism was a main reason for the last cessation’s failure earlier this year, noted Rubin.
While Assad’s military has supposedly accepted the ceasefire, many his enemies have not. Ahrar al-Sham, one of the largest rebel groups which is also linked to al-Qaida, has stated it will not respect the agreement, potentially giving Assad an excuse to continue the five-year massacre of his own people under the guise of fighting terrorism.
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