The U.S. somberly announced a ceasefire agreement Saturday with Russia in Syria, essentially ceding the country’s future to Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad.
The agreement stipulates that beginning Monday morning, all parties in Syria will begin a “genuine reduction of violence,” for a period of one week. If the ceasefire holds for a week, then the U.S. will open a joint operations center with Russia meant to target the Islamic State and al-Qaida elements in Syria.
“The U.S. government doesn’t want Assad to remain but their actions aren’t doing anything to get him to leave, they’ve only helped him stay in power,” Bill Roggio, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense Democracies, explained to The Daily Caller News Foundation. Assessing the ceasefire Roggio elaborated, “These ceasefire’s don’t hold, everyone uses them for their own advantage, some groups will get some supplies, and then the fighting will resume.”
Secretary of State John Kerry himself reportedly shares Roggio’s pessimism regarding the ceasefire. Kerry privately admits to friends and confidants he does not think his newly brokered ceasefire with Russia in Syria will work, The New York Times reports. Kerry instead frames the ceasefire as a way to protect his and President Barack Obama’s legacy in Syria, to show that they at least tried to stop the bloodshed of the Syrian civil war.
Obama’s White House won’t even publicly commit to the ceasefire’s full implementation, likely echoing Kerry’s private sentiments. “I think we’d have some reasons to be skeptical that the Russians are able or are willing to implement the arrangement consistent with the way it’s been described,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters Monday.
The ceasefire reflects the Obama administration’s belief that U.S. Syria policy has left the U.S. no other option but to leave Syria to Assad. “There is no real powerful Syrian opposition left to work with,” Roggio declared. Radical Islamic fighters are the only strong opposition forces left, even though the U.S. has spent hundreds of millions of dollars supporting moderate groups.
The removal of the moderate opposition, and the U.S. concession to Assad, likely ensures the Syrian civil war will continue for years to come. Roggio explained that “the extreme opposites are the real power-brokers in Syria.” He continued that the radical opposition in Syria will never stop fighting Assad, and that Assad will never stop fighting them in return.
“I don’t see a chance of United Syria based not his ceasefire” Roggio closed.
The picture of Syria in 2015 was quite different than it is today. The Assad regime appeared to be on its last legs, controlling less territory than at any time since the war began. The U.S. was the predominant Western power inside Syria, with a new $500 million train and equip program. Obama envisioned thousands of U.S.-backed fighters trained in Turkey and Jordan fighting ISIS with U.S. supplied weapons.
The U.S. discontinued the train and equip program in October 2015, after the Pentagon spent millions of taxpayer dollars and only trained a handful of fighters. Worse, several U.S. fighters defected to al-Qaida’s Syrian affiliate and turned over their weapons. Obama administration officials admitted to The New York Times in 2015, that their strategy simply wouldn’t work because most Syrian rebels were focused on fighting the Assad regime and didn’t much care about ISIS.
Amidst Russia’s vigorous 2015 intervention in Syria, Obama sought to clarify his own goals and what program he would pursue going forward. Michael Kofman, a Global Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Institute, assesses that in the wake of Russia’s intervention, Obama “basically bowed out.” He elaborated that the U.S. has “accepted” that Assad is likely to stay in power.
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