After months of negotiating with Russia, John Kerry has obtained a “cease fire” agreement in Syria. The Washington Post characterizes the agreement as “the renewal of a cease-fire,” which tells you all you need to know about the value of this deal. Like its predecessors, this agreement was made to be broken as far as Russia is concerned.
Even significant portions of the Obama administration appear not to believe in the agreement. According to the Post, “as Kerry negotiated with the Russians over the past several months, officials at the Pentagon and some at the White House did little to hide their skepticism about the proposed deal.”
Their skepticism is well-founded. Eyal Zisser, a professor of contemporary history of the Middle East at Tel Aviv University and the school’s vice rector, explains why.
A glance at the details of the agreement reveals a lack of real content and a near-zero chance of implementation. [It] fails to include a large portion of the rebel camp, most notably the Islamic State group and the Nusra Front, and we can assume that the Syrian regime will be quick to violate the terms of the deal, justifying it with the claim that it is fighting these radical rebel groups.
The problem, according to Zisser, is that Russia and its allies have no interest in a lasting cease fire. Their interest is in victory over the rebels. To accomplish this, they will resume hostilities at a time of their choosing, as they have in the past.
What about the part of the agreement whereby the U.S. and Russia agree to coordinate efforts against ISIS? “Here too,” says Zisser, “there is nothing behind the fancy words”:
[G]iven the lack of trust between the sides, it is doubtful that the Russians can or want to help. After all, Islamic State is not among the Russian list of priorities in Syria. The Russians are instead concerned about the moderate rebel groups that the U.S. supports, and which pose a threat to Assad’s rule in western Syria.
Zisser also reminds us that the latest “cease fire” agreement comes almost exactly three years after Kerry’s 2013 deal with Russia that was supposed to rid Syria of chemical weapons. Like the cease fire, that deal was a farce. Just last week, Zisser notes, a U.N. report confirmed that over the past year, Assad has used chemical weapons against his opponents.
The Russians have been making fools of Kerry and President Obama — he of the “red line” — ever since. As I put it here, while Kerry impersonates Charlie Brown, Russia impersonates Lucy pulling away the football.
And while Kerry keeps falling hard on his backside, Syrians suffer immeasurably, Europe faces a migration crisis as a result, and Russia supplants the U.S. as the leading outside power in the Middle East.