by Prof. Eyal Zisser
A glance at the details of the agreement reveals a lack of real content and a near-zero chance of implementation
In an apparent set ritual, futile and pointless, the Russian and American foreign ministers have announced for the umpteenth time that a deal has been reached to end the war waging in Syria. The first step in this deal is a cease-fire set to begin on Monday.
A glance at the details of the agreement reveals a lack of real content and a near-zero chance of implementation. Firstly, the deal 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.
Secondly, the agreement does not include any framework or practical steps to jump-start or advance a political process, nor anything that would help close the gap among rebel demands. It also does not include any steps to mediate between the desire of the international community, led by Washington, to oust Syrian President Bashar Assad and Russia's desire to keep him in power.
Beyond this, no one among the warring sides in Syria has any interest in a deal. Assad is convinced that time plays to his advantage. The Russians, Iranians and Hezbollah, who are fighting Assad's war, have managed significant accomplishments in recent months. In the battle over Aleppo, on which they imposed a siege, they brought the Syrian ruler closer to victory -- even if not total or decisive -- against his opposition.
The important part of the deal is the Russian-American declaration of a joint effort to combat terrorism. Here too, there is nothing behind the fancy words. The United States is already making every effort to fight Islamic State, and given 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.
This Russian-American deal came about three years after the September 2013 deal to rid Syria of chemical weapons. Yet, just last week, a U.N. report indicated that over the past year, Assad has used chemical weapons against his opponents -- weapons that he supposedly did not have.
The American silence following this finding was impressive. It attested that the American administration is desperate to portray at any price to the media and to the public that there has been progress toward a solution to the Syrian crisis.
But America is not willing to impose the full weight of the deal to ensure success or to work against those who try to make it fail. At the end of the day, what can we really expect from the confusion and incompetence that now characterize Washington's path in the Middle East?
In contrast, Russia is moving forward in its effort to attain the status of a leading superpower in the Middle East. If the Russian attempt to host a meeting in Moscow between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas succeeds, it will only be further proof that to achieve results in the region, one must go through Moscow, and not Washington as in the past.
Prof. Eyal Zisser
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