Friday, December 30, 2016

The Winners and Losers in Syria's Ceasefire
By Robin Wright
Six years into the world’s grisliest war and worst humanitarian crisis, a ceasefire went into effect on Friday in Syria. Russian President Vladimir Putin, its co-mastermind, admitted that it is “fragile.” Two previous ceasefires—in February and September—lasted only weeks.The odds are stacked against this one bringing an end to all the fighting, since it deals with only one of multiple wars inside Syria, which have so far killed an estimated four hundred thousand people. But the current initiative—brokered by Russia and Turkey with Iranian support—is different from past efforts. It signals big shifts in the basics of the Syrian tragedy.

For now, Russia has “won” Syria. Moscow escalated its involvement, in September, 2015, by providing the government of President Bashar al-Assad the air power he needed to pummel the rebels. The pretext was to bomb the Islamic State; it was a ruse. Some ninety per cent of Russian airstrikes have been against the rebels challenging the Syrian government. Assad could not have regained control of Aleppo—the country’s largest city and former commercial center—earlier this month without Russia. And the rebel rout in Aleppo changed the strategic reality enough to allow the Russians to step in and take the diplomatic lead on behalf of its most important ally in the Middle East.
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