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Saturday, July 8, 2017

More On the South Syria Cease Fire

The cease fire in southwestern Syria is not due to go into effect until tomorrow, but it's worth a bit of further examination today.  The entire enterprise may fail like all the previous cease fires in Syria.  If so, at least it was worth a try.  Nevertheless, what motivated the Russians to agree to this cease fire in a region where the Assad forces are not in control?  The answer appears to be that Russia is attempting to restrain the Iranians and even the Assad forces from drawing both Jordan and Israel into fighting in that region.  For the last month, there have been over twenty instances of Syrian artillery landing inside Israeli territory.  Each time, the Israelis have fired back and inflicted major damage on the Assad forces.  Elsewhere in the same region, Iranian backed militias and Iranian troops have moved to attack US backed forces who are confronting ISIS.  There have been American air attacks launched on these attacking forces to prevent them from hitting our allies.  Jordan has moved troops nearer its side of the border during this time as well.  Reports from Washington state that the Pentagon believes that Iran and Assad were trying to gauge the US reaction to possible attacks.  Most likely, they were trying to do the same thing with the Israelis.  The response that Iran and Assad got from Israel and the USA was immediate counterfire and strong defensive moves.

So take a step back and think like a Russian for a moment.  Your two main allies are steadily attacking and inciting the USA and Israel and even threatening Jordan.  You don't want a major increase in American efforts in Syria which would surely be the result if Assad/Iran were to kill American troops.  You want your allies to back off.  After all, you know that American forces (or Israeli forces for that matter) could easily defeat the Assad forces and smash the Iranian troops in Syria as well.  Without Assad in power, you might lose your naval base on the Mediterranean or your air force base in western Syria.  That's why Putin stepped in an agreed to a cease fire.  He wants to protect Russia's position as well as his allies.

It will be interesting to see if the Iranians and Assad actually comply with the ceasefire.  The behavior of these two will tell us a great deal about how much influence Putin really has in Syria.

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