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Friday, July 7, 2017

The "Cease Fire" In Syria

The United States and Russia agreed today to a cease fire in southwestern Syria, according to an announcement by the Jordanian Foreign Ministry.  The area in question is south of Damascus and adjacent to the borders between Syria and both Israel and Jordan.  According to the agreement, the Assad forces and the rebels backed by the USA will no longer be fighting each other in the region.  Nothing in the agreement, however, calls for an end to the fighting with ISIS or the al Nusra front (the al Qaeda affiliate in the region.)  There will be no bombing in the region.  Russian military police will monitor the cease fire.

The main question about this cease fire is whether it will hold.  There have been previous cease fires that managed to last about a week.  Can this one really last?  The main answer to that question is how the Assad forces and the Iranians react to the pact.  If those forces decide to attack the rebels in the region, the cease fire will dissolve in record time.  On the other hand, if the fighting between these groups end, it will not take long for ISIS to be only a memory in this region.

One interesting thing about the area covered by the cease fire is that it is one in which the Assad forces find their ability to project power severely limited.  Israel, Jordan and the USA can each put much more force in the region than the Assad regime could ever hope to do.  Without a doubt, the relative weakness of the Assad forces in this region explains, at least in part, why the agreement was possible.

This is also the area in which Israel has been retaliating against the Assad forces when those forces have hit Israeli territory with misguided artillery.  A cease fire here ends the embarrassment for the Assad forces that their inaction in the face of Israeli retaliation has meant.


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