Another ceasefire unlikely to further political solution to conflict in Syria
Another ceasefire unlikely to further political solution to conflictA Russian and US brokered ceasefire came into effect at 1900hrs local time on 12 September following months of negotiations. The foreign-backed cessation of hostilities has largely held in the first few days, although terrorist organisations, namely Islamic State (IS) and Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (JFS), are exempt from the truce. The ceasefire will be renewed every 48 hours if it holds. Worryingly, the US appears to be moving towards showing support for President Bashar al-Assad’s aerial campaign, with US Secretary of State John Kerry hinting at possible cooperation with government airstrikes against IS and other terrorist groups. Assad has vowed to fight all terrorists and regain control of all of Syria, highlighting the unlikelihood that the ceasefire will help facilitate a political solution to the conflict.
Although the ceasefire has seen a significant decline in hostilities, fighting is expected to resume swiftly once it is broken, particularly if terrorist organisations, such as IS and JSF, are seen to be regrouping and preparing to expand towards government-held regions. Previous cessations of hostilities have been followed by major government-led offensives on rebel-held areas as troops and their allied militias use the lull in fighting to regroup and prepare for major assaults. A previous cessation of hostilities in Aleppo earlier in 2016 was followed by a concerted government offensive that resulted in the temporary encirclement of rebel-held districts. This is likely to occur again in the coming weeks as Assad’s regime continues to use siege tactics to force the capitulation of opposition forces. In August, rebels in Daraya surrendered and left the area following five years of siege by the government. This success will bolster other efforts to seek victory via sieges.
Indicative of the government’s future plans to once again besiege Aleppo, officials announced on 13 September that no aid deliveries will be allowed to enter the city unless they are coordinated or affiliated with the government or the UN. The announcement came several days after more than 70 Syrian aid agencies announced they will no longer work with the UN due to its funding of Syrian companies linked to sanctioned individuals, with several regime-linked entities receiving millions of dollars’ worth of funding in recent years. The refusal of the Assad regime to allow the free movement of aid into the country could be a trigger for the end of the ceasefire and highlights the government’s lack of commitment to ending the civil war via any other means but military victory.