Syria: ‘ceasefire’ signals escalation (of course)

On Feb. 12, the International Syria Support Group (ISSG)—made up of the US, Russia, EU, Arab League, Iran and other powers—reached an agreement in (oh, the irony!) Munich for a "cessation of hostilities," to take effect in one week. You can bet that this signals a major escalation in the war. Already diplomats are saying "It's not worth the paper it's printed on." The Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov made clear the loophole big enough for a fleet of MIGs to pass through. "The truce does not go for terrorists… The military operation against them will be continued." Given the Russian propaganda trick of calling whoever they want to bomb "terrorists," this makes the whole deal utterly meaningless. Specifically, air-strikes on ISIS and the Nusra Front are excluded from the deal, but we shall see if there is any let-up at all in the horrific aerial bombardment of FSA-held territory. Russian and regime air-strikes have already cut off water supplies to the remaining inhabitants in besieged Aleppo. Bashar Assad has wasted no time in announcing that he intends to retake "the whole country" from rebel forces. We hate to agree with John McCain, but he called it when he said the Munich agreement is "diplomacy in the service of military aggression." The deal was arrived at without the participation of the Free Syrian Army, much less any voices of Syria's civil resistance. This "ceasefire" will not result in the ceasing of a single shot from being fired. As with previous bogus "peace" breakthroughts, the result will be much to the contrary. You read it here first. (Daily Sabah, Feb. 14; The Telegraph, EA WorldView, BBC News, BBC News, Feb. 12; Daily Sabah, Feb. 10)

The war is clearly about to much further internationalized. Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Riyadh and Ankara are coordinating plans to intervene in Syria. Saudi Arabia is sending planes to the Turkish base of Incirlik, a key hub for US-led coalition operations against ISIS. (AFP, Feb. 13) But you can bet the Turkish-Saudi intervention force will not just be fighting ISIS—not any more than their Russian rivals are. They will be intervening to back up the most reactionary Islamist elements of the FSA, just as Russia is backing up the genocidal Assad regime. 

Armed forces from some 20 Arab countries are now gathering in northern Saudi Arabia for "Thunder of the North" military maneuvers—right on the Syrian border, an unsubtle message of what is prepared. (AFP, Feb. 14)

Although both Russia and Turkey are both ostensibly fighting ISIS, it is questionable whether either really is. They are clearly more interested in fighting each other, and each others' local proxy forces. Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu predicted that Russia will withdraw in defeat from Syria just as it did from Afghanistan a generation ago. (MEM, Feb. 11)

The Iranian military presence in Syria is also being dramatically beefed up, with tens of thousands of ground troops being sent in to back up the Assad regime, according to regional media reports. (IBT, Feb. 8) And Russia is said to have elite Spetsnaz troops already on the ground. (LAT, Feb. 9)

Russian war crimes continue on a near-daily basis—such as air-strikes on hospitals. Seven people were killed in an air strike on a Doctors Without Borders hospital in the northern Syrian town of Maarat al-Numan, the organization said Feb. 15, calling it a "deliberate" attack by either Russian or regime warplanes. (BBC News, Feb. 15)

"It's like Stalingrad. They raze entire areas," Yamen Ahmad, an FSA commander in Latakia, told Middle East Eye. "There is no way to resist this scorched earth policy the Russians are deploying with their strikes across Syria."

But, however desperate their situation, the Syrian resistance would be wise not place their faith in Turkish-led intervention. Joseph Daher of the Revolutionary Left Current, a progressive voice of the civil resistance, called it in a statement on the group's Syria Freedom Forever website: "ALL the International Powers Want to Crush the Syrian Uprising." Daher called out Russia and Iran for helping to carry out Assad's "policy of extermination," but added: "[W]e also oppose the interventions of Gulf monarchies and Turkey…which [are] to advance their own selfish political interests and not the ones of the Syrian people and to change the nature of the revolution into a sectarian war… following a similar behaviour therefore of the Assad regime and its allies."