Syria: hideous escalation fruit of bogus ‘ceasefire’

We really do get tired of having to say that we called it. We really do. When it was jointly announced by the US and Russia two weeks ago, we said the Syria "ceasefire" would actually mean an escalation. But even we didn't anticipate it would be this bad. The Assad regime and its Russian partners have launched more than 150 air-strikes on eastern Aleppo and surrounding towns just over the past 24 hours, leaving at least 100 dead. Far worse is sure to follow, as a water-pumping station supplying rebel-held districts of the city was hit. Rebels are accused of shutting down another station that supplies regime-held western areas of the city in retaliation. In any event, a staggering 2 million residents are without water, and the UN is warning of "catastrophic outbreaks of waterborne diseases." Ongoing bombardment prevents repair crews from reaching the stricken plants. UNICEF deputy director Justin Forsyth told the BBC: "Aleppo is slowly dying, and the world is watching, and the water is being cut off and bombed—it's just the latest act of inhumanity." (Zaman Al WaslBBC News, The Telegraph, Sept. 24; Al Jazeera, Sept. 23)

This follows the Sept. 19 air-raids on an aid convoy at a warehouse in the rebel-held town of Urum al-Kubra, outside Aleppo that left 20 dead. Missiles rained down on the site for hours—more than 20 strikes. The raid came hours after Damascus declared the ceasefire over (although the aerial terror never really stopped). Russia is denying responsibility, while the UK's Froeign Ministry is calling for the Russian commanders to be investigated for an intentional war crime. The UN has suspended all deliveries of aid in Syria. Apparently implying a "false flag" thesis, the Russian military is claiming a US drone was spotted in the vicitinity of the strike. (AFP, Sky News, Sept. 23; AFP, Sept. 21; The Telegraph, NYT, Sept. 20)

Others also called out the "ceasefire" as bogus. The Revive the Peace Movement Network wrote just before the "ceasefire" collapsed: "Under the Kerry-Lavrov deal, Washington and Moscow will be collaborating to maintain Assad in power. Solidarity with the democratic struggles is the alternative to occupations, war, dictatorships and violent sectarianism."

Syria's pro-democratic civil resistance movement (which continues to exist) also rejected the "ceasefire" as a cover for greater aggression. A group of some 150 Syrian writers, artists, and journalists issued a statement, identifying themselves as "democrats and secularists, in opposition to the al-Assad's tyrannical regime for many years or decades, and participants in the struggle for democracy and justice in our country, our region, and the world." Their stilted English does not lack clarity: "[W]e wish to express our condemnation in the most sever of terms of the proximity of the two intervening powers in Syria, the United States and Russia in our Syrian affair and their work since 2013 at least to register Syrians liberation struggle as 'a war against terror'. There is not one successful story in their records but in the record there is the story of the destruction of a number of countries." (Zaman Al Wasl, Sept. 17)

The UK-based Syria Solidarity Campaign went further, flatly accusing the United States of cooperating with Russia to affect regime advances on the ground. They repeated charges that the US is constraining the rebel forces from fighting the regime as the cost of receiving aid, insisting they fight only ISIS. This has most recently resulted in the fall of Moadamiyeh and Daraya, followed by their forced evacuation. The Solidarity Campaign accuses: "The fall of Daraya and its ethnic cleansing was ordained by the US, Britain and Jordan." The statement notes instructions to rebels from the Military Operations Command, established to support the rebels in Jordan. The MOC actually seems to be doing more controlling and restraining than supporting.

The Washington Post reports Sept. 23 that the White House "worked behind the scenes" last week to squelch a bipartisan bill sanctioning the Assad regime's financiers for complicity in war crimes. The administration successfully prevented the bill from going a vote in the House of Representatives. The Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act (named for the famous defector who brought regime atrocities to light) would have meant extending sanctions to Russia and Iran.

The objective reality is that the US is now fighting on the side of Assad. If the situation is at this moment spinning back toward superpower confrontation, this is despite the best efforts of Obama to cooperate with the Russians to prop up the regime. This was made especially clear by the plans for actual US-Russia military cooperation in Syria.

The US is bombing Assad's enemies ISIS and the Nusra Front, which were never included in the "ceasefire." It is arming other of his enemies, the FSA—but with the proviso that they not use those arms to fight Assad, only ISIS. And, as part of the "ceasefire," it was implicitly threatening to bomb the FSA unless they go to war with Nusra—which they are very poorly posiitoned to do, already on the defensive against regime advances. The "ceasefire" was aimed at appeasing international demands for a no-fly zone, while actually expanding the bombing—making the US an active partner in Assad's genocide.

In declaring the ceasefire over, Assad cited the US bombardment of regime forces last week—rejecting the explanation that it was an error. (CBC, Sept. 22) So Obama may have scuttled his sinister "peace" deal unintentionally. The breakdown of the ceasefire may increase risk of superpower confrontation and internationalization of the war. Or, it may be rebuilt. For the Syrians themselves, the difference probably means little.