Syrian "cease-fire" may be DOA after two days

The cease fire in the Syrian Civil War may be DOA after only two days. The completely unsurprising observation came from Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov during a meeting in Munich (via Reuters).

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, asked at a security conference in Munich on Saturday to assess the chances of the cessation of hostilities deal succeeding, replied: “49 percent.”

Asked the same question, his German counterpart Frank-Walter Steinmeier put the odds at 51 percent.

It certainly doesn’t appear the cease fire is going to work at all because Syria’s army is probably going to try to capture Raqqa from ISIS, while Turkey went after Kurdish militia. But it also shows how difficult it is for world powers to agree on a “problem” they didn’t create, but definitely exacerbated. The Syrian Civil War was a civil war until the West decided to get involved, which caused Russia to increase their involvement to support the current government. Now the countries can’t even come up with agreements because everyone has an agenda and no one really wants to work together (via Bloomberg).

[ Sergei ] Lavrov said the agreement reached in Munich before the conference will fail unless there’s constant military coordination between Russia and the U.S. in Syria. “If we have a practical goal of a cease-fire, then without cooperation between our militaries, this won’t lead to anything,” he said on a panel with his colleagues from Germany and the U.K…

The U.S. has refused to coordinate its coalition’s airstrikes against Islamic State in Syria with the Russian bombing campaign because of accusations Russia isn’t focused on the jihadists but the Assad opposition. The U.S. has only agreed to an accord to avoid incidents in the skies above Syria.

The U.S. and Russia plan to chair a meeting with military officials in Geneva next week to seek agreement on which areas of Syria can be bombed. The cessation of hostilities is due to apply to all sides in the conflict apart from Islamic State, the al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front and any other groups designated as terrorist by the UN Security Council.

I’ll be completely shocked (and able to be knocked over with a feather) if any real action comes from this week’s meeting because of America’s opinion on Russia. I’m no fan of the Bear at all, but it’s doubtful any real progress will be made if President Barack Obama isn’t willing to meet with the Russians on equal ground. Obama may wish to believe Russia isn’t a superpower (and its economy isn’t exactly fantabulous), but President Vladimir Putin does wield some power in this situation because of his alliance with Bashar al-Assad. But the fact both Obama and Putin had a phone conversation today (which the Kremlin suggested was at Obama’s initiative) does give a little bit of hope the two will cooperate or at least try to. They have to work together if they want the cease fire to stay in place and some of the fighting to stop or at least die down a bit. It doesn’t mean the civil war will completely end because Assad wants to stay in power, and the rebels want him gone, but if the “common goal” is truly stopping ISIS, then a pact of some kind is better than nothing. It is possible Arizona Senator John McCain is right that Russia isn’t interested in being a partner to America on Syria, but it’s at least worth trying until Putin proves everyone wrong.

At the same time, this entire situation could have been avoided if the U.S. hadn’t been involved in Syria. This five country meeting between the U.S., Russia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Iran reminds me of post-World War I where Europe was carved up into countries which had never really existed before the Treaty of Versailles. This isn’t suggesting Syria is going to be chopped up (although it might), but it doesn’t seem like a recipe for success when the people actually fighting the civil war have no seat at the table or say in the negotiations. It’s possible the Syrian government and rebels don’t even want a seat or say because all they care about is winning the civil war. If the cease fire doesn’t hold, what’s to stop the U.S. or Russia or Saudi Arabia or Turkey or Iran to say, “screw it” and invade under the claim of “keeping the peace”? This entire thing just seems like a recipe for disaster and another reason why America should reconsider getting involved in situations it didn’t create or has no stake in. The better option is free trade, by letting businesses and charities go into Syria after the fighting is over to help the people recover and show them how free markets equal freedom.

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