A cease fire made in hell?


"The truce will not cover the Islamic State, the al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front and any other militias designated as terrorist organizations by the U.N. Security Council. Both the U.S. and Russia are still targeting those groups with airstrikes. The State Department made the five-page plan public after Presidents Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin spoke by telephone Monday.

Even if the cease-fire takes hold, fighting will by no means cease in Syria.

Russia will surely press on with an air campaign that it insists is targeting terrorists, but which the U.S. and its partners say is mainly hitting "moderate" opposition groups and killing civilians. While ISIS tries to expand its self-proclaimed caliphate in Syria and neighboring Iraq, al-Nusra is unlikely to end its effort to overthrow Assad. The Kurds have been fighting ISIS, even as they face attacks from America's NATO ally Turkey. And Assad has his own history of broken promises when it comes to military action."  NBC news


Someone explain to me what the point of this "cease fire" will be.

Are Lavrov and Kerry just playing kissy face for the world audience?

Is this an example of the diplomats' delusion that little steps lead to big steps and then to "The Peaceable Kingdom?"  Yes, yes, I know all about negotiating techniques.  I was a diplomat for quite a long time.

IS, Nusra and "other groups designated by the UN" will not be included in the "cease fire."  Does that mean that the US led coalition and R+6 will be free to continue to wage war against them?

In NW and SW Syria the non-IS rebels and the "secular" FSA unicorn groups are very mixed together.  The US probably likes that.  These favored rebels might be able to gain a respite from the defeats they have been suffering and the disaster they are facing at the hands of R+6.

Trickery, delusions, fantasies, these will be the fruits of such a "cease fire."  If the "cease fire"  occurs, the parties will use the time gained to prepare for the resumption of hostilities.  pl


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94 Responses to A cease fire made in hell?

  1. Laguerre says:

    The question seems to me what the Russians think they are going to gain by this cease-fire. As you say, the rebels are very mixed together. If the agreement is only to continue war against UN-condemned rebels, then the US will have to reveal its intelligence about rebel positions, in order to define which positions can be legitimately attacked, and which protected. Or else it will be, sorry, we made a mistake.

  2. walden says:

    A commentator on RT’s Crosstalk joked today that Russia probably does not expect much fruit from these diplomatic meetings but may see the sessions as a kind of seven-step group therapy to help the U.S./West come to grips with reality.

  3. rakesh says:

    Russian stocks went up

  4. JJackson says:

    I am not sure what really changed.
    The SAA wake up to a quiet ‘cessation of hostilities’ first day and, not having much on, decide to go for a drive to Idlib. To everybody’s shock someone shoots at them. They are obviously not signatures to the cessation agreement ergo open season.
    How are you meant to know the motivation or allegiance of an RPG coming from a trench given the overlapping and shifting patchwork of factions in NW Syria.

  5. SmoothieX12 says:

    “Are Lavrov and Kerry just playing kissy face for the world audience?”
    Yes, this too. I will express here an opinion which may not seat that well with some people and I totally get it why. But it is a 800-pound gorilla of sorts in the room. While this agreement serves as one of the possible constrictive measures for Erdogan and his possible suicidal decision which may lead to some serious consequences, this agreement also gives US what is being discussed increasingly in the loud voice–the face-saving way out. After all, none other than Ralph Peters stated that Russian military wanted to humiliate US. We may, of course, spend some time discussing the validity of Peters’ point, but there is no doubt that this whole Syria situation does portray US in not very favorable light, to put it mildly. Even this French shill Loran Fabius talked about it today. Implementation of some kind of cease fire, especially under common Russo-American agreement could play a very important un-humiliating role and does, indeed, create the room fro US. Will this cease fire hold or not is, of course, the whole other story and as the saying goes, will cross that bridge…. Russia never wanted to humiliate USA, she was too busy dealing with what does amount to clear and present danger to Russia’s southern soft-belly.

  6. Bill Herschel says:

    From the American point of view, the entire purpose of the cessation of hostilities agreement was to get out from under 2254.
    I guarantee Lavrov did not permit that to happen and that, if anything, in its entirety it recapitulates and reconfirms 2254 and tightens the embrace of 2254 on the United States.
    Humanitarian aid? The Russians are all for humanitarian aid. Why shouldn’t they be?

  7. charly says:

    I think it is not meant to be a cease fire for Northern Syria (“Northern” as in everything above Damascus) but one for the South and i think (hope) that part will hold.

  8. Prem says:

    Interesting State Dept. quote in the jpost:
    “Russia and the regime will target the areas of the revolutionaries on the pretext of the Nusra Front’s presence, and you know how mixed those areas are, and if this happens, the truce will collapse,” he said.
    But the Obama administration responded to that criticism swiftly on Monday afternoon, defending their decision to exclude the terrorist organization from any cease-fire, as well as Washington’s ability to identify its whereabouts.
    “If you hang out with the wrong folks,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner said, “you choose who you hang out with, and that sends a signal.”
    So, are they throwing the moderate head-choppers under the bus?

  9. aleksandar says:

    tks walden, you made my day !

  10. Matthew says:

    Too clever by half. See https://twitter.com/yeh1a/status/701895285052719106.
    The FSA used Al-Nusra as a force multiplier. They seeded their TOW commandos into Al Nursa. And now they realize Uncle Sam agreed to a deal that permits the Russians and Assad to continue to hit Nusra.
    I’m crying crocodile tears here.

  11. turcopolier says:

    If you take Peters seriously you don’t belong here. pl

  12. NotTimothyGeithner says:

    Most Western populations never supported the attacks on Syria or would really care if a “good” militia stopped tweeting because they were “accidentally” bombed from existence despite being on the okay list. Obama does not want a larger war. All Obama wants is a chance to walk away at this point without raising too many questions about what his Syria policy was all about.

  13. Vic says:

    This maybe a big win for the Syrian Army.
    If they are allowed to still attack ISIS and JN that will result in the so called “moderates” allowing Syrian forces to advance onto their flanks. That will put the moderate forces in an untenable position (unless they also pull back). It will also allow the Syrian Army to greatly increase the mass they can throw at ISIS and JN defensive lines.
    ISIS and JN might attack Moderate positions in order to move into protected areas. This will only make the rebels that much weaker. ISIS and JN can also be expected to launch attacks from areas held by moderates in order to get the Syrian Army to launch counter attacks against the moderates.
    This cease fire agreement gives the Syrian Army a huge tactical and operational military advantage. Makes me wonder if State Department sent it over to the Pentagon to see what second or third order military effects this agreement would have.

  14. leCashier says:

    Have to admit this is way above my pay grade but I’ll give it a shot. (Im a cashier as my nom de plume indicates.) Does it somehow give the US cover to keep Erdogan at bay? Maybe thats the deal. Cease fire that really doesn’t mean anything on the ground or air, keeps Turkey at bay (temporarily?)and helps out Kerry and the Ds. Kerry can go home and say look I tamed the Russian Bear. A Turkey escalation does the Democrats no good in the general election neither HRC nor BS. “Trickery, delusions, fantasies” its a presidential election year!

  15. Markf says:

    As a certifiable optimist, I am thinking about Panmunjom. Talks can be venue for:
    1. High level military crisis management
    2. Political as well as military deconfliction, especially in todays world, substituting BS for escallation
    3. Negotiation of various partitioning schemes?

  16. turcopolier says:

    An armistice in Korea was possible because there was a stable military situation from one coast to the other of a peninsula. Do you see something like that in Syria? Partition? Where would you draw the lines? Do you think the Sunni Wahhabi jihadis would accept a separate state for Alawis, Druze, Christians, Shia, etc.? pl

  17. robt willmann says:

    Here is the “joint statement” of the U.S.A. and the Russian Federation of today, in which they say: “as co-chairs of the ISSG and ISSG Ceasefire Task Force, announce the adoption on February 22, 2016, of the Terms for a Cessation of Hostilities in Syria attached as an Annex to this statement, and propose that the cessation of hostilities commence at 00:00 (Damascus time) on February 27, 2016. The cessation of hostilities is to be applied to those parties to the Syrian conflict that have indicated their commitment to and acceptance of its terms.”–
    Secretary of State John Kerry issued a press release, in which he called the “joint statement” and its “annex” an “agreement”; it is here–
    I have to try to read the “joint statement”, the “annex” (the “terms for cessation of hostilities in Syria”), and UN Security Council Resolution 2254.
    An average teenager will ask which parties, if any, “to the Syrian conflict have indicated their commitment to and acceptance of its terms” (the terms for cessation in the annex).
    As a good Texas courtroom lawyer once said, “Is that a letter or a contract”?

  18. J says:

    The ceasefire is supposed to begin the 27th at midnight.

  19. bth says:

    I’ll take a flier here and speculate that it is about setting a clock for a few other events and has little to do with a working ceasefire in Syria.
    For one thing it may be forcing a time clock on the Iranians to reach an agreement with the Russians on key defense equipment purchases – missile defense (S300 and perhaps even S400) and Su30 aircraft. Russian defense minister made unannounced trip to Tehran and there was reportedly work through the weekend.
    Also I suspect the bill for the humanitarian aid and possible follow on reconstruction will be much larger than estimated and to be borne by the ‘international community’ going forward.
    And I would look to see if there is about to be another Erdogan organized mass migration into EU to be magically resolved by economic aid to Turkey on behalf of the Syrian refuges. There is diplomatic summit scheduled on Thursday in Brussels so expect the shakedown of Europe to reach a peak on schedule.
    Last, I would look for some sort of deal in the March timeframe on Ukraine and Russian economic sanctions relief contingent on some sort of papered over plan in Syria whether it has basis in fact or not.

  20. VietnamVet says:

    Yes, the ceasefire will be hellish getting the bloodied ethnic militias to stand down plus the alien Dead-Enders seeking paradise but it is a hell of lot better than if Turkey-Saudi Arabia invaded or if a shooting war starting between USA and Russia. It may turn out to be futile but we will be alive during the interim.
    Maybe this time, the USA will leave the local Muslims alone as long as they get rid of the foreign true believers infesting their land. Indeed, Russia has more incentive than America to assure that this takes place.

  21. mbrenner says:

    Any so-called cease-fire accord that require 5 pages of exposition obviously is so intricate and its provisions so qualified as to ensure that it will be picked apart in abortive implementation. It is a bit like Dodd-Franks – heralded as serious financial reform whose 1,000+ pages meant that it took 3 years to write the actual rules which turned out to be so feeble as to have almost no practical effect. It won’t take 3 years for the “cease fire” to be declared null-and-void.

  22. turcopolier says:

    Turkey-Saudi Arabia are not going to invade Syria. The US and Russia are not going to war over Syria. If the jihadis are left intact in Syria they will eventually rule the country. pl

  23. Jack says:

    What do you think is the motivation of Russia to do this deal with Obama/Kerry?
    BTW, I don’t believe R+6 is going to stop the annihilation of the jihadists who are on the run.

  24. Fred says:

    Does this piece of paper give plausible deniability to the R+6 if there is a renewal of hostilities – for example another once car bombing after the deadline? Will Obama use this cease fire as an excuse to move US attention to trying to stabilize Libya? (If we are actually trying to do that).

  25. Bill Herschel says:

    If the Toner quote is correct, then Saudi Arabia and Israel have been thrown under the bus.

  26. JerseyJeffersonian says:

    Col. Lang,
    This one is off-thread (not entirely, though), but I thought that Tyler, and perhaps others, might find it amusing.

  27. Mishklji says:

    Amen, Pat, amen.

  28. gemini33 says:

    That tweet has been deleted. What did it say?

  29. Chris Chuba says:

    The reporting of it in the Russian Times made more sense than the NBC report … https://www.rt.com/news/333275-russia-us-syria-ceasefire/
    1.“As for ISIS, Al-Nusra and other terror groups – regarded as such by the UN Security Council – they are totally exempt from the truce,”
    2.the establishment of an International Syria Support Group (ISSG) Ceasefire Task Force under the auspices of the UN. It will be tasked with identifying territories held by terrorists,
    3. the Syrian Army will still continue fight Al-Nusra and Islamic State, as well as radical Islamist Ahrar al-Sham and Jaysh al-Islam.
    This looks like Putin’s way of giving the secular FSA, who are currently intermingled with the Islamists, a chance to separate themselves from Nusra, Ahrar and Jaysh. If they do not then he can say, see, the FSA are not moderates. If they do then he and Assad can go after the Islamists (and their allies) with impunity without all of the Caterwauling over the poor moderates.
    After all Putin has always said that a diplomatic / political solution was necessary for the long term stability of Syria. In the Charlie Rose interview on 60 minutes he said, “There is no other way to settle the Syrian conflict other than by strengthening the existing legitimate government agencies, support them in their fight against terrorism and, of course, at the same time encourage them to start a positive dialogue with the “healthy” part of the opposition and launch political transformations.”
    The only down side that I can see is if Al Nusra, Ahrar al-Sham and Jaysh al-Islam try to hold territory under the cease fire claiming to be FSA. However, being that the timeframe is now less than a week it does not give them much time for this deception. The secular FSA has to identify themselves to that ISSG group.
    Yeah, it’s a long shot. In a world where we had a competent press it would demonstrate Russia’s consistently good efforts in Syria but we have a grossly incompetent press who will ignore all of this and continue to talk about war crimes.

  30. alba etie says:

    smoothie X 12
    I believe when the dust clears from the Syrian Civil War – we will see that the Russo – American collaboration will be seen as a net positive . The ‘cease fire ” is more kabuki theater from the USG that dates back to the CW being shipped out of Syria escorted by the Russian & Chinese navies. All of the rest of the Assad must go was lip service that the Realist within the USG spoke to manuover around the dead ender neocons & R 2P ‘ers that still wanted to overthrow the legitimately elected government in Damascus. This kabuki theater under taken by the USG Realist is also being performed in the context of These United States national elections . I am by no means expert but I am trying to seriously pay attention to what the USG is doing ,not what it is saying . Thus far there is no give in to Erdogan – yet we still use Incirlik . The Realist also got the Iran Nuclear Deal to stick . The Realist also have pretty much told the AIPAC Likud crew both here and Tel Aviv to STFU ( to include Ms Nuland and all of the other R2P Harpies ) . ..So perhaps I am being totally naive but I feel I have seen a course correction by the USG Realist even with the kabuki theater .

  31. Ghost ship says:

    FWIW, I tend to agree with you. This is not the end of the Syrian conflict but will most likely bring it closer. regardless of which rebels accept the ceasefire.
    No change with ISIS so that will go on as before.
    This ceasefire is aimed at Jaish al-Fatah (aka Army of Conquest) which mostly consists of al-Nusra, Ahrar ash-Sham, and Jund al-Aqsa. Al-Nusra not included in ceasefire so no change but Ahrar ash-Sham and Jund al-Aqsa have to decide if they want to be included. If they choose not to be included, then most of Jaish al-Fatah still legitimate target.
    If they choose to be included, they cannot operate against R6+1 without retaliation from Russians, while R6+1 is free to go on carving up al-Nusrah leaving Jaish al-Fatah sliced and diced as you suggest. So, Ahrar ash-Sham, and Jund al-Aqsa can secure their position by turning on al-Nusrah and then accepting ceasefire on areas taken from al-Nusrah before R6+1 get there. The alternative is that al-Nusrah withdraws and transfers their fighters and territory to Ahrar ash-Sham and Jund al-Aqsa followed by accepting ceasefire to secure territory from R6+1. I really don’t see al-Nusrah quitting the fight so either Jaish al-Islam end up fighting among the constituent parts or they refuse to accept the ceasefire.
    Looks like the Russians have added political operations to Deep Battle.

  32. ToivoS says:

    The Russians gain a lot. It shows they are willing to engage the US. Since they have not given up anything with this cease fire they can continue the war and show their good side as being willing to negotiate at the same time. This joint statement is also important in that it has the US on record that al Nusra is basically the same as ISIS and that Wahabi inspired rebels are quite thoroughly mixed in with the “moderate” rebels. It helps break down the fiction that there is such a thing as moderates. If Russia succeeds in getting the West to accept that then they have accomplished a tremendous amount.

  33. FB Ali says:

    “… but we have a grossly incompetent press…”
    A refreshing change is this piece in the Boston Globe (though it is often not considered part of the MSM!):

  34. Babak Makkinejad says:

    The words that are spoken by the Presidents of the United States are not Kabuki.
    GHW Bush warned Yugoslavia about Kosovo, the next US president waged war over Kosovo.
    George Bush warned Iran, Iraq, and North Korea – and attacked Iraq. I imagine he would have attacked North Korea or Iran – but then since North Korea had taken Seoul hostage, I imagine Iran would have been the next US target.
    Obama mentioned chemical weapons in a warning to Syria, next – almost on cue – there was a chemical incident – and the wheels of war started turning.

  35. Babak Makkinejad says:

    You might be more right than wrong – so give some political cover to Erdogan and Saudis to walk back.
    An Iranian foreign ministry official was in Ankara last week to talk turkey with the Turks, the Iranian MoD was also in Moscow during the same week and so was an advisor to Ayatollah Khamenei who met with Putin.
    This week, Putin spoke with Emir of Qatar and the Russian MoD was in Tehran today to deliver a message to the Iranian President.
    A lot seems to have been going on.

  36. Pundita says:

    the US-Russia agreement could be to finesse Turkey’s vaunted invasion plans for Syria, its cross-border shelling into Syria and military actions against YPG; i.e., cessation of all hostilities outside those against designated grps (ISIS etc) means just that, including Turkey’s actions

  37. Pundita says:

    From RT report on the agreement;
    State Department spokesman Mark Toner said that the end of hostilities in Syria needs to be implemented by all groups, including Turkey.
    “So as part of a cessation of hostilities, it’s incumbent on all the groups within Syria to either buy in or buy out, and if you buy out and if you don’t – if you refuse to participate, then you’re making your decision and you’re making it clear that you don’t, and that’s ultimately the decision of each of these groups on the ground … We’ve been very clear we want to see Turkey stop its shelling,” Toner said during a briefing.

  38. Liza says:

    Very significant statement from Putin in a televised address: “I am sure the joint actions agreed by the American side will be enough to radically reverse the crisis situation in Syria. We are finally seeing a real chance to bring an end to the longstanding bloodshed and the violence.”

  39. alba etie says:

    Professor Makkinejad
    There will , respectfully , be no US intervention in Syria they way there was in Iraq – at least under the current administration. But yes under a President Romney Administration we might very well have seen open war between DC & Tehran .

  40. Barish says:

    It is. Here’s the official transcript of yesterday’s State Dept briefing:
    “QUESTION: Mark, on al-Nusrah Front —
    MR TONER: Yes, Michel.
    QUESTION: — do you call the Syrian opposition moderate groups to stop fighting alongside al-Nusrah for not being targeted from Russia or the Syrian regime?
    MR TONER: Again, that’s for them to – frankly, to resolve. I mean, if they’re going to be – I mean, they cannot – we have been very clear that – we, the ISSG, have been very clear in saying that al-Nusrah and Daesh are not part of any kind of ceasefire or any kind of negotiated cessation of hostilities. So if you hang out with the wrong folks, then you make that decision.
    QUESTION: You’re going to get killed.
    QUESTION: So you call on them to disengage from one another, right? You’re calling for them to disengage?
    MR TONER: I’m saying that – I mean, you choose your own – who you hang out with, and that sends a signal.”
    True warriors of Islam of course will not forsake ranks with their brothers-in-arms of Jabhat al-Nusra – and as that means pretty much most of the armed insurgents in play in north-western Syria as well as down south…
    Those with a mercenary attitude, such as there still are, are free to punch their tickets out of country until Friday. Or else find their epiphany in joining their Jihadi allies.
    Top-notch brilliant diplomatic moves there. Gives the US Admin. a neat way out too, as they can always say: Well, you do have to make choices in life for which you have to bear consequences…
    The insurgents made their choice long ago, and most are not likely to reverse on that until Friday.

  41. Green Zone Café says:

    Assad was interviewed by the Madrid newspaper El Pais. In the interview Assad said what they are talking about is not a cease fire but a cessation of operations dependent on several conditions. I was impressed by Assad’s answers.

  42. Chris Chuba says:

    Yes indeed. I read that opinion piece by Stephen Kinzer and it should shame his peers because he is an old time foreign correspondent who actually SEES the places he reports on rather than repeat dribble from think tanks as if they were facts. The sad thing is that the readers who replied to his piece insisted that he was the biased one with the agenda because they were so used to the BORG narrative.

  43. Cortes says:

    The Saker’s site has Pres Putin’s statement on the “cessation ”

  44. JJackson says:

    Are we reading too much into this?
    The parties to this agreement are the formal members of the US and Ru blocks in the conflict and those groups over which they can exert direct control (to the extent they can say stop and be obeyed). In practice the only parties with a real say are the US, Russia and Syria as KSA, Turkey, Shia militia etc. could not proceed without their superpower backer. The Russians are winning against JaN and friends and do not need anything from the West – although it would make life easier is they stopped arming them. They need to show the rest of the world they are being reasonable and are willing to talk. They also need to keep lines of communication open to prevent an accidental escalation with NATO. The US have realised they are on the verge of a humiliating PR disaster with Russia decisively achieving in Syria what they have failed to achieve in Iraq and Afghanistan, namely an effective local army with a hi-tech low manpower (AKA low body bag) superpower overlay as a force multiplier. If the R+6 regain effective control of the NW and the refugees start flowing back it gives the spin doctors something to work with – “Stability returns to Syria thanks to the US air force and Kerry’s diplomacy”. Deep in the heart of the Borg cube they still dream of getting some proxy force controlling ground somewhere in Syria in the hope of creating a proxy statelet but the R+6 are never going to let that happen. Even if it was achieved it would have to be somewhere in the IS heartland and would need to be armed like Israel to survive in that locality as a US allied entity.
    The Russian are well aware of the difficulties in penetrating the Borg MSM propaganda machine but are much more aware, than the West, of the importance of the non-aligned countries in the new world order. It is sometimes not obvious, reading the MSM, that the NATO plus the R+6 only account for about 20% of the world’s population and a little over half of its GDP with both numbers falling. Russia’s audience is the rest of the world and in particular its two population superpowers. It wishes this block to notice that it is a rational actor within the norms of international law and an effective and reliable ally. The West are a lost cause in this respect protected by their MSM shield.

  45. Am I correct that key words in the “Agreement” have no definitions nor state who can provide them?
    Given the world of the GPS why don’t have Russia and the U.S. provide coordinates in detail of their AOC’s?

  46. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Thank you for your comments.
    I am not a professor.
    There was going to be a war to destroy SAR, Russians bailed US – or at least Obama – out of it. But not before the 99% crowd in UK revolted.
    I do not understand how US government works but that much became clear.

  47. Outrage Beyond says:

    You have to delete the period at the end.

  48. Nightsticker says:

    I think you have captured
    perfectly the R+6 concept of
    operations during the “cessation
    of hostilities”. SAA will continue
    to re-establish government/law and order/
    essential services within Syria. Bandits,
    terrorists etc will cooperate or be
    neutralized. This could bring back
    fond memories of the PRU days.
    USMC 65-72
    FBI 72-96

  49. falcone says:

    The unicorns seem to have taken Tell Rifaat. Interesting.

  50. Valissa says:

    What a fascinating speech! Putin, as usual, is very impressive in his quietly powerful manner. He practices “speak softly, and carry a big stick” quite well.
    My two-bit takeaway from this must-watch speech…
    Though not said directly, how I interpreted Putin’s statements is that the various proxies on the battlefield will have to decide which team they are playing on by a designated time, the Syrian side (R+6) or the enemy side (IS/AQ/JaN/UN designated terrorist groups). Because once the “cessation” starts the war will continue in earnest against everyone on the enemy side. This appears to give some of the so-called “moderate” (mercenaries, proxies, etc) groups a chance to get off the playing field or to choose which side of the battle they want to be on.
    Putin explains that the both US and Russian militaries will be involved in meeting with the various groups to convey the “cessation” news and see what their response is (some type of US-Russia coordination regarding who meets with which group in which territory).
    In general his speech was full of references to US-Russia joint agreements, actions and plans. Interesting how this cessation agreement, as described by Putin, gives the US a way to save face and also for Russia to establish an elevation in status.

  51. Mishkilji says:

    I opt for the “kissy-face” explanation.
    If defeating ISIS is priority one, it appears the US and Russia are doing quite well.

  52. turcopolier says:

    It appears that there will be a cease-fire implementation center at the Russian air base near Lattakia City where the various parties will coordinate post cease-fire activities. This being the case we will presumably see US and Russian officers working together along with SAG people and whatever unicorns join up. The war in that situation will probably continue against the jihadis. Perhaps this will not be a “Cease fire made in hell.” It may mark a serious temporary defeat for the neocon/R2P faction in the US government. pl

  53. Thomas says:

    “Does it somehow give the US cover to keep Erdogan at bay?”
    It could be seen on the diplomatic front as a raising of the stakes to get the Sultan to fold his hand by the tag team of two Prominent Players at the Global Game table.
    On the ground, it gives various militias of Syrians time after Friday prayers to choose which path they want to take, settle conflict with concerns and issues addressed (i.e. Rojava Self Ruled Administration), or continue the fight and accept the results.

  54. SmoothieX12 says:

    I don’t take seriously about 90% of popular American views on USSR/Russia, and especially Russian military, but unlike those whom I trust, Ralph Peters does have an access to mass media and is a fixture in the so called “conservative” circle. He features there prominently as an “expert”. So, when Ralph goes hysterical there–many people do as well. That translates into the public opinion.

  55. Mishkilji says:

    The tragedy is the US could have had this solution in 2013.
    What you are describing is similar to the Israel-Lebanon Monitoring Group (ILMG) set up after the 1996 Grapes of Wrath operation in south Lebanon. ILMG worked as a deescalating mechanism. If turned over to agenda-less diplomats and military professionals this could work.

  56. thepanzer says:

    Perhaps Obama finally realized that getting into a war with Russia, and its likely consequences, might complicate getting donors for the future Obama Presidential Library.
    Punching down on 3rd world dictators is all well and fun, but facing a modern near-peer with recent battle experience runs the risk of defeat.
    One does start to think of legacy as the clock winds down…
    Unfortunately the R2P/Neocon crowd is like a zombie that just won’t die, Hillary “the 2nd coming of Margaret Thatcher” Clinton will be more than happy to ratchet tensions right back up if she wins.

  57. Jackrabbit says:

    It’s NOT a tragedy. It’s a CRIME.

  58. Mishkilji says:

    More likely Obama came to the slow realization that Putin is fighting and winning our war in Syria.
    I wonder if Putin ever wonders if he is the one that has been played.

  59. Mishkilji says:

    I’m waiting for Ralph’s name to appear as a foreign policy advisor to Trump.

  60. Jackrabbit says:

    Most of what you wrote could be ascertained from the Agreement itself.
    This speech was made to demonstrate the Russian side’s desire for peace and commitment to a political settlement.
    If the CoH fails, Russia will be blamed. And some are already preparing/pushing for such an outcome ( http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2016-02-23/24-hours-after-syrian-ceasefire-deal-nobody-trusts-anybody ):

  61. robt willmann says:

    It looks as if the White House and State Department lawyers are up to their old tricks again. There are several points about this, including the phrase “armed opposition”; greatly narrowing the number of prohibited “terrorist” groups; restricting the number of entities, groups, and countries who are covered by the “terms and conditions”; and so forth. But we will see how things shake out over this coming weekend and next week.
    The various players are supposed to “confirm” (verbally?) their “commitment to and acceptance of the terms” to either the U.S. or Russia by high noon Damascus time on Friday, 26 February, by which time the U.S. and Russia will “attest such confirmation” to one another. If the players do so, or at least some of them (?), then the cessation of hostilities will start at midnight Friday into 00:01 hours on Saturday, 27 February, and thereafter.
    The U.S. has not changed its policy of regime change in Syria, and a clue about this was in Kerry’s press release yesterday, which spoke of “the opportunity for a negotiated political transition … that unites all Syrians who reject dictatorship [meaning, Assad] and terrorism and want to build a new future for their country.”
    I am guessing that Russia, Syria, Iran, et. al. are gambling on the following:
    1) they were doing well in the horse race to clear out northwest and southwest Syria before the humanitarian aid and the workers for it became a major presence in Syria, but it was getting more difficult to string out the time frame so they are reluctantly shifting to a containment policy in the western part;
    2) they put in the terms that the territory that the parties have who will stop shooting and bombing will be specified and they cannot try to acquire more territory;
    3) this should “contain” the opposition supported by the U.S., Britain, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and others from expanding their areas of control in the northwest and southwest;
    4) this prevents Turkey from invading from the north into the northwest areas, and Saudi Arabia’s mercenaries from invading from the southwest;
    5) maps seem to show that ISIS/Daesh is mainly to the east of the area mostly under the Syrian government’s control, thus, the R+6 can start charging eastward full bore to wipe out ISIS including in Raqqa and all the way to the Iraq border, and the U.S., the Saudis, and their cohorts cannot try to stop it because there are not any so-called “moderate” groups in the east;
    6) once the much larger eastern area of Syria is retaken by R+6, then all that is left are the “contained” areas in the west, which will be, relatively speaking, a lot smaller;
    7) if ISIS tries to hide in the contained areas and starts acting violently, the R+6 can strike back with force in “self defense” (although the terms and conditions say it should be “proportional”, whatever that might mean in that context, and the terms are silent about how you stop them from “seeking to acquire territory from other parties”);
    8) the R+6 can use their informant networks to find out more about the opposition that is in the contained areas in the west.
    Putin was very businesslike and matter-of-fact in his video statement about the Syrian situation referenced above. It is clear that he has Syria, Iran, the Palestinian fighters, Iraq, and other militias on board. I do not think that he is particularly happy about doing the “joint statement”, but I agree with JJackson above that he has his eye on the rest of the world, especially China, India, and South America, and is going to try this. But if Turkey, Saudi Arabia, the U.S., Israel, Britain, and the others trying to overthrow the Syrian government get cute and shifty about it, all bets are off.

  62. kao_hsien_chih says:

    In addition to Col. Lang’s reply, armistice in Korea took place because both Koreas no longer had ability to wage war on their own and the guys with real guns backing them up (US for South Korea and China for North Korea) recognized that status quo ante bellum was good enough for their needs. Status quo ante bellum in Syria means that all Jihadis have to be defeated.

  63. Matthew says:

    Col: It is a defeat. Assad is calling parliamentary elections. See http://bigstory.ap.org/urn:publicid:ap.org:933818b97d684ebeb1c22e3292225a21
    Neo-Cons need a “transitional” government before “real elections.” As we’ve seen in Ukraine, protesters become wreckers after Vickie Nuland has gotten her candidate in office.

  64. petrous says:

    Here is a tidbit from Yemen that could be relevant in the grand scheme of things. If Even Saudi-friendly BBC is reporting this “coalition” things must be spinning out of control (i.e. making contact with the fan); see tweet below:
    ” ….. Reza Marashi ‏@rezamarashi -TODAY/FEB23 – ,
    #AlQaeda has joined the #Saudi-led coalition fighting Houthi rebels in #Yemen. Good times. …. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-35630194 …..”
    could mischief like this ” out in the open ” plus the continuous barrage of insults lobbed at them from Mr. Erdogan be straws that broke the camels back & made it obvious to the administration that it should throw the towel in on the near imaginary rebels in Syria ?

  65. turcopolier says:

    “the continuous barrage of insults lobbed at them from Mr. Erdogan be straws that broke the camels back & made it obvious to the administration that it should throw the towel in on the near imaginary rebels in Syria?” It may be that the insults tipped the argument slightly in favor of the realists in the USG. pl

  66. turcopolier says:

    IMO you should not assume that Assad’s friends will lose the elections. pl

  67. turcopolier says:

    Robert Willman
    If a large rebel dominated pocket in the Idlib governorate is allowed to continue in existence this will be used by the Obama/Clinton neocons to subvert the public order. If the Russians believe this deal is anything but a ploy on the part of the neocons/R2P they are mistaken. The US realists may think they have won but I doubt if their satisfaction is more than temporary. pl

  68. SmoothieX12 says:

    Then we are all screwed. Ralph’s “expertise” in issues related to Russian (Soviet) military is as good as my in brain surgery. But what can I say–he is an “expert”.

  69. Matthew says:

    Sorry, Colonel, poor writing on my part. I meant it is a defeat for Neo-Cons. I’m sure they have a Syrian “Yats” they want to install as part of the Democratic Transition.

  70. Barish says:

    Does anyone have any idea what the hell al-Saud and its cronies are doing as regards the following?
    “Saudi and UAE ban citizens from travelling to Lebanon
    Bahrain also joins travel ban after Saudi halted $4bn aid to Lebanon army in response to “hostile” Hezbollah positions.
    Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have urged their citizens to leave Lebanon or avoid travelling there after Riyadh halted $4bn in aid to Lebanese security forces in response to “hostile” positions linked to Lebanese Shia group Hezbollah.
    The Saudi foreign ministry issued a statement on Tuesday calling on “all citizens not to travel to Lebanon, for their safety, and asking citizens residing in Lebanon or visiting not to stay unless extremely necessary”.
    The statement, run by the official SPA news agency, urged citizens to contact the Saudi Embassy in Beirut.
    Announcing the aid halt on Friday, an official said the kingdom had noticed “hostile Lebanese positions resulting from the stranglehold of Hezbollah on the state.”
    The UAE also banned its citizens from travelling to Lebanon and reduced its diplomatic presence in Beirut.
    Bahrain also urged citizens against travelling to Lebanon, and called on Bahrainis there already to leave quickl, according to a statement posted to state news.
    On Friday, the United Arab Emirates announced “full support” of Saudi’s review of its relations with Lebanon, blaming the country’s “failure to condemn Iran’s aggression” in the embassy incident.
    “The UAE fully supports the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s decision to halt its aid to the Lebanese army and security forces,” said the UAE’s foreign ministry statement, posted on state media on Tuesday.
    “At the same time [the UAE] calls upon Lebanon and its people to restore Lebanon to the Arab Nation where it belongs, away from the Iranian influences adopted by the so-called Hezbollah,” the UAE statement added.
    On Monday, Lebanon tried to repair relations and vowed to support Arab countries and maintain its Arab identity.
    Lebanon’s Prime Minister Tammam Salam said that Lebanon should maintain good relations with Saudi Arabia and that Arab countries must garner a unified response to all obstacles that they face.
    “Lebanon will not forget Saudi Arabia’s role … in helping it rebuild the country after the [1975-1990] civil war,” Salam said after a cabinet session.
    Former prime minister Saad Hariri also expressed loyalty to the kingdom.
    Lebanon’s main political divide pits a Sunni-led coalition against another led by the Iran-backed Shia Hezbollah movement.
    Lebanon has seen a series of armed attacks in recent years linked to the conflict in neighbouring Syria.”

  71. turcopolier says:

    Gulfie Sunni revenge for frustration in the Levant and the additional frustration of their long term ambition of achieving Sunni rule in Lebanon. pl

  72. Mishklji says:

    Setbacks are rarely publicly acknowledged as such.
    Are the ceasefire talks a US ploy to a policy end or a fig leaf for a policy failure similar to Reagan’s retreat from Lebanon?
    That ignominious retreat was covered with tough language as well.
    Looks like a fig leaf to me.

  73. Mishklji says:

    And, on the tactical level, the continued detention of a Saudi prince for drug smuggling.
    8 March not letting him go.

  74. Valissa says:

    Zero Hedge is prone to dramatic, bordering on hysterical, headlines.
    “Nobody trusts anybody” regarding has been true for a number of years now.
    Although Putin gave a nice explanatory speech for political reasons, and it would be lovely to think things will work the way he says… there’s still a war on that will no doubt go on for some time regardless of period bouts of diplomatic fever.
    Operation Cessation of Hostilities is a war strategy not a peace strategy IMO. How successful it will be, and in whose eyes, is unknown at this time but past history of so-called peace attempts would be fodder for a good FP comedian.

  75. Jackrabbit says:

    Yes, you’re right about ZH.
    But they have also been fairly good at covering Syria.
    And my quote (“PENTAGON, CIA CHIEFS…”) from their post was from a newsfeed.

  76. Jackrabbit says:

    Maybe so. It’s hard to know how much is kabuki.
    Of all the conspirators, only the USA can play peace-maker. That requires some distance from the supporters of the head-choppers.
    I believe both ‘realist’ and hardliner positions are used by those who hold (real) power. Oh sure, they ‘exist’, but only to calibrate policy; play off each other (e.g. confuse enemies); excuse adventurism or failure, etc.

  77. turcopolier says:

    Well, you believe what you like, but there are many true believers who may or not be schemers as well. pl

  78. turcopolier says:

    Well, let’s see if they can keep it! pl

  79. Heeby-Jeeby says:

    @ Colonel
    I know you don’t think war–serious WWIII type war–is probable. However, Presdident Putin’s brief speech looked like he was making a sober last-ditch effort for peace before some serious war. Especially given VP Biden’s previous reference in Turkey to a military solution and SoS Kerry’s testimony to Congress about a ‘Plan B’ involving partition of Syria.

  80. Ingolf says:

    Re Assad’s interview with El Pais (thanks Green Zone Cafe).
    It’s clear the Syrian government has few illusions about the pros and cons of the agreement. Russia’s views are presumably at least equally realistic.
    On the dangers of resupply etc:
    “It’s about, first of all, stopping the fire, but it’s also about other complimentary and more important factors, preventing the terrorists from using the ceasefire or the cessation of hostility to improve their position. It’s about preventing other countries, especially Turkey, from sending more recruits, more terrorists, more armaments, or any kind of logistical support to those terrorists. There is a United Nations resolution, or Security Council resolution, regarding this point that’s not implemented. If we don’t provide all these requirements for the ceasefire, it will be against the stability; it’s going to make more chaos in Syria, it may lead to a de facto division of the country.”
    On how Syria would react to any Turkish/Saudi Arabian “attacks on ISIS”:
    “Q. Talking about foreign armies, how would you react if Turkey and Saudi Arabia follow through with their statements that they plan on sending troops here to allegedly fight the Islamic State?
    A. As you said, allegedly. But if it happens, we’re going to deal with them like we deal with the terrorists. We’re going to defend our country. This is aggression. They don’t have any right to interfere, politically or militarily, in Syria. This is a breach of international law, and as Syrian citizens, the only option we have is to fight and defend.”
    On who Syria regards as “terrorists”:
    “Q. So, all those who are fighting, you deem them terrorists?
    A. Unless they announce that they are ready to join the political process. Then we will not have any problem with them.
    Q. So those people who have been fighting, who take away their ideals or their intentions, if they lay down arms, can they come back?
    A. We’ll give them amnesty, and that happened, it has happened during the last two years, and it’s accelerating recently. Many of them give up their arms and some of them have joined the Syrian Army now and they are fighting ISIS with the Syrian Army, and they get the support of the Syrian Army and the Russian airplanes.

  81. We may be watching the development of a complicated chess match with few understanding Russian or Chinese goals vis a vis the US. Ignoring for a moment the US reaction to 9/11/01 what exactly have the Boomer Presidents accomplished
    long term for U.S. FP?

  82. JJackson says:

    The key sections – or so it seems to me – are.
    “… Russian Federation and the United States are prepared to work together to exchange pertinent information (e.g., aggregated data that delineates territory where groups that have indicated their commitment to and acceptance of the cessation of hostilities are active …” and “To refrain from acquiring or seeking to acquire territory from other parties to the ceasefire;”.
    The first problem is going to be resolving the “territory where unicorns are active”. My money says this is a US choice of words as it is open to a very broad interpretation note it does not say ‘control’ but merely ‘active’ which I suspect the US would argue means anywhere without SAA boot prints. Given the maps produced by both sides, and PB’s sitrep maps, you could argue that there are active unicorns all over NW Syria even if they are minority party to JaN in many areas. The contrary position is that JaN are also active in exactly the same areas which brings us to point two. In practical terms there is no statement covering the movement of forces. If the SAA decide to drive into Idlib for a peaceful visit or the Unicorns want to go shopping in Latika can they? Can they if they are fully armed – for self-defence only. Can the Syrian Government drive in to West Aleppo and start normalising government services? If JaN or IS hold a pocket inside a unicorns zone can the SAA drive through Unicorn territory to get to them. These would to seem to be the critical questions and are fudged in the text. The wrangling over the drawing of the Unicorn reserves should be interesting.

  83. Jackrabbit says:

    I didn’t mean be so negative. Corrected above.

  84. Jackrabbit says:

    Didn’t mean to be so negative.
    “only to” should’ve been “often to”
    There are many good people, like Colonel Lang, that are supporting policy sanity.
    However, take note: Kerry is already talking about a “Plan B” (partitioning Syria) and responding less than enthusiastically about skepticism that the CoH will succeed:
    The main problem is that neocons have assembled/represent a powerful constituency. Thus, even after set-backs, they persist. ‘Realists’ may ‘win’ or have influence when policy is resisted (e.g. by Russia) but crafty neocons just look for other ways to achieve their goals.

  85. SmoothieX12 says:

    Russian goals both in Syria and elsewhere are pretty obvious and were stated many times openly, including from the highest political level. The chess match never stopped, so it can not be in development it is already in the highly developed state, which started openly on 08-08-08. In reality, even earlier. At stake is an emergence of new global equilibrium and respective roles US and Russia (and China) will play in it. Both Russia and China have good awareness of US overreach, which now can be defined as dangerous overstretch, which already resulted both in image and reputational losses on unprecedented scale. The idea which may seem as completely incomprehensible for US “elites” is the fact that Russia is not interested in dramatic and painful defeat for US and is in pursuit of the “soft landing” scenario with the US. I assume China is too. Why it is so, is a subject of different and very thorough discussion. As per Boomer Presidents, they accomplished nothing positive and, in fact, started (with NATO aggression against Yugoslavia) the world on the path of chaos. Obama, the alleged “realist”, effectively lost control of own government and surrendered his foreign policy or, rather, lack there of to utterly incompetent and dangerous people, who brought us today to the present situation.

  86. Thomas says:

    “Ignoring for a moment the US reaction to 9/11/01 what exactly have the Boomer Presidents accomplished long term for U.S. FP?”
    Run the Ship of State aground, loot the cargo and equipment, and whine it is the other guys fault.

  87. alba etie says:

    Babak Makkinejad
    It is my belief that President Obama is course correcting from a misguided neocon agenda ;say from the the Libyan misadventure that even some on this learned site supported . It is also my belief that if you look objectively at what the USG is doing currently it is not doing anything to aide or abet Daesh . We shall see..

  88. Babak Makkinejad says:

    I am not suggesting USG is supporting DAESH/ISIS.
    I supplied 3 instances in which the sentences in the speeches of the Presidents of the United States were harbingers of war.
    The existence of these 3 example, in my opinion, negates the view of US policy as mere Kabuki.
    Perhaps it is Kabuki when the stated policy – embodied in a Presidential Speech – can no longer be implemented and must be walked-back.
    But someone put those words in US Presidential speeches and that was done for a purpose.
    In my opinion, had things not gone South in Iraq, US would have attacked Iran.
    Likewise, had North Korea not taken Seoul hostage, US would have attacked her as well during Bush II’s presidency.
    To all appearances (at least to me), Obama fully intended attacking and destroying SAR but was prevented from doing so by the rebellion of the serfs – the 99% – in UK and the deft maneuvering of the Russian diplomacy.
    I might be wrong in all of these surmises, but I put them here for other commentators on this site to disabuse me.

  89. SmoothieX12 says:

    “but crafty neocons just look for other ways to achieve their goals.”
    I don’t think that neo-con crowd is “crafty” in anything but in “perception management”, including ad hominem attacks on opponents and self-promotion. Track record of the last 20 years or so speaks volumes. In fact, it screams volumes. They are bad strategists, they are military ignoramuses, they barely understand history, they also suck as diplomats and are completely delusional. If to take their bottomless arrogance as a “craftiness”, then, sure, they are “crafty”. Shallowness is their defining characteristic and, in the end, with all my revulsion to this neo-con crowd–somebody DID allow these scumbags to attain the level of influence, I wonder who that might be…NB. In some post earlier I wrote about “sweet tongue” tradition of Maghreb, Asia Minor and Caucasus bazaars. I guesss the answer, at least significant part of it, has root in this phenomenon, aka in marketing as “sales pitch”.

  90. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Neo-cons are like the SS, the alibi of an entire Politico-military alliance.
    My view has been that the electorate in NATO states bears significant responsibility over several decades for the current juncture that we find ourselves.
    To take a swipe at you “Developed Country” formulation; the electorate in the “Developed World” seems to itch for annihilation in World War III.
    And the “Developing World” and the “Un-developed World” is powerless to prevent being annihilated by people who seem to have a death-wish.
    What gives, one wonders.

  91. Barish says:

    That’s two motives, yep: punishing the weaker link, Lebanon, for one’s own failure to assert dominance of one’s own team in that area as well as lashing out at those insolent Lebanese for detaining one that is of the blood of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques. Regarding this second point, is anyone else reminded of Gaddafi’s dispute with Switzerland over detention of one of his sons by authorities there several years ago?
    A third motive that might be plausible: bringing out the big guns of withdrawing assets in the billions to the Lebanese armed forces and issuing travel warnings to Lebanon to their citizens as done by UAE, Bahrain and SA itself serves to “boost” the slavishly obedient Hariri’s claim to the vacant presidency of Lebanon: favor him, and all that help by your friends from the Gulf will flow again.
    It’s odd one can’t find much in the English press on this entire thing, last thing I can find is this reuters-article – among other hits such as Vatican’s fides – from late November 2015 that features another interesting development connected to this:
    “In unexpected twist, Assad ally may be Lebanon’s next president
    Lebanon’s political crisis has taken a dramatic turn with the possibility that a friend of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad could become president in a power-sharing deal aimed at breathing life back into the paralyzed state.
    The idea of Suleiman Franjieh, a childhood friend of Assad, becoming head of state has taken aback many Lebanese, not least because of who tabled it: Saad al-Hariri, a Sunni politician who leads an alliance forged from opposition to Syrian influence in Lebanon. He would become prime minister under the deal.
    It is no less startling because of the backing it would require from Saudi Arabia and Iran, rival states that wield decisive influence over Lebanon’s competing factions and which are in conflict elsewhere in the region, including in Syria.
    As the war escalates in Syria, with Iran and Saudi Arabia increasing their support for Assad and his enemies, a new deal for Lebanon seems unlikely to signal any broader understanding to settle regional conflicts.
    But it would point to a desire to preserve a minimal degree of stability in Lebanon. While badly affected by the Syrian war that has triggered militant attacks, driven a million refugees over the border, and fueled a political crisis, Lebanon has avoided the kind of civil strife some had feared.
    Yet the country has been without a president for 18 months and a unity government led by Prime Minister Tammam Salam is barely functioning. The Hariri proposal is the most serious effort yet to resolve that political stalemate.
    Ali Akbar Velayati, a top adviser to Iran’s supreme leader who was on a visit to Beirut on Monday said after meeting Salam that hopes for the election of a president had increased.
    “We hope to witness in the immediate future the selection and election of a president of the republic,” a statement from Salam’s office quoted Velayati as saying. […]”
    Interesting, if old news – or is it, “old” that is?

  92. Barish says:

    Correction: there were a couple developments since late last year – “developments” meaning things running in a circle.
    First, AJE reported this on January 18 2016:
    “Lebanon politician endorses rival’s presidential bid
    Samir Geagea declares his support for Michel Aoun in rare show of unity in country without a president since May 2014.”
    Then, 10 days ago Reuters published this article here:
    “Lebanon presidency deadlock persists as Hariri stands by Franjieh
    Former Lebanese prime minister Saad al-Hariri said on Monday he was committed to backing his rival Suleiman Franjieh for the presidency, indicating an almost two-year deadlock over the job will not be resolved soon.
    There are two main candidates – Marada movement head Franjieh and former general Michel Aoun – for president, a post reserved for a Maronite Christian. Parliament has met at least 35 times without being able to agree on who should get the job.
    Hariri, the Sunni Muslim leader of the Future Movement party, returned to Beirut on Sunday to mark the 11th anniversary of the assassination of his father, former prime minister Rafik al-Hariri.
    He has been holding consultations with Lebanese politicians from his March 14 bloc and others.”
    It does make for an interesting spectacle from afar, this political bickering and maneuvering in Lebanon…

  93. cynic says:

    It looks like another diplomatic Russian effort to allow the American government to save some face and retreat behind an obfuscatory figleaf, claiming as much success as they need to enable them to move on. Most likely the American government and its propaganda outlets will just continue to lie, until facts on the ground make their lies irrelevant.

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