Tuesday, September 13, 2016
A new cease-fire brokered by Washington and Moscow just went into effect. But there’s a long list of ways the deal could fall apart.
By Randa Slim*
As the sun set in Syria on Monday, the country’s citizens — and the United States and Russia — all hoped the guns of war would fall silent. After marathon negotiations, Moscow and Washington reached a deal in the morning hours on Saturday to reinstate the failed “cessation of hostilities” negotiated last February, enable humanitarian assistance to reach besieged areas in Syria, and pave the way for U.S.-Russian military cooperation targeting the Islamic State and al Qaeda affiliates in Syria.
The next step would be to use the agreement as a springboard for reaching a negotiated settlement to the conflict, by relaunching the stalled U.N.-led negotiations in Geneva. The U.N. special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, will consult with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Sept. 21 about setting a date for the next round of intra-Syrian talks. Although the Syrian government declared its support for the deal, President Bashar al-Assad vowed on Monday that he will keep fighting the “terrorists” to reclaim all of Syria.
Skepticism abounds that this deal will succeed. Many argue that at best it will provide a short reprieve for Syrians living under daily bombardment by regime planes and suffering from starvation under sieges imposed by the Syrian army and pro-regime militias. A short-term improvement, however, is not nothing: As a survivor of the 15-year Lebanese civil war — during which hundreds of cease-fire deals were negotiated, only to be violated shortly thereafter — I can attest that even temporary reprieves mean a lot to people living in fear for their lives.
· * Randa Slim is director of the Initiative for Track II Dialogues at the Middle East Institute and a non-resident fellow at the SAIS Foreign Policy Institute.
· * This article was first published in Foreign Policy on 12/09/2016