Michael Weiss writes: “Syria,” properly speaking, no longer exists. The nation-state cobbled together a hundred years ago by the great powers, albeit with borders periodically rejiggered since, is FUBAR and will henceforward remain a balkanized set of cantons or fiefs ruled by a panoply of antagonistic sectarian insurgencies, proxies, and terrorist organizations — some elements, including the one residing in the presidential palace in Damascus, adequately meeting the definitions for all three categories. And it really doesn’t matter if every last Sukhoi fighter jet, Scud missile, and barrel bomb gets put away on Saturday, when the truce is set to commence.
I say that because the best-case scenario for Kerry’s last-ditch, now-don’t-hold-me-to-this prescription for ending a modern and globally transformative holocaust is that war actually continues, only against the “right” targets, namely al Qaeda and ISIS. These are the two U.N.-designated terrorist organizations not party to or expected to abide by the ceasefire. Their spoiler potential for provoking others to violate the terms of the agreement is enormous, as both militancies collectively boast an order of battle greater than that of the mobilized Syrian Arab Army.
As Andrew Tabler, a Syria specialist at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, puts it, the central dilemma is gauging what constitutes success for Kerry’s quixotic program: “Is the bar that fewer people are dying or is the bar that more people are fighting terrorism?”
If the latter, then how do you accomplish that when every security agency of the executive branch believes that Russia is not going to stop bombing the anti-Assad opposition so as long as it can claim it is only hitting terrorists, the Kremlin’s abiding lie since September 30, when it started bombing?
Yes, the Russian Air Force does go after Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s minions on occasion, whenever they dare to interdict Russian- and Iranian-abetted regime advances against other rebel groups, as they are currently doing in Aleppo. On the whole, however, Putin’s air war, as the US-led coalition now concludes, has allowed ISIS to acquire terrain where the opposition had previously prevented it from doing so. The best the U.S. has done by way of deterrence is a ceasefire the U.S. thinks is a dud. [Continue reading…]