Bassam Barabandi, Hassan Hassan, and Faysal Itani write: The new US-Russian deal to reduce violence and combat extremists in Syria has been met with a great deal of scepticism among Syria watchers. Scepticism is both unsurprising and understandable, given the poor track record of ceasefires in the country. Indeed, senior American officials have indicated the deal is not going to produce calm any time soon, but they hope it will lead to a reduction in violence.
The deal, agreed between Washington and Moscow on Friday, should nonetheless be judged by its details and in the broader context of the war. We were privy to contents of the agreement yet to be publicly released. Also, conversations with senior American officials and rebel leaders offer insights into what the US seeks to achieve from the agreement and how the plan can strengthen the moderate elements within the opposition.
In many ways, the agreement looks good on paper and can in principle strengthen the opposition by constraining violence and bringing relief to civilian populations in rebel-held areas. The danger to the rebels emanates not from the agreement’s terms but from unanswered questions about the role of pro-government militias and the lack of an enforcement mechanism. [Continue reading…]