Will the U.S.-Russia deal bring Syria peace? Don’t hold your breath

Michael Weiss writes: In the late summer of 2011, President Barack Obama declared the reign of Bashar al-Assad “illegitimate” and told him the time had come to “step aside.” In the early fall of 2015, U.S. officials laughingly dismissed Vladimir Putin’s unexpected direct military intervention into Syria as an accident waiting to happen at Russia’s expense.

Today, Secretary of State John Kerry formally legitimized Assad’s military by way of delimiting its zone of combat; and he welcomed the Russian Air Force as a prospective U.S. partner prosecuting an increasingly complex and muddled war against the so-called Islamic State and al-Qaeda, two separate and competitive terrorist organizations in Syria. Significantly, the latter group often intermingles with U.S.-backed insurgents.

In a tardy press conference in Geneva that most reporters were so sure would never happen they began ordering champagne and pizza, Kerry mapped out this fingers-crossed bilateral plan of action. His remarks were leavened with repeated qualifications and conditional tenses as he described an agreement that must perforce be founded on trust between the United States and Russia would not in fact be based on anything of the sort.

“If, and again I want to emphasize the if –” Kerry began his presser tonight, “If the plan is implemented in good faith, if the stakeholders do the things that are available to them to do and are being called on them to do, this can be a moment where the multilateral efforts at the diplomatic table… could take hold and you could really provide the people of Syria with a transition.”

Except that nobody really believes that. [Continue reading…]

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