Day 2 of the precarious Syrian ceasefire

by omouggos

The Syrian ceasefire appears to be holding. (image from abc.net.au)

The ceasefire, or more accurately the cessation of hostilities, in Syria has entered its second day.[1] It appears that Russia has halted its bombing campaign in Syria, and that relatively speaking, the country is experiencing a welcomed respite from the arduousness of war. Both John Kerry and Sergei Lavrov have welcomed the truce.[2] However, this does not mean that hostilities have completely ceased.

Saudi Foreign Minister Abel Jubeir accused Russia and Assad of already violating the ceasefire.[3] The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) has reported that unidentified aircraft have bombed a number of Syrian towns. They also reported that some of these towns are controlled by Jabat al-Nusra, which are not party to the truce and therefore Russia or Syria bombing them is not a violation of the ceasefire. However, some of the towns are controlled by the Free Syrian Army (FSA), and bombing them could be considered an actual violation of the ceasefire.

Alleged ceasefire violations are not limited to the Russians and Assad, it has also been reported, by the Russian Defense Ministry and by Rodi Osman a representative of the Syrian Kurds, that Turkey has shelled the northern Syrian town of Tel Abyad, which is held the Kurdish YPD.[4] Of course the Turkish military have denied these allegations.[5] Currently Tel Abyad is a battle ground between the PYD and ISIL, meaning that if the allegations are true, that Turkey shelled PYD targets in the town, then Turkey is effectively providing military support to ISIL.

Beyond these and a few other minor incidents, it appears the ceasefire is holding. However, the situation is still very tense, partly due to developments outside of Syria. It is rather foreboding that at this moment in northern Saudi Arabia the Saudis and 19 other Sunni nations are conducting a massive military drill named North Thunder.[6] Reportedly 350,000 troops, 20,000 tanks, 2,500 warplanes and 450 helicopters are participating in the drill.[7]

One wonders what exactly is the purpose of such a large military drill. Is this preparation for a potential future conflict with Iran and/or Russia? Could it be a ploy to mask the troop movements needed for an imminent invasion of Syria? Regardless of what the North Thunder drill leads to, it doesn’t portend good things for the future.

Interestingly Turkish F-16’s have been continuously patrolling the Syrian border since the ceasefire agreement has taken effect.[8] One wonders what the purpose of such increased patrols are. I highly doubt they will cross into Syrian territory, for fear of being downed by the Russians, but they could be in position to strike PYD targets, which could be done from within Turkish territory.

So while the Syrian ceasefire appears to be holding, such a precarious situation could change for the worse at a moment’s notice. Not only is there a high likelihood of either the rebels or Assad (and the Russians) seriously violating the agreement, one must pay attention to the actions of Turkey and Saudi Arabia, either of which could directly enter the Syrian conflict in the near future.

O Mouggos

References

[1] http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/syrias-fledgling-truce-enters-second-day-.aspx?pageID=238&nID=95813&NewsCatID=352

[2] http://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2016/02/27/452705/Syria-Russia-US-Lavrov-Kerry-ceasefire

[3] http://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2016/02/28/Syria-guns-mostly-silent-as-truce-appears-to-hold.html

[4] http://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2016/02/28/Russia-Syrian-town-of-Tel-Abyad-attacked.html , http://presstv.ir/Detail/2016/02/28/452801/Syria-Kurdish-forces-Turkey-shelling-Tell-Abyad

[5] http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/turkey-denies-hitting-ypg-positions-in-northern-syria.aspx?pageID=238&nID=95801&NewsCatID=341

[6] http://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2016/02/28/-North-Thunder-military-drill-begins-in-Saudi-Arabia.html

[7] http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/saudi-arabia-embarks-massive-military-drill-2500-warplanes-20000-tanks-1543841

[8] http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/turkish-jets-patrol-border-as-syria-cease-fire-largely-holds.aspx?pageID=238&nID=95776&NewsCatID=352

Advertisements