In the three weeks or so since I last posted, a lot has happened in the sad story that is Syria. The biggest event has been the agreement of, and subsequent collapse of, a ceasefire agreement. The ceasefire agreement, however, was doomed to fail from the start. The single biggest reason for this is that it was agreed upon without any input from the actual combatants in the conflict. Neither the Syrian regime nor any of the myriad of rebel groups were involved in drafting the ceasefire, which is ironic considering that they are they ones doing the actual firing. Furthermore, during the ceasefire, while ground operations by the two sides did dramatically slow down they never stopped altogether and airstrikes by the Regime and the Russians continued. The deal also depended on the ability of the US to control the rebel groups, an ability which the US did not possess. The deal further called for rebel groups to separate themselves from Islamists fighters, something most rebel groups are loath to do given the Islamists’ fighting prowess and indeed a process that was feasible even if it was desirable. Would the mainstream opposition be required to cede ground to the Islamists or seize it from them, or even to cede ground to the regime? The deal was signed before any of these questions were answered, and as such it is little surprise that it failed.
But to reiterate, the single biggest reason for why the ceasefire failed is that it did not include any of the actual combatants in the drafting process. The idea that a ceasefire agreement signed without the involvement of the actual warring parties would succeed is idiotic at best and dangerous and irresponsible at worst. This highlights an important reason behind why so many of the diplomatic efforts to end the Syrian Civil War have failed. Almost none of the talks have included representatives from any of the many rebel groups on the ground, with the international community preferring to instead deal with the highly impotent and far removed political opposition. The talks in Geneva early this year did finally include a number of representatives from the armed opposition but far from a majority. The Syrian Civil War is the product of almost half a century of tyranny by the Assad regime. If any agreement is to succeed a modicum of trust must be built between the opposing sides and this cannot happen if the parties involved (as many as possible) do not talk to one another. The international community must accept realities on the ground and cease to ‘cherry-pick’ opposition groups to be represented. Obviously, truly repugnant groups such as ISIS can and should be excluded but as much of the opposition as possible needs to be involved in future talks. The Syrian Regime must also be faced with serious consequences (i.e. international airstrikes) should it break or abuse agreements. The Regime’s backers must also accept that no agreement will ever succeed without the removal of Bashar al-Assad and his family from power.