Russia and the United States agreed to a cessation of hostilities in Syria Monday, but it is far from clear if the fighting in the war-torn country will indeed stop this weekend.
Under the deal — which the parties hope will take effect on Saturday — a hotline will be established between Moscow and Washington to monitor the cease-fire that Secretary of State John Kerry now calls a “hudna.”
It’s unclear why Kerry suddenly uses Arabic words when he talks about the current chaos in Syria and the rest of the Middle East. He did the same with the war against ISIS. At the end of last year, Kerry started to use the Arabic acronym Daesh for Islamic State instead of ISIL as Obama calls the Jihadist group. But Kerry didn’t know how to pronounce it.
By now using the term hudna to describe the agreement involving the imminent cease-fire, Kerry shows he has no clue about the meaning of the word.
Hudna is Arabic for a temporary truce with the goal to rearm and replenish depleted ammunition stocks in preparation for the next round of fighting.
Israeli journalist David Bedein, writing for Frontpage Magazine in 2014, reported “the authoritative Islamic Encyclopedia (London, 1922) defines hudna as a ‘temporary treaty’ which can be approved or abrogated by Islamic religious leaders (emphasis added), depending on whether or not it serves the interests of Islam; a hudna cannot last for more than 10 years.”
This makes clear Kerry’s deal with Russian foreign minister Lavrov is no hudna, but an attempt to stop the war in Syria.
There are a few problems with the deal, however.
First, the deal excludes the war effort against Islamic State that controls a large part of Syria and al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra that is in control of several parts of Syrian territory in the north, west and south of Syria.
It’s hard to see how a cease-fire can be maintained when the war against these two fanatical players in Syria continues. Islamic State already showed Sunday there will be no cessation of hostilities as long as it is in control of parts of Syria. The group carried out six suicide attacks that killed more than 190 Syrians and wounded hundreds of others while Kerry and Lavrov were finalizing the agreement.
Secondly, the deal says all UN-designated terrorist organizations will be excluded from the deal. Turkey regards the Kurdish YPG militia as a terrorist organization because of its ties with the Kurdish Workers Party PKK (a designated terrorist organization).
The Turks have stepped up their military campaign against the Syrian Kurds since the terrorist attack in Ankara last week. Turkey said the attack that killed 28 people was the work of a Syrian with ties to the YPG militia, but a forensic investigation unveiled Tuesday provides evidence the terrorist who carried out the suicide attack was born in Turkey.
Turkey doesn’t signal it will stop the shelling of YPG positions in Syria and has not announced it will cease its campaign against the YPG.
Third, Russia has always cast all rebel groups in Syria as terrorist organizations, including the Western-backed Free Syrian Army. Bashar al-Zoubi, the leader of the Free Syrian Army, has already called the provision about the terrorist groups a “fatal flaw” and said he was very pessimistic about the agreement.
The Assad government also has it doubts about the implementation of the cease-fire.
“The Syrian state for sure respects that (the ceasefire) which it agreed to, and will uphold it on principle. But I can’t speak on behalf of the armed groups which, pre-emptively, announced that they are not willing to agree to the ceasefire,” Ali Haidar, Syrian Minister of National Reconciliation said yesterday.
Kerry now says that it may be too late. But if the fighting continues, Syria will fall apart.
“It may be too late to keep it as a whole Syria, if we wait much longer. So that’s what’s at issue here,” Kerry said Wednesday.
His remarks showed again how much he is out of touch with the new reality in the Middle East because Syria as we knew it ceased to exist a long time ago.
Middle East expert Jonathan Spyer is one of the insiders who wrote last year that Syria had fallen apart.
“As the civil war over the ruins of Syria grinds on into its fifth year, the fighting seems nowhere near an end. Indeed, there is no longer a single war taking place in the country. Rather, as Syria physically divides into separate entities, so the conflict, too, further subdivides, spawning new conflicts,” Spyer wrote last year.
Indeed, since Islamic State conquered large swaths of territory in Syria and the Assad regime suffered a string of losses leaving it in control of only 20 percent of the country, Syria consists of separate entities. The Kurds have established autonomous cantons in the north, Islamic State is in control of the center and east of the country and the Assad regime reigns in the west, north and south of Syria. The rest of the country is controlled by several rebel groups and coalitions and the Druze (Suweida).
The fact the Russian/Iranian pro-Assad coalition recently has won back territories has not significantly changed this situation. Syria has fallen apart; someone should tell this to Kerry.