FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Syrian Cease-Fire Looks like a Long Shot

In Northern Ireland it used to be called “the politics of the last atrocity”, when the latest act of violence and the retaliation it provoked dictated the direction of day-to-day politics. Syria has travelled far in this direction, its towns convulsed by mini-civil wars too bitter and bloodstained to end by mediation.

It is this which is making it so difficult for Kofi Annan, joint envoy for the UN and Arab League, to succeed in his mission. The Syrian government has demanded guarantees from the militiamen it is fighting that they will abide by a ceasefire. This is unlikely to happen given the total distrust between the two sides and with the insurgents fearful of risking torture and execution.

The skirmish on the Syrian-Turkish border is an example of the problems facing any attempt to end the fighting. Anti-government forces attacked a Syrian government checkpoint near the frontier, killed six soldiers and were then shot at as they retreated across the frontier, with bullets hitting dwellings in a nearby refugee camp.

Could this provoke Turkish intervention in the shape of a safe haven for refugees? Ankara has so far been unwilling to risk an all-out conflict. Both sides are playing to the gallery, the insurgents trying to publicize any action by the Syrian army that might goad foreign powers into action. Assad needs to make a show of moderation to keep Russia and China on side.

So far it is the differences between Libya and Syria which are most striking. In Syria, Nato countries want an excuse not to do anything radical, while in Libya they were looking for a justification to intervene. And without direct action by foreign powers, the only alternative for the Free Syrian Army is to wage an escalating guerrilla war against Bashar al-Assad’s government which is unlikely to bring about a collapse of the regime.

Assad’s options are also limited. He and his government have survived a year of pressure. During fighting in and around Homs, the Syrian army showed that it could crush any insurgent band.

But the government’s brutality, including torture, summary executions and artillery bombardments of civilian areas, means it is always creating fresh enemies.

Diplomats say Mr Assad’s senior officials are in a confident, and possibly an over-confident, mood. They may have stopped the tide of insurgency, but they will be unable to reverse it. Concessions made last spring might have had an impact, but since then too much blood has been spilled.

PATRICK COCKBURN is the author of “Muqtada: Muqtada Al-Sadr, the Shia Revival, and the Struggle for Iraq.

More articles by:

Patrick Cockburn is the author of  The Rise of Islamic State: ISIS and the New Sunni Revolution.

June 21, 2018
Ron Jacobs
Divest From the Business of Incarceration
W. T. Whitney
Angola in Louisiana: Proving Ground for Racialized Capitalism
Susan Babbitt
Assange and Truth: the Deeper (Harder) Issue
Kenn Orphan
Humanity vs. the Rule of Law
Mateo Pimentel
Why on Earth a Country of Laws and Borders?
Michael T. Klare
The Pentagon’s Provocative Encirclement of China
Howard Lisnoff
The Outrageous Level of Intolerance is Happening Everywhere!
Vijay Prashad
The People of India Stand With Palestine
RS Ahthion
Internment Camps for Child Migrants
Binoy Kampmark
Rocking the G7: Trump Stomps His Allies
Raouf Halaby
Give It Up, Ya Mahmoud
Lawrence Wittner
Getting Ready for Nuclear War
Patrick Cockburn
Kurdish Women Protest After Being Told by Turkish-Backed Militias to Wear the Hijab
Dean Baker
When Both Men and Women Drop Out of the Labor Force, Why Do Economists Only Ask About Men?
Bruce Lerro
Big Brother Facebook: Drawing Down the Iron Curtain on Yankeedom
June 20, 2018
Henry Giroux
Trump’s War on Children is an act of State Terrorism
Bill Hackwell
Unprecedented Cruelty Against Immigrants and Their Children
Paul Atwood
“What? You Think We’re So Innocent?”
Nicola Perugini
The Palestinian Tipping Point
K.J. Noh
Destiny and Daring: South Korean President Moon Jae-In’s Impossible Journey Towards Peace
Gary Leupp
Jeff Sessions and St. Paul’s Clear and Wise Commands
M. G. Piety
On Speaking Small Truths to Power
Dave Lindorff
Some Straight Talk for Younger People on Social Security (and Medicare too)
George Wuerthner
The Public Value of Forests as Carbon Reserves
CJ Hopkins
Confession of a Putin-Nazi Denialist
David Schultz
Less Than Fundamental:  the Myth of Voting Rights in America
Rohullah Naderi
The West’s Over-Publicized Development Achievements in Afghanistan 
Dan Bacher
California Lacks Real Marine Protection as Offshore Drilling Expands in State Waters
Lori Hanson – Miguel Gomez
The Students of Nicaragua’s April Uprising
Russell Mokhiber
Are Corporations Behind Frivolous Lawsuits Against Corporations?
Michael Welton
Infusing Civil Society With Hope for a Better World
June 19, 2018
Ann Robertson - Bill Leumer
We Can Thank Top Union Officials for Trump
Lawrence Davidson
The Republican Party Falls Apart, the Democrats Get Stuck
Sheldon Richman
Trump, North Korea, and Iran
Richard Rubenstein
Trump the (Shakespearean) Fool: a New Look at the Dynamics of Trumpism
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
Protect Immigrant Rights; End the Crises That Drive Migration
Gary Leupp
Norway: Just Withdraw From NATO
Kristine Mattis
Nerd Culture, Adultolescence, and the Abdication of Social Priorities
Mike Garrity
The Forest Service Should Not be Above the Law
Colin Todhunter
Pro-GMO Activism And Smears Masquerade As Journalism: From Seralini To Jairam Ramesh, Aruna Rodrigues Puts The Record Straight
Doug Rawlings
Does the Burns/Novick Vietnam Documentary Deserve an Emmy?
Kenneth Surin
2018 Electioneering in Appalachian Virginia
Nino Pagliccia
Chrystia Freeland Fails to See the Emerging Multipolar World
John Forte
Stuart Hall and Us
June 18, 2018
Paul Street
Denuclearize the United States? An Unthinkable Thought
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail