By Ollie Richardson for Fort Russ
17th May, 2016
On 17th May, 2016, the International Syrian Support Group held a 5 hour meeting behind closed doors in Vienna. After the meeting, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, US Secretary of State John Kerry, and UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura gave a joint statement to the media. The main points from John Kerry’s speech are verbatim below:
- First, we pledged our support for transforming the cessation of hostilities into a comprehensive ceasefire. And we committed to use our influence to use the parties to the cessation in order to ensure compliance.
In other words: The ceasefire will apply to Syria as a whole, although the US still refuses to say exactly which groups they have influence over. This benefits both US and Russia, depending on how Al-Nusra and other groups are separated.
- Second, we agreed that if a party to the cessation of hostilities engages in a pattern of persistent noncompliance, the task force can refer that behavior to the ISSG ministers or those designated by the ministers to determine appropriate action, including the exclusion of such parties from the arrangements of the cessation. Interpreted directly, that means that if they continue to do it and they’re pretending to be part of the cessation and they’re not, they could be subject to no longer being part of the cessation immediately. In addition to that, we underscored the failure of the cessation of hostilities or granting access to the delivery of humanitarian relief that we’ve already seen in some instances. And if that continues, that will increase international pressure and potentially other actions on those who do not live up to those commitments.
In other words: As long as there are two groups – those included and those not included in the cessation of hostilities – it is easy for groups to swap flags and continue massacring civilians at will.
- Third, we will intensify efforts to get the parties to stop all indiscriminate use of force. We welcome Russia’s commitment to work with the Syrian authorities to halt aerial bombardments over areas predominantly inhabited by civilians or parties to the cessation, and the U.S. commitment to intensify support for regional partners to help prevent the flow of foreign fighters, weapons, and financial support to terrorist organizations.
In other words: US is terrified of both Russia’s aerial capability, and the legal framework in which it operates. But how exactly can the US tell the Syrian government to stop operating on its own land?
“Preventing the flow of foreign fighters, weapons, and financial support” is exactly what Russia has done, and on the contrary, the US has smuggled weapons to dozens of terrorist groups via the FSA and Turkish Trojan Horse.
- Fourth, we call on all parties to the cessation of hostilities to disassociate themselves physically and politically from Daesh and al-Nusrah and to endorse the intensified efforts by the United States and Russia to develop shared understandings of the threat posed and the delineation of the territory that is controlled by Daesh and al-Nusrah and to consider ways to deal decisively with terrorist groups.
In other words: Russia has twisted Kerry’s arm into dissecting exactly who is fighting with Al Nusra, as currently it is still rather vague on the surface. It is known that many groups share the Salafist ideology, but the US is still able to label, for example, Ahrar al-Sham as a ‘moderate’ group. In essence, anyone fighting against the Syrian government is a ‘terrorist’, however, the US insist that there are large sects of society that are genuinely aggrieved with Assad.
- Fifth, we agree that the delivery of humanitarian assistance must begin or resume – depending on the case – in Douma, East Harasta, Arbeen, Zamalka, Darraya, Fouah, Kefraya, Madaya, Zabadin, Muadhamiya, Yarmouk, Zabadani, and Kafr Batna. And these deliveries will continue as long as the need persists. And starting on June 1st, if the UN is denied humanitarian access to any of these designated areas, the ISSG calls on the World Food Program to immediately carry out a program for air bridges and air drops for all of those areas in need. And the ISSG pledges to support such a program and also calls on all parties to provide a secure environment for that program. The World Food Program will, of course, determine where it is operationally feasible to conduct this program. And the World Food Program will accelerate air drops in Deir al-Zour, where it has already provided some 460 metric tons of food to more than 100,000 people. Aid to these areas must be a step towards a full, sustained, and unimpeded access throughout the country. And the UN will report weekly on aid deliveries to members of the support group – to these members so that members of the support group can allow the parties to have access without delay or denial. And if problems arise, the humanitarian task force, under the ISSG, will work to resolve them.
In other words: The charade of food being delivered and magically disappearing will continue. Douma is a Takfiri stronghold, so what exactly does John Kerry think is going to happen to said airdrops or ground deliveries? Russia would prefer to liberate the area first, but of course, the US wants to kurb the Syrian and Russian airforce’s presence in the area.
- Sixth, Special Envoy de Mistura will facilitate agreements between the Syrian parties for the release of detainees. And we call on any party holding detainees to protect the health and safety of those in their custody.
In other words: Throat cutting ‘rebels’ captured by the Syrian Army will be allowed back onto the streets, where a ‘rebel’ from Jaish Al-Islam will ‘accidentally’ give them an assault rifle and a ride back to Salafist HQ.
- Finally, we underscored the need for substantive discussions on the objective of meeting the target date established by the UN Secretary – by the UN Council Resolution 2254 of August 1st to reach agreement on a framework for a genuine political transition to a transitional governing body. Those talks should address the structure, membership, operational rules, and the roles and responsibilities of a broad, inclusive, nonsectarian transitional governing body with full executive powers, and we agreed to work on that. Now, the August date is not a drop date; it’s a target date and we all recognize that if we’re making significant progress and we’re moving, we will respect that process.
In other words: Assad must still go, although these ‘deadlines’ always pass without event. It’s safe to say that Assad will still be President by August.
The opposition High Negotiations Committee, backed by Saudi Arabia, released the following statement after the ISSG meeting:
As is well-known by now, it is not Assad who is besieging these towns – it is the western-backed proxies, who steal UN humanitarian aid and even have the audacity to sell it at astronomical prices.
The HNC communiqué also begs for Russia and Iran to stop bombing terrorists, and even calls the Iranian Elite Troops “Assad’s boots on the ground” – a void statement since Iran also has permission from the legitimate Syrian government. The HNC also states that they do not want ‘full scale war”, and have preference for a “political solution”. However, the Saudi Foreign Minister said something on the contrary:
In summary: The branch of International Relations that the US adheres to (idealism) compels them to fixate on “humanitarian” issues, because of course, Liberalism is fully supportive of the concept of “human rights”. Also, this topic fully aligns with the NGO White Helmets ‘propaganda role. If this theme was removed from John Kerry’s speech, what exactly would be left? Russia must stop fighting terrorism? ‘Rebels’ must stop stealing aid and selling it on the black market? This would be a difficult pitch to sell, so instead the US wraps these illogical ramblings up with universal, humanist tape. “People need to eat but we won’t ensure they A) receive the food in the first place, and B) that they won’t be executed before the food has had time to digest, or C) there will be people alive to eat the aid.”
So what exactly is the US’ plan now besides “Humanitarian” concern? It’s simple – the absence of a plan is the plan. This is known as ‘winging it’. If Russia really does ramp up its campaign once again in the summer, the US might be forced to actually formulate a plan – a full actual withdrawal from the Levant.