Deputy Prime Minister Qadri Jamil has raised the prospect of a ceasefire in Syria.
Jamil is seen as Russia’s man in the Assad Government, but says he is giving the regime’s view. He says forces were at a deadlock on both sides and that negotiations should begin.
Such negotiations could stall the drive to get a UN resolution authorising force. They will also help Russia to continue backing Assad without getting into conflict with the US.
We could neither support nor advocate any rotten deal likely to come out of these negotiations. Given the fragmented nature of the opposition, the likely advantages to Assad such negotiations would bring, and the refusal of even the moderate rebels of the FSA to see Assad remain in power, no deal is likely. Nonetheless, an end to the fighting, however brief, would be a good thing.
Bitter fighting over towns, settlements and their resources is on the rise. More and more people are displaced. Towns are passing between the FSA, ISIS and other groups in continuing circles of fighting, temporary alliances and further conflict. The different views between one FSA commander and another about the role of the jihadist fighters increases the complexity of what rebel gains mean. Minorities like the Kurds, Alawites and Christians are right to be fearful of a rebel victory.
The regime is currently negotiating the handing over of its chemical weapons and has provided a provisional inventory of its major sites. It has requested a year to hand over the weapons, with the caveat it may not manage to get rid of them all. The Syrian army still has fearsome supplies of conventional weaponry with which it continues to slaughter the people.
The UN wants Iran to take part in negotiations as Syria’s main Shia ally. The call coincides with Iran’s new President, Hassan Rouhani’s tentative return to international diplomacy. The outward softening — on issues such as anti-semitism — is not matched by the regime’s stance inside Iran of continuing to back Assad and Hezbollah.
Speaking on the consequences of the war for the Middle East, Major General Yair Golan, a senior figure in the Israeli military, has said that “The rebels cannot succeed in creating an alternative, and Assad cannot succeed in governing.”
He warned Hezbollah that should it take control of chemical weapons from Assad, or attempt to attack Israel as the regime weakens, Israel will respond. Israel should not, he said, “be put to the test”.
Many of Hezbollah’s missile launchers are in heavily built up areas. Bombing by Israel could be devastating to Lebanon.
It would be no victory for the Palestinians for Hezbollah to launch an attack of Israel. Fortunately there is no evidence that Hassan Nasrullah, the leader of Hezbollah, wants to take control of Syria’s chemical weapons and the ability of Syria to launch a long range offensive or sponsor Hezbollah in launching one against Israel is low.
With Syria having used 40-50% of its long range missiles, sustained but sporadic fighting throughout the country with no clear end or resolution remains the most likely prospect. None of the groups with a substantial military arsenal deserves political backing from workers and minorities in Syria. We have to continue to push for independent working class defence against both the regime and the militias.
Any cessation in fighting may provide a chance for those forces, or potential forces, to consolidate and begin to discuss how to win a democratic, secular and free Syria.