Aid blocks show the Syrian regime lacks ceasefire commitment

The latest tenuous ceasefire in Syria went into effect on September 12, with Russia and the United States– the backers of the deal - reportedly considering military cooperation against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and other extremist factions if the truce holds for a one-week period. Aside from myriad issues – both ethical and strategic – that make any US military cooperation with Russia utterly impossible to imagine, the truce is extremely unlikely to progress to a point where the US and Russia could even begin attempting to enter into discussion about potentially intensifying cooperation. At the same time, amid the de-escalation in violence, the Syrian government has once again blocked critical aid from being delivered, with the New York Times reporting that the regime has failed to issue proper documentation that would ultimately ensure aid convoy drivers’ access to besieged areas.

The continued and illegal blocking of humanitarian aid by the regime underscores the government’s lack of commitment to honoring the stipulations of the ceasefire, which includes allowing humanitarian aid into at-need areas and its disinterest in ending the conflict before it can declare a definitive victory. Whether Russia proves willing and capable to pressure the regime into delivering aid during the latest ceasefire will be demonstrated in the coming days.

While the full ceasefire plan has not been made public, reports have indicated Moscow and Washington may work move toward sharing intelligence and possibly cooperating militarily in Syria if a tenuous calm holds. The New York Times reported that both states may “establish a Joint Implementation Center, where they will share targeting data, and begin to coordinate bombing of militants of the Nusra Front and [ISIS].” Russia has repeatedly undermined the US in Syria while worsening the bloodshed on the ground. Working toward cooperation with Russia in Syria is not a goal the US should be pursuing nor wasting resources on; Russia has not pivoted from its primary objective of ensuring Bashar al-Assad’s grip on power and they’ve given no indication they plan on doing so. Earlier this month, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem reportedly admitted that defeating ISIS was not the government’s chief concern. The US cannot align itself militarily with one of the main backers of a regime that has continuously demonstrated it seeks to obliterate all factions opposed to it – not just ISIS and the al-Nusra Front.

This period of calm is likely to be fleeting and the primary focus at this stage should be pressuring the regime to grant the proper permits that will allow for aid deliveries

Brooklyn Middleton

This period of calm is likely to be fleeting and the primary focus at this stage should be pressuring the regime to grant the proper permits that will allow for aid deliveries. The UN has already lambasted the Syrian government for not allowing aid to be delivered during this rare lull in violence, with UN special adviser Jan Egeland pleading with those blocking such aid, asking “can well-fed, grown men please stop putting political, bureaucratic and procedural roadblocks for brave humanitarian workers that are willing and able to go to serve women, children, wounded civilians in besieged areas?” That aid organizations are forced to beg for access to Syrians is a product of allowing the regime to disregard humanitarian law and choke off entire neighborhoods from food and aid for years with impunity. Until humanitarian aid reaches those in need – and the window of opportunity for deliveries closes a little more with each ceasefire violation – the ceasefire has not fully reached implementation.

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Brooklyn Middleton is an American Political and Security Risk Analyst currently based in New York City. She has previously written about U.S. President Obama's policy in Syria as well as Bashar al-Assad's continued crimes against his own people. She recently finished her MA thesis on Ayatollah Khomeini’s influence on the Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant group, completing her Master's degree in Middle Eastern Studies. You can follow her on Twitter here: @BklynMiddleton.

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:49 - GMT 06:49
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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