The Syrian truce and pressuring Turkey

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

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The primary winner from the ceasefire in Syria in the current circumstances is the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. The US-led international alliance is taking back territories from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which mainly go back to regime control.

Before the truce began, Russia attacked opposition-held areas in the north and cut supply routes from Turkey. Russian military activity harmonized with Western pressure on Ankara to curb the extremist opposition. Turkey should have thwarted the activities of rebel groups similar to ISIS, such as Jabhat al-Nusra, following the Paris attacks and the influx of millions of refugees to Europe.

As the Russians and Europeans restrain Ankara, ISIS has carried out terrorist attacks against Turks. It is believed that they are acts of revenge after Ankara stepped up measures against the group. Meanwhile, Iran-linked militias such as Hezbollah have resumed military operations against the Syrian opposition.

The truce is supposed to lead to a political solution that opposing parties are negotiating over in Geneva under UN auspices. There is no hint of any serious attempts to take decisive measures, nor a minimal commitment to a final formula. This implicitly means that Assad will stay in power within the context of a possible consensual solution.


Can this bad situation, where he is being empowered and the Turks pressured, fulfil the Russian-Iranian project to rehabilitate the regime without making any fundamental changes to it? All indications are that we are heading in that direction, but the situation on the ground is challenging.

The truce is not a peace project, but a project to slow the pace of the crisis. If it succeeds it will turn Syria into another Somalia.

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

They cannot control 10 million Syrians who are either refugees or internally displaced, or put an end to the presence of militias at a time when the regime is so weak that it cannot impose its authority on its own.

The truce is not a peace project, but a project to slow the pace of the crisis. If it succeeds it will turn Syria into another Somalia, where Assad stays in power in the capital and controls a small part of the state, while the rest of it remains in chaos.

Some think the Somali model is the least bad scenario, as although violence in Somalia has been ongoing for years, it has not spilled over into neighbouring countries. However, this is a bad option for the Syrian people because it imposes the regime on them, and it is bad for the region because it will not stop violence from being exported.

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on Mar. 31, 2016.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today. He tweets @aalrashed.

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