A bloody end to another failed ceasefire in Syria
The most recent developments underscore why Russia and the US will not reach anything close to consensus on military cooperation in Syria
The latest ceasefire in Syria concluded in dramatic, utter bloodshed before Syrian civilians received any of the humanitarian aid that was supposed to be delivered during the lull in fighting. Unforgivably, the Syrian regime once again prevented aid workers from entering into territory it is holding and intentionally blocked access during what was a rare moment of calm.
The most recent developments underscore why Russia and the US will not reach anything close to consensus on military cooperation in Syria and why coalition forces should act unilaterally to aid civilians.
Days after the Russia-US brokered ceasefire was implemented, US-led coalition jets accidentally bombarded regime positions, killing 62 Syrian soldiers. The US immediately acted with a great deal of transparency, launching an investigation into the attack and noting if coalition jets did strike Syrian soldiers it was indeed the result of a miscalculation.
There is no reason to asses the US would intentionally – particularly amid a ceasefire – attack Syrian positions after years of maintaining a standard of no direct aggression against Bashar al-Assad’s regime. Nonetheless, Russia capitalized on the attack for propaganda purposes, noting that they were, “reaching a really terrifying conclusion for the whole world,” that DC is “defending [the] Islamic State.”
Russia further demanded the UN Security Council convene for an emergency meeting within 24-hours of the US-led attack on Syrian combatants. Most notably, Russia has never attempted to convene an emergency UN meeting when any one hospital is obliterated in an air strike or when a massacre at a market takes place; this obvious point was one that United States Ambassador to the United Nations (UN) Samantha powers publicly noted, calling Russia’s “stunt” both “hypocritical” and “cynical.”
Russia’s immediate response to the accidental attack further underscores why any potential path toward military cooperation or intel sharing between Russia and the US is better left unpavedBrooklyn Middleton
Russia’s immediate response to the accidental attack further underscores why any potential path toward military cooperation or intel sharing between Russia and the US is better left unpaved.
Meanwhile, after days of the Assad regime refusing to grant proper permits for aid deliveries during the ceasefire, a suspected Russian airstrike hit a UN aid convoy, killing at least 20 people. Russia, against all evidence, has attempted to indicate the aid convoy instead “caught fire.” Even prior to this deadly attack, Russia has repeatedly disregarded international law while fully propping up a barbaric regime doing the same – for years.
The continued and intentional targeting of civilian infrastructure by the regime and Russia highlights the need for the US-led coalition to act unilaterally to aid civilians. Pressuring the UN to follow through on its commitment to execute humanitarian aid drops is a start. Despite extremely high tensions between Russia and the US, the risk of retaliation by Russia or the regime for executing such humanitarian missions remains low.
As the latest effort to broker some semblance of peace unravels, the need to pressure all factions to respect the most basic elements of humanitarian law – by making a credible threat of military force - remains critical. The regime has carried out numerous war crimes while continuing to sabotage aid workers’ efforts to relieve the immense level of suffering.
They are not and will never be a party that can be relied on. At the same time, Russia has proven that the amount of pressure it will exert on the regime will remain limited. The Syrian government and Russia have once again begun mercilessly bombarding eastern Aleppo, with renewed attacks reportedly leaving approximately 100 people dead and another two million choked off from water, according to the New York Times.
The latest period of tenuous calm is clearly over and plan B cannot be continued inaction.
Brooklyn Middleton is an American Political and Security Risk Analyst currently based in New York City. She has previously written about US 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.