On Friday, a cessation of hostilities brokered by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry last week in Munich is set to go into effect. Part of the agreement includes the delivery of urgently needed humanitarian aid to besieged areas. That part of the deal has begun.
The other part? Not so much.
Kerry explained the Obama administration’s position on Syria earlier this month in an interview with The Washington Post:
“What we’re doing is testing [Russian and Iranian] seriousness,” he said. “And if they’re not serious, then there has to be consideration of a Plan B…. You can’t just sit there.”
Russia’s intentions are of particular concern to the United States. With Russia’s help, the government has nearly surrounded Aleppo, Syria’s largest city and the rebels’ most important base. The campaign has been bloody, forcing a new wave of Syrians to flee.
With no appetite to send in U.S.ground troops, calls for a safe zone in Syria are getting louder. So far, the U.S. has said no. But with so few options left – and fears of Putin’s growing influence – Kerry may be hinting that a revised U.S. policy is on the table.
What Happens Next in Syria?
Doyle McManus – Los Angeles Times
In an interview with the Washington Post, Kerry offered an undiplomatic hint of what his next step may be.
“What we’re doing is testing [Russian and Iranian] seriousness,” he said. “And if they’re not serious, then there has to be consideration of a Plan B…. You can’t just sit there.” …
Kerry still thinks there’s a chance to persuade Russia and Iran, Assad’s chief foreign backers, that they should help force a change in Syria’s government. But that’s a distant possibility. Meanwhile, Kerry, at least, will be looking for alternatives to just “sitting there” — including a safe zone.
A safe zone wouldn’t end Syria’s civil war, but it would strike a blow against Islamic State (which controls part of the border zone) — and potentially push Syria toward serious peace talks. The risks are no lower than before, but the costs of the war are mounting.
Putin’s Blank Check in Syria
David Braha – Jerusalem Post
…It is hard to blame Western governments for not intervening in Syria (yet). Clearly, they learned their lessons from Iraq very well….
This doctrine is starting to backfire though. Western hesitation is issuing Putin a blank check to increase Russian influence in the Middle East.
And having the Russian president become the gatekeeper of such a volatile region may not be in the best interests of either the United States or Europe.
Decision time is coming, and Western democracies may not like any of the options they have in front of them. If they stay out of the game, Putin wins.
If they get involved, then the stakes will skyrocket. It’s a lose-lose situation. Finding a convincing third way out of this deadlock will require a lot of creativity, determination and political courage – qualities that, as of today, are in low supply among most Western leaders.
Kerry Announces Syria Deal in Munich: