Saturday marks two weeks since a ceasefire began in Syria. While the Assad regime, the Russians and opposition groups have all reported violations, combat has been greatly reduced and humanitarian aid has been moving to more areas. Anti-government protests have even taken place amid the truce.
A new round of U.N.-mediated peace talks are set to resume Monday with opposition groups expected to attend. Islamic State and al-Nusra Front are not invited and continue to be targeted by Russia and U.S. air strikes.
How these talks unfold will be key in determining whether the truce strengthens or disintegrates, and how the threat from IS and al-Nusra is prosecuted.
It’s Time to Seriously Consider Partitioning Syria
Adm. James Stavridis (Ret.) – Foreign Policy
What is increasingly apparent amid all this misery is that Syria as a nation is increasingly a fiction….Like Humpty Dumpty in the children’s nursery rhyme, the odds of putting Syria back together again into a functioning entity appear very low. It is time to consider a partition….
Certainly there are downsides…[p]artitions in general set bad precedents and appeal to small, disenfranchised minorities around the world, inflaming other potentially chaotic scenarios. They are also difficult to negotiate…
Despite the negatives, partitions can be used with good effect to move warring parties to opposite sides of the battle space. For a population that is already almost 50 percent displaced, frankly, there is not much to lose.
Bosnia as a Model for Securing Syria
Edward P. Joseph & Michael O’Hanlon – The National Interest
Strangely, as a very shaky and probably temporary cessation of hostilities begins in parts of Syria, the idea of restoring a strong unified Syrian state remains official American policy….
In a conflict that has killed at least three hundred thousand; displaced twelve million, of whom four million are refugees in foreign lands; created the greatest refugee crisis in Europe since World War II; inflamed Sunni-Shia passions across the Middle East; and created sanctuaries for ISIS as well as the Nusra Front, such a goal seems unrealistic. It also seems unnecessary, and almost romantic—somehow the ideal of a nonsectarian centrally run state must be preserved, even as far more basic human needs are trampled by this terrible war.
What the World Brings to Syrian Peace Talks
Editorial Board – The Christian Science Monitor
A great deal of doubt surrounds the United Nations-sponsored talks planned next week to end Syria’s civil war – despite a cease-fire that began Feb. 27. Such skepticism would seem justified if the focus were solely on the complexity of players, both inside and outside Syria….
Yet the skepticism is odd considering one lesson from recent history that can help broaden the focus for the talks – and thus provide hope.
The lesson is this: In the last quarter century since the end of the cold war, more conflicts have been resolved by peace settlements than by military victories.
Syria: Next Steps
Frederic C. Hof – Atlantic Council
Making decisive victory over ISIL in Syria dependent on a national unity formula produced by negotiations in Geneva is the practical equivalent of deleting decisive victory as an objective. On the one hand there is no doubt that Bashar al-Assad… singularly unqualified to pose, much less perform, as a unifying figure. On the other hand, however, Russia—after taking the measure of the West—has conducted a brutal, sometimes hospital-centric aerial campaign that has enabled Iranian-organized foreign fighters and Assad’s moribund army to make gains on the ground in the Aleppo area.
It is difficult to see how these advances will dispose Assad to step aside for the sake of anti-ISIL national unity….
Moving with dispatch on the ground to kill ISIL in Syria is essential. Even if the effort requires significant American “skin in the game,” surely President Obama can make the requisite case to the American people.