US joins Russia in drawing ceasefire lines for ending Syrian war
Incoming US Secretary of State John Kerry, on his first foreign trip, set forth what sounded like a new Obama administration policy for Syria in his remarks in Paris Wednesday, Feb. 27. They were accompanied by reports that the US was stepping up its support for the Syrian opposition. It would cover training rebels at a base in the region and non-lethal assistances and equipment, such as vehicles, communications equipment and night vision gear.
But Kerry’s remarks did not reflect a new policy but merely recycled old definitions which confirmed US disengagement from Syria, rather than “stepping up support” for the Syrian opposition “for the first time.” US supplies of nonlethal assistance to Syrian rebels date back to early last year. The US has moreover been training Syrian rebels in Jordanian bases near the Syrian border for more than a year to carry out three missions:
1. To seize control of Bashar Assad’s chemical weapons arsenal;
2. To create a pro-Western core command structure as a factor in post-Assad government;
3. To ward off the takeover of the revolt command by Islamist factions, including groups associated with al Qaeda.
It turned out that none of these three missions was actually achieved. The chemical weapons remained firmly in the hands of Assad and his army – which never used them, contrary to rebel claims; factions close to Al Qaeda grew stronger; and their role in the rebel command expanded as they were seen to be the best-armed and trained of any Syrian rebel faction.
The Obama administration finally came to the conclusion that the only way to contain Islamist forces and retain a modicum of American control over the rebels was to catch a ride on Russian President Vladimir Putin plans for Syria, even through they entailed preserving Bashar Assad in power through to 2014.
debkafile’s military and Russian sources reveal here for the first time that those plans hinge primarily on establishing armistice lines dividing the country into separate sectors and determining in advance which will be controlled by rebel factions and which by Assad loyalilsts. This is the first practical basis to be put forward for an accord to end the two-year old civil war between Assad and the Syrian opposition and it is designed to go forward under joint Russian-American oversight.
Our sources add that the teamwork between Washington and Moscow in pursuit of this plan is close and detailed. They have agreed to get together on the types of weapons to be supplied to each of the rebel groups and are sharing costs.
That is the real new American policy for Syria: It is based on Washington’s recognition of the new situation unfolding in Syria and the need to cooperate with Moscow, including acceptance of Assad’s rule, in order to salvage remnants of American influence within the Syrian rebel camp.
French President Francois Hollande showed he was quick on the uptake. No sooner had the Secretary Kerry departed Paris for Rome Wednesday, than Hollande was on his way to Moscow to scout out a role for France.