GlobalSmackDown: United States and Russia agree to ceasefire

Eric Bellomo

WHO: United States & Russia

WHERE: Syria 

WHEN: Sept. 9

WHAT: The United States & Russia agree on a temporary ceasefire beginning Sept. 12

How: Ongoing diplomatic negotiations

So what: On Sept. 9, the United States and Russia took a step in stabilizing the civil war that has ravaged Syria since the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings. 

Though Washington and Moscow don’t often consider themselves to be diplomatic allies, Secretary of State John Kerry argued the agreement was the best alternative to an extension of the already ferocious conflict. Kerry also acknowledged that the nature and foundation of the deal is constantly being tested as the two nations try to cooperate. 

The initial ceasefire was set to last 48 hours but was extended an additional 48 hours. The extension of the deal is a positive sign, but both sides have also expressed discontent with their counterparts. Washington asserts that Assad has prevented humanitarian aid from reaching northern Aleppo while Moscow argues the U.S. has dragged its feet in clearly identifying which rebel groups are considered “moderate” or “radical.” 

The reason this is significant is because a group’s designation determines if the ceasefire protects them. Two notable groups, Daesh and Jabhat Fateh Al-Sham JFS, are not protected. The issue is further complicated by differing opinions in what constitutes a “radical” designation and the fact that groups can splinter and rebrand themselves. 

This agreement and its emphasis on the accurate designation of rebel groups reflects a strategic shift in priorities of the U.S., as Washington has moved policy away from removing Assad from power and towards stifling groups like, Daesh and JFS. 

For example, JFS, previously an al Qaeda affiliate known as Jabhat al-Nusra, asserted their independence and now operates autonomously. Russia is also calling for the U.S. to release the negotiation documents. The U.S. claims they are classified.

 After a breakdown in previous ceasefire agreements, both sides will attempt to support a more lasting and meaningful agreement.  

The agreement has since been tested beyond theinitial strain when a humanitarian aid convoy was bombed in rebel controlled Urem al-Kubra on Sept. 19 . The U.S. claimed the attack came from Russian aircraft but Moscow denied involvement.


Addition: *Global Smackdown is a 23-minute multimedia-based forum facilitated by Dr. Tim Horner every Thursday at 2 p.m. in Corr 103.