He writes, “Despite the boasted rhetoric about the agreement reached in the Astana talks over the Syria ceasefire, this latest stage unveiled the limits involved parties face in bringing an end to the six-year war. Even Russia’s chief negotiator at the discussion reached the point of complaining, more than once, about diverse complications. And the main obstacle remains Iran, due to the fact that a true ceasefire in Syria should spell the end of its foothold.” He adds, “The talks have even been dubbed a diplomatic coup, with all three sponsors, Moscow, Ankara, and Tehran accused of seeking separate objectives. The truth is there is no ceasefire thanks to Iran’s support for Syrian dictator Bashar Assad. Despite the so-called “ceasefire pact” sealed on December 30th, pro-Assad forces backed by Iran — including the Lebanese Hizb’allah — have continued attacks on the besieged rebel-held area of Wadi Barada near Damascus.”
The Syrian regime makes the excuse that al-Qaeda-affiliated “terrorist groups” are in control of Ain al-Fijeh, a small town in Wadi Barada. This, despite locals reporting only a “tiny minority” of “terrorist” being present. It would seem that neither Assad, nor Iran have are seeking a meaningful ceasefire in Syria.
Alavi says that according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, regime warplanes launched further airstrikes targeting rebel-controlled areas in west Syria, leaving 12 dead in one area alone.
The Astana talks have left many loopholes may be exploited:
– No details are available about a mechanism to monitor a supposed ceasefire.
– Political issues failed to achieve progress and the talks are as narrowly focused.
– One senior Western diplomat criticized the entire initiative as “not very serious,”adding, “You don’t seal a ceasefire in two days.” There are no indications of any work on modalities, observers, mechanisms, maps, and so forth.
– No document has been signed by Syrian opposition or regime representatives, the two parties who actually have to reach an arrangement.
– While the agreement promises a separation of rebel forces into legitimate opposition and terrorists, no specific method is laid out over how, and according to what merits.
The main benefactor of the talks might be considered Russia, especially since the U.S. has participated only as an observer. Iran is among those tasked to monitor the ceasefire, but it is obvious Iran-backed Shiite militias, who have already been accused of violating this ceasefire, will seek to exploit the numerous Astana agreement loopholes.
Even the next date set for future talks between Syrian opposition and regime delegations, lacks firm confirmation. The Astana negotiations did not go as planned due to the different interests of all three sponsors, proving that Washington and the Gulf States should take part in any future effort.
However there is difficulty, due to differences between Russia and Iran over the United States possibly taking part. Moscow is in favor of Washington, under the Trump administration, taking part, while Iran flatly rejects the proposal.
“They (the Russians) can now see how difficult their partners are,” one Western diplomat described, according to Reuters.
“They are finding a lot of obstacles from Hezbollah forces, Iran and the regime,” explained Mohammed Alloush, head of the Syrian opposition delegation.
Western diplomats have also voiced concerns, viewing Iran as a main obstacle to progress for a ceasefire.
Concerns regarding Iran’s involvement in Syria, including a conglomerate of militias and Assad forces continuing to launch attacks on civilians in rebel-held areas, there are serious doubts about Tehran’s role in this entire ordeal. This leaves the international community lacking an obvious solution.
“The regime in Tehran is the source of crisis in the region and killings in Syria; it has played the greatest role in the expansion and continuation of ISIS. Peace and tranquility in the region can only be achieved by evicting this regime from the region,” said Iranian opposition leader Maryam Rajavi, President of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, an umbrella group of dissidents including the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK).