April 29, 2016
CNAS Press Note: The Syria Ceasefire Holds on By a Thread
Washington, April 29 – With the ceasefire in Syria in danger of collapse and the U.N. Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura calling on the U.S. and Russia to save peace talks, CNAS Middle East Security Program Research Associate Nicholas Heras has written a new Press Note, “The Syria Ceasefire Holds on By a Thread.”
The full Press Note is below:
On Wednesday, U.N. Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura warned that the cessation of hostilities that had reduced violence by 80 to 90 percent in the civil war is in imminent danger of collapse. De Mistura’s announcement comes at a time when the Assad regime has reinitiated a campaign to encircle and besiege Aleppo and its tactic of “siege-and-starve warfare” in opposition-controlled areas, such as around the capital of Damascus, is drawing international acrimony.
Critics of current U.S. policy toward Syria are pressing the Obama Administration to do much more to support the Syrian opposition, including proposals for providing advanced Man Portable Advanced Air Defense Systems (MANPADS) directly to rebel groups, or to impose a safe zone over opposition-controlled areas of Syria. Calls for a U.S.-sponsored “Plan B” to support the Syrian armed opposition against the Assad regime and its allies are tempting and have strong merit for consideration. However, these lines of action will be pursued at great risk given the current situation on the ground inside rebel-ruled areas of Syria.
Extremist groups such as Jabhat al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham are embedded within the Syrian armed opposition throughout northern Syria. There is the very real possibility that these extremist actors could appropriate MANPADs for their own use or the use of transnational jihadist organizations. And a U.S.-built safe zone in northern Syria could potentially empower ideological extremist actors to further entrench themselves in the local communities.
A forward-leaning U.S. strategy in Syria requires a more effective, and empowered, local armed opposition force on the ground. In order to set the conditions for the potential introduction of more advanced air defenses for the Syrian opposition, including MANPADS, the U.S. and its partners will need to provide sustained support that empowers moderate armed opposition actors to be the preeminent military and social force in their communities.
Heras is available for interviews. To arrange an interview, please contact Neal Urwitz firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-457-9409.