Sunday, September 25, 2016

Syrian Conflict - US and Russia and A Messy Unfolding

It is like the return of the old cold war days with vengeance. Russia and the United States are in intense battle of wits against each other after 18 humanitarian trucks clearly marked and carrying wheat flour, medicine and clothing were attacked and destroyed in a dastardly attack in Syria.
The relief materials comprised nine tons of medicine and clothing for about 78,000 people for violence hit northern Syria. The attack on humanitarian convoy has severely weakened the pact reached sometime back between the United States and Russia aimed at halting the war. The U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry blasted Russia for allegedly changing its explanation about the attack that killed 20 people.

“This is not a joke,” Kerry said at a U.N. meet. 
Predictably, irked by the attack, the United Nations have suspended all aid convoys in Syria and also described the bombing as a possible war crime.
The Obama administration has held Russia responsible for the attack, while Moscow has denied it. Russia has said, the major mishap that destroyed 18 of the 31 trucks had occurred as a result of a fire mishap.
The UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said the attack on the convoy was “sickening, savage and apparently deliberate.”
However, amid the battle of wits a positive aspect remained that despite the outrage and continued bombing of rebel-held areas, both the US and Russia have still decided to salvage the Syrian ceasefire. But the repeated major mishaps are seen only as a part of greater designs. The destruction of these humanitarian trucks was the second disaster in three days. Experts see these only as attempts to subvert the agreement between Russia and the United States, which had called for a cease-fire and delivery of humanitarian aid.
Earlier, on Saturday last week, Americans had to tender an apology when a US airstrike supposed to target Islamic State militants in Syria instead had killed 60 people that Syria’s government and its Russian allies identified as Syrian soldiers.
Despite American apologies, Russia and Syrian government have called the misdirected air strike as deliberate.
Now the question comes, are the two big powers serious about a global response to counter the terrorism in Syria?

The US-Russian agreement has been ironically the first truly serious attempt to reduce the violence. 
The blood-soaked conflict in Syria is probably easy to track by figures than understanding the basics. It has almost claimed 5 lakh (50 million) lives, displaced several millions, opened space for the Islamic State and has involved powers like the US and Russia into it.But the complex problems involved probably have not been understood and analyzed well as allowing these conflicts to linger can only harm the world. Going into basics, the core conflict has been between forces loyal to President Bashar Al-Assad and the rebels. In the meantime, Syria’s ethnic Kurdish minority took up arms and an ominous group Islamic State with their ruthless style has come to steal the limelight.
There is a vital international angle into all these. Syrian President Assad receives support from Iran and Russia and a Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, the “rebels” are said to be backed by the United States and some oil-rich Arab states. 

Thus, there is a very complex war theatre on the table and the roadmap to peace and a tangible solution looks difficult. 
Even as the Russia-US pact had evoked some hope because the two sides - the world’s sole superpower the United States and Russia, which aspires to be a super power have shown interest to work for peace.
But the agreement has a weakness also as in the absence of any institutional mechanism the success of the pact lies solely around goodwill and sincerity. Goodwill, they say, has been in short supply in Syria since many of the players have varying interests. So a doubt remains how the US and Russia are able to force their allies to chose the path of peace and reconciliation. 


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