News

Syria Cease-fire Poses New International Challenges

Al Pessin

The Syrian government’s decision to partially implement the peace plan endorsed by the Arab League and the United Nations creates new challenges for world and regional leaders.

The cease-fire in Syria largely took hold last Thursday, but only briefly.  Forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad have resumed some shelling of opposition strongholds, and the government’s tanks and troops did not pull out of cities and towns, as the plan requires.  United Nations truce observers have begun to arrive in Syria.  But Western officials, and analysts like Nyresa Cama of the Janusian Risk Advisory Group, do not expect the relative calm to last very long.

“I don’t think there’s really any strong evidence that we can point to that the Assad government has been convinced to go down a different route than the one it’s been going down," Cama said.

And that creates some interesting questions for the international community.

“I think the West really has to make up its mind what level of intervention it wants to stage in Syria, if any,” Cama said.

Western governments say they have no intention of intervening, even if the cease-fire breaks down.  But some Arab governments, notably Saudi Arabia, want to arm the Syrian opposition.  
The Saudis have become leading opponents of President Assad, in part to appear to champion a popular rebellion, says retired British diplomat Michael Williams.  And he says the Saudis also want to put pressure on their chief rival, Iran, a key Assad ally.

"If the Assad regime was to fall, this would be an enormous blow for Iran.  And Saudi Arabia feels very strongly now that this is the time for change,” Williams said.

The other key countries in the Syrian conflict are China and Russia, which have vetoed two resolutions at the United Nations Security Council.  

China generally opposes international intervention as a matter of principle.

Russia particularly needs Syria, its closest friend in the Middle East and home to its only naval facility outside the former Soviet Union.

Experts say if the Assad government abandons the peace plan and ends the ceasefire, China and especially Russia will come under pressure to change their policies.

“If it violates the ceasefire, that puts Russia in a difficult position and it leaves the U.S. and its allies on the Security Council in a much stronger position to try and push through the type of Security Council resolution we were looking at a few months ago,” Cama said.

But Michael Williams believes China may come around to the Western position, because it needs to worry about its relationships throughout the Middle East.

“I think a key target of Western diplomacy, frankly, should be to try and peel away China from its agreement with Russia on Syria,” Williams said.

Experts have little confidence the Arab League and United Nations peace plan, initiated by special envoy Kofi Annan, will actually result in a diplomatic solution.  

But humanitarian officials are hoping to use any break in fighting to deliver aid to hard hit civilian areas.  And experts say changes in the international equation could produce enough pressure, over some additional months, to convince President Assad to resign.

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs