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.
    Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Rulingi
    X
    May 03, 2016 5:16 PM
    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Elephant Summit Results in $5M in Pledges, Presidential Support

    Attended and supported by three African presidents, a three-day anti-poaching summit has concluded in Kenya, resulting in $5 million in pledges and a united message to the world that elephants are worth more alive than dead. The summit culminated at the Nairobi National Park with the largest ivory burn in history. VOA’s Jill Craig attended the summit and has this report about the outcomes.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With the conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, between the rebel PKK and the Turkish state, many Kurds are trying to escape the turmoil by focusing on the success of their football team Amedspor in Diyarbakir. The club is increasingly becoming a symbol for Kurds, not only in Diyarbakir but beyond. Dorian Jones reports from southeast Turkey.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora