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article imageOp-Ed: Were there deliberate attempts to wreck the Syrian peace deal?

By Ken Hanly     Sep 20, 2016 in Politics
The recent ceasefire negotiated by John Kerry, the US Secretary of State, and Sergei Lavrov, the Russian Foreign Minister, created tension between the U.S. Pentagon and the Department of State.
Many in the U.S. military are quite distrustful of Russia. Ironically, apart from some violations of the ceasefire by both sides, the bombing of Syrian forces at Deir ez-Zor that killed over 60 Assad forces and allowed the Islamic State to temporarily seize a key hill overlooking the airport held by the Assad government was the first very serious challenge to the ceasefire. The U.S. claimed that the attacks were a mistake but many Russian sources immediately accused the U.S. of deliberately attacking the troops because they oppose the Assad government to such a degree that they are even willing to help the Islamic State against Assad forces.
The situation was not helped by the subsequent Security Council meeting in which the U.S. envoy to the UN called the Russian call for an emergency meeting a "stunt'. Instead of trying to calm the situation both sides seemed to determined to exacerbate tensions. Kerry and Lavrov had worked hard against the odds to arrive at the ceasefire in the first place. Both sides have trouble controlling parties on each side who did not really want the ceasefire in the first place. While the attacks may have been an honest mistake, they also could have been an attempt to sabotage the ceasefire while hurting Assad.
The next serious event was an attack on an aid convoy. A Guardian report, along with many others, describes the attacks as airstrikes. The report blamed Russia for the attack whether Russian planes were involved or not, as Russia was responsible under the ceasefire agreement for keeping Assad's forces in line. Yet it is not clear that the convoys were subject to air attacks.
Al Arabiya reports: The United Nations on Tuesday has backtracked and amended its language when it said that the aid convoy in Syria’s Aleppo was “attacked” instead of it being targeted through “air strikes,” a spokesman said. “We are not in position to determine whether these were in fact air strikes,” the spokesman added.
The Russian Defense Ministry claimed that the White Helmets defense rescue group it says were close to the former Nusra Front could answer who was responsible and why. The ministry also later said that drone footage showed the aid convoy was accompanied by pickup truck of militants with heavy mortar gun. Presumably they were there to guard the shipment, but then these days who knows? On the face of it, it is not clear that either side gains by the attack unless they wanted the cease-fire to be sabotaged.
After the attack, the Red Cross suspended all convoys on Tuesday. An opposition activist said that the attack destroyed at least eight vehicles along with the Red Crescent regional aid depot. At least 12 people were killed according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and opposition activists. For some reason mainstream sources often cite the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights even though it is run by one person out of the U.K. although he has many contacts in Syria. U.S. officials say that unlike the U.S. attack on Assad, which was a mistake, there could be no similar excuse from Russia since the destination of the convoy was known to both Russia and the Syrian regime. No mention has been made by the officials that there is any question about whether there was an air attack.
Whether or not, the U.S. attack on Assad troops or the attack on the aid convoy were deliberately planned to sabotage the ceasefire, they effectively did so. Kerry has said that the Syrian ceasefire is not dead after talks with Russia and other powers with a stake in the civil war. He also said there would be talks later this week. Meanwhile the battle rages on with Aleppo under constant attack.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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