The United States, Russia and other powers agreed to a “cessation of hostilities” in Syria’s civil war, to take place within the next week, and immediate humanitarian access to besieged areas, Secretary of State John F. Kerry announced here early Friday.
If executed, the agreement, forged by the International Syria Support Group, would mark the first sustained and formally declared halt to fighting in Syria since the civil war began in 2011, early in the Arab uprisings. But even a formal cease-fire would be partial — it excludes the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, and the Nusra Front, both designated as terrorist organizations by the United Nations — and highly fragile.
It's no secret that political discourse tends to oversimplify and distort complex foreign policy issues. That's especially a problem during campaigns, when candidates are more focused on attracting voters with appealing rhetoric than on articulating sober-minded policy proposals. That means proposing too-easy-to-be-real solutions, downplaying trade-offs, caricaturing disagreements, and, especially, ignoring hard truths.
The US defence secretary has refused to rule out Saudi Arabia sending ground troops into Syria, but added that it was just one option and there were other ways the Saudis could contribute to the fight against Islamic State.
U.S. Col. Steve Warren, spokesman for Washington’s operations against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, sparred with the Russian Ministry of Defense’s official Twitter account after Moscow claimed U.S. planes struck Aleppo on Wednesday. Washington maintains they are not operating over Aleppo, a rebel-stronghold likely to soon be overrun by forces loyal to strongman Bashar al-Assad.
That afternoon, in the cafeteria in the back of the Migration Agency building, I met with Karima Abou-Gabal, an agency official responsible for the orderly flow of people into and out of Malmo. I asked where the new refugees would go. “As of now,” she said wearily, “we have no accommodation. We have nothing.” The private placement agencies with whom the migration agency contracts all over the country could not offer so much as a bed. In Malmo itself, the tents were full. So, too, the auditorium and hotels. Sweden had, at that very moment, reached the limits of its absorptive capacity.
The Assad regime's Russian-aided military campaign and the onset of spring augur another mass refugee flow into the EU, and the only surefire way to stop it is by addressing the root of the crisis inside Syria.