After ceasefire collapse, Syria disagreements escalate in White House race
Yet another attempt to halt the War in Syria ended in disaster this week. Hostilities all but resumed Monday, with Syrian forces striking UN humanitarian convoys and killing dozens. On the same day, the Assad regime announced the ceasefire had ended.
American officials blamed Russia for failing to hold up its end of the ceasefire agreement– the aid convoys destined for thousands of starving Syrians were never granted safe passage.
The events mark the death of a deal between the United States and Russia that hoped to succeed where so many other diplomats had failed– stopping the killing in Syria. The agreement called for a cessation of hostilities throughout the countries– the belligerents were given an exception, though, allowed to attack radical Islamic forces such as ISIL and the Al-Nusra Front.
If the ceasefire held for more than seven days, the Americans and Russians would enter into a bold partnership agreement. The United States would share intelligence with the Russian military, and both powers would work together to target Islamic State fighters in a coordinated manner. This portion of the deal irked Pentagon officials, who are wary of sharing intelligence with Russia, and put them at odds with John Kerry’s State Department.
The most serious blow to the deal came when American and Australian jets accidently killed Syrian soldiers in a strike intended for ISIL combatants. Russia immediately seized on the issue, assailing the United States at UN Security Council meetings. For her part, American UN Ambassador Samantha Power attacked Russia for grandstanding, criticising the country for trying to score political points in the face of an increasingly chilly relationship with the global community.
For now, the death and destruction in Syria continues. More innocent people will be caught in the crossfire. If a peace settlement is to be achieved, the United States must ask themselves if they have a reliable partner in Russia’s Vladimir Putin. Until the answer is affirmative, a political solution seems to be nothing more than a boyish pipe dream.
Relations with Russia and ISIS have been the cause of fireworks in the presidential campaign, although the broader question of ending the conflict has taken a backseat at home. For his part, Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin have traded compliments, and Trump has repeatedly stated his desire to improve relations with Russia. A thawing of tensions, he hopes, could lead to greater cooperation in defeating ISIL. He has taken a radical line with the group, stating his intention to reinstate the use of waterboarding and to target the families of terrorists. Most recently, he has attacked President Obama and Secretary Clinton for policies that he claims contributed to the rise of ISIL, ludicrously claiming that the President was the “founder of ISIS”. The attack reappeared at the first president debate, where Trump frequently mentioned the group.
Hillary Clinton’s view on the situation in Syria is less bombastic than that of her opponent. She would largely continue President Obama’s policies on ISIS, though she has also advocated for a no-fly-zone over Syria, a product of her more assertive foreign policy. Domestically, she has criticised Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric and called for cooperation with the religious community in fighting terrorism. At the first presidential debate, Clinton fought back against Trump’s ISIS attacks by lauding her experience as Secretary of State.