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US intervention again? Uncertain future of eastern Ghouta

CIIS Time:03 22, 2018 Writer:Li Zixin Editor:Wang Jiapei


The battle in the Eastern Ghouta, the last rebel-held enclave close to Syria’s capital Damascus, has come to a stalemate in the first months of 2018. The Syrian government has deployed more forces to besiege the area, an important base dominated by Faylaq al-Rahman, or Al-Rahman Legion, one of the bravest forces of the Free Syrian Army.

Currently, the government forces have prevailed in the battle against rebels in the area. However, they still face strong resistance from the Al-Rahman Legion. That’s the reason that the Russian military assisted the government forces to launch bombing attacks in the enclave, not only to help the ground forces to retake the area, but also to prevent other rebel groups from supporting the Al-Rahman Legion.

In spite of the stalemate in the Eastern Ghouta, the government troops are widely believed to have a greater chance of winning the battle because of their overwhelming advantages.

US and Russia criticize each other

On February 24, the UN Security Council (UNSC) adopted Resolution No. 2401, which requires all parties in Syria to immediate cease clashes and provide a humanitarian beak at least 30 consecutive days.

However, the humanitarian situation in Eastern Ghouta region is still deteriorating.

Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN, accused Russia of providing cover for the Syrian government and its President Bashar al-Assad, which violated the UN resolution and continued to carry out military strikes in the Eastern Ghouta, causing heavy civilian casualties.

On the contrary, Russia and the Syrian government refuted that the military operation in the Eastern Ghouta region just targets the “Al-Nusra Front” and its subordinate factions. Though the Syrian government has established a humanitarian corridor and allowed civilians to evacuate from the Eastern Ghouta region during a daily five-hour-long truce that began on February 27, the terrorists are preventing the civilians from leaving and even bombed the corridor. This is just the reason behind serious civilian casualties.

Will Trump start military intervention again?

The United States is calling for another resolution on Syria in UNSC, which aims to achieve a ceasefire in the Eastern Ghouta region within the following 30 days. Haley also repeatedly said at different occasions that the Trump administration would be likely to launch a second military intervention in Syria.

The Syria army now holds high expectations of wiping out all rebels and recapturing the enclave. So, in the eyes of the Assad government, the resolution on Syria’s ceasefire means to give the Al-Rahman Legion more time to transfer in the disguise of so-called “humanitarian arrangement”. In view of this, it’s impossible for the Assad government to accept the ceasefire agreement.

In fact, with the strong support of Russia and Iran, the Syrian government forces have made notable progress against rebels on the ground battlefield in the past year as the rebel groups lose their military advantages and Assad continues to gain more strategic advantages.

In terms of future political arrangements in Syria, Russia has much more obvious advantages. The negotiation of the process of Syrian peace talks has shifted from the Western-dominated Geneva meeting to the Russian-led Astana Syria peace talks and the Sochi Syrian National Dialogue Conference. The U.S. has been squeezed out by Russia in the aspects of military and political voice.

Some analysts said the recent moves in southern Syria by the U.S. and its allies, aim to, on the one hand, help the opposition reverse the situation in the battlefield and enhance US deterrence power against Iran and other external Shiite armed forces; on the other hand, have a bigger say in the Syria issue, so that they can play a greater role in the Syria’s future political process.

 

 

Li Zixin, Assistant Research Fellow, Dept. for American Studies, China Institute of International Studies.

 

 

 

Source: Asia Pacific Daily, March 16, 2018.

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