Cessation of arms in Syria has not yet come into force, but the USA is already seeking a detour. The US Secretary of State John Kerry, speaking at hearings in the Senate, claimed that Washington was discussing with its partners an alternative plan of action for the scenario in which the armistice agreement would not work, and transitional government would not begin to shape in the forthcoming months. The Secretary of State also mentioned that Barack Obama was aware of those discussions.
Kerry did not specify the details of that “Plan B” but he clearly assumed that Syria could collapse in the future. “If we wait too long, it could become too late to preserve Syria as a whole state,” cites The Guardian. The American Secretary of State did not express his personal opinion on a separated Syria and stressed that he pinned his hopes on the armistice agreement. At the same time, neither did he express certainty that “this process would achieve success”.
The Wall Street Journal informs that the “Plan B” on Syria was initiated by the chiefs of the American military. They believe that there is no way the armistice will hold, and they have already blamed Russia – in advance, so to speak – for breaking the agreement. The Head of the Pentagon Ashton Carter and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford intend to send their official recommendations to the White House.
The hawks are urging to “set up serious obstacles for Russia”, which suggests new sanctions and intelligence support for the Syrian opposition forces. The author of the article supposes that the national defense officials will be pressing the President to take harder measures against the Russian Federation. The American diplomats are also not very optimistic about the armistice in Syria.
America seeks alternatives
On February, 22 Presidents of the Russian Federation and United States of America contacted by the phone to agree on the date when armistice in Syria would take effect. The agreement of Vladimir Putin and Barack Obama stipulates that the forces of the Syrian opposition and Bashar al-Assad’s loyalists must cease fire. Military operations against the Daesh and Jabhat al-Nusra will remain legitimate. Supposedly, the armistice will allow for the renewal of the dialogue between the Syrian government and political opposition, and unite them in fight against terrorism.
As Russian Planet wrote earlier, the ceasefire agreement will solidify the status-quo in the region and hinder Washington’s initiatives on the Syrian front. Moscow and Damask will probably win certain political favors in the Middle East, but radical changes are unlikely to happen. The USA has lost momentum in the region, but it is too reckless yet to call it defeat.
Damask returns to peaceful life after the ceasefire. Photo by: Hassan Ammar/ТАСС
This agreement is in no way derogatory for the US, as it only testifies that American influence on the situation in the Syrian Republic has decreased. Washington failed to topple al-Assad and form a decent political opposition. Moscow is offering the US an acceptable means to retreat, but at least one section of American establishment will always oppose such options.
For the hawks, any occasion will do to insist on continuing confrontation with Russia. At the same time, it would be wrong to see Obama as a peacemaker. Chiefs of the Central Intelligence Agency and Ministry of Defense are not radicals on the margins of the American political system. They are member of the President’s team, and Obama regularly consults with them.
It is a common diplomatic practice to develop a number of scenarios behind the scenes. However, The Wall Street Journal refers to other mass media sources, which means that Kerry spoke of the “Plan B” in the presence of journalists. Such publicity has one goal: to highlight Washington’s negligence for Russia’s position.
The Secretary of State seems to have forgotten about his private conversations with his Russian colleague Sergey Lavrov. The USA is one of the principal authors of the ceasefire agreement, but now it turns out that Washington is not willing to share responsibility with Moscow.
Is it not somewhat rude to seek alternatives right after the agreement has been concluded? For American diplomacy, the answer is no, not very much. There seems to be certain logic to such decisions. Like, every constructive initiative from Russia must be confronted by initiatives that are destructive, be they further sanctions, support for the Syrian opposition or disintegration of a sovereign state.
America is “framing” the opposition
Russian officials claim that they are not familiar with the “Plan B”, though it looks rather like a diplomatic trick. Even if Obama has no desire to set up “serious obstacles” for Russia, he is forced to meet expectations of anti-Russian majority in the American political elite.
A similar opinion was expressed by the Head of the international affairs committee of the Russian Federation Council Konstantin Kosachev. At a meeting with Paul Sanders, executive director of the American Center for the National Interest, Kosachev claimed that “the Syrian agreement is being opposed from the inside of the American establishment”. The senator also stated that the US political elites propagate distrust to Moscow and Damask.
Political scientists believe that in the United States, the agreement of Obama and Putin is regarded as a defeat. War heat has cooled, but the American military chiefs do not intend to leave Syria alone and retreat with honor. Washington’s unwillingness to come to any sort of compromise will likely undermine its position in the Syrian Republic.
Though circumstances have changed not in favor of the USA, the White House still attempts to establish its influence through the Syrian opposition. However, in previous summer, the American Ministry of Defense admitted the CIA’s training program for anti-governmental forces had failed. No one knows which side those fighters have ultimately taken. Even with billions of dollars’ worth of investments, the Syrian opposition loses one battle after another.
Obama should have thanked Putin for the ceasefire agreement as it is an opportunity for the USA to carefully reflect on their next steps. Instead of shaking Kremlin’s hand the White House starts to work on the “Plan B”. Apparently, not a good choice.
By neglecting the agreement and refusing to share responsibility, Washington risks losing its means of influence on the situation in Syria. Moscow and Damask are pushing the warring opposition to the border with Turkey. Insurgents fostered by the USA will be exterminated or sent fleeing from the country. The only way for America to save the Syrian opposition is a truce, not a “Plan B”.
Translated by Daniil Yakovenko
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