Today, our guest blogger, Chris Chapman, returns with a new post on a potential Syrian ceasefire…
The Syrian conflict rages on daily as death counts of military personnel and civilians climb higher. It is time for a ceasefire to be brokered between the warring factions in order for aid and relief to come to a weary populace. The US, UN, and Russia are trying to get the Syrian National Coalition and the Syrian government at the table for talks/negotiations, but the SNC has demanded the release of prisoners, easing of sieges, and humanitarian aid to be allowed. While the opposition and Assad government may be at odds on who claims legitimacy and rights to govern Syria, they can agree that an end to bloodshed and preserving the lives of innocents is optimal. The first step in resolving the crisis is this ceasefire, followed with the second step of an extended ceasefire to allow aid and medical relief into high risk areas.
Agreeing to a short-term ceasefire in which the government forces and opposition forces lay down weapons and even fall back from current positions would send good faith messages by all sides. The parameters of such an agreement should be completely in public via the press. If guns are put aside for a week leading up to discussions it would provide both the opposition and the government a foundation of trust heading into the Geneva talks.
Once the Geneva talks begin, a new ceasefire allowing for relief and aid should be established. The situation is dire for the majority of Syrians stuck in the middle of violence. Allowing medical aid workers to test and vaccinate for polio and other diseases is essential after it was confirmed that polio is present in parts of Syria. The devastation of war created an unhealthy environment when water-treatment facilities, power plants, and more were destroyed. Today Syrians are only getting 1/3 of their daily water compared to prewar levels and a large quantity of that water is contaminated. Both the rebel and government forces must agree to let the International Committee of the Red Cross and their partner the Syrian Arab Red Crescent to move about freely and access besieged areas. The ICRC and SARC are equipped to help those suffering, they just need access.
Of course, these actions are only possible if all parties agree to them, including the more extreme elements of the opposition. For Salafist or Sunni extremist groups in particular, a misstep would be disastrous for credibility among citizens who are fearful of their intentions for Syria. Because neither side has shown the ability to claim a total victory through military force, the Geneva track may well be the only hope for ending the violence. Establishing a ceasefire and allowing aid to those in need are two very basic foundations for any settlement the Geneva talks could reach.
Please note that the views expressed in this piece do not represent the official policy or position of the National Defense University, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. government.