Stability in Syria?


 Image Credit: New York Times

 The United States, Russia, and Jordan have agreed to a ceasefire in southwest Syria. This ceasefire goes into effect July 9th in Damascus and other parts of the war-torn region, where around 400,000 lives have been lost in six years of bloody, brutal fighting.
    Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov says that the accord includes “securing humanitarian access”. The agreement hinges on a boundary line between the various factions fighting in the war, although how exactly this will be done is unknown. Furthermore, previous ceasefires have repeatedly broken down, and we have not heard of any measures that can prevent this so far.
    The news comes as Kurdish SDF forces push into Raqqa, the “capital” of ISIS and the most likely place of residence of Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, the “caliph” of ISIS. The Kurds have played a major role in fighting ISIS, and are the greatest force for democracy in the region. However, Turkey views the Kurds as its number one enemy, and will almost certainly resist the creation of any Kurdish state. Although Turkey is rapidly turning into an authoritarian regime, Turkey is also the second largest army of NATO and an important stabilizing force in the Middle East. Turkey also controls the Bosphorus, and therefore, Russian access to the Mediterranean.
Previously, I have argued that the US needs to intervene for the sake of democracy. This intervention would obviously be on the side of Rojava and the Kurds, if it was in the interest of democracy. The matter of fact is, however, that stability should take priority. Democracy simply cannot occur in a country where sectarian tensions run high, and ethnic tensions rip apart communities.
A potential solution for the Kurds is regional autonomy. In this case, a Kurdish nation would not be created, however, Kurds would for all intents and purposes be independent. The Kurds would be able to have a democracy and implement western values. Still, Turkey would be opposed to this idea, as it gives the Kurds more influence. Meanwhile, the question still remains on what to do with Assad and the Syrian rebels. Potentially, Syria could be broken up into a Sunni state (with Kurds being granted regional autonomy) and an Alawite state, however this would lead to high tension between the two states. Arguably, it is easier to keep peace between two countries rather than peace within a country; however wars between two countries are often more deadly, as the entirety of a nation’s resources can be committed to war.
The problem only will get worse with the defeat of ISIS. Multiple different factions will be vying for power, and any potential negotiations would be extremely difficult. Iran, for example, would almost certainly like to see Assad in power over a united Syria, as that gives Iran a vital ally on the Mediterranean. Saudi Arabia and Turkey, meanwhile, would like to see Assad hanged, however unlikely it may be. The United States wants an unlikely combination of “regional stability” and democracy, which is near impossible given the levels of tension within Syria.
In the end, the ceasefire is a good accomplishment for the Trump administration. Anything that could avoid further bloodshed in the region is a positive sign. However, the real challenge is when ISIS is defeated and all parties lack a “common enemy”. Negotiations will be a mess, but the number one priority should be regional stability. War is the ultimate cause of misery and lack of growth. Stability will eventually result in democracy, whereas trying to implement democracy now will only cause instability.


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