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12 February 2016


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The summary.


I doubt that Kerry can deliver on "his" side, that the various Jihadis he sponsors will adhere to a ceasefire.

UNSC resolution 2254 also excludes Nusra, IS and all associated forces from any ceasefire and demands that these are confronted by all parties.

There will thereby be plenty of room to continue fighting.

William R. Cumming

What are its chances?


Thank God. Let's hope it works.

Anyone know which "other groups" this includes:

"The ISSG members agreed that a nationwide cessation of hostilities must be urgently implemented, and should apply to any party currently engaged in military or paramilitary hostilities against any other parties other than Daesh, Jabhat al-Nusra, or other groups designated as terrorist organizations by the United Nations Security Council.



I agree. This is really an agreement to facilitate humanitarian aid to surrounded localities. IMO that will work to some extent but the "ISSG task force" will undoubtedly use people like Mercy Corps to deliver the aid and they will inevitably lose people in the process as NGO groups keep losing people in Syria.. "Tant pis pour eux." The national level cease fire aspect of this is really "pie in the sky." I agree that the warring parties will continue shortly. pl


Lavrov did not look happy at that press conference. Granted, they had been at the table for long hours and it was after midnight and -3 degrees in Munich according to an RT journo who ran a periscope livestream outside for a bit of it. Kerry seemed to have a cold/flu. But Lavrov looked genuinely pissed off, in my opinion. In the video below, there's no hand shaking thing at the beginning or end, though they may have done it off camera. We've seen Kerry and Lavrov together a lot of times in recent months. Maybe I'm reading too much into it but they're usually warmer toward each other. Maybe Lavrov is under the weather too. I hope things haven't broken down between them because it seems like they've been the glue holding things together a lot of the time.
Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JvyEiUqGqcs

Yesterday, our anti-ISIS spox was openly fighting with Russia's Ministry of Defence on social media too. If it's true that we flew some planes and drones into Aleppo and bombed targets we then blamed on the Russians, that seems like a really big deal on a few levels. Plus the British troops with the Saudi troops advancing on the Syrian border through Jordan that Moon of Alabama wrote about yesterday? Did Jordan break its deal with Russia? Is this just a way to put some fast facts on the ground to prop up a weak bargaining position as part of the obvious huge push to pressure Russia this week? Boy, I hope so because if it's not, it's terrifying to think what could come out of that. Are the Israelis still massing troops in the Golan? Haven't heard much about that for a few weeks but it was in the news some weeks ago.

The call for Obama to exert more force has risen to a roar now. Please tell me we're not going to do something really stupid.


AP's Matt Lee is the best US journo on State Dept issues. He's in Munich and this morning is correcting other news agencies (via Twitter) who are reporting a cessation of hostilities.

#Munich talks on #Syria agree on humanitarian access and ceasefire to start in a week, IF details can be agreed.

#SecKerry says #Munich talks on #Syria "produced commitments on paper. Real test is whether the parties honor and implement them."

#Munich talks on #Syria did NOT produce ceasefire or Cessation of Hostilities. Agreement to work out "modalities" of CoH not same as CoH.

Article he published in wee hours:
"Diplomats aim for temporary Syria truce in a week"


Maybe relevant, maybe not but Lee cites and comments on this tweet by McFaul who simply tweeted "Putin is winning in Syria". Matt Lee says it's an "interesting observation". It is interesting because McFaul ... well probably everyone here knows what kind of actor McFaul is.



Lavrov specifically said in the press conference something very close to this: 'Russian air forces will continue to operate against ISIS and al Nusra'

Babak Makkinejad

Likely, Russia could not get her goal of closure of the Turkish border.


A nice piece of divide and conquer by the R+6. If they get a cease fire the R+6 can concentrate on mauling Jabhat al-Nusra and IS good.

The al-Nusra controlled areas of Syria could by gone by the end of the year which will only undermining the rebels further. As an added bonus the mixing of al-Nusra troops with other rebel groups opens up the possibility of selected attacks on hostile groups under the cover of fighting al-Qaeda.


Kerry has a lot of reason to be grateful to Lavrov. If I may feed on my limited knowledge in this context. Handshakes without looking at each other have been reported over here. Forget the context. Not watching much TV.

Concerning Britain and Saudi Arabia, they were parts of the conference. Concerning your comment above, are the ones they want or plan to support listed by the UN as terrorists?

"Are the Israelis still massing troops in the Golan?"

Haven't paid much attention post events around UN troops at the frontier.



I agree concerning Matt Lee, good man.


Carter's statements yesterday at NATO meeting about NATO joining anti-ISIS coalition (including "building partner capacity, training ground forces"):

I should also mention that, thanks to the leadership of NATO Secretary Jens Stoltenberg, we are now exploring the possibility of NATO joining the coalition as a member itself. This, too, is a significant development.

NATO as a new member would bring unique capabilities that could be brought to bear against ISIL, including experience in building partner capacity, training ground forces and providing stabilization support.

I look forward to discussing NATO's appropriate role with fellow NATO allies in the days and weeks ahead, and as I indicated this morning, that was discussed this morning, and a path ahead was charted at this morning's meeting.

And I also indicated this morning what kinds of capabilities NATO brings collectively, over and above what its individual members bring, and therefore how it could, as an organization, also make a separate contribution. That's very positive.

Now, many of the nations present today are also contributors to the critical non-military aspects of the campaign against ISIL. That's just as important. We discussed them, as well.


Later, in the questions, he talks about how they want the Saudis to wind down in Yemen and training to "enable capable and motivated local forces to take and hold territory out of the simple recognition that at the end of the day, territory retaken from ISIL has to be occupied and governed by people who are from that area and want to live there." He mentions Ramadi but at least one question was about Syria and he was affirmative.

He also talks about accompanying these ground forces: "We need forces on the ground that participate in training. Then enabling, including even accompanying partner forces."


BBC reported last night that this deal is very limited in scope and does not cover much of Syria. Nonetheless, it is a very positive step in the right direction...if it happens on the ground.



I am impressed by the number of people for whom the humanitarian disaster in Syria is more important than the geopolitics of the ME. I am not numbered among them.

I have a number of reservations concerning this agreement that depend on future developments. 1- Will the successful ground offensive against rebel forces continue all over the country. If it does not then the stage is set for eventual destruction of the Syrian government and its replacement by a jihadi dominated government favored by Turkey and Saudi Arabia. If this occurs it will a refutation of my dictum that you can't win by BS at the negotiating table what you could not gain on the battlefield. 2- Will Turkey invade Syria between Azaz and Jarabulos? The Turks are currently grouping large forces from their 2nd Army just north of that stretch of border. If they do invade will the offensive carry south as far as Aleppo for which some Turks have long harbored irredentist hopes? This is also true of Mosul in Iraq. 3- Is Saudi Arabia really going to send its trivial little ground force into Syria from the panhandle of Jordan? The mind boggles at the thought. The mind also boggles at the idea of SA maintaining that force in the field at the end of a logistical tether reaching back through Jordan to Tabuk in NW Saudi Arabia. So far as I know SA has no power projection logistics capability at all. 4- Did the USAF really bomb targets in Aleppo City? If so, what targets and to what end? pl


I have seen the news footage of them shaking hands at the end of the announcement with Lavrov not looking him and both pretty glum.



I'm curious what the Russians are thinking. Is this a fig leaf to prevent a Turkish, Saudi, US invasion?

It must be clear to all parties that the grinding of the jihadists will continue and that R+6 will make all efforts to cut the supply line from Turkey. It would make no sense for R+6 to give up their current battlefield momentum.

Is this "deal" going to be a pretext by both sides to blame failure on the the other side and use that as a smoke screen for military escalation?

I'd really like to understand what R+6 strategy is with this announcement.



So would I. pl

Babak Makkinejad

I think, based on what I have gleaned from a number of speeches by R+6 officials, that the plan on long hard slug of 5 more years.

I do not think that they expect Turkey to close her borders.


"Hala Jaber @HalaJaber
#HNC leader #Riyad_Hijab slams #Munich deal saying no ceasefire deal can be agreed before the removal of #Syria' s president."


Pat, what about the second brigade of the 101st that you were told would be send?

The Saudis would only go in under U.S. command. Probably through Jordan the north-east to capture Deir Ezzor and the oil in the area. A brigade of the 101st could do that with some attached Saudi spec-force as "Sunni" propaganda cover

A Turkish move to capture a border zone could come at the same time.

Russia would have difficulty to counter that. It is currently training one Syrian brigade specifically to counter a Turkish incursion. That may not be enough To fend of the 101st brigade it would need to airdrop a brigade into Deir Ezzor, punch IS away from there and go south-west to block the desert. Doable but risky.


Is the purpose of this agreement really to give Turkey the political cover to invade? Or was this a way to keep the Turkish border open? But why would Iran and Russia agree to it? I was hopeful at first reading the headline, but now Im confused and little bit scared.


This announcement triggered my "inner cynic" and my sense of this agreement is that it will only make things worse. No surprise that US cannot deal with Russian or R+6 success so far and probably "victory" and is doing it's best to sabotage that.

Today's informative post by retired diplomat MK Bhadrakumar confirmed all my suspicions. He makes an interesting point about the diplomatic difference between a "ceasefire" and the "cessation of hostilities". Obviously "Assad must go" is still the operative plan.

US presses ‘pause’ button in Syria http://blogs.rediff.com/mkbhadrakumar/2016/02/12/us-presses-pause-button-in-syria/
Ploughing through the transcript of the joint briefing given by the US Secretary of State John Kerry and the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, the overpowering sense is about the play of words.

Did you ever know that there could be difference between ‘ceasefire’ and ‘cessation of hostilities’? Now, Kerry explains:

"So, a ceasefire has a great many legal prerogatives and requirements. A cessation of hostilities does not – is not anticipated to – but in many ways, they have a similar effect. A ceasefire in the minds of many of the participants in this particular moment connotes something far more permanent and far more reflective of sort of an end of conflict, if you will. And it is distinctly not that. This is a pause dependent on the process going forward, and therefore cessation of hostilities is a much more appropriate, apt term… But the objective is to obtain a durable, long-term ceasefire at some point in time."

... Unsurprisingly, Lavrov who spoke immediately afterward reacted sharply to sidestep the minefield:

"(UN Security Council) Resolution 2254 talks about the ceasefire only. This term is not liked by some members of the International Syria Support Group. What I’m referring to is how something that has been agreed upon should be implemented rather than try to remake the consensus that has been achieved in order to get some unilateral advantages.

We have agreed to this because it is said clearly that this is the first step towards a ceasefire. John has explained that there isn’t much difference actually, but this play in words is the same thing as statements about the existence of some kind of Plan B, statements that ground forces should be prepared. This is a slippery road… there is no doubt that this will only lead to the aggravation of the conflict."

In plain terms, the Russian military operations have met with devastating success lately in strengthening the Syrian regime and scattering the Syrian rebel groups. The US and its regional allies stare at defeat.

They forthwith need an end to the Russian operations so that they can think up a Plan B. The Geneva talks will not have the desired outcome of President Bashar Al-Assad’s ouster unless the tide of war is reversed. Therefore, a cessation of hostilities in Syria is urgently needed.

Whereas a ceasefire brings in legal obligations, which would commit the US to sit across the table and meet the Russian – and, more importantly, Syrian – military counterparts and draw up detailed modalities of implementation, UN Security Council supervision and so on, the ‘cessation of hostilities’ can be punctuated at will without breaking international law.

Meanwhile, US and its allies are keen to gain access to all nooks and corners of Syrian territory, which will eventually help to mobilize any military operations under Plan B, especially ground operations. The humanitarian missions provide the cover for reconnaissance and ground work.

... A miracle is needed to make this ‘cessation of hostilities’ to morph into a durable ceasefire. There are far too many stakeholders, there are conflicting interpretations of what has been agreed upon, and the necessary flexibility to compromise is lacking. Clearly, the US and its regional allies have not conceded defeat in the Syrian war.

This "cessation of hostilities" agreement sounds like an attack that's part of a war strategy, not a step towards peace.

William R. Cumming

Thanks P.L. for hitting the proverbial nail on its head. A very insightful comment IMO!

Charles Michael


I was surprised to see RT this morning endorsing the new casualiies count of 449.000 thousands, thus accepting the BBC uped figures.
There was also information of refugee camps established by Turkey just inside the Syrian territory. These camps being controlled by djihadists (Al-Masdar News)
Nato is sending a naval force to control the refugees flow in Greece. Are they supposed to puncture holes in rubber dinghy ? or is there an other purpose ?

USA is a formidable force in many ways, able to shift the ground, to play the finance angle and always much superior in communication.
Is there some other agreement unknown concerning other topics ? or is it all just world of the mouth ?
Time will tell, maybe.

It would be very frustrating and morally despictable to watch the liver eater escape.


'Did the USAF really bomb targets in Aleppo City?"

From reports I read it was two A-10s and a drone. The question for me would be did the A10s hit legitimate targets and the drone hit the hospital for propaganda purposes? If the latter, I am willing to bet it was a CIA operated one.

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