Ahrar al-Sham in Hama. Image: propaganda, Twitter
The U.S. And Russia are said to have come closer again on the issue of air safety. In the support of the "De-escalation Zones" U.S. Defense Secretary Matthis pays attention to distance
The USA wanted safe zones, "absolutely", as President Trump affirmed in late January. Russia, Iran and Turkey reached an agreement in Astana on four de-escalation areas parts of which are said to have already entered into force. Since 1. May, the Russian Air Force stopped flying attacks in the designated zones, General Sergei told Tass.
The division of Syria
Russia has beaten the USA to the punch. The rivalry over the respective zones of influence will continue. The division of Syria is becoming more concrete and the Syrian government’s influence over its territory is limited; it does not have a major say in the matter. Thus, although Aubenminister al-Muallim officially declared his government’s agreement with the Astana Memorandum, he also did not really have any other option than to formally confirm what was agreed upon there.
Al-Muallim spoke out against the deployment of UN troops to oversee de-escalation zones in Idlib, Homs, Eastern Ghouta and southern Syria. The deployment of UN troops was mentioned in the very first plans for buffer zones, which were put forward by Turkey and the United States under Obama. This was not a realistic prospect then and it is not a realistic prospect now, as the Syrian Minister of Foreign Affairs confirmed.
Whether the ceasefire and the concept of de-escalation zones will hold depends on many factors, one of which is how Russia and the United States come to terms. The policies of the two rival major powers in Syria are reminiscent, on a small scale, of the rough agreements on zones of influence during the Cold War, as Elijah J.Magnier elaborates.
Russia has air sovereignty over large parts of Syria. Since Trump’s Tomahawk attack on Syrian soil in early April, the mutual agreement on air maneuvers has been suspended, but there is now movement on the issue again.
Air sovereignty: U.S. And Russia in constant contact
Russian Chief of General Staff Gerasimov and his U.S. Counterpart Dunford reportedly agreed during a telephone conversation late last week to reinstate the "Russian-American understanding" on aviation safety in Syria" a good deal closer. Man wolle Konflikte bei Einsatzen gegen den IS oder die al-Nusra vermeiden und habe ausgemacht, "Maintain regular contact".
The vote was held in connection with the Astana agreements on de-escalation zones. There is no clear agreement on the part of the U.S., the U.S. Government wants to keep room for maneuver. So Defense Minister Matthis was careful to keep his distance: "We are looking closely at the proposals", he told journalists on Monday.
His "skepticism" was related to Iran’s role as a guarantor power that "Damascus has not adhered to agreements in the past, and" – and "the devil in the details". It is necessary to know who exactly ensures that the zones are safe and which groups are kept out of them.