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Russia, Turkey, Iran fail to agree on ceasefire for Syria's Idlib

31 Comments
By Denis Pinchuk

The presidents of Turkey, Iran and Russia on Friday failed to agree on a ceasefire that would forestall a Syrian government offensive in rebel-held Idlib province which the United Nations fears could cause a humanitarian catastrophe involving tens of thousands of civilians.

Turkey's Tayyip Erdogan, Russia's Vladimir Putin and Iran's Hassan Rouhani, meeting in Tehran for a summit of key foreign players in Syria's war, agreed in a final statement that there could be no military solution to the conflict and it could only end through a negotiated political process.

But as Syrian government and Russian warplanes mounted air strikes in Idlib on Friday morning in a possible prelude to a full-scale offensive, Putin and Rouhani pushed back against Erdogan's call for a truce.

The Turkish leader said he feared a massacre and Turkey could not accommodate any more refugees flooding over its border.

Putin said a ceasefire would be pointless as it would not involve Islamist militant groups it deems terrorists. Rouhani said Syria must regain control over all its territory.

Idlib is the insurgents' only remaining major stronghold and a government offensive could be the war's last decisive battle.

Tehran and Moscow have helped Assad turn the course of the war against an array of opponents ranging from Western-backed rebels to the Islamist militants, while Turkey is a leading opposition supporter and has troops in the country.

Their discussions in Tehran mark a crucial point in a seven-year-old war which has killed more than half a million people and forced 11 million to flee their homes.

Erdogan, in his opening remarks, said a ceasefire in Idlib would be a victory for their summit.

Putin responded: "The fact is that there are no representatives of the armed opposition here around this table. And more still, there are no representatives of Jabhat al-Nusra or ISIS or the Syrian army.".

"I think in general the Turkish president is right. It would be good. But I can't speak for them, and even more so can't talk for terrorists from Jabhat al-Nusra or ISIS that they will stop shooting or stop using drones with bombs."

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in a meeting with Putin on Friday that Iran and Russia can work together to restrain America and that Syria is a good example of how American can be restrained, according his official website.

"One of the issues that the two sides can cooperate on is restraining America," Khamenei said. "Because America is a danger for humanity and there is a possibility to restrain them."

"The Americans have faced a real defeat in Syria and have not reached their goals," he added.

In the final statement, the three agreed on the need to eliminate Islamic State, the Nusra Front, and other groups linked to al Qaeda and designated as terrorists. But there were were other armed opposition groups who could join any ceasefire agreement, they said.

The communique also called on the United Nations and the international community to step up humanitarian aid to Syria and help in restoring basic infrastructure assets.

Efforts must be made to protect and to create conditions for the safe return of refugees, it added.

Iran's Rouhani said the battle in Syria would continue until rebels were pushed out of the whole country, especially in Idlib, but he added that any military operations should avoid hurting civilians.

He called on all rebels in Syria to disarm and seek a peaceful end to the conflict.

"The fight against terrorism in Idlib is an indispensable part of the mission to return peace and stability to Syria, but this fight should not harm civilians and lead to a"scorched-earth" policy," Rouhani said.

Erdogan said Turkey no longer had the capacity to take in any more refugees from Syria should the government offensive in Idlib go ahead. Turkey has accepted 3.5 million refugees from Syria since the start of the war in 2011.

"Whatever reason there is an attack that has been made or will be made will result in disaster, massacre and humanitarian drama," he said. "Millions will be coming to Turkey's borders because they have nowhere to go. Turkey has filled its capacity to host refugees."

The Assad government was not directly represented at the summit, nor were the United States and other Western powers.

The United States came in for criticism from all sides, however, higlighting to complex nature of a conflict involving a myriad of factions.

Rouhani said the United States should end its presence in Syria, while Erdogan said Turkey was "extremely annoyed" by Washington's support for the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia, whom Ankara considers as terrorists linked to Kurdish separatists in Turkey.

Widely abhorred internationality for the brutal conduct of the war, Assad has largely reclaimed most of Syrian territory though much of it is ravaged. Although the West has long said he must stand down or be removed, that looks unlikely at this point.

Meanwhile, the fate of Idlib hung in the balance.

The United Nations Security Council met to discuss Idlib on Friday at the request of the United States, and U.N. Syria mediator Staffan de Mistura said there were "all the ingredients for a perfect storm".

"The dangers are profound that any battle for Idlib could be, would be a horrific and bloody battle," de Mistura said.

© (c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2018.

©2018 GPlusMedia Inc.

31 Comments
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Actually, what's happening now, be it on a much smaller scale, is more similar to the Russian starvation of 7,000,000 people in Ukraine from 1932 to 1933 under Stalin.

Change “Russian” to “Soviet” - ideology and not ethnicity was a factor.

There were two periods of mass starvation in early Soviet history with similar causes.

The first (1921-22) was primarily felt in the Volga River valley- a huge area of fertile crop land - and killed an estimated 5 million people. It’s natural cause was a severe drought that dramatically reduced yields (these occurred every 5-7 years in the 3 major grain and meat producing regions of the USSR.). The human causes stemmed from the economic and transportation chaos resulting from WW1 (1914-1917 in Russia) and the Russian Civil War (1918-21).

During the Civil War grain was routinely seized from growers to feed the belligerents, both Red and White, sometimes with compensation but often with none. The later was especially true of the Bolsheviks whose propaganda labeled some growers and livestock producers as “kulaks” or “rich peasant”. (The term “kulak” was later revived by Stalin.) This allowed the expropriation (“expropriation from expropriators” was the official slogan) to proceed under the banner of “War Communism”. One response of farmers was to plant less and so production dropped even further.

A bad natural situation exacerbated by warring factions under the cover of ideology.

The second famine (1932-33) was again caused by many factors.

Some writers point to natural causes, but, like the earlier famine, the situation was exacerbated by Soviet policy. It occurred during Stalin’s rapid industrialization of Russia and accompanying urbanization. In order to secure a stable food supply for industrial workers a system of collectivized farms was established. Those farmers who were once allowed private ownership and the right to employ a limited number of farm workers (started under Lenin’s “New Economic Policy” which replaced “ War Communism” of the Civil War) were declared “enemies of the state” as “kulaks”. Rather than have their livestock confiscated, farmers killed and butchered it on a mass scale. Meat literally disappeared overnight from the marketplace. With grain prices fixed, the incentive to plant for a crop surplus was gone.

It must be added that the Soviets were selling grain abroad for hard currency to increase industrialization during the famine.

Were the farmers mostly responsible for the famine or was the Soviet government. My opinion is the latter.

“Fake history”? Not in the opinion of respected historians I’ve read.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

The (legitimate) Syrian government has every right, in fact the duty to restore full control over the entire country, using all means, including military to achieve that goal.

Then reconstruction can begin, but not before.

Obviously a bloodbath in Idlib should be avoided by all means. It is in no one's interest.

Damascus has been trying very hard to arrange 'human corridors' for civilians and offered the same deal to rebels, willing to give up, as with previous deconfliction settlements in Aleppo, Homs, Daraa, etc.

The key problem is, that the hardcore Islamist fighters refused and blocking the escape routes, thus holding the unfortunate civilians hostage.

That is the Gordian knot that needs to be cut.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

PTownsend wrote:

Curious that modern Russians, proponents of rightist ideology, would defend Stalin, a putative communist. But then he is Russian's greatest hero.

Lenin was sometimes a Communist (the Civil War “War Communism” phase) and sometimes a Fascist (“New Economic Policy” phase). It’s no secret that he admired Mussolini - as many in the West, like Roosevelt, did. Many historians believe that Lenin would have prolonged the NEP (that marriage of Soviet police control and privately owned corporations) into the 1930s if he hadn’t died prematurely. Then ...

Stalin, on the other hand, was impatient and so began the collectivization of industry and agriculture by implementing “scientific” central planning. I would call this a variation of Fascism. Labeling Stalin a “rightist” or even a “leftist” means nothing.

That Stalin is now praised is not surprising because Russians have always been comfortable with strongmen either Czar or Commissar.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

@Burning Bush

Excellent example. Waco, Texas. David Koresh and his Branch Davidians. See, wouldn't it have been better if the ATF and FBI had just not bothered going in at all? All of those children killed. A crying shame.

The ATF and FBI were all over Waco hotdoggin' on the streets a week before they first approached the Branch Davidian Compound. Everybody, including Koresh and his followers knew the U.S. government was in town looking for him. They should have just come in quietly and waited for Koresh to come to downtown Waco, which he frequently did (alone), and then take him. They just never learn, do they? They sure did blow it on that one!

Anyway, good example about why not to go in. By the way, didn't the Branch Davidians set fire to their own compound and themselves in the process so that they could fulfill their own end of days prophecy.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Why the mad rush to bomb, destroy and invade a city of 3 million people filled with women and children?

2 ( +5 / -3 )

@Asakaze

Actually, what's happening now, be it on a much smaller scale, is more similar to the Russian starvation of 7,000,000 people in Ukraine from 1932 to 1933 under Stalin. No sympathy whatsoever, just plain old murder.

But rather than discussing historical facts, why not try to find a more peaceful solution to the problem in Idlib?

Rescuing the occupants of a house by burning it down to the ground is not a solution. It's murder.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

@asakaze  There were no "starvation of Ukrainians", there was a huge famine that affected not only Ukraine

The Holodomor (Ukrainian: Голодомо́р);[a][2] (derived from морити голодом, "to kill by starvation")[3][4][5] was a man-made famine in Soviet Ukraine in 1932 and 1933 that killed millions of Ukrainians. It is also known as the Terror-Famine and Famine-Genocide in Ukraine,[6][7][8]and sometimes referred to as the Great Famine[9] or The Ukrainian Genocide of 1932–33.[10] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holodomor

The above is from Wikipedia, but gives an overview of what's been well-documented, at least in 'the west'. I've read that Putin's re-blocked access to many historical records. Curious that modern Russians, proponents of rightist ideology, would defend Stalin, a putative communist. But then he is Russian's greatest hero.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

@PTownsend

You took the words right out of my mouth.

@Asakaze

You need to contact a lot of historians for corrections and share your made-up personal & historical opinions.

Fake news regarding The Ukranian Genocide of 1932-33? Not hardly.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

Curious that modern Russians, proponents of rightist ideology, would defend Stalin, a putative communist. 

The one consistency is both Putin's and Stalin's systems are totalitarian, both in that way replicating the centuries of the tsars' monarchy.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

The province is the last stronghold of the jihadists, and most of the civilians are their hostages. WHY do we not want the Syrian government to take over the province and end this civil war?

It reminds me of the Sri Lankan civil war. When the government had the last pocket of Tamil Tigers surrounded, the west went nuts and pitched a fit when the government went in and ended the war. Its like the west did not want the war to end. They wanted the killing to continue.

Assad is a dictator, but he is a secular dictator who rules over a multi-confessional country of Alawites, Sunnis, Christians, and Druze. If the rebels win, there will be true genocide in Syria.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Turkey has large sway amongst the peoples on northern Syria

In some schools there, they're already teaching Turkish instead of Syrian curricula

This will be interesting about those people there

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Idlib is the insurgents' only remaining major stronghold and a government offensive could be the war's last decisive battle.

Obviously then there is a military solution. The Al Qaida has already been pushed out of every other area, Aleppo, Darea, Homs etc.

Best case scenario of course though is that the terrorists surrender their weapons and accept civilian rule.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

3 millions people are being held captive by a few thousand freedom fighters/terrorists?

I don't think so. If anything, they're more afraid about who's coming to town than who's already there.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

@Raw Beer

Wouldn't it be nice if the US and Russia would just butt out of the Middle East? I don't want to send anybody over there to fight so Big Oil can continue making big bucks.

I'd rather pay more to run an electric car than to pay blood money for gasoline, wouldn't you?

Let the people in these countries sort things out for themselves without any outside help whatsoever. Majority rule. One man one vote. Ahh, but that'll never will happen, will it?

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Let the people in these countries sort things out for themselves without any outside help whatsoever. Majority rule. One man one vote. Ahh, but that'll never will happen, will it?

Fine. Then when will “popular opinion” outside that country, enraged by their media influenced by barely visible actors, decide intervention is “necessary” to “save innocent lives”?

Majority rule? It turns on the tap to prepare the next bloodbath.

Democracy needs constraints such as laws that protect the rights of minorities. Dictators tend to empower minorities especially if their own origin is from a minority - President Assad is an Alawite.

Discontent among some in Syria over the supremacy of that minority led to the original unrest that was later channeled by extremists.

“One man, one vote”? At the moment and for the immediate future that “one man” is President Assad. Think he is evil if one wants, but he seems to be a rational dictator. The problem with rational dictators is that they often become irrational and are removed by a charismatic from a different minority that ... then ... and so on.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

"The Americans have faced a real defeat in Syria and have not reached their goals," he added.

Agreed. US involvement has been a debacle since the outset, and Trump's making things even worse.

But in terms of not 'reaching goals', given how long this has dragged on I'd say that also applies to Russia, its puppet state Syria, Iran, KSA, the UAE - all nations involved militarily in Syria.

3 years ago Russian posters and their supporters said Russia was going to bring peace and stability to Syria. Russia may be able to dominate Syria now and in future, but most likely will be seen by those opposing its presence as an invading force.

As long as Russia's in Syria (yes, I know Russia was 'invited'), there will be fighting. The wars fought for control of oil and gas continue for the benefit of the .01%, the oil and gas sheikhs, czars, titans, their global financial backers, and the big war industries worldwide.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

Why the mad rush to bomb, destroy and invade a city of 3 million people filled with women and children?

Because 3 million people are being held hostage by head chopping terrorists.

How long will should the SWAT team tolerate a hostage crisis before using force?

0 ( +5 / -5 )

@PTownsend "The one consistency is both Putin's and Stalin's systems are totalitarian, both in that way replicating the centuries of the tsars' monarchy."

Exactly. You can put lipstick (and makeup for that matter) on a pig but it's still a pig.

@Asakaze

I knew a guy who believed that the Holocaust was all made up and that it never happened. You remind me a lot of him in regard to your knowledge and beliefs about Ukraine.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

@Raw Beer

I'd say you're half right and half wrong. True, the U.S. should stop aiding and abetting countries like the Saudi Arabia. However, I disagree that the military option is the only option. There has to be another way. Violence begets violence and all of that. Things are only going to get worse if we think that leveling cities, like Aleppo, is going to change the inhabitants into fans. Sanctions, peace talks, high level meetings, etc., but dropping bombs on people is probably going to make matters worse rather than better. My guess is that the Russians are going to have a lot of very upset Syrians gunnin' for them by the time they declare mission accomplished in Syria, just like what's happened as a result of their military adventures in Chechnya.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Thanks for the lengthy history lesson Ike-in-Tokyo-from-89 but is it about Syria???

Russia may be able to dominate Syria now and in future, but most likely will be seen by those opposing its presence as an invading force. 

As long as Russia's in Syria (yes, I know Russia was 'invited'), there will be fighting. The wars fought for control of oil and gas continue for the benefit of the .01%, the oil and gas sheikhs, czars, titans, their global financial backers, and the big war industries worldwide.

I think that since 2015 Russia has rotated about 70,000 troops in and out of Syria (AP reported this recently). I don’t consider that an invasion and locals may not either - unless they’re ISIS supporters. The Russians learned their lesson in Afghanistan and had a refresher in Chechnya: keep the numbers small and provide support.

As for “wars fought for control of oil and gas”, Russia has an abundance of both. To deny Syrian oil and gas or the transport of such via Syria to the West? The USA is again a major exporter.

Propoganda or not, I think Putin is the only leader who has said it’s time for Syrians in Europe to go home. Amen. Why? Because they ARE Syrians and they can rebuild their devastated cities. If that aid comes from Russia and not the West, let Russia reap the rewards.

@asakaze

There were no "starvation of Ukrainians", there was a huge famine that affected not only Ukraine, but other parts of the USSR as well. 

... for many of the same reasons.

As Ike-in-Tokyo-from-89 said it was Soviet policy. I gather it was not ethnically driven, but ideologically driven - take from the “rich” and give to the State. Many of the dead happened to be Ukrainians.

I believe Nikita Khrushchev, a Ukrainian himself, survived well enough.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

The same group that planned and carried out the murder of 3000 innocent civilians on 9/11 is now in control of the territory of Idlib and holding the local population hostage.

Al Qaida has shown a willingness to be brutal and they obviously have a total disregard for civilian life. They must be stopped and stopped immediately.

Hey Syrian Army, go in there and get em and rid the world of this terror group.

-1 ( +4 / -5 )

Assad is going to go in and end the insurrection the way any strongman would. We know that they target hospitals and use chemical weapons. We've also got pics of Putin and Assad making smiles at the cameras as they plan all this. There's not a thing anybody can do to stop this (except, maybe, the insurgents laying down arms and leaving) but Assad doesn't much care about anything except his own power. It's going to be a bloodbath.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Wouldn't it be nice if the US and Russia would just butt out of the Middle East? 

Russia is in Syria at the invitation of the legitimate Syrian government, just like the US military in Japan. Actually, the Russian military is probably more welcomed by the Syrian people than the US military by the Japanese people.

In constrast, the US military is illegally in Syria.

Also, the terrorists are backed by the US and its accomplices, not by Russia.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

@ stormcrow,

This conflict was started by the US and its accomplices (Saudi Arabia, UK, Israel,...) with the aim of regime change and destroying the country. Just like they did in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya,...

As long as the terrorist proxies remain in Syria, there will be more death and destruction. They will never stop until Assad is killed and Syria completely destroyed or until the US and its accomplices stop supporting them.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Bill Murphy, Asakaze, Excellent points.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Burning Bush, right on!

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

3 millions people are being held captive by a few thousand freedom fighters/terrorists?

I don't think so.

Hint: terrorists have guns, and they are not shy about using these guns. And note how relatively small gangs took under control large swaths of Iraq, Syria and Libya, including big cities.

Cheerleading war

Just imagine: spring of 1945, Allied armies on the Rhine, but all of a sudden - "why all the rush to kill German women and kids, stop fighting, let's talk with Hitler".

-3 ( +3 / -6 )

@stormcrow

is more similar to the Russian starvation of 7,000,000 people in Ukraine from 1932 to 1933 under Stalin

Wow, you're well-versed in modern Ukrainian propaganda. There were no "starvation of Ukrainians", there was a huge famine that affected not only Ukraine, but other parts of the USSR as well. Anyway, no similarity with the subject. Just like the intentional annihilation of native Indian population by the U.S. has no connection with the subject.

why not try to find a more peaceful solution to the problem in Idlib?

Again, imagine the situation of spring 1945. "Why attack Germany, why storm Berlin? Let's find a peaceful solution". One of fundamental mistakes is a notion that one can find a peaceful solution with jihadists. What is your idea of peace with people who cut heads to make their point? There was no peace possible with Hitler, no peace possible with terrorists.

-3 ( +3 / -6 )

@PTownsend

From Wiki:

Scholars have documented that the Soviet famine of 1932-33 affected other nationalities. The 2004 book The Years of Hunger: Soviet Agriculture, 1931-1933 by R.W. Davies and S.G. Wheatcroft gives an estimate of around 5.5 to 6.5 million deaths in the 1932–1933 famine throughout the Soviet Union.[3]

Interesting that while constantly condemning "nationalists" you eagerly embrace one of the favourite subjects of Ukrainian nationalists ("Stalin personally ordered to starve Ukrainians").

@stormcrow

Let me remind you that the subject of this thread is Syria. Unable to answer a direct question on the subject and prefer to deviate into somewhere else? Why I'm not surprised.... Try to focus, however difficult it is for you.

-3 ( +3 / -6 )

Rescuing the occupants of a house by burning it down to the ground is not a solution. It's murder.

Waco Texas.

Seems to be standard practice by many governments, including the US.

Btw, the city of Aleppo is thriving now, population alive and intact.

How are Mosul and Raqqa?

-3 ( +3 / -6 )

But rather than discussing historical facts, why not try to find a more peaceful solution to the problem in Idlib?

Indeed, but a peaceful solution can only be achieved if we can get the US and its accomplices to leave and stop aiding these terrorists. Until then, the military option is the only option.

-4 ( +2 / -6 )

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