Military Review

Russia shakes rights in de-escalation zones (Chatham House)


Russia imposes its own conditions on the game to opposition groups, holding a course towards strengthening and modifying its presence in Syria. Instead of the side of a military conflict, it seeks to become a mediator who will help find a solution to domestic political problems.

While the main joint positive decisions of the military opposition and the Syrian regime are reached during the negotiations in Astana, Russia prefers to hold separate bilateral meetings in different parts of Syria. This demonstrates Russia's readiness to alter any signed agreement in its favor. But at the same time, the dynamics of the development of events calls into question the expediency of any arrangements.

Way from Astana

The cease-fire agreement entered into force in four regions of Syria almost a year after the start of negotiations in Kazakhstan; he was supported by Russia, Turkey, and then Iran. These areas, the so-called “de-escalation zones”, included the city of Idlib and its environs, the northern province of Homs, Eastern Guta, and partly the city of Dar'a.

However, since then, Russia has taken new measures to conclude bilateral agreements directly with opposition armed groups in the same areas. These documents exclude any role of other states and are provided by Russia alone.

Such "adjustments" are a sign that Russia is striving to become the only influential player in the Syrian conflict, displacing Turkey and Iran. An example of this is the events in southern Syria, when Russia signed an agreement with the Southern Front to prevent the Iranian militia from entering Daria. The Russians also ensured that the Iranians were not able to take eastern Aleppo or al-Waer in Homs under their control; Iranians ousted Chechen military police.

From the statements and actions of Russia it can be concluded that it is trying to convey to everyone the following: if the results of the negotiations in Astana do not satisfy Moscow, it will resort to external agreements and will inevitably achieve its goal. As an example, recall how East Guta became one of the de-escalation zones. The Russians continued to attack the area until Jaish al-Islam (the “Army of Islam”) did not sign the agreement directly with them. However, hostilities continued in the Faylak ar-Rahman areas of operation, since this grouping did not agree with some points of the agreement and opposed the participation of Cairo as a signatory. However, 18 August in Faylak ar-Rahman in Geneva signed an agreement with Russia, after which an armistice broke out in Eastern Ghouta, despite the fact that its blockade continues.

The same thing happened in the northern province of Homs. After an agreement on de-escalation was reached in Astana, it was withdrawn by Russia, which then entered into a new agreement at a meeting between the Russians and Jaysh al-Tawhid directly in Cairo. Similarly, in Idlib, which was also related to the Astana agreements, the head of the Main Operational Directorate of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, Lieutenant-General Sergey Rudskoy, said that they are seeking to conclude bilateral agreements for a cease-fire in the city.

The basis of these agreements was a unilateral - Russian - guarantee, without the international guarantor of the opposition and without substantiating them in international legal institutions such as the UN Security Council. The fate of these agreements will be determined by the desire of Russia to implement them. If Russia wants to annul them, no one can stop it. Just as the escalation agreements were ignored and replaced by local agreements, these bilateral agreements can also be canceled in favor of other decisions.

Although the Astana Agreements first received international support and were considered a step towards reconciliation and the cessation of hostilities in Syria, numerous violations were recorded in the first hours of their actions. Russia was both a guarantor of ceasefire agreements and their violators. Consequently, these agreements should be viewed as temporary arrangements that are intended to instill calm in the representatives of the Syrian government, allied with Russia, in exchange for non-military benefits for the opposition, such as releasing prisoners or stopping shelling, to ensure humanitarian access to the besieged areas.

Other problems

In de-escalation zones, there is competition and conflicts between gangs who are still trying to become one of the parties to any potential international agreement in order to secure their security and legitimacy. And in the same way they will try to prevent any agreement that will be concluded without their participation.

This happened after Jaish al-Tawhid (which has no support abroad) signed an agreement with the Russians in Cairo regarding de-escalation zones in the northern part of Homs. “Ahrar al-Sham” and other groups condemned this agreement and tried to achieve its revision in Turkey so that they could become its participant instead of “Jaysh al-Tawhid”. According to one of the participants of the process, “Ahrar al-Sham” allocated 200 thousand dollars to cancel the Cairo agreement and transfer it to Turkey. And although they did not succeed in this, the negotiations were nevertheless transferred to the people's committee in Syria, where the participants of Ahrar al-Sham were able to meet with the Russians and discuss all the provisions.

There are also concerns about Iran’s interference with the cancellation of the agreements, to maintain its position and plans to increase the Iranian presence in Syria, guaranteeing access from Iran to Lebanon through Iraq and Syria and strengthening the influence of Iranian militias in the region. Iranians will not agree with the growing importance of Russia in Syria. If the Russian side begins to make serious efforts to resolve the conflict in Syria between the warring parties, Iranian militiamen will start attacking opposition areas in order to provoke the opposition to retaliate and thereby violate the ceasefire.

When the Russians did not allow the Shiite militia to enter al-Waer, the militia began to threaten and intimidate civilians and militants leaving the city. Then they mined the road on which people were leaving the city, forcing Russia to stop the movement, neutralize the mines and check the entire section of the road.

Later, Russia took control of a Shiite settlement in northern Homs to prevent possible attacks. As a result, the Iranian militia took it as a provocation and began to fire at nearby areas controlled by the opposition. Iran can not afford to reduce its role in Syria.

Extremist organizations also play a big role in de-escalation zones, because they are always trying to fight them or at least move them to other areas. One of the terms of the escalation agreement in Eastern Gute was the cessation of cooperation between Faylak Ar-Rahman and Hyatt Tahrir ash-Sham. Hayat Tahrir ash-Sham was also instructed to leave the northern part of Homs.

Therefore, groups that support escalation agreements are stuck between two alternatives: either violate the agreement and not enter into a confrontation with Hayat Tahrir ash-Sham, or comply with the conditions and expel the extremists (since they would not leave the territory voluntarily). Therefore, with a high degree of probability, Hayat Tahrir ash-Sham will start attacking Russian troops, and the Syrian government will cancel the agreement or use it as a pretext to confront opposition groups.

What's next?

With the help of these new local agreements, the Russians are trying to gain perception of themselves as the main player who can ensure peace in the country, and not as an aggressor. This would help to overshadow Turkey, and if it succeeds, and the Americans leave the region or change their priorities, the Russians will be able to independently determine the future of Syria.
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  1. Vend
    Vend 23 November 2017 15: 13 New
    What do not like? The USA and the EU means it’s possible, it’s normal, but Russia means no. Russia will restore order and leave Syria, and the country will live in peace. And do not fall apart in the agony of bloody democracy.
    1. The comment was deleted.
    2. NF68
      NF68 23 November 2017 20: 47 New
      Quote: Wend
      What do not like? The USA and the EU means it’s possible, it’s normal, but Russia means no. Russia will restore order and leave Syria, and the country will live in peace. And do not fall apart in the agony of bloody democracy.

      Thanks to the efforts of the United States and some EU countries in most of Syria, there are only ruins that 100 will not be able to live quietly for years because it can only be called very, very conditionally.
  2. solzh
    solzh 23 November 2017 15: 29 New
    Instead of the side of the military conflict, it seeks to become a mediator that will help find a solution to domestic political

    Russia is a party to the conflict only with ig. We are already mediators between Assad and the opposition with unauthorized ties to the Islamic State. And we really can help Syria and it is already helping to solve domestic political problems.
  3. Chertt
    Chertt 23 November 2017 17: 12 New
    General conclusion - Russia has learned to play the "Anglo-Saxon" games, better than its inventors
    1. jjj
      jjj 23 November 2017 17: 26 New
      - Show me the cards?
      - A gentleman's word ...
      - And then the map flooded me ...
  4. Alexey RA
    Alexey RA 23 November 2017 18: 33 New
    The basis of these agreements was a unilateral - Russian - guarantee, without an international guarantor of the opposition and without substantiating them in international legal institutions such as the UN Security Council. The fate of these agreements will be determined by Russia's desire to implement them.

    Mwa ha ha ... remembered the international legal institutions. And what - prevented the UN from bombing Yugoslavia? Capture Iraq a second time? Invade Libya?
    At present, the power of law is in the law of power. And the fate of all agreements is determined only by the will of the parties to implement them. The UN now can only threaten with a finger and express concern. And if this question does not hurt any of the permanent members of the Security Council, otherwise there will simply be a veto.
  5. izya top
    izya top 23 November 2017 18: 34 New
    Chechen military police.
    author of the bites?
    1. PlotnikoffDD
      PlotnikoffDD 23 November 2017 20: 04 New
      is this news for you? a year and a half ago, it was precisely the Chechen military police in Syria that were shown on all channels.
      1. izya top
        izya top 23 November 2017 20: 18 New
        VP cannot be Chechen, Buryat or any other repeat she is RUSSIAN wink
    HEATHER 23 November 2017 19: 54 New
    Russia imposes its conditions of the game In preference demolition, this is a chip. On the minuscule, I do not advise Russians. Otherwise, we will attach a “steam locomotive.” You will have roulette from PM.Mozhno Stechkina.
    1. izya top
      izya top 23 November 2017 21: 54 New
      Quote: VERESK
      In preference demolition, this is a chip. I don’t advise against minuscule Russians.

      damn, it's so nice to meet the old train (long-distance) gambler drinks
      1. Asthma
        Asthma 24 November 2017 11: 05 New
        “Lieutenant, why didn't my ace play trump?”
        - Lay it out, sir, lay it out, sir!
        while we are the only ones who did not break their word. therefore, I believe that they have taken the right role as intermediary and regulator in Syria
  7. The Siberian barber
    The Siberian barber 23 November 2017 22: 49 New
    Rams rest and want to slaughter)
    Only a single country can give peace to this land. And here, some people have to step on their eggs and go where they lead. There is an alternative, of course)))
  8. Sergey53
    Sergey53 24 November 2017 08: 09 New
    And they really wanted them to sway rights, and Russia fought instead of them. At 45m we passed, we know.
  9. gafarovsafar
    gafarovsafar 24 November 2017 08: 45 New
    Some imperialists push others; only their methods and mottos are different.