DAMASCUS – An incredible and unprecedented 1% of the warring sides in Syria is participating in the ceasefire which is currently in effect in the country, according to a joint Syrian and Russian statement.
The ceasefire came into effect several weeks ago in an apparent act of mercy by Bashar al-Assad and Vladimir Putin shortly before what they both called “the imminent final collapse of all terrorist elements in the country and the final victory of the righteous and elected government which would be achieved in the coming few days had we not been so concerned by humanitarian aspects of the conflict”.
The rebels and the western and regional powers that support them stated that they had agreed to the ceasefire not out of desperation, but out of genuine humanitarian reasons and the need of a time window without hostilities during which they can deliver humanitarian aid such as edible anti-tank guided missiles and man-portable air-defense systems-based cereal.
Many observers were not optimistic about this ceasefire, but admit that they had to change their minds after seeing that it has indeed brought an unprecedented period of calm to the country.
Mr. William Butterworth of the esteemed London-based think tank TBWBIPAWWIPVFAFTW (The Butterworth Western-Based Initiative for Peace Aligned With Western Interests in a Place Very Far Away From The West) said that he is very pleased with the ceasefire.
“It shows that the 24 ‘Friends of Syria’ and 14 Geneva summits for peace in the country weren’t in vain. I mean, the ceasefire was decided in the four minutes of a telephone conference between Mr. Putin and Mr. Erdogan, three of which were saturated with personal insults, but obviously this could not have been achieved without the long peace process that western governments have facilitated.”
Mr. Butterworth said that the country has never seen such a successful and wide-reaching ceasefire during its war. Up to an astonishing one per cent of the involved sides are participating in the ceasefire, among them such renowned rebel groups as Liwa al-NamelessKafr, Jaysh al-Hamlet and The Umbrella Coalition of Moderate Syrian Rebels.
We got in touch with three of the four Liwa al-Hamlet fighters from very rural west Homs governorate who told us that the ceasefire is “very good”, since far-reaching news of it has reminded them that the war is still going and has not ended in 2013 as they thought. They expressed relief that the remote possibility of them having to fight ever again is now even more remote.
The Umbrella Coalition of Moderate Syrian Rebels released a statement that all of their eleven fighters will commit to the ceasefire, even though they have all been living in Istanbul for the past two years.
On the government side, the local NDF militia associated with a cluster of 5-6 houses at the foot of “Hill 159” has also committed to the ceasefire, and plans to use the lull in fighting to deploy to the front lines around a nearby besieged rebel village to “bolster the Syrian economy and trade”.
The other rebel and pro-government groups are not participating in the ceasefire. Before it came into effect, Syrian President Assad had welcomed the ceasefire with open arms, under the condition that Jaysh al-Islam, Jabhat al-Nusra, Ahrar ash-Sham, Levant Front, Jund al-Aqsa, Sultan Murad Brigade, 1st Coastal Division, Division 13, Liwa al-Haqq, Anjad al-Sham, Jaysh al-Sunna, Southern Front, Jaysh al-Nasr, Sham Legion and approximately another 1344 rebel groups holding 99+% of the rebel territory cannot participate. The Free Syrian Army was explicitly allowed participation in the ceasefire, but their phone was never answered by anybody, supposedly due to international call prices increasing recently.
Russia said that “everyone” can participate in the ceasefire but that the Russian airforce will still bomb everyone according to their tactical needs regardless of their adherence.
The rebels insisted that Kurd-aligned Jaysh al-Thuwar cannot participate in the ceasefire, but that they “wouldn’t mind if ISIL participated”.
The SDF gladly accepted the ceasefire with government forces, with the exception of government pockets in Hasakah governorate.
Turkey said that the Syrian Kurdish forces and their SDF allies cannot participate in the ceasefire, a day after it insisted that the Kurds will be invited to peace negotiations only under the condition that they sit at the ISIL table, not the opposition or government table.
ISIL itself was outraged at not being included in the ceasefire and is planning to complain to the International Criminal Court. Turkish President Erdogan backed ISIL up “purely on the grounds of justice and humanitarianism”, and then went on for another half hour about all the crimes against humanity the Syrian Kurds have committed against ISIL.
So far reports of monitors on the ground in Syria have been positive. According to various local and international monitors, in the three weeks since the ceasefire started the number of violations is “remarkably in the low tens of thousands”.