Ceasefire in Syria may indicate diplomatic breakthrough

One of the immediate possible knock on effects of the still tenuous Iran Nuclear Deal seems to be a long sought after diplomatic breakthrough for negotiators trying to find a way to resolve the four year old Syrian Civil War.

This first step, a 48-hour cease fire between “moderate” Syrian rebels and the Syrian Army and their allies covers only a single town and two nearby villages but could signal a new paradigm in a way to bring an end to the conflict that has killed a quarter of a million people and left 10 million homeless.

Turkey has, unofficially, been supporting to various degrees several of the active rebel groups in Syria trying to topple dictator Bashar al-Assad. Iran has been actively supporting the Assad Regime and their allies Hezbollah.

“A ceasefire began at 6 a.m. today for 48 hours to halt military operations in Zabadani,” Hezbollah’s al-Manar TV reported. “It also includes the two villages of al-Foua and Kefraya in the Idlib countryside.”

Abu Walid al-Zabadani, a fighter with Ahrar al Sham in Zabadani, said: “We have stopped firing. It’s from both sides.”

“As fighters on the ground, we were not interested in this ceasefire, but it is led by our commanders and we have to abide by their orders,” he told Reuters from Zabadani. A second rebel said there were 200 injured insurgent fighters in the town.

Hezbollah said Islamic State gunmen had opened fire in Zabadani in an attempt to break the ceasefire but other insurgent groups had intervened to stop them.

Zabadani, about 45 km (30 miles) northwest of the capital Damascus and about 10 km from the border with Lebanon, has been the focus of a weeks-long offensive by the army and Hezbollah aimed at wresting control of the town from rebels.

The two Shi’ite villages of al-Foua and Kefraya, meanwhile, have been targeted in a parallel offensive by an insurgent alliance that includes both the Sunni Islamist Ahrar al-Sham and the al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front.

In other rare good news from the conflict, the al Nusrah Front has indicated they will be abandoning their hard-won positions in the proposed buffer zone on the Turkish Border, ceding the area to other “moderate”┬ámilitant groups. Al Nusrah has come under intense pressure as the U.S. has been targeting their top al Qaeda veteran leaders for targeted assassination via precision drone strikes in the area.

Al Nusrah finds itself in a very complicated position, as they try to navigate a continued working relationship with the Turkish government in their multi-fronted fight against both the Assad Regime and the Islamic State. Compounding the complications, al Nusrah has been actively fighting the U.S. trained Division 30 “moderate” rebel group, previously kidnapping several and killing others in a brazen attack on their headquarters.

 

[Reuters] [Long War Journal]

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