February’s tenuous cease-fire in Syria seems to breaking down for good.
Opposition leaders blame airstrikes around Aleppo have been blamed on both the Russian and Syrian forces. Civilians and doctors were killed when a Doctors Without Borders hospital was hit this week in the northern city.
Joshua Landis, the Director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma and the author of the blog Syria Comment, says the cease-fire lasted much longer than anyone thought. The U.S. and Russia pressured opposition leaders and the Syrian government to come to the negotiating table in Geneva with promises of weapons and other kinds of support.
“They didn't come really to strike a deal,” Landis said. "They were going in order to get more arms, and they have.”
The real problem, Landis says, is that the two-month cessation of hostility left shaky partition lines (which the U.S. doesn’t want), and all sides arming their proxies.
The Obama administration is also concerned about self-proclaimed Islamic State militants operating in eastern Syria. These are two different conflicts, and this week the White House said it would send 250 Special Ops forces to Syria, despite years of promises not to send ground troops to the region.
“All of a sudden his spokesperson for the State Department is trying to explain how 300-some odd Special Forces are not boots on the ground,” Landis said.
The goal is to cripple ISIS leadership immediately after an airstrike, either by kidnapping or killing them, Landis says.
“They've done this before. They carried out important computers which opened up the door for tons more intelligence,” Landis said. “So if you've got spotters on the ground, if you've got intelligence on the ground watching when people leave or go out of what we suspect is their office, you can have much more intelligence, and that means you can kill the leadership with greater accuracy and more frequency.”
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