While the UN Security Council approved the “cessation of hostilities” agreement in Syria which came into effect at midnight yesterday, a White House official told Asharq Al-Awsat about the details of a plan B that the United States has talked about in the event that the truce failed.
The truce is considered the first of its kind since the crisis began and the next few hours are critical in deciding whether the ceasefire will continue for two weeks especially as both sides of the conflict do not seem very optimistic about this.
It is likely that the truce will be mirrored by a resumption of upcoming negotiations which will take place in Geneva, especially in light of the opposition linking the fate of these negotiations to the regime’s adherence to the truce, especially in the area of Darayya in the suburbs of Damascus after a Syrian soldier said earlier that the truce will not include Darayya because of the presence of Al-Nusra Front.
The Syrian High Negotiations Committee (HNC) yesterday announced the commitment of 97 fighting factions to the truce. However, it stressed that it will resist the regime and its allies in the event that they decide to exploit the ceasefire to continue attacks under the pretext of fighting terrorism.
The deputy head of the opposition’s negotiating delegation George Sabra told Asharq Al-Awsat in Geneva that “there is no solid and suitable foundation for the continuation of a ceasefire especially in light of the fact that Russia is an adversary and at the same time is involved in the decision process”. On the other hand, the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stressed that there is a good chance of consolidating the positive transformation that has been achieved through the Syrian settlement.
Al-Nusra Front’s leader Abu Mohammed Al-Joulani released an audio recording before the ceasefire began in which he said that the truce that was agreed on by America and Russia “is a conspiracy to keep the Syrian regime in place”.
In the meantime, a White House official told Asharq Al-Awsat that President Barack Obama has had several internal discussions on the options available in the event that the ceasefire agreement failed and added that there are various possibilities for plan B. These include increasing the number of US special forces in Syria, increasing assistance to and training of local forces, using aid from other countries to provide arms and logistical assistance to establish a no-fly zone or a safe area for refugees to prevent the regime from targeting civilians.
In Paris, French official sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that talk about plan B is misplaced because Washington “does not want to be immersed in the Syrian war more than it is today”. The source added that they are “certain” that the US Secretary of State John Kerry is “betting” on the Russian President Vladimir Putin changing his position with regards to the president of the Syrian regime Bashar Al-Assad.