John Kerry Floats Partition Plan For Syria
Being al-Qaida’s air force is not all it’s cracked up to be.
On Tuesday, Secretary of State John Kerry testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and floated the notion of achieving peace in Syria by partitioning the country.
Secretary Kerry told the committee, “It may be too late to keep it as a whole Syria if we wait much longer, so that’s what is at issue here.”
The discussion on the future of Syria comes before a ceasefire set to begin on Saturday which many are skeptical will hold for long. The ceasefire agreement was brokered between the U.S., Russia, Iran, and the High Negotiations Committee (HNC), a coalition of various opposition factions in Syria backed by the U.S. and Saudi Arabia. The ceasefire excludes ISIS and al-Qaida’s affiliate in Syria, the Nusra Front.
The partition plan was framed as a back-up plan or “Plan B” if the ceasefire does not work. Kerry did not endorse the plan, even telling senators he could not “vouch” for it, but said that the Obama Administration was looking for alternatives if the ceasefire did not hold.
“Assad himself is going to have to make some real decisions about the formation of a transitional government process that is real … there are certainly plan B options being considered,” Kerry warned.
If partitioning really is the alternative to the ceasefire holding, then it could become a reality. The ceasefire relies on the various rebel groups and the powers in the region all cooperating and limiting any military action to attacking ISIS and Nusra Front.
Even re-supplying forces would be considered a violation of the terms, which will be a tough limit to abide for Syrian rebel forces that have lost territory in Aleppo recently. It will also be difficult for the Syrian Army and allied forces like Russia to differentiate between Nusra Front and non-affiliated rebels as Nusra Front has been part of the rebel coalition for years and is interspersed among them.
Rather than ask if the ceasefire will be broken, a more realistic question might be to ask who will break it first?
It is hard to say if a formal partitioning of Syria would do much to end the Syrian Civil War, which has continued for five long years. A partition was proposed but never tried during the war in Iraq. For the partition to work, the U.S. would have to be willing to bomb the rebel forces it supports if they broke the agreement. Given that CIA-backed rebels have recently been fighting with Pentagon-backed rebels, this might not be such a big ask after all.