Two to tango

If yesterday’s post on the deteriorating situation in Aleppo made it sound like it’s Assad’s forces who are doing most of the killing, that’s because…well, because Assad’s forces are doing most of the killing, as they have for the entire war. But the rebels aren’t exactly innocent here:

Rebel fighters launched an assault in Syria’s divided northern city of Aleppo on Tuesday and fired rockets on a hospital, in the latest violence to hit civilians as diplomats struggled to restore an unraveling ceasefire and resurrect peace talks.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based group that monitors the conflict, said rebel rockets had killed 19 people in government-held territory, including an unspecified number at the al-Dabit hospital.

If it’s wrong when the Syrian military–or any military, for that matter–strikes a hospital, and it is, then it’s wrong when the rebels do it too.

On the plus side, the United States and Russia today announced plans to set up a “joint Syrian cease-fire monitoring and enforcement operation” in Geneva. Ideally the establishment of this operation would coincide with a new ceasefire in and around Aleppo. In reality, the US and Russia seem to think they have a lot more control over what happens inside Syria than they actually have. Already there are breakdowns in places where there were ceasefires in effect, like the Damascus suburbs, and if anybody’s planning on suspending operations in Aleppo because Washington and Moscow set up a hotline in Geneva, they aren’t advertising it.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that the goal is for any violations to be “nipped in the bud,” but he, uh, doesn’t seem to have explained how that would work. Military strikes? Sharply worded letters from the desk of UN envoy Staffan de Mistura? Russia isn’t going to go along with punishing Assad for violating a ceasefire (they’re blaming the rebels for every violation that’s already occurred), and it’s unlikely that the Americans would go along with punishing any rebels apart from Jabhat al-Nusra, which means we’re back to the same problem of defining exactly who is fighting for/with Nusra, and that means they’ll be jointly monitoring a ceasefire that doesn’t actually exist.


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