A ceasefire proposal floated by Syrian Deputy Prime Minister Qadr Jamil on Thursday has been met with guffaws from the Syrian opposition and silence by Washington as world leaders prepare for next week’s UN General Assembly meeting in New York.
A Western diplomat tells The Cable that Western powers aren’t rushing to embrace the proposal and a spokesman for the U.S.-backed Syrian National Coalition called Jamil’s comment "not a credible statement."
Jamil’s offer first appeared in The Guardian on Thursday as he made the unexpected admission that neither side in Syria can prevail militarily in the two-and-a-half year conflict. "Neither the armed opposition nor the regime is capable of defeating the other side," he said. "This zero balance of forces will not change for a while."
If accepted by the Syrian opposition, Jamil said the ceasefire would be kept "under international observation" and enforced by UN peacekeepers by friendly or neutral countries. On Friday, SNC spokesman Louay Safi told CBS News that the opposition wasn’t theoretically opposed to a ceasefire "but it has to be part of a comprehensive peace plan."
Thus far, the SNC has refused any political solution that allows Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to remain in power, a demand the Assad regime says is non-negotiable. The diplomatic stalemate has been a persistent roadblock for the U.S. and its allies. "For now, we believe actions speak louder than words and we look forward to seeing if the Assad regime is going to follow through on its commitments," the Western diplomat told The Cable.
On that front, Syria actually met its first deadline on Friday by submitting an initial declaration of its chemical weapons stockpiles to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. The OPCW confirmed today that it’s studying the details of the declaration and the State Department announced that it too is examining Syria’s submission.
"We will be making a careful and thorough review of it," State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said Friday. "Clearly, we said they needed to submit a comprehensive list of their entire stockpile and program, but we’ll have more to come."
Neither the State Department nor the White House remarked on the purported ceasefire offer from the Assad regime today. However, a separate ceasefire agreement between rival rebel factions on Friday is easing fears of a new civil war within the civil war.
After seizing the northern town of Azaz on Wednesday, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, an al-Qaeda-linked group, agreed to a ceasefire with the Western-backed Free Syrian Army, and hostilities have reportedly halted for the time being.
Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at email@example.com.
Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.
A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.
Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C.| The Cable |