World View: Syria’s Civilians Fear Worse Violence from U.S.-Russia ‘Ceasefire’ Agreement

This morning’s key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

  • Kyrgyzstan’s World Nomad Games commemorate lifestyle of Genghis Khan
  • Syria’s civilians fear worse violence from US-Russia ‘ceasefire’ agreement
  • Generational theory: Bashar al-Assad’s miscalculation

Kyrgyzstan’s World Nomad Games commemorate lifestyle of Genghis Khan

One horseman knocking another off his horse at the World Nomad Games. (AFP)
One horseman knocking another off his horse at the World Nomad Games. (AFP)

There were 40 countries, including Russia, China and the United States, competing in the World Nomad Games, held in eastern Kyrgyzstan during the last two weeks, between the Rio 2016 Olympics and the Paralympics.

The games are a celebration of Central Asia’s nomadic heritage, dating back centuries, including the era of Genghis Khan. During the opening ceremony, Kyrgyzstan’s president Almazbek Atambayev said:

In the modern world, people are forgetting their history, and there is a threat of extinction for traditional cultures. Nomadic civilization is an example of sustainable development, which is what all of humanity is looking for today.

The star of the show was action film actor Steven Seagal, presumably publicizing his new movie “The Perfect Weapon.” Seagal enjoys a cult-like following in the countries of the former Soviet Union, and the audience went wild when Seagal appeared on horseback, dressed as a khan (ancient Kyrgyz warrior) in armor and rode in on a horse as the Games’ guest of honor.

The sports include mass-wrestling and eagle hunting. The highlight is the traditional Central Asian sport buzkashi also known as kok-boru, “a violent Central Asian form of polo in which two teams battle for control of a decapitated goat carcass.” Kok Boru is described as a violent and exciting game, akin to polo — except instead of a ball the players attempt to score by picking up, carrying, and tossing a goat carcass, the head and hooves removed, into a circle at the opposite end of the field. The goat is traditionally slaughtered right before the game and delivered to the village elder after. Foreign Policy and The Diplomat and Guardian (London) and EurasiaNet

Syria’s civilians fear worse violence from US-Russia ‘ceasefire’ agreement

Bombs rained down from warplanes on Saturday on a civilian marketplace in Idlib, near Aleppo in Syria, killing 37 people, including many women and children. At least 82 people were killed on Saturday in bombings from warplanes of the regime of Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad. Syria’s civilians fear worse violence from the announced “ceasefire,” since the regime is using the opportunity to gain as much ground as possible before the ceasefire is scheduled to begin on Monday.

Generally speaking, in any war, a “ceasefire” is bound to be a farce for several reasons:

  • The politicians set up the ceasefire mainly for self-aggrandizement. Each side lies about its intentions.
  • As the date of the “ceasefire” approaches, each side doubles down on violence, in order to control as much territory as possible before the ceasefire takes place.
  • Each side uses the “ceasefire” as an opportunity to bring in supplies and weapons, and to restructure their forces in preparation for the next battle when the “ceasefire” ends.
  • Each side feels free to violate the “ceasefire,” as long as it can find an excuse for doing so.
  • If the “ceasefire” only applies to some areas, but not to others, as in the case of this new agreement, then bombings and other attacks will all substantially increase in the areas not covered. So there will be same amount of violence during the “ceasefire,” but it will be concentrated on excluded areas.
  • When the “ceasefire” ends, each side blames violations by the other for why it didn’t work, and excuses or denies its own violations.

In this case, one of the politicians is US Secretary of State John Kerry. During his tenure, he has stumbled from one foreign policy disaster to the next, probably still hoping to get a Nobel Peace Prize if he keeps on trying.

The other politician is Russia’s Defense Minister Sergei Lavrov who seems capable of lying about anything and everything, and never makes a true statement except by accident.

Not directly involved in the deal is Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad, who has contempt for pretty much everybody, and certainly sees this agreement as an opportunity to gain a military advantage.

It’s been well-publicized for weeks that al-Assad sees the current battle in Aleppo as an opportunity to strike a fatal blow against the opposition. According to one analyst:

If the regime is unable to retake Aleppo, that will demonstrate that they are unable to retake all of Syria. If the opposition suffers defeat and is routed from the city, it’s a sign the revolution has lost.

This analysis alone means that the ceasefire will not last. The ceasefire would mean that the status quo is maintained and the regime will have failed to retake Aleppo. With al-Assad’s army in trouble, possibly close to collapse, he may believe that the battle of Aleppo is an existential crisis for his regime.

Furthermore, Russia is now the main hegemonic power in the Mideast, and Russia has made it clear that they want al-Assad in power, so they will continue to use maximum military violence, irrespective of any “ceasefire.” So if al-Assad has agreed to the ceasefire, as news reports indicate he has, then he will use it to gain every possible military advantage, in preparation for what he undoubtedly sees as the ultimate critical battle of Aleppo. BBC and Russia Today and CS Monitor and SANA (Syria)

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Generational theory: Bashar al-Assad’s miscalculation

As I’ve said before, from the point of view of Generational Dynamics, al-Assad is wrong to believe that the recapture of Aleppo would mean that the revolution is ended. Al-Assad is thinking of his father’s war, which ended when Hafez al-Assad massively slaughtered tens of thousands of Sunnis in the town of Hama, Syria, in 1982, turning the town to rubble. But that was a generational crisis war, and so ended with an “explosive crisis,” something I’ve described a number of times.

This war is a generational Awakening era war, and the rules are very different. The biggest difference is that there are plenty of people in the Sunni opposition today who recall the 1982 massacre, are prepared for it, and will not let it stop them from protesting and fighting, even if Aleppo is lost.

Awakening era wars follow a pattern that I’ve described many times in countries like Burundi, Thailand, Zimbabwe, South Sudan, and others. The Awakening era is the time when the first post-war generation comes of age, creating a “generation gap,” as happened in the United States in the 1960s. It is characterized by large student protests and demonstrations, but any armed conflict fizzles quickly. That’s what would have happened in 2011 if Bashar al-Assad hadn’t treated peaceful protests by young people as an excuse to start exterminating all Sunnis. Today’s students’ parents were defeated by Hafez al-Assad in 1982, and these students are well aware of that, so they will not let the loss of one city stop them in 2016.

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KEYS: Generational Dynamics, Kyrgyzstan, World Nomad Games, Russia, China, Genghis Khan, Almazbek Atambayev, Steven Seagal, kok-boru, Syria, Idlib, Aleppo, Bashar al-Assad, John Kerry, Sergei Lavrov, Hafez al-Assad, Hama, Burundi, Thailand, Zimbabwe, South Sudan
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