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Syria: Deal Struck To Evacuate Civilians From Homs
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Russia and the US agreed the terms for a cessation of hostilities in Syria. The ceasefire will start on February 27 at midnight Damascus time. ISIS, Al-Qaeda and many other terrorist organizations are not part of the truce.
RT: How optimistic are you about the agreement?
Ray McGovern: The good news is that the US has decided to cooperate with Russia and use their considerable influence and their considerable power to force this thing to stop. There are still considerable obstacles namely Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Israel. They are all allies of the US and the question is will Barack Obama be able to make good on his pledge for a ceasefire? Will he be able to rein in his allies? It is a little different on the Russian side. When we talk about Syria or Iraq and Iran and Hezbollah, I believe that Moscow has much more control over its allies than President Obama does. Will Turkey stop the infiltration of ISIS?
RT: What are the tools in Obama box, if you like, to make sure that people comply with the ceasefire?
RM: As we say in the United States, [Obama should] talk "turkey" to them. In other words, to say -- "enough is enough, we know what you've been doing, we can disclose even things that we have covered up for you, namely supporting the sarin attack outside of Damascus on August 21, 2013. We know that you've facilitated the sarin down to Syrian rebels. We've been covering up for you and now we will not do it anymore, unless you cooperate here and finally seal that border. If you decide to invade Syria, forget about NATO, forget about being part of NATO, because we want the Syrian conflict to stop and we know that you in large measure, together with the Saudis, are responsible for it continuing."
RT: Do you think conversation would've been that frank between them?
RM: Well it depends who's talking. If it's the Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs, Victoria Nuland, I don't think it will be that frank. If it is John Kerry, if it is President Obama talking to Erdogan, I believe [the conversation] will be that frank because their patience has worn out here and deservedly so. This thing has to stop. We are talking about hundreds of thousands of people here, hundreds of thousands of refugees. The NATO allies want the refugee stream to stop and more has to be done with respect to quieting down things in Syria and a ceasefire or a cessation of hostilities, which will allow an exchange of locations of where the so-called 'white hats' - or the good guys -- are so we don't bomb them. But, by elimination we are able to go after ISIS, which after all is doing all it can to prevent this -- witness the carnage in Homs and Damascus just yesterday.
RT: Isn't it going to be very hard to uphold this ceasefire and disentangle everything on the ground?
RM: It will be difficult... Part of the problem is [locating] moderate rebels. Mr. Putin and Mr. Lavrov have asked several times: "please, just show us where your moderate rebels are and we won't bomb them." And the US has been slow to come up with those maps because in truth, as Obama himself admitted a year-and-a-half ago, moderate rebels in Syria is 'a fantasy' -- his word. So al-Nusra, the people that we have been supporting, have pretty much folded in with them and given them their weapons.
It is going to be a little embarrassing for the US to admit that those moderate rebels are a fantasy. This time you have not only Lavrov and Kerry behind it, you have a telephone call announced by Mr. Putin where he says he and Obama have drawn on the experience of destroying all the chemical weapons in Syria, which was a big deal back in 2013. It remains to be seen whether the President of the US could exert enough influence on Turkey and on Saudi Arabia.
Why can't we influence Saudi Arabia? This is why: A hundred billion dollars' worth of arms sales to Saudi Arabia accepted during the tenure of Obama. Only $50 billion have been approved -- only $50 billion? When we talk about realities here, the US officials worry about offending the Saudis...
RT: How much people would trust the Assad government to abide by this? He has been making huge gains recently, hasn't he?
RM: His [Assad] incentive depends on his reliance, his dependence on Russia. If Russia hadn't intervened in September or October, he would not be where he is. In my view, Moscow has much more influence over Assad than Obama has over the Turks or Saudis, and they have, let's face it, the fly in the ointment...
When you talk about the carnage that took place in Homs or Damascus just yesterday it will put the nail in the coffin. I think Obama will make a good try, it just remains to be seen whether he can convince the neocons in our government and make sure that Turkey understands, "look, it's over, stop it!"