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RUSSIA’S announcement that Syrian warplanes will stop flying over some of the country’s bloodiest battlefields should be cause for joy.What is certain is that the Syrian air force, with the help of Russia and Iran, has killed most of these people. Ending the slaughter means first grounding the regime’s air force.
Under the terms of a deal signed by Russia, Iran and Turkey at talks in Kazakhstan on May 4th, this is what is supposed to happen. All operations, including Syrian military flights, will supposedly stop in four “de-escalation zones” within the country where opposition fighters still hold considerable territory. If all sides abide by the deal, then these areas will become safe zones that could, at some stage, be policed by troops from Russia and Turkey. Russian news outlets speculated that troops from Brazil and India may also play a role in peacekeeping. Donald Trump is reported to have approved the agreement in a call with the Russian president, Vladimir Putin.
Details on exactly how it will work on the ground are thin and there are a number of possible spoilers. Key to the plan’s success will be the Syrian government’s commitment to its terms. Backed by its allies Russia and Iran, the regime has repeatedly vowed to continue fighting until it controls the entire country. In trying, it has often acted against the interests of both its main sponsors.
The rebels are justifiably suspicious of the deal, pointing out that Russia has failed to rein in its unruly partner in the past. They are also deeply sceptical about the role of Iran, which they accuse of deliberately stoking sectarian hatred during the war.