Inside Syria

Syrian ceasefire: Going up in smoke

As a temporary truce to mark the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha fails, what are the prospects for peace in Syria?

The latest ceasefire in Syria was shattered within hours of coming into effect. The temporary truce brokered by UN and Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi was to mark the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha.

… there is still space for politics in Syria, there is still space for keeping the discussion going and just because people are fighting does not mean that some diplomacy should not be moving forward. If we don’t have those contacts, if we don’t try to develop them and develop confidence between the two sides over time – this conflict is just going to spiral out of control.

– Christopher Swift, Georgetown University

It was hoped that it could serve as a springboard for ending the 19-month-old conflict – but those hopes faded fast.

A car bomb exploded in the capital Damascus on Friday morning and a second went off in front of a church in Deir Az-Zor on Saturday. Activists also reported shelling and shooting in Aleppo, the suburbs of Damascus and Homs.

At least a hundred people are reported to have been killed since the start of the truce.

Any hope that Lakhdar Brahimi’s ceasefire would hold is gone, and there are very few who believe that this conflict can be suspended even for a few days.

Michael Stephens, an analyst at the Royal United Services Institute, says: “No one really expected there to be a full 100 per cent ceasefire, there are a number of rebel groups that had said they weren’t going to observe the ceasefire, I think on the other side there wasn’t 100 per cent goodwill on the Assad side either.”

Each side accuses the other of violating the truce – but what is clear after so many months of fighting is that no one is willing to compromise.

There have been several efforts to negotiate a halt to the fighting in Syria.

Arab League observers were deployed in December 2011 to oversee a peace plan – but that mission was suspended after little more than a month.

Kofi Annan’s six-point plan pressed for an open-ended ceasefire to take effect in April. But again, violence continued to escalate.

And now the truce brokered by the new UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, conditionally agreed by both sides, was shattered within hours.

Brahimi’s mission has always been described as impossible, even by himself, and there is no indication that he will succeed where his predecessor Kofi Annan failed.

To discuss the failed ceasefire in Syria, Inside Syria with presenter Ghida Fakhry speaks to Ron Redmond, a regional spokesman for the United Nations Refugee Agency; Christopher Swift, an adjunct professor of national security studies at Georgetown University. He is also the author of an upcoming book “The Fighting Vanguard: Local Insurgencies in the Global Jihad”; and Saleh Mubarak, a member of the Syrian National Council.

“From the beginning we said the prospects [for peace] are close to nil. We were not expecting the regime to honour this ceasefire because the regime is damned if it honoured the ceasefire and damned if it didn’t …. They [the opposition] are not unified officially under any command, although I would say, there are few commands that had consensus among these groups that if the regime stops firing, if the regime stops bombing from [the] air … that they would observe that [ceasefire]. So I don’t think that those armed groups do not gain anything by violating the truce, they would like the people to enjoy the Eid holiday as peacefully as possible.”

Saleh Mubarak, a member of the Syrian National Council


  • Humanitarian aid and relief groups have warned of a looming refugee crisis this winter
  • The United Nations Refugee Agency says there are 360,000 registered Syrian refugees
  • Organisations issue warning that number could almost double by the end of the year
  • Most refugees have been taken in by Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq
  • It is feared there could be tens of thousands more who are not officially registered