Syria's uncertain truce

A UN-brokered cease-fire agreement began Thursday morning, but few expect it to last

Published April 12, 2012 5:08PM (EDT)

This article originally appeared on GlobalPost.

UNITED NATIONS – A proposed truce in Syria came with the sunrise today, but there are many skeptics who do not expect the guns to remain silent for long, if at all.

Global PostUnder a ceasefire agreement brokered by the former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, fighting was to stop at 6 A.M. Thursday and, according to the Associated Press, the first hours passed without any reports of major fighting.

The truce is to be followed by negotiations between President Bashar Assad’s regime and the Syrian opposition aimed at finding a political solution to the bloodshed that has claimed more than 9,000 lives over the last 13 months.

But as the sands of the diplomatic hourglass sifted down in the hours before the ceasefire agreement was set to take effect, it was hard to find diplomats or observers here at the UN or across the Middle East who believed it would hold.

U.S. President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed agreement Wednesday that “more resolute” action was needed by the UN Security Council if the ceasefire agreement was truly going to hold.

And some observers went beyond doubt and expressed fear that the truce could actually have the unintended consequence of propping up the Assad regime by recognizing its legitimacy.

And they are left wondering if the ceasefire doesn’t serve to undercut the rebel fighters and their intention to topple the regime which in the days leading up to this morning has shown just how vicious it is willing to be in holding on to power.

Beyond such speculation, it has been difficult to know the hard facts on the ground during the regime’s stepped-up offensive against the rebels in Syria as reporters have largely been prevented from entering the country.

GlobalPost’s James Foley provided a rare glimpse inside the fighting, showing how the Syrian regime was forcefully and systematically putting down the rebellion in rebel strongholds like the town of Saraqeb.

Foley documented a pattern begun in Hama and then in Homs and carried out across the country in recent weeks. That is that the Syrian army rolled in with tanks, shelled rebel positions and then carried out a broader attack. Then the soldiers went door-to-door arresting or executing anyone suspected of taking sides with the rebels.

After watching the brutal offensive, there was little trust that Assad would live up to his word. U.S. Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice, who currently chairs the UN Security Council, expressed disappointment Tuesday that Syrian army troops had failed to withdraw tanks and artillery from cities and towns, as was spelled out in Annan’s plan.

“Members of the council are unified in their grave concern that this deadline has passed and the violence has not only continued but over the last 10 days has intensified," Rice said.

"The Syrian leadership should now seize the opportunity to make a fundamental change of course. It's essential that the next 48 hours bring visible signs of immediate and indisputable change in the military posture of the government forces throughout the country," she added.

On Wednesday, White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters in Washington, "What is important to remember is that we judge the Assad regime by its actions and not by their promises, because their promises have proven so frequently in the past to be empty."

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By Charles M. Sennott

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