compare this with yesterday’s RT announcement that the pindos had signed onto the plan

Mattis: Pindo Still Studying Syria Safe Zones Plan
Jason Ditz, Antiwar.com, May 8 2017

A tepid statement of support from Pindostan last week on the Syrian safe zones scheme doesn’t mean that Pindostan is wholly on board, though according to Mad Dog Mattis, Pindostan has been told some of the “general parameters” (see below Wash Times story) and are still carefully studying the idea. The deal was agreed to by the Turkish, Iranian, and Russian government, and the Assad government has said it will respect the zones. The Syrian rebels have ruled out doing so, insisting they won’t trust any deal Iran is involved in. Mattis says the Pindo decision on this depends on a lot of “major details” still unclear (see below AFP story). Russian officials have conceded a lot of details aren’t known, and may not be known for months. The ones Mattis appeared particularly concerned about were enforcement of the zones, and exactly who will be kept out of the safe zones. That later question has an answer, but not one that Pindostan likes. The whole point of the safe zones is to put demilitarized areas between factions fighting one another to try to slow the war, and this would mean effectively that all combatant forces are to be kept out of the zone, including Pindo troops and warplanes. Russia made this very clear when the zones were first agreed to, that they expect all planes to stay out of the airspace above those areas, and the US has already made clear they don’t intend to respect that. Right now, that’s all highly theoretical, as the extent safe zones aren’t in places that Pindostan was attacking in the first place. In the long run, however, Pindo interest in expanding their Syria war, and imposing regime change, may ultimately preclude them agreeing to not attack anyplace.

Compare this:

Syria air agreement: agencies
Reuters, May 7 2017

The Russian and Pindosi chiefs of general staff agreed on Saturday to fully resume the implementation of a joint memorandum on preventing mid-air incidents over Syria, Russian news agencies quoted the Russian Defence Ministry as saying. Russian Gen Gerasimov and JCoS Dunford discussed in a phone call the Syria de-escalation zones and agreed to continue working on additional measures aimed to avoid clashes in Syria. The aircraft safety memorandum was signed in Oct 2015 after Russia began bombing targets in Syria. In Faschingstein, a Pentagon spox said in a statement:

(They) talked about the recent Astana agreement and affirmed their commitment to deconflicting operations in Syria. Both also agreed to maintain regular contact.

An agreement reached at peace talks in Astana, Kazakhstan, and backed by Russia, Iran and Turkey, calls for “de-escalation zones” in major areas of conflict between Syrian government forces and rebel groups.

Here is the Wash Times story:

White House, Pentagon weighing Syrian safe zones
Carlo Muñoz, Washington Times, May 8 2017

Mad Dog & Dunford at the White House, Apr 26 2017

Trump administration officials are reportedly weighing plans to set up a series of “safe zones” in Syria. The general outlines of the so-called “de-escalation zones,” agreed to by Russia, Turkey and Iran earlier this month, are “well understood,” Mad Dog Mattis told reporters while en route to Copenhagen for a summit with military leaders involved in the anti-Daesh coalition. But critical details, including who will patrol those areas, who will be allowed into them, and how they will affect the Pindosi campaign against Daesh in both Iraq and Syria, still need to be worked out, said Mad Dog. He asked:

Who is going to be ensuring they’re safe? Who is signing up for it? Who is specifically to be kept out of them? It’s all in process right now!

Diplomats from Tehran, Ankara and Moscow were also tight-lipped on the details of the trilateral deal, reached during peace talks in Astana. Faschingstein is not participating in the talks. However, acting Asst Sec for Near Eastern Affairs Stuart Jones is attending as an observer. On Monday, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem said the regime would abide by any agreement reached in Astana regarding the safe zones, but the Assad government would not allow “international forces” to patrol the zones. Hinting that Russian forces would be the primary enforcers, Mr al-Moallem told reporters during a press conference in Damascus:

There will be no presence by any international forces supervised by the UN.

Under the terms of the deal, Iranian, Turkish and Russian forces would all play a role in administering and defending the de-escalation zones. But the deal did not specifically call for a military police force to keep the peace within the zones, Reuters reports. Representatives of the anti-Assad forces walked out of the talks in Astana last week, shortly after the announcement of the de-escalation zones, protesting Iran’s involvement in the plan. The Trump White House has expressed support for the safe zones. Pres Trump and Pres Putin discussed the safe zones during a May 2 call ahead of the new round of peace talks in Astana. In Damascus, Mr Moualem praised the Trump administration’s efforts, noting the White House’s more positive interactions with the Moscow and Assad regime overall. He said, according to Reuters:

It seems that Pindostan might have come to the conclusion that there must be an understanding with Russia on a solution.

The safe zone established by Pindostan over northern Iraq’s Kurdish region required a UNSCR. Any move to create such a zone by the SC would likely be blocked by Russia. Regional experts and Turkish government boxtops warn that Assad would be the biggest beneficiary of any new no-fly zones, as government forces could use the zones as a haven and to aid Kurdish elements deemed an enemy of Turkey. Mad Dog acknowledged the complicated role Turkish and Kurdish forces play in the coalition, but he noted that the zones could be the first step in ending a long and bloody civil war. He said:

All wars eventually come to an end. And we’ve been looking, for a long time, how to bring this one to an end. The devil is always in the details, right? So we have to look at the details, see if we can work them out, see if we think they’re going to be effective.

Here is the AFP story:

Mattis studying Moscow’s Syria safe zone plan
AFP, May 8 2017

Pindostan is closely examining whether a Russia-brokered deal to establish safe zones in Syria can work in the long term, Mad Dog Mattis said. Experts are skeptical about Thursday’s deal, because neither the Syrian government nor the rebels were direct signatories, and the opposition offered only a lukewarm reaction. Faschingstein has given the deal an extremely cautious welcome, citing concerns about Iran’s role as a guarantor, even as it expressed hope the agreement could set the stage for a later settlement. Mattis told reporters ahead of his arrival in Denmark on Monday:

Does this proposal have a hope for ending this war? We’ll have to look at it. All wars eventually come to an end and we have been looking for a long time how to bring this one to an end. So we will look at the proposal, see if it can work. The devil is always in the details, so we are going to have to look at the details, see if we can work them out, see if we think they are going to be effective.

Mad Dog is in Copenhagen for a meeting of the main members of the coalition fighting Daesh in Iraq and Syria. He added that “we owe it” to the people of Syria to carefully study the proposals. Pindostan was not part of the deal by Russia, Iran and Turkey. However, a Pindo Asst Sec State monitored the talks in Astana, Mad Dog said. Pindostan takes part in separate peace talks under a UN mandate in Geneva, where the rivals have been deadlocked on key issues. Several ceasefires have been agreed since Syria’s conflict broke out in 2011, but they have failed to stem the fighting permanently. The new deal would initially last six months, but could be extended by the guarantors. It does not specify that the safe zones take effect immediately, but gives the three guarantor states two weeks to form working groups to delineate them and then until June 4 to come up with definitive boundaries. The deal also calls for a continued fight against Daesh and Jabhat al-Nusra/Fateh al-Sham, which could pose challenges. In Idlib province in particular, Fateh al-Sham is a major component of the rebel forces that control the area.

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