Announced yesterday, the 48-hour ceasefire between Syria’s military and al-Qaeda-led Islamist rebels is holding, with reports of complete calm in the handful of towns and villages covered by the deal. It’s a small matter in practice, but could be a big step forward in broader deals between the Syrian military and the rebels.
How this came about is the real interesting story, as both sides agree that it was the result of negotiations which were mediated by both the Turkish and Iranian governments, a rare show of cooperation in a Syrian Civil War they have normally been at odds over.
Iran has been backing the Assad government throughout the war, while Turkey was quick to abandon their traditional alliance with Syria and endorse the rebels, and recently have been seen as pretty cozy with al-Qaeda’s Islamist bloc, which controls part of the northwest.
On the other hand, Turkey and Iran have been on opposite sides but haven’t had any real problems with one another, and with growing efforts, pushed primarily by Russia, on a broad anti-ISIS alliance between rebels and the government, Turkey and Iran could serve as a unique bridge between the two sides in getting such efforts going in earnest.
That’s not going to be an easy matter, of course. Most of the rebels are resisting the “unity government” idea, and Iran and Russia are still trying to get Assad fully on board. Still, with the war showing no signs of any other resolution, there seems to be more interest in trying negotiation.