At the G8 Summit Meeting in Krakow, Poland, where Presidents Trump and Putin met for the first time, there was a surprising announcement, a ceasefire in SW Syria. How did this come about? An easy guess is that both Russia and the US were anxious to avoid any direct clashes between their forces.
The possibility that Russian and US planes might find themselves in combat may be quite remote, but the possibility that Israeli and Syrian planes might in fact be in combat is not unlikely. This might bring the US and Russia into a difficult situation, on opposite sides, so to avoid further problems, the two leaders agreed, and their allies of course went along. This includes the anti-Assad, American-supported democratic opposition that is strong in Dera’a, but was expecting a major attack by the Syrian regime forces.
Perhaps more significantly, this includes Israel, that has warned both Russia and the US that should Hezbollah or Iran try to establish a military foothold in SW Syria near the Golan Heights border with Israel, this would be considered a reason for Israel to become engaged in a military intervention. In fact yesterday Israel warned that any attempt by the Syrian or Iranian armed forces to establish a military position in southern Lebanon would likewise be viewed by Israel as a provocation and would result in a military response.
While this ceasefire in SW Syria seems to be holding and while it may be the first step in a peace agreement for the whole of Syria, don’t hold your breath. Serious clashes are still occurring around Raqqa, and until the Islamic State forces in Syria are fully defeated there can be no extension of the ceasefire. Then there will be the problem that the Kurdish forces, that are supported by the US, are unlikely to withdraw readily from Raqqa and other area that they have captured. This will anger both Syria and Turkey and the future consequences cannot readily be foreseen.