The Terror Group That Could Ruin Syria’s Ceasefire Isn’t ISIS – Huffington Post

Every week, The WorldPost asks an expert to shed light on a topic driving headlines around the world. This week, we speak with Syria expert Joshua Landis about the dilemmas that the Nusra Front poses to the truce deal in Syria.

An uneasy calm settled over Syria Saturday when fighting stopped in large parts of the country as part of a temporary truce brokered by the U.S. and Russia.

After five years of war in Syria, it was the first truce that held for more than a few hours. While scattered clashes and airstrikes continued in parts of the country and the Islamic State militant group launched an offensive on a Kurdish-held border town, Russia said it was suspending all airstrikes for the day. Some Syrians took advantage of the quiet to clear the debris from their war-battered towns and cities.

However, the deal for a two-week cessation of hostilities does not include groups deemed to be terrorist organizations by the international community, including the Islamic State and Al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, Nusra Front. Russia says it will resume bombing those groups after Saturday.

The exclusion of Nusra Front from the agreement poses some particular difficulties. The group, which split bitterly from the Islamic State in 2014, fights alongside other Syrian rebel groups and jointly controls parts of the Syrian province of Idlib. Unlike the Islamic State, the group is widely dispersed over rebel-held territory. The U.S. and Russia said they would jointly pinpoint Nusra Front positions to target, but a Russian map released Saturday raised concerns that the northern provinces of Idlib and Aleppo would be excluded from the truce.

The Nusra Front leader has condemned the cessation of hostilities agreement and urged rebel groups to instead escalate their fight against the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

The WorldPost spoke to Joshua Landis, director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma and editor of the blog Syria Comment, about the dilemmas that Nusra Front poses for the truce deal — and for peace in Syria.


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