It is a sobering thought that the fragile truce in Syria is holding exactly a week after it was concluded by America and Russia. Yet Friday&’s strident demonstrations in Damascus, Aleppo, Homs and a few other turbulent cities ought not to emit the signal that the peace has been broken. There was no cackle of gunfire or plumes of smoke across the sky; nonetheless the protesters have conveyed an all-important message by reviving the core issue that has been festering for five years the ouster of Bashr al-Assad. That spirited demand has been renewed at a crucial juncture, most importantly when the Russian airstrikes had till very recently targeted ISIS…and not the repressive dictator. The Kremlin has, on the contrary, been ever so anxious to protect the occupant of the presidential palace in Damascus. It is now direly imperative for Vladimir Putin, who has been compelled to hold his fire, to reflect on the rising tide of protests against Assad&’s continuance. The message must resonate in the Kremlin, not least the slogans that date back to the early days of the 2011 Syrian uprising. That chapter of the Arab Spring has failed miserably to effect a change of guard. In at least one city, the latest wave of demonstrations was said to be the biggest since 2012. From Moscow to the Western capitals, the message must be loud and clearthe people are back with a peaceful revolution. Viewed in retrospect, it appears that the upheaval was at best kept in abeyance in the wake of the Russian bombing from the skies. The people, indeed the bedrock of democracy, have not given up the movement per se. And the halt to the offensive is without question the second objective of the protests, if less explicit.
It has been more than obvious for the past few months that Putin rules from the skies. In typical Cold War fashion, Russia has struckostensibly against the Caliphateto prevent a client state from collapsing. The renewed demand for Assad&’s removal is intended to call the bluff of the Kremlin&’s geostrategyfrom Ukraine to Syria. On closer reflection, that strategy envisages Russia as the leader of a new global war on terrorism. As the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the entity tasked with monitoring the ceasefire, has underlined, Friday&’s violation was like “small waves that rock the boat but are not strong enough to capsize it.” That succinctly highlights the tragedy of Syria and ironically so a week after the cessation of hostilities.