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February 26, 2016

Two-week Syrian ceasefire begins Friday

Essential question

What can the international community do to end civil wars?

A two-week ceasefire has been accepted by fighting parties in Syria and will take effect Friday night in the nation where a four-and-a-half-year civil war has cost more than 250,000 lives and displaced millions.

While the High Negotiations Committee, a Syrian opposition group, agreed to a temporary US-Russia ceasefire agreement, the question remains whether the U.S. should intervene in Syria’s civil war.

President Obama met with his national security team on Thursday and said afterward that the ceasefire could decrease violence and get more aid to starving and injured Syrians. U.N. efforts to airdrop aid and food in some of the country’s hardest-hit areas have recently encountered great difficulty.

The U.S. has made significant efforts, but building peace in Syria will be an uphill battle, according to former U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford. Ford criticized the Obama Administration for not arming pro-rebel groups early-on in the civil war, allowing Russia to step in and take more direct military action on behalf of the Syrian government.

“Russia absolutely is in the driver’s seat, and the Americans are watching the car drive by,” Ford said.

The Syrian opposition said it would only commit to a two-week truce.

“To be frank with you, we do not trust Russia, we do not trust this regime,” said High Negotiations Committee spokesman Salem Al Meslet.

Key terms

ceasefire — a temporary suspension of fighting, typically one during which peace talks take place; a truce

High Negotiations Committee — a Saudi-back group of Syrian opponents to the regime of President Bashar Assad

Warm up questions (before watching the video)
  1. Where is Syria?
  2. What do you know about the conflict currently going on there?
  3. What kind of relationship does the U.S. have with Russia?
Critical thinking questions (after watching the video)
  1. Why have nations like the U.S. and Russia become involved in the Syrian civil war?
  2. What past instances of U.S. involvement in international conflicts might make some lawmakers hesitant to intervene in Syria?
  3. Even if a ceasefire is maintained, what major challenges remain for the negotiations?
  4. What does the conflict in Syria mean to the rest of the Middle East?
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