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Thursday, February 16

What may be perverse good news about the Syrian War, plus breaking news

The formal part of the negotiations in Astana was postponed from yesterday to today, although there were informal talks on the 15th.  It's 4:00 PM in Astana so it could be a few more hours before we hear anything about the talks -- which, as with all negotiations the Syrian-Russian governments conduct with the opposition groups, is an attempt to peel away Syrian fighters from groups that are sponsored by foreign regimes or wealthy Syrian expats who have long opposed the present Syrian government.

While Staffan de Mistura is not in attendance at the Astana talks, he sent five reps from the UN to observe and report back, in preparation for the UN-led negotiations in Geneva. These are scheduled to start formally on February 23.

In the weeks running up to the planned Geneva talks all hell broke loose, as NATO/Arab Gulf- controlled media outlets and ngos hurled at the public every bit of dirt they could find or make up about the Syrian-Russian government prosecution of the Syrian War.

It's happened before, but this time opponents of a Syrian government-brokered peace have pulled out all the stops. I'm wondering whether there's a new reason for this. 

Wait, I think I have gotten an answer from breaking news at Sputnik; I just went there to look for any early statements about the Astana talks:

Clashes Between Syrian Gov't and Moderate Opposition Forces Ended - Shoigu

Clashes between the Syrian government and moderate opposition forces have fully stopped, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu stated during his meeting with UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura.

He also stated that the fights were fully eliminated with the help of the conflict sides and the mediators.
"We hope to further build a constructive dialogue with the opposition. All in all, progress we made after December 29 [nationwide ceasefire], progress we have now — this scenario is much better than it used to be. The amount of shellings has significantly fallen, direct clashes have stopped completely," he stated.
Russia hopes for a roadmap on separating terrorists from the moderate opposition in Syria at ongoing ceasefire talks in Astana, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu also said.
"We hope that decisions to draw up a single Syrian map and approve it will be made today [at talks in Astana], a map where we will finally secure all the information given to us by the Syrian opposition and government where we precisely define the location of the moderate opposition that joined the ceasefire and those that did not join it," Shoigu said.
The delegations to the talks on Syria in Geneva should be formed more thoroughly for productive work, the Russian Defense Minister stated.
"Of course, we all hope that the meeting that you organize in Geneva, we fully support it… We hope that those people who really want to solve the problems, and not just to discuss this subject gather there," Shoigu said.
He underscored the importance of locating the positions of the Daesh jihadist group and the ex-Nusra Front, both outlawed in Russia, and stressed that Russia will continue anti-terrorist efforts in alliance with the moderate Syrian opposition, Turkey, and Iran.
Last week, the Russian Defense Ministry said that the Syrian government forces and Ankara-backed Free Syrian Army have agreed on a demarcation line in the city of al-Bab, where both Damascus and the rebels are currently conducting an operation to free the area from Daesh.
[END REPORT]

All right. From all the reporting on kinetic battles I've seen in the past couple weeks, it could be that the major part of the Syrian War is winding down. That could explain redoubled attempts to demonize the Syrian and Russian governments. If I'm right, the attempts are actually good news, in a perverse sort of way, if they imply the enemy governments had realized peace was at hand.

We'll know soon. If you're inclined to pray, please take a moment to pray for a good and speedy end to the Syrian War. Peace-loving Syrians have suffered enough.

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