Speaking on his way to Copenhagen, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Monday that the United States will closely examine proposed de-escalation zones intended to ease the raging civil war in Syria but added, "the devil's in the details." On Saturday, the deal that created the so-called "de-escalation" zones in western Syria took effect. The zones were proposed by Russia with support from Turkey and Iran. The Department of State has said that it is skeptical of Iran’s involvement as a guarantor of the agreement in must the same way that it regards Syria’s record with other agreements.
Various political and armed groups arrayed against Syrian President Bashr al-Assad’s regime have rejected the proposal, contending that his greatest ally -- Russia -- is unwilling or unable to make Assad and Iran respect past ceasefires.
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem said on Monday that Syria will adhere to the terms of the plan as long as rebels also observe it. However, Syria has said it will continue to fight what it calls terrorist groups.
Secretary Mattis said of the deal, "All wars eventually come to an end...we’ll look at the proposal and see if it can work." He was not certain of the basic details of the accord and the identity of who will ensure the safety of each zone and the groups being barred. As to whether the plan will work, he said he would wait to see the details.
According to the terms of the accord, four de-escalation zones will be established for a period of six months, which could be extended. Weaponry and air strikes are not to be used in those zones by combatants, according to the the text published by Russia on Saturday. Conditions for humanitarian access, medical assistance, and the return of refugees will be created, too.
U.S. Marine General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke with his Russian counterpart on Saturday about the agreement.