TSI Syria Updates: August 25, 2016

Takeaway

Turkish forces have withdrawn across the Euphrates to the east side. They are also withdrawing from Manbij. Col. John Dorrian, US Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) said that most of the SDF forces have left, but some forces remained in Manbij to finish IED removal.

The UN and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) conducted a year-long joint investigation into nine chemical attacks in Syria. The report found sufficient evidence that both the Syrian Arab Air Force and ISIS militants used chemical weapons last year. Ned Price, National Security Council spokesman said it is “impossible to deny” the Syrian government has used chemical weapons. This is the first time Assad has been found responsible for using chemical weapons.

Military

  • 25 August 2016:Turkey sent more tanks into Syria to drive back the Islamic State (ISIS) after the successful capture of Jarabulus yesterday by Turkish-backed rebels forces. Turkey also gave YPG fighters a week to withdraw from the west side of the Euphrates. Turkish Defense Minister Fikri Isik said “If this withdrawal doesn’t happen, Turkey has every right to intervene.” US Secretary of State John Kerry informed Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu over the phone that Kurdish forces were heading back to the east side of the Euphrates. Col. John Dorrian, US Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) said the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) withdrew to “prepare for the eventual liberation” of al-Raqqa. Dorrian also said on Twitter that most of the SDF forces have left Manbij, but some forces remained to finish IED removal. (Reuters, BBC, Washington Post, @OIRSpox)

Political / Key Statements

  • 25 August 2016: On Thursday, Russia agreed to a three-prong 48-hour ceasefire in Aleppo. The first point is a lifeline to eastern Aleppo. The second is simultaneous humanitarian responses in western Aleppo. The third is a cross-line repair of the electricity plant in southern Aleppo. The United Nations is now waiting to hear from other players on the ground before delivering humanitarian aid. Stephan de Mistura, UN Special Envoy for Syria, said the trucks are ready to go as soon as everyone on the ground agrees to the truce. De Mistura is waiting for US Secretary John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to meet on Friday before making any more comments about the negotiating process. (Reuters, UNOG)
  • 25 August 2016: Secretary of State John Kerry spoke with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman and deputy crown prince Mohammed bin Salman about US meetings with Russia on military cooperation while in Jeddah. The US seeks support from the Gulf States in Syria because they influence opposition forces combatting the Syrian government. (Reuters)    
  • 25 August 2016: Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman Wu Qian said China provided medical training for Syria. The training is coming after Guan Youfei, director of the Office for International Military Cooperation of China’s Central Military Commission, met with Syrian Defence Minister Fahad Jassim al-Freij last week. China is providing “medical, nursing, and other professional training” to Syria, in addition to medical equipment, medicine, and other humanitarian aid. The training will take place in China. (Reuters)
  • 25 August 2016: UN and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) conducted a year-long joint investigation into nine chemical attacks in Syria. The team released a confidential report to Reuters on Wednesday, August 24. The report will be made public after the UN Security Council discusses its contents next week. The report found sufficient evidence that both the Syrian Arab Air Force and ISIS militants used chemical weapons last year. Ned Price, National Security Council spokesman said it is “impossible to deny” the Syrian government has used chemical weapons.This is the first time Assad has been found responsible for using chemical weapons.  (Reuters, The Guardian, BBC, White House)
  • 25 August 2016: US Central Command said an airstrike against ISIS weapons facility near al-Raqqa on Tuesday may have killed civilians riding in a non-military vehicle in the target area after the weapon was released. (CENTCOM)
  • 25 August 2016: Reuters and All4Syria report that the Syrian government and opposition forces in Darayya reached a ceasefire and arranged an evacuation agreement. Step News Agency reported local sources denied reaching a final agreement, and said the agreement leaked was only a draft. The known evacuation plan will begin Friday and last two or three days. Civilians and fighters who surrender their weapons will leave for rural Damascus. Opposition fighters unwilling to surrender their weapons will go to Idlib. (All4Syria-ar, Step News Agency-ar, Reuters)

Humanitarian

  • 25 August 2016: A second delivery to Al-Waer with humanitarian supplies for 75,000 people (@OCHA_Syria)

Notable Reports/Media/Transcripts

  • 25 August 2016: “Syria’s Kurds: An embattled US ally in a complex civil war,” by Philip Issa (AP)
  • 25 August 2016: “The Kurdish Withdrawal,” by Krishnadev Calamur (The Atlantic)
  • 24 August 2016: “After Murky Diplomacy, Turkey Intervened in Syria,” by Aron Lund (Carnegie)
  • 24 August 2016: “Why Turkey Went to War in Syria,” by Faysal Itani (Foreign Policy)
  • 24 August 2016: “Syria war: Money transfer ‘a matter of life or death,’” by Caelainn Hogan (Al-Jazeera)