TSI Syria Updates: September 23, 2016

Takeaway

Syrian and Russian aircraft bombarded eastern Aleppo last night and today after announcing the start of a new offensive against the opposition-controlled eastern part of the city. There have reportedly been more than 80 killed in over 120 strikes in just 24 hours. Three of the four Syria Civil Defense (White Helmets) centers in Aleppo were destroyed along with other civilian targets, including the water pumping station that supplied the eastern portion of the city.

Military

  • 23 SEP: Syrian and Russian aircraft bombarded eastern Aleppo last night and today after announcing the start of a new offensive against the opposition-controlled eastern part of the city. There have reportedly been more than 80 killed in over 120 strikes in just 24 hours. It was one of the heaviest air strikes the area has seen during the conflict. Three of the four Syria Civil Defense (White Helmets) centers in Aleppo were destroyed along with other civilian targets, including the water pumping station that supplied the eastern portion of the city. Residents and Step News reported the use of cluster bombs. A Syrian military source said the offensive would include a ground assault as well. (Reuters, AFP, Step News Agency-AR, SCD Tweet, UNICEF)
  • 23 SEP: Through its Amaq News Agency, ISIS claims to have shot down a US drone south of the city of Shaddadi, near the Syrian-Iraqi border. There has not yet been any official US response confirming or denying the report, the US-led Coalition daily release noted that one of their airstrikes “destroyed inoperable Coalition equipment” near Shaddadi.  (CEP Tweet, CTF-OIR Statement)

Political

  • 22 SEP: Staffan de Mistura, UN Syria Envoy, spoke briefly after the International Syria Support Group (ISSG) yesterday. He said the meeting was disappointing, but that Russia and the US are working hard to reinvigorate the ceasefire agreement. De Mistura said the next few days are critical for “making or breaking” the conflict in Syria. When asked if he thought the Syrian government intentionally announced its new offensive against eastern Aleppo during the ISSG meeting, he affirmed, saying both Russia and the US were “de-facto-undermined by others, who have so far not  wanted or have tried to not deliver on the cessation of hostilities.” He added that only the US and Russia can declare the ceasefire over because they are the parties that announced it. (UNOG)
  • 22 SEP: The UN Security Council extended the deadline of a report from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons-UN Joint Investigative Mechanism (UN/OPCW) from September 30 to October 31 so that the UN/OPCW can complete its fourth report. (AP, Reuters)
  • 23 SEP: Turkey and Russia are discussing a flight protocol to coordinate warplanes in Syrian airspace. They have reportedly verbally agreed to provide each other with their coordinates of operation so as to avoid flying where the other is operating. (Hurriyet Daily News)
  • 23 SEP: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said the US delivered two planeloads of weapons to Syrian Kurdish fighters in northern Syria this week. İbrahim Kalın, Presidential Spokesperson, said Turkey will not participate in a US-led coalition operation against the Islamic State (ISIS) in Raqqa if Syrian Kurdish fighters are involved. (Reuters, Hurriyet Daily News)
  • 23 SEP: In an interview with MSNBC Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan accused  the Syrian government for the attack against the aid convoy near Urem al-Kubra, saying The killer responsible for that attack is [President Bashar] al-Assad’s regime itself.” (TSI Analyst note: This statement suggests that the Turkish government may not be softening its tough stance and attempting to normalize relations with Syria, a subject of recent speculation.)   (NBC)
  • 23 SEP: US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met today. Kerry said they made a little progress, but they’re “evaluating some mutual ideas in a constructive way.” Lavrov did not indicate any progress was made. Lavrov delivered his General Assembly speech this afternoon, indirectly blasting the US for condescending moral superiority. He was more direct about the US needing to dissociate their allies from terrorist groups in Syria. (Reuters, UN)

Humanitarian

  • none

Notable Media/Transcripts/Reports

  • 22 SEP: “Near Verbatim Transcript Press stakeout following the Ministerial meeting on Syria” by UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura (UNOG)
  • 22 SEP: “Background Briefing on the Meeting of the International Syria Support Group“ (State Department)
  • 22 SEP: “Statement to the Press After the ISSG Meeting” by US Secretary of State John Kerry (State Department)
  • 23 SEP: “Why Dance with Russia?” by Perry Cammack (Carnegie)
  • 23 SEP: “Examining the Chemical Attack in Sukkari District in Aleppo, September 6th 2016” by Hady Al-Khatib (bellingcat)
  • 23 SEP: “Statement at the 71st session of the UN General Assembly” by Sergey Lavrov, Russian Foreign Minister (UN)
  • NOV: “Barack Obama and Doris Kearns Goodwin: The Ultimate Exit Interview” by Doris Kearns Goodwin (Vanity Fair)