TSI Syria Updates: October 17, 2016

Takeaway

No conclusions yet after a weekend of intensive diplomacy in an effort to restart Syrian ceasefire efforts. US Secretary of State John Kerry met first in Lausanne, Switzerland with Russia, Iran, Turkey, and the Gulf States, and then in London with European and Gulf allies. While Western countries are considering new sanctions, it is unclear whether these will target just the Assad regime or Russia as well.

Military

  • 16 OCT: On Sunday, Turkish-backed Syrian armed opposition groups (AOGs) took control of Dabiq and Souran, both Islamic State (ISIS) strongholds. The offensive began on Saturday. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said the AOGs will continue their advance south to take the ISIS-held town al-Bab. (Reuters, Hurriyet Daily News, Reuters) (TSI Analyst Note: Dabiq is an important gain because it is the site of a Koranic prophecy of a doomsday battle between Muslims and infidels, which ISIS heavily emphasized in its propaganda; ISIS named its main publication after the village.)
  • 16 OCT: Qatar Red Crescent claimed an airstrike on Sunday targeted a civilian area, including a hospital, in Al-Latamneh in northern Hama countryside. (QRCS statement)
  • 17 OCT: Pro-government airstrikes against eastern Aleppo city continued over the weekend. Russian jets reportedly targeted al-Marjeh today and the al-Qaterji district of the city yesterday. Médecins Sans Frontières claimed that four hospitals in eastern Aleppo were attacked on Friday. (Reuters, MSF)
  • 17 OCT: On Monday, pro-Hezbollah sites announced the death of Hatem Hamadeh, a high-ranking leader in Hezbollah’s elite Radwan special operations force, while fighting armed opposition groups (AOGs) in Aleppo. It is unclear exactly where or how he died. (NOW, Al-Jazeera-AR)
  • 17 OCT: An agreement was made between the Syrian government and the people of Moadamiyet al-Sham in Damascus countryside to remove people from the city. The Syrian government terms included removing militants and their families to Idlib province. (ِAlEtihad -AR, Alsharq alAwsat -AR, Siege Watch Tweet)

Political

  • 15 OCT: The multilateral talks in Lausanne, Switzerland on Saturday ended without an agreement on ending conflict in Syria. Before the meeting, Abdul Ahad Steifo, Vice President of the Syrian Coalition, criticized the meetings for not including Syrian representatives and called them “a waste of time.” Foreign ministers from Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar, Jordan, Egypt, Russia, and the US attended. During the meeting, Turkey proposed sending an international aid convoy to Aleppo. US Secretary of State John Kerry said “A number of ideas came from a number of different ministers as we hoped that might be able to shape some different approaches.” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said “several ideas [were] discussed today by this circle representing the countries that can influence the situation.” The Russian Foreign Ministry released a statement reiterating the need to separate moderate opposition from Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra). (Reuters, Etilaf, Hurriyet Daily News, Reuters)
  • 16 OCT: On Sunday, the US, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Turkey, and the Gulf countries met in London to discuss resolutions to the Syria conflict. US Secretary of State John Kerry and British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson held a joint press briefing afterward where they reiterated the need to hold states accountable, namely Russia, and to continue to use diplomacy as a main tool to de-escalate tensions surrounding the Syrian crisis. Kerry ended the press briefing by saying several options are being considered by the US and UK, including additional sanctions presumably against both Syria and Russia although Kerry did not state them specifically.  (Reuters, US State Department)
  • 16 OCT: US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter said he welcomed the news of Dabiq’s liberation from the Islamic State (ISIS) and congratulated the Turkish-backed Syrian armed opposition groups (AOGs) on their success. He noted it is an important victory because “Dabiq held symbolic importance to ISIL.” Turkish presidential spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin said “Operation Euphrates Shield will continue until we are convinced that the border is completely secure, terrorist attacks against Turkish citizens are out of the question, and the people of Syria feel safe.” (DoD, Reuters)
  • 17 OCT: European Union (EU) policy chief Federica Mogherini said the EU is considering sanctions against Syria, but not against Russia. The EU condemned Russia’s air campaign in Syria. Britain and France tried convincing the EU to impose sanctions on Russia, but Russia’s allies (Greece, Cyprus, and Hungary) oppose sanctions. (VOA, Reuters)
  • 17 OCT: Syrian National Security Bureau chief Ali Mamlouk met with  the head of Egypt’s General Intelligence Directorate, General Khaled Fawzy this weekend. SANA claimed they “agreed on coordinating stances politically… in addition to boosting coordination for combating terrorism hitting both countries.”  (NOW, SANA)
  • 17 OCT: Today the Russian Defense Ministry announced Russian and Syrian forces will pause attacks on Aleppo city for eight hours on Thursday so civilians and armed opposition can leave the city. (Reuters)

Humanitarian

  • 16 OCT: Syrian Red Crescent reportedly delivered 250 dialysis sessions and vaccines to Douma on Sunday. (@SYRedCrescent)
  • 16 OCT: Syrian Red Crescent reportedly delivered 3,000 food parcels and 3,000 hygiene kits to west Harasta. (@SYRedCrescent)
  • 17 OCT: Aid delivered around 10,000 food and aid baskets to Qudsaya and Hammeh by the Syrian Red Crescent. (@SYRedCrescent)

Notable Media/Transcripts/Reports

  • 15 OCT: “Russia went to Syria to fight terrorists. We are succeeding” OpEd by Alexander Yakovenko, Russia’s UK ambassador (Guardian)
  • 16 OCT: “QRCS Slams Bombardment of Latamneh Health Center” (QRCS statement)
  • 16 OCT 16: “Joint Statement From Secretary John Kerry and U.K. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson” (US State Department)
  • 17 OCT: “Council conclusions on Syria” (Council of the European Union)
  • 17 OCT: “Note to Correspondents: Near verbatim transcript of stakeout by the United Nations Special Envoy for Syria, Mr. Staffan de Mistura, following his meeting with EU Foreign Ministers” (UN)
  • 17 OCT: “Detailed Account of the Russian-Syrian Attacks on the Neighborhoods of Eastern Aleppo after 25 Days of the Second Cessation of Hostilities Statement” by Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR)
  • 17 OCT: “Constructively Ambiguous: Hillary Clinton may intervene more in Syria, but don’t  assume she’s a hardened interventionist” by Aron Lund (Carnegie)
  • 17 OCT: “How the Russian Military Reestablished Itself in the Middle East“ – Anna Borshchevskaya and Cmdr. Jeremy Vaughan, USN (Washington Institute)
  • 17 OCT: “100,000 Iraqis may flee Mosul for Syria, Turkey: UN” by Stephanie Nebehay (Reuters)