TSI Syria Updates: November 10, 2016

Takeaway

Russia appears to have cancelled or paused a planned assault on eastern Aleppo after Donald Trump, and not Clinton, was elected US President. Today, Russia  announced that it is extending its unilateral “humanitarian pause” for opposition-controlled eastern Aleppo. This announcement comes just two days after Russian warships arrived off the Syrian coast and Russian media warned that they would launch its offensive within 24 hours, apparently coordinating the assault launch with with the results of the US presidential election. It is possible that Russia paused the offensive due to the unexpected election of Donald Trump, who Putin seems as a possible ally to Russia.

Military

  • 9 NOV: On Wednesday, a top Kurdish YPG commander, Ali Boutan, was killed in on the QamishliQahtaniyeh road along the Syria-Turkey border. The YPG released a short statement about  the explosion of a taxi along the road killing YPG fighters, but did not identify the victims. Turkish media Anadolu Agency reported Boutan organized terrorist operations in Turkey. (NOW Media, Anadolu Agency-AR)
  • 10 NOV: Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said Russia is extending its unilateral humanitarian pause in Aleppo city today. (Interfax, Reuters) (TSI Analyst Note: It was our assessment that Russia was preparing to launch a “final” assault on eastern Aleppo on Tuesday night/Wednesday morning, and that they were timing the start of the assault with the results of the US presidential election, likely as a message to Hillary Clinton. This assessment was supported by Russia’s own media and the strategic repositioning of ground forces as well as the arrival of significant naval assets. Two days later and this assault on eastern Aleppo has not materialized. It appears possible that in light of the unexpected election of Donald Trump – who Russian leaders may see as a potential ally – Russia has paused the launch of the offensive to reconsider their strategy. They likely do not see Trump as a threat to their options or efforts to support the Assad regime in Syria.)
  • 10 NOV: Opposition groups took control of several villages north of the city al-Bab in the northern Aleppo countryside today, including Zamkeh, Misibin, and Sheikh Alwan. (SMART News-AR, Zaman al-Wasl-AR)

Political

  • 9 NOV: Yesterday Col. John Thomas, spokesperson for US CENTCOM, said 64 civilians may have been killed and eight others injured in 24 coalition airstrikes in Syria and Iraq over the past year. The report provided short descriptions of each of the 24 airstrikes. (CENTCOM)
  • 9 NOV: On Wednesday, US Vice President-elect Mike Pence reportedly told Hurriyet Daily News that US President-elect Donald Trump is interested in building stronger relations with Turkey. (Hurriyet Daily News)
  • 9 NOV: Mark Toner, State Department spokesperson said “we’re going to make every effort to make sure that [the incoming administration] understand[s] the current administration’s perspective on all of these issues and the importance of what we’ve accomplished and the progress we’ve made on these issues, including climate change, including Syria, including Iran, et cetera. Ultimately, it’s for the incoming administration to choose its foreign policy goals and priorities to pass.” Some of the priorities for the current Administration in the next two months include the isolation and liberation of Raqqa, setting up a cessation of hostilities in place in Aleppo and throughout Syria, and getting a political transition in place. (State Department)
  • 10 NOV: UN Humanitarian Advisor for Syria Jan Egeland said that he fears this coming winter will be the worst winter in the five-year war and that the last food rations in eastern Aleppo are being distributed today. He mentioned that the UN presented a four-point plan to the parties in the conflict last week. When asked about the UN’s expectations for president-elect Donald Trump, Egeland said the UN expects continued and uninterrupted engagement from the US. (UN, WebTV, BBC)
  • 10 NOV: The US State Department amended its designation of Jabhat Fatah al-Nusra as a Foreign Terrorist Organization to include the organization’s new name Jabhat Fatah al-Sham. (State Department)
  • 10 NOV: Today Bouthaina Shaaban, one of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s advisers, told NPR that Assad is ready to work with US President-elect Donald Trump. Trump has indicated a preference for leaving Assad in power in order to maintain stability and more isolationist approach to US foreign policy. While Trump does advocate for bombing the Islamic State, he has suggested withdrawing support for armed opposition groups. (Independent)
  • 10 NOV: New Zealand is using US Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit as an opportunity to push for a solution to the Syrian conflict. New Zealand Foreign Minister said a “more constructive conversation” is occurring concerning Syria at the UN. (Radio NZ)

Humanitarian

  • None

Notable Media/Transcripts/Reports

  • 9 NOV: “Trump promised to be ‘unpredictable’ in foreign policy. How will that work?” by Tracy Wilkinson and WJ Hennigan (LA Times)
  • 10 NOV: “Jan Egeland, Special Advisor to Special Envoy for Syria – Media Stakeout” (UN, WebTV)
  • 10 NOV: “Trump’s victory has grave consequences for Syria” by Sharif Nashashibi (The National)
  • 10 NOV: “Darkness in Damascus as power cuts expand” by Mohammed Al-Haj Ali and Jessica Page (Syria Direct)
  • 10 NOV: “State Department Amendments to the Terrorist Designation of al-Nusrah Front” (State Department)
  • 12 NOV: “Anyone for Raqqa?” (Economist)