TSI Syria Updates: February 15, 2017

Takeaway

Today the Astana talks which were supposed to be held today have been delayed until tomorrow. No official reason was given, but it is believed they were delayed due to the late arrival of the Syrian opposition delegation which threatened to boycott the talks earlier in the week, claiming that Russia failed to enforce the ceasefire.

Military

  • 15 FEB: Fighting in Daraa between armed opposition groups and pro-government forces continued on Wednesday, most heavily in the contested neighborhood of al-Manshiyah. Russian and Syrian warplanes reportedly conducted airstrikes against neighboring cities of Naemeh, Saida, Gharaz, Yadodeh, and Jizah. Locals claimed barrel bombs hit the Daraa al-Balad neighborhood. An Iranian Revolutionary Guard Commander was reportedly killed in the fighting as well. (Step News-AR, Smart News-AR, Yahoo, Shaam Network-AR, @worldonalert, @Elizreal, @nors_study-situation map, SANA)
  • 15 FEB: Oh Wednesday, armed opposition groups fighting pro-government forces west of Damascus city in the Mount Hermon area reportedly took control of al-Dhahar al-Asud just outside of Beit Jinn. Black Hill is a strategic location between the opposition-held city Beit Jinn and the government-held city Sasa. The opposition group Ahrar al-Sham accused pro-government forces of violating December’s ceasefire agreement by charging Black Hill on Tuesday. (Step News-AR, Smart News-AR, Ahrar al-Sham Tweet)

Political

  • 15 FEB: Today the Kazakh Foreign Ministry confirmed the postponement of Astana talks until Thursday 17 February. The two-day conference was supposed to begin today. UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura will not be attending the talks, but said they will include three main points: new form of governance, new constitution, and early elections under UN supervision. High Negotiations Committee (HNC) spokesperson Salim al-Muslit said the Syrian opposition wants face-to-face negotiations with the Syrian government about political transitions and reaffirmed their refusal to include Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in a political transition. (Gulf Today, Al-Jazeera, AP, Kazakh Foreign Ministry, Reuters) (TSI Analyst note: while no specific reason was given for the delay, earlier in the week the opposition threatened to boycott the conference because Russia failed to enforce the ceasefire they announced starting in December. It is rumored that the opposition’s failure to show up for the talks today is the reason for this delay.)
  • 15 FEB: The UN recently warned that the al-Tabaqa Dam, which sits along the Euphrates River, is at risk of collapsing, which would have “catastrophic humanitarian implications in all areas downstream.” The dam currently faces high water levels due to heavy rainfall and the Islamic State (ISIS) opening three dam turbines. Potential ISIS sabotage and damage from future US-led coalition airstrikes are increasing the risk of dam failure, as both have already weakened the dam. (Reuters)

Humanitarian

  • 12 FEB: The Syrian Red Crescent (SARC) delivered food parcels to Wadi Barada on Sunday. (@SARC_RD)

Notable Media/Transcripts/Reports

  • 31 JAN: “The Economics of War And Peace In Syria” – Samer Abboud (The Century Foundation)
  • 14 FEB: “As The Dust On An Information War Settles, The Truth About The Battle For Aleppo” – Louisa Loveluck (The Washington Post)
  • 14 FEB: “Why Is Jordan Shifting Its Syria Strategy” – Osama Al Sharif (Al Monitor)
  • 14 FEB: “After Battle for Wadi Barada, the Damascus Water War Isn’t Over” – Annia Ciezadlo (Syria Deeply)
  • 14 FEB: “New Visual Evidence About Chlorine Gas Attacks In Eastern Ghouta” – Hady Al-Khatib (Bellingcat)
  • 15 FEB: “The United States Used Depleted Uranium in Syria” – Samuel Dakford (Foreign Affairs)
  • 15 FEB: “What a Syrian Neighborhood Can Teach Us About the Talks to End the Civil War” – Elizabeth Parker-Magyar and Daniel Wilkofsky (War on the Rocks)