TSI Syria Updates: March 10, 2017

Takeaway

Russia broke the temporary ceasefire in the besieged neighborhood of al-Waer today. A local negotiating committee has been meeting with a Russian delegation to broker an agreement between the Syrian government and the besieged community. The negotiating committee and Russian delegation reportedly met for several hours yesterday, during which the Russian delegation suggested the evacuation of 300 opposition fighters with their weapons and families to Idlib. The Russian delegation also reportedly threatened to intensify the assault on al-Waer if the committee rejected the terms of the agreement.

Military

  • 9 MAR: On Thursday,  opposition groups Ahrar al-Sham and Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS, formerly associated with al-Qaeda) reached an agreement  to stop fighting in and around the town of Abilene in Idlib governorate. The agreement was reached in the presence of a representative from the court established on Wednesday in an effort to mediate conflicts between the two groups. (Smart News-AR)
  • 10 MAR: The Turkish military claimed that 71 members of the US-backed Kurdish YPG were killed in northern Syria this week as part of Operation Euphrates Shield. (Anadolu Agency, Reuters) (Analyst Note: Recent confrontations between Turkey-backed forces and Kurdish militias have escalated recently, jeopardizing operations being sought by the US to support Kurdish and Arab groups in the recapture of Raqqa from the Islamic State)  
  • 10 MAR: Pro-government forces bombed the al-Waer neighborhood of Homs today in spite of a supposed ceasefire starting on Wednesday. The local negotiating committee and Russian representatives met for several hours yesterday on the outskirts of al-Waer. The Russian delegation reportedly suggested the evacuation 300 opposition fighters with their weapons and families to Idlib with a threat to intensify attacks if the negotiating committee declined to acquiesce. (Al-Jazeera-AR, Homs Media Center-AR, Smart News-AR, Step News-AR)
  • 10 MAR: Pro-government airstrikes and artillery fire reportedly hit the Eastern Ghouta neighborhoods of Tishreen, Qaboun, and Harasta today. Russia unilaterally declared a temporary ceasefire in besieged Eastern Ghouta earlier this week, but it has not been implemented. It was intended to last from March 6th to March 20th.  (SOHR, Al-Jazeera-AR, Step News-AR)

Political

  • 9 MAR: Acting State Department spokesperson Mark Toner announced yesterday that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will host an international counter-ISIS meeting on 22 March in Washington, DC. It will be the first meeting with all 68 members of the coalition since 2014. The meeting discussions will reportedly include strategies to further limit the flow of foreign fighters into Syria, eliminating ISIS financing, bringing stability to areas captured by coalition forces, and more efficiently handling humanitarian operations. (State Department)
  • 9 MAR: US General Joseph Votel delivered a testimony to the Senate Armed Services on Thursday about the situation in Syria. He said an expanded US military presence is needed to recapture the city of Raqqa, an Islamic State (ISIS) stronghold. Votel added that more forces would be needed to stabilize to the city after its capture, specifically to deliver humanitarian aid and return working public services. During the hearing, US Senator John McCain said current support for Kurdish fighters in Syria will cause a direct confrontation with Turkey unless new policies are implemented to consider Turkish security interests in Syria. (AP, Senate Armed Services Committee, The Hill)
  • 9 MAR: Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders praised the creation of a database for storing and analyzing war crimes committed in Syria and appealed for its funding. The UN General Assembly established the program for the database last year, but still needs $13 million.  (AP)
  • 10 MAR: The Syrian government delivered a request to the UN Secretary-General and UN Security Council on Friday demanding that the UN “force” Turkey to withdraw its forces from Syrian territory. The Syrian government claimed Turkey’s invasion caused infrastructural damage, killed “tens of thousands of people,” and supported terrorism. (Sana, Reuters) (Analyst Note: Turkey began direct military involvement in Syria on 24 August 2016 with “Operation Euphrates Shield.” See TSI Syria Update)
  • 10 MAR: On Friday, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed that cooperation between the militaries of both countries is happening at an increasing level. (Hurriyet Daily News)

Humanitarian

  • None

Notable Media/Transcripts/Reports

  • 8 MAR: “Syria’s Children Risk Being Damaged Forever by Toxic Stress” – Misty Buswell (News Deeply)
  • 8 MAR: “How ISIL tricked Syria’s rebels into self-betrayal and defeat” – Phil Sands and Suha Maayeh (The National)
  • 8 MAR: “Al-Qaeda Shifts Back to Suicide in Syria” – Haid Haid (Chatham House)
  • 8 MAR: “Liwa al-Mukhtar al-Thiqfi: Syrian IRGC Militia” – Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi (Syria Comment)
  • 8 MAR: “With a show of Stars and Stripes, U.S. forces in Syria try to keep warring allies apart” – Liz Sly (The Washington Post)
  • 9 MAR: “US Split Over Plan to Take Raqqa From Islamic State” – Dion Nissenbaum and Maria Abi-Habib (Wall Street Journal)
  • 9 MAR: “After 3 years of uneasy truce, sudden regime offensive disrupts East Ghouta tunnel trade” – Justin Clark, Noura Hourani, and Ammar Hamou (Syria Direct)
  • 9 MAR: “What is Going on in Idlib between Tahrir and Ahrar al-Sham?” – Ibrahim al-Assil and Basel al-Junaidy (MEI)
  • 10 MAR: “Analysis: Outcome Uncertain as American Involvement in Syria Deepens” – Kyle Orton (Henry Jackson Society)