TSI Syria Updates: April 11, 2017

Takeaway

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson arrived today in Moscow amidst rising tension between the US and Russia over chemical weapons in Syria. The Trump Administration blitzed the media today with several different briefings and information releases indicating their confidence that Syria was behind the chemical attack and giving Russia an ultimatum to abandon the Assad regime. Tillerson just left the G7 summit in Italy, where an effort to get European leaders on board with new sanctions against Russia and Syria failed. Russia similarly escalated its rhetoric, saying the US-Russia relationship is “more complicated than it has been…since the end of the Cold War.” Russia also claimed insurgents are delivering chemical weapons to various locations in Syria in order to launch “false flag” attacks that they will blame on the Syrian government.

Military

  • 11 APR: Opposition forces fighting in the ongoing al-Bunian al-Marsus (The Solid Building) operation in Daraa reportedly captured four prisoners from the government forces in al-Manshiya area in the city of Daraa. (souriatna-AR, @marsos10 – video)
  • 11 APR: Pro-government forces continued their efforts to advance into opposition-held areas to the north and west of Aleppo city. On Tuesday night the clashes intensified in al-Rashdeen and Souq al-Jabas areas, and during the day, pro-government planes reportedly dropped cluster bombs on the town of Anadan. (7al-AR, all4syria -AR, @SRG_Syria, @SRG_Syria)
  • 11 APR: The forcible evacuation of people from the “Four Towns” (Fuah, Kefraya, Zabadani, and Madaya) will reportedly begin tomorrow. (Smart News-AR, @SiegeWatch, Al-Masdar)

Political

  • 8 APR: On Saturday, General Coordinator for the High Negotiations Committee Riyad Hijab visited Washington DC and held meetings with Senators Marco Rubio and James Lankford. Hijab urged the US officials “to adopt a new strategy in dealing with the Syrian case and to stop the atrocities committed by the Syrian government and resort to the political solution.” (Shaam-AR, RiadHijab.com, @SyrianHNC)
  • 11 APR: US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Russia should end its support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad after his repeated use of chemical weapons. Tillerson said Russia failed in its commitments to locate, secure, and destroy chemical weapons in Syria. He added that he hopes Russia realizes they are aligned “with an unreliable partner.” Tillerson arrived in Moscow today to discuss the Syrian conflict with his Russian counterpart, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. (Reuters, State Department)
  • 11 APR: US senior officials from the Trump administration today delivered a briefing about the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons last week and Russia’s continued support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The National Security Council also reportedly released a dossier today on the same topic. US findings indicate Russia is attempting to obfuscate and confuse the international community with regards to the Syrian government’s possession and use of chemical weapons. (Bloomberg, CNN, WH Background Briefing, WH Briefing)
  • 11 APR: British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson’s suggestions for sanctions against Russian and Syrian military personnel failed during the Group of Seven (G7) foreign ministers’ meeting in Italy. (Al-Jazeera)
  • 11 APR: The Russian Foreign Ministry reportedly announced that Moscow is hosting a three-way meeting with the Foreign Ministers from Syria, Iran and Russia on Friday. (AP)
  • 11 APR: Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed that chemical weapons are being planted by rebels in areas around Syria to launch “false flag” attacks that they will blame on the Syrian government. The Russian Ministry of Defense tweeted that insurgents are delivering chemicals specifically near Khan Sheikhoun, al-Jira airbase, Eastern Ghouta, and to the west of Aleppo. (RT, AFP, @mod_russia [Analyst note: These claims are being viewed by many Syrians as a sign that the Syrian military plans to launch new chemical attacks on the areas listed. Assad’s government has regularly reported to the UN about intelligence of pending rebel chemical attacks before it the Syrian military uses chemical weapons, in a clumsy attempt to manufacture blame.]

Humanitarian

  • None

Notable Media/Transcripts/Reports

  • 10 APR: “Daily Press Briefing by Press Secretary Sean Spicer — #35” (White House)
  • 11 APR: “‘No one knows how to go on’: 40,000 residents in rebel-held Damascus neighborhood trapped behind government siege” – Noura Hourani and Justin Clark (Syria Direct)
  • 11 APR: “Background Press Briefing on Syria, 4/11/2017” (White House)
  • 11 APR: “4/11/17 White House Press Briefing” – – White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer (White House)
  • 11 APR: “What the New US ‘Red Line’ May Mean for the War in Syria” – Kim Bode (News Deeply)
  • 11 APR: “Defense Secretary and Centcom Commander Conduct Joint Briefing” – US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and Army General Joseph Votel (DOD)