TSI Syria Update: May 4, 2017

Takeaway

Russia, Turkey, and Iran signed an agreement as guarantors for the creation of four “de-escalation zones” in Syria at the fourth round of Astana talks today. Part of the delegation representing the Syrian armed opposition walked out of the talks in anger when it was announced Iran would sign on as a guarantor, and neither the opposition nor the Syrian government were party to the agreement itself. The Syrian government appears to support the agreement, while seven major armed opposition groups released a statement rejecting it. The US State Department said the US was cautious of Iran’s involvement and of the success of such an agreement, but supported the effort to de-escalate the conflict in Syria.

Military

  • 4 MAY: There were rumored reports today that the remaining Islamic State (ISIS) fighters withdrew from Tabaqa city after US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) provided a route for them to escape with their families. At the same time, other reports indicate that ISIS still controls parts of the Tabaqa Dam, and clashes between ISIS and the SDF continue in several neighborhoods of the city along with US-Coalition airstrikes. (Ara News, Al-Jazeera-AR, Kuwait News Agency, Step News map, Enab Baladi-AR)
  • 4 MAY: The eighth batch of forcible population transfers from al-Waer to Jarablus started today. 25 buses arrived to transport fighters and civilians after a day-long delay. (Smart News-AR, Waer 24 News FB-AR, Waer Media Center FB-AR)

Political

  • 4 MAY: A Civil Committee of nine influential local representatives has been created in besieged Eastern Ghouta to try and stop the deadly fighting between opposition factions that began last Friday. (all4syria-AR)
  • 4 MAY: At the second and final day of the fourth round of Astana talks the co-sponsors Russia, Iran, and Turkey signed an agreement for the creation of so-called “de-escalation zones” in four regions of Syria: Idlib province (with parts of neighboring provinces Latakia, Hama, and Aleppo), the al-Rastan area of northern Homs province, Eastern Ghouta in Rural Damascus, and parts of southern Syria (Daraa and Al-Quneitra provinces). The guarantors will form a working group to map out the boundaries of the “de-escalation zones” and work out other technical details by 4 June 2017. Part of the delegation representing the Syrian armed opposition walked out of the talks in anger when it was announced that Iran would sign on as a guarantor, and neither the opposition nor the Syrian government were party to the agreement itself. (AP, Al-Jazeera, @Charles_Lister-agreement, Al Etihad Press YouTube)
  • 4 MAY: The US State Department said the US supports any effort to de-escalate the violence in Syria so long as humanitarian access and political resolutions are implemented. However, the US is concerned about Iran’s involvement as a guarantor, and it cautious about the success of this agreement. (US Department of State)
  • 4 MAY: Seven major armed opposition groups released a joint statement today rejecting the de-escalation agreement signed by Russia, Turkey, and Iran at Astana. The statement said Iran is an enemy occupier and cannot serve as a truce guarantor. It also noted that Russia failed to guarantee the nationwide ceasefire it announced in December 2016, and must stop targeting opposition-controlled areas before it could serve as a guarantor for this new agreement. (all4syria-AR, @FSAPlatform)

Humanitarian

  • None

Notable Media/Transcripts/Reports

  • 4 MAY: “The Shi‘a Revival” – Mohanad Hage Ali (Carnegie Diwan)
  • 4 MAY: “Syrian Safe Zones: The Dangers” – George Graham (Chatham House)
  • 4 MAY: “There is a Clear Alternative to Assad. To Say Otherwise is Nonsense” – Rime Allaf (Middle East Eye)
  • 4 MAY: “Expert View: What’s at Stake in Future Negotiations Between US and Russia” – Kim Bode (Syria Deeply)
  • 4 MAY: “As Waer returns to regime control, residents once determined to stay explain why they’re leaving for a life ‘in tents’” – Bahira al-Zarier, Lina Eghzawi, and Madeline Edwards (Syria Direct)