TSI Syria Update: May 5, 2017

Takeaway

Russia’s Defense Minister announced that the “de-escalation zones” agreement signed by Russia, Turkey, and Iran yesterday goes into effect tonight, despite the fact that the boundaries for the zones have not been determined and an enforcement/monitoring mechanism has not yet been created. Aleksandr Levrentyev, Russian envoy to the Astana talks, said that no planes will be allowed to fly over the “de-escalation zones,” especially those of the US-led counter-ISIS coalition, effective immediately. Both military and political opposition groups object to the agreement.

Military

  • 5 MAY: Jaysh Al-Islam (JAI) officially announced today that they will stop all their operations against Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) in Eastern Ghouta. This decision comes after a week of bloodshed. JAI said it had achieved most of its objectives and would end the fighting in the interest of civilians in the area. (Step News-AR, Al Masdar News, EA WorldView)
  • 5 MAY: Assad Coalition planes launched air raids on the Qaboun neighborhood of Damascus today amidst an ongoing pro-government offensive against armed opposition groups. Reports say that four missiles were dropped on the city causing material damage. (Al-Jazeera-AR, SMO FB-AR, @SiegeWatch)

Political

  • 4 MAY: The Syrian government has allegedly continued to produce chemical weapons in three main sites in Maysaf, Dummar and Barzeh. Russia and Iran are suspected of being aware of the production of these weapons. (BBC, all4syria-AR)
  • 5 MAY: OPCW Director-General Ahmet Uzumcu said the international team created to investigate the April 4 Sarin gas attack on Khan Sheikhoun has already started working. An initial report on the incident is expected next week. (AP, Fox News)
  • 5 MAY: The Russian Defense Minister, Aleksandr Fomin, announced that the Astana “de-escalation zones” agreement in Syria that was signed by Russia, Turkey, and Iran on Thursday will come into effect on Friday evening, despite the fact that boundaries for the zones have not been determined and an enforcement/monitoring mechanism has not yet been set up. Aleksandr Levrentyev, Russian envoy to the Astana talks, said that no planes, especially those of the US-led counter-ISIS coalition, will be allowed to fly over the “de-escalation zones,” effective immediately. There has not yet been any US response to this announcement. The High Negotiations Committee (HNC) – a coalition of military and political leaders representing the Syrian opposition at the UN-backed Geneva peace talks – put out a statement today criticizing the plan, particularly the inclusion of Iran as a guarantor, and the lack of enforcement mechanisms. Major armed opposition groups came out against the “de-escalation zones” idea yesterday shortly after it was declared. (RT, Al-Jazeera, Middle East Eye, Kazakhstan MFA, HNC-AR) (Analyst note: The sudden and very pointed insistence that the US-Coalition would be banned from flying in these areas may be an indication that Russia is attempting to create a de facto “no fly zone,” barring US operations in large parts of the country.)

Humanitarian

  • None

Notable Media/Transcripts/Reports

  • 4 MAY: “Putin Has a New Secret Weapon in Syria: Chechens” – Neil Hauer (Foreign Policy)
  • 5 MAY: “Russia-Turkey-Iran Agree “De-Escalation Zones” – Can They Be Implemented?” – Scott Lucas (EA Worldview)
  • 5 MAY: “On the outcome of the Fourth International Meeting on Syria within the framework of the Astana Process” (Kazakhstan MFA)
  • 5 MAY: “Trump to Tell Turkey: We’re Going to Take Raqqa With the Kurds” – Dan De Luce and Paul McLeary (Foreign Policy)
  • 5 MAY: “Crowdsourced Geolocation and Analysis of Coalition Airstrike Videos from Syria and Iraq” – Christiaan Triebert (Bellingcat)