TSI Syria Update: June 15, 2017

Takeaway

The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) gained ground against ISIS militants in the eastern part of Raqqa city. The SDF captured Hitten district and entered several other neighboring districts amidst heavy clashes that left at least 20 fighters from both sides dead. The clashes are expected to intensify as the SDF advance further to the heavily fortified city center.

Military

  • 15 JUN: On Thursday, Assad Coalition forces reportedly captured al-Thawra and al-Safih oil fields, south of Tabaqa city, following the withdrawal of Islamic State (ISIS) forces from them. This advance in rural Raqqa governorate is part of the offensive by Assad Coalition forces to secure the Ithriya-Raqqa highway. (Qasioun, ARA News-AR, Orient News-AR)
  • 15 JUN: Armed opposition groups (AOGs) in Daraa announced the start of an offensive against ISIS-affiliate Jaysh Khaled, which aims to take control of the villages of Jaleen, Sahm Jolan, Tseel, Tel Ashtar and Tel al-Jomoo. Both sides suffered number of casualties and neither side reported any advances. (Smart News-AR, SOHR-AR)
  • 15 JUN: The US-led coalition carried out strikes against an ISIS weapons factory in the Deir Ezzor city of al-Bukamal near the Syria-Iraq border. The strike reportedly killed 20 ISIS fighters. (Smart News-AR, Euphrates Post-AR)
  • 15 JUN: US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) reportedly captured the Hiteen district on Thursday, in the eastern part of Raqqa city. SDF also battled ISIS to secure control of the neighboring districts of al-Yarmouk, al-Bareed, and al-Qadisiya. In addition to fighters on both sides, five civilians were reportedly killed in SDF shelling that targeted ISIS-held al-Ferdous district in the middle of city. (Orient News-AR, Ara News-AR)

Political

  • 15 JUN: On Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Russia’s medium-term plans in Syria include increasing the capability of the Syrian armed forces. Putin affirmed that after boosting its capabilities, the Russian air force would continue to support the Syrian armed forces. Putin added that the experience gained by the Russian military in Syria is “priceless.” The timing of Putin’s statements correspond to those of Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, who said recent military and political developments within Syria provide suitable conditions for defeating terrorist organizations in the country. Zakharova also noted the Astana memorandum, which established four “de-escalation zones” in Syria, had allowed the Assad Coalition to focus on combating terrorist groups. (Reuters, al-Manar, Russia MFA-RU)
  • 15 JUN: Jordanian sources reportedly stated Amman is willing to reopen the key Nasib border crossing with Syria. The checkpoint has been closed since 2015. Jordanian military officials are said to have conducted Russian-mediated discussions with Syrian officials regarding the possibility of the Syrian army returning to administer the Nasib crossing. (Syria News via The Syrian Observer) (Analyst Note: As the Syrian government seeks to regain control of its borders in the south, negotiating a deal with Jordan that would ensure the return of the Syrian army to Nasib would be a significant achievement in that it simultaneously fulfills a key strategic objective and facilitates the projection of political legitimacy to its neighbors.)

Humanitarian

  • 15 JUN: On Thursday, the UN’s World Food Program (WFP), the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) delivered humanitarian aid to the besieged town of Talbiseh, home to around 84,000 people. The ICRC stated that 45 trucks carrying food, medicine and other essentials headed to the town which is located to the north of Homs city. The last humanitarian convoy delivered to the city was on March 27 of this year. (@WFP_MENA, @OCHA_Syria, @ICRC_sy)   

Notable Media/Transcripts/Reports

  • 14 JUN: “Coalition Airstrikes in Syria and the Issue of Civilian Harm” (SJAC)
  • 14 JUN: “Amid Continued Instability, Why Are States Investing in Syria?” – Reema Hibrawi (Atlantic Council)
  • 14 JUN: “The Regime’s Current Strategy to Ending the Revolution” – Ghaith al-Ahmad (Atlantic Council)
  • 14 JUN: “US Expands Presence in Syria Desert, Rebels Say” – Suleiman al-Khalidi (Reuters)
  • 15 JUN: “Kurds look set to win the scramble for Raqqa” – Francis Matthew (Gulf News)
  • 15 JUN: “Syria’s Newest Flashpoint is Bringing US and Iran Face to Face” – Dion Nissenbaum (WSJ)
  • 15 JUN: “US Frozen Out of East Syria as Iran Takes Initiative” – Daniel Hilton (The Daily Star)
  • 15 JUN: “International Airstrikes and Civilian Casualty Claims in Iraq and Syria: May 2017” – Alex Hopkins (Airwars)
  • 15 JUN: “Why Trump attacks Iran for supporting Syrian strongman Assad — but ignores Russia doing it” – Angelica LaVito (CNBC)