TSI Syria Update: June 20, 2017

Takeaway

The situation in Syria continues to escalate with a US warplane shooting down a pro-government drone near al-Tanf in southern Syria on Tuesday morning as it approached US-led Coalition forces. This is the second Iranian-made drone that the US-led Coalition has shot down in the same location, and comes just two days after the US shot down a manned Syrian plane near Raqqa where US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have been battling ISIS fighters in recent months. In total, it is the third pro-government aircraft shot down by the US in Syria in less than two weeks. For more background see the 19 June TSI blog post explaining these recent developments.

Military

  • 20 JUN: A US warplane shot down an armed Assad Coalition drone northeast of al-Tanf early Tuesday morning. The drone, an Iranian-made Shaheed-129, was shot down after it “displayed hostile intent and advanced on Coalition forces.” According to the Coalition statement, the pro-government drone was spotted moving toward an outpost manned by US Special Forces and US-backed Syrian opposition groups, and was intercepted by a US F-15E ‘Strike Eagle.’ When the drone continued to advance toward the Coalition position without deviating from its course, it was shot down. (CENTCOM, CNN, Reuters) (Analyst Note: This is the same location where an Assad Coalition drone dropped munitions near Coalition forces on June 8. The downing of this drone marks the third pro-government aircraft shot down by the US in less than two weeks.)
  • 20 JUN: Opposition activists said the ceasefire that went into effect on Friday collapsed after Assad Coalition forces bombarded opposition-held Daraa al-Balad and Tariq al-Sad districts in Daraa city and resumed ground offensives. Assad Coalition forces reportedly captured Air Defense Battalion military base to the west of Daraa city but armed opposition groups (AOGs) seized the base back after a massive counter-offensive. The base is only few kilometers away from the Jordanian border. If captured by the Assad Coalition, opposition-held area in Daraa will be effectively split in half. (Reuters, AP, SOHR, Al-Masdar News, @Marsos10-AR)
  • 20 JUN: The Assad Coalition launched heavy attacks in the Damascus area today. The armed opposition group Failaq al-Rahman clashed with Assad Coalition forces in the Damascus neighborhood of Jobar amidst pro-government air strikes and bombardments. In Harasta, one day after humanitarian aid was delivered to the besieged town, clashes erupted between Assad forces and AOGs following an attempt by Assad Coalition forces to enter the town. Pro-government airstrikes and artillery were also reported in nearby Zamalka, Ein Terma, and Kafr Batna. (ARA news-AR, @Alrahmancorps4-AR, GMC FB-AR, Qasioun-AR, Harasta LCC FB-AR)  
  • 20 JUN: On Tuesday, US-backed armed opposition groups Ossoud al-Sharqia and Ahmed al-Abdo Quwat clashed with Assad Coalition forces near Bir Qassab in al-Badiya area to the southeast of Damascus as the pro-government forces attempted to take control of the area. The AOGs stated that Assad Coalition forces failed to advance. (Reuters, @osodalsharqia, Qasioun-AR) (Analyst note: FSA-affiliated armed opposition groups took control of Bir Qassab in May after ISIS retreated from the town.)
  • 20 JUN: Several members of Sultan Murad Brigade, including a high ranking commander, were killed today by an IED in al-Bab city to the northeast of Aleppo. (Orient News-Ar, @8381Mhmmad-AR)

Political

  • 20 JUN: On Tuesday, Australia announced as a precautionary measure, it was suspending its participation in airstrikes in Syria as a result of threatening statements made by Russia. On Monday, Moscow stated that following the US downing of a Syrian government SU-22, all US-led International Coalition aircraft operating west of the Euphrates would be tracked by anti-aircraft systems and treated as potential targets. The Australian Department of Defense stated it was closely monitoring the situation in Syria, and “a decision on the resumption of ADF air operations in Syria will be made in due course.” Australia has been conducting airstrikes against ISIS targets in Syria since late 2015. (Reuters, MEE, Al-Jazeera)
  • 20 JUN: On Tuesday, US-led Coalition spokesman Colonel Ryan Dillon reportedly stated despite Russian claims to have suspended the use of the joint “de-confliction line” between the US and Russia in Syria, the US continues to use the channel. Dillon said “we continue to use the de-confliction line with the Russians. The Coalition is always available to de-conflict with the Russians.” (Foreign Policy)

Humanitarian

  • None

Notable Media/Transcripts/Reports

  • 19 JUN: “TSI Quick Summary – Developments Surrounding US Downing of Syrian Jet” – Valerie Szybala (The Syria Institute)
  • 19 JUN: “What happens after the Islamic State is defeated in Iraq and Syria?” (Washington Post
  • 19 JUN: “US Struggles to Calm New Syria Flashpoints” – Laura Rozen (Al-Monitor)
  • 19 JUN: “Analysis: Future of Post-ISIS Raqqa Remains Unclear” – Wladimir Van Wilgenburg (Syria Deeply)
  • 19 JUN: “What Is Putin Up To in Syria?” – Uri Friedman (The Atlantic)
  • 19 JUN: “Why Is the U.S. Killing So Many Civilians in Syria and Iraq?” – Micah Zenko (New York Times)
  • 20 JUN: “Coalition Shoots Down Armed UAV in Syria” (CENTCOM)
  • 20 JUN: “The Growing US-Iran Proxy Fight in Syria” – Mohamad Bazzi (The Atlantic)