TSI Syria Update: September 1, 2017

A brief overview of key military, political, and humanitarian news developments in Syria.

Military

  • The Syrian government and armed opposition group (AOG) Ossoud al-Sharqiya agreed to an exchange deal mediated by Russia and Jordan. Ossoud al-Sharqiya will exchange 31 pro-government fighters and a pilot for the release of 100 female prisoners and all detainees from Ossoud al-Sharqiya and Quwat Ahmad al-Abdo. The initial release of pro-government fighters occurred on Thursday. (Smart News-AR, Qasioun-AR)
  • On Friday, US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) spokesperson Jihan Ahmad announced that the SDF gained control of Raqqa’s Old City and al-Dariya neighborhood, giving them control over an estimated 65% of Raqqa city. (Smart News-AR, SDF Press-AR, AFP)

Political

  • US General Townsend briefed the press yesterday, saying the US-led Coalition struck vehicles approaching the convoy moving ISIS fighters from Lebanon to Deir Ezzor, and did not target the convoy itself. (DoD)
  • On Thursday, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova claimed AOG Shabab al-Sunna, has munitions with toxic agents in their weapons warehouse in Bosra al-Sham, with the plan to use them and blame pro-government forces. Shabab al-Sunna’s leader denied the accusations and said they are willing to receive any international committee to investigate these allegations. (Russian Foreign Ministry, @shabab_sunah-AR) (Analyst Note: The Russian and Syrian governments have a history of claiming opposition groups are planning to use chemical weapons prior to a chemical weapons attack perpetrated by pro-government forces.)
  • The Cluster Munition Coalition released its annual report on Thursday, which found that of the 971 total cluster munition casualties it recorded in 2016, 860 of them occurred in Syria. (HRW, Cluster Munition Coalition) (Cluster munitions are banned under international treaty)
  • 29 Local Councils from besieged Eastern Ghouta released a joint statement demanding Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) dismantle in Eastern Ghouta, and requested that AOG Failaq al-Rahman (FAR) facilitate the process of transferring those HTS members and their families who wish to leave to Idlib. (All4Syria-AR, Shaam-AR). (Analyst Note: On 18 August, FAR signed a de-escalation agreement with Russia in which Russia demanded FAR fight the presence of HTS in Eastern Ghouta, as it is a designated terrorist organization. Russia has used HTS’s continued presence in Eastern Ghouta as a justification of continued violence against the area.)
  • French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad cannot be part of the transition in Syria as he murdered part of the Syrian population and was the reason for the displacement of millions. (Reuters)
  • The Kazakh Foreign Ministry announced Russia, Turkey, and Iran will meet for the next round of Astana talks on 14-15 September to review de-escalation zones and discuss the forces the three nations plan to deploy in Syria. (Reuters)

Humanitarian

  • None

Notable Media/Transcripts/Reports

  • 30 AUG: “A Different Type of Jihadi” – Mohanad Hage Ali (Carnegie)
  • 30 AUG: “The Regime’s ‘Reconciliation Deals’ and Iran’s Expansionism” – Feras Hanoush (Atlantic Council)
  • 31 AUG: “Armour in the Islamic State, the Story of ‘The Workshop’” (Oryx Blog)
  • 31 AUG: “Just outside Syria’s capital, a battle still rages over one of the last rebel-held enclaves” – Abby Sewell (LA Times)
  • 31 AUG: “How Jabhat al-Nusra Hijacked the Syrian Revolution” – Abdullah Almousa (Atlantic Council)
  • 31 AUG: OpEd: “Trump’s big decision in Syria” – David Ignatius (Washington Post)
  • 31 AUG: “Cluster Munition Monitor 2017” (Cluster Munition Coalition)
  • 1 SEP: “Inside Ain Al-Issa: Waiting Room for Displaced in Battle Against ISIS” – Wladimir van Wilgenburg (Syria Deeply)
  • 1 SEP: “Who is Russia Deploying its Newest MANPADS Against in Syria?” – Haid Haid (Atlantic Council)