TSI Syria Update: November 9, 2017

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

Military

  • 9 NOV: ISIS forces reportedly evacuated Albu Kamal, as Assad Coalition forces entered the town yesterday. The US military estimated there are between 2,500-3,500 militants in the area. Today the Syrian General Command claimed the city is liberated. (AP, MEI, Sana) (TSI Analyst Note: There are conflicting reports to the extent the Assad Coalition controls Albu Kamal city.)
  • 9 NOV: There are unconfirmed reports that Assad Coalition forces reportedly moved 300 fighters from Daraa to Hama. (Enab Baladi-AR, Qasioun) (TSI Analyst Note: The movement of fighters suggests a buildup for intensified operations in Idlib province, an action previously referred to by Assad Coalition officials.)

Political

  • 7 NOV: Speaking in Aleppo, top Iranian foreign policy advisor Ali Akba Belayati stated that “Soon we will see the eastern Syria cleared, and then the Idlib area in west.” Praising the success of Iran and Hezbollah-backed militias in the Assad Coalition, Belayati also proclaimed “The resistance line starts from Tehran and passes through Baghdad, Damascus and Beirut to reach Palestine.” (Reuters(TSI Analyst Note: Belayati is referring to an Iranian “land bridge” that links territory seized by its proxies stretching from Iran to the Mediterranean.) 
  • 7 NOV: The recently-formed “Salvation Government” formed by figures linked to HTS in Idlib, reportedly took over control of the HTS Civil Services Administration a (Enab Baladi-AR) (TSI Analyst Note: The “Salvation Government” formed last week is an effort by HTS to usurp power from  the opposition’s Interim Government and cloak its control over governing institutions. For more details, see TSI’s 2 November Update.)
  • 8 NOV: The OPCW released their Fact Finding Mission (FFM) report on the 30 March chemical weapons attack in Lataminah. The FFM concluded that “sarin was more than likely used as a chemical weapon” at the site. (UN)
  • 8 NOV: A draft law approved by Syria’s parliament yesterday changes the country’s military conscription system. Now, individuals over the exempt age of 42 must pay a fee of $8,000 to the government within three months, or their property will be confiscated. (Sana, Enab Baladi-AR)
  • 8 NOV: UK Secretary for International Development Priti Patel resigned after making an undisclosed trip to Israel. Reportedly, Patel spoke with officials about channeling aid through the Israeli military to support Syrian humanitarian efforts in the Golan Heights. (BBC)
  • 8 NOV: In Washington to meet US officials, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said the US should withdraw its arming and support of Kurdish forces in Syria. Yildirim claimed Kurdish forces are moving beyond their anti-ISIS campaign, saying the US is “using one terrorist organization to defeat another.” The US-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), are primarily led by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which Turkey considers a terrorist organization. (Defense One)
  • 9 NOV: According to the Russian Foreign Ministry, newly appointed US Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman met with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov, Russia’s senior official on the Middle East. The meeting was reportedly in preparation for President Trump’s meeting with Vladimir Putin, where some officials anticipate the two will talk about strategy in Syria. Bogdanov said the US and Russia aim “to continue cooperation with an aim to ensure de-escalation of tension in Syria.” See TSI’s 6 November Update for more.  (@MaximSuchov_ALM, TASS)
  • 9 NOV: Armed opposition group (AOG) Ahrar al-Sham is attempting to mediate conflict between the extremist group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) and AOG Nour al-Din al-Zinki. (@TNTranslations, Smart News-AR)
  • 9 NOV: Tensions have increased between the the opposition Syrian Interim Government and Kurdish-dominated SDF, who back opposing political councils in the city of Raqqa. The SDF support the Raqqa Civil Council, currently operating in the city, while the Interim Government supports the previous Raqqa Local Council located in Turkey.  (Souriatna via Syrian Observer)

Humanitarian

  • 9 NOV: UN humanitarian advisor Jan Egeland said the besieged communities in Eastern Ghouta face “complete catastrophe,” as aid convoys are blocked by the government and the Assad Coalition has increased its attacks on civilians. Egeland said meetings between UN, Russian, and Syrian officials on lifting the siege have not produced the desired results, but has a “strong feeling that the Russian Federation wants us to get the access.” Egeland said there were around 400 civilians who need to be evacuated now for medical reasons or they will die, 29 of these are the most urgent cases. (Reuters,  UN WebTV)

Notable Media/Transcripts/Reports

  • 7 NOV: “Syria in 2019: Four Scenarios” – Minke Meijnders, Jaïr van der Lijn, and Bas van Mierlo  (Clingendael)
  • 8 NOV: “Report of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons Fact-Finding Mission in the Syrian Arab Republic regarding an alleged incident in Lataminah, Syrian Arab Republic, 30 March 2017” (UN)
  • 8 NOV: Syria Is Joining the Paris Agreement. Now What?” – Robinson Meyer (The Atlantic)
  • 8 NOV: “Leader of chemical weapons panel not optimistic about its future” – Rick Gladstone (NYT)
  • 8 NOV: OpEd: “Does Trump Realize That His New Iran Strategy Could Suffer a Fatal Blow in Syria?” – John Hannah (Foreign Policy)
  • 9 NOV: “Plans to rebuild Syria could be recipe for another war” – Anand Ram and Adrienne Arsenault (CBC)
  • 9 NOV: “Fresh Evidence of Sarin Use by Syrian Government Forces from the OPCW” – Eliot Higgins (Bellingcat)
  • 9 NOV: “Jan Egeland, Special Advisor to Special Envoy for Syria – Media Stakeout (Geneva, 9 November 2017)” (UN WebTV)
  • 9 NOV: “‘No such thing as finished’: Residents of north Damascus suburb stay close to home after reconciliation amid fears of arrest, conscription” – Ammar Hamou and Tariq Adely (Syria Direct)
  • 9 NOV: “Back Home in Homs: Challenges Facing Returnees to Syria” – Anchal Vohra (Syria Deeply)