TSI Syria Update: November 17, 2017

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

Military

  • 17 NOV: There were over 70 airstrikes and over 500 artillery shells launched on towns in besieged Eastern Ghouta today by Assad Coalition forces, part of an intense assault that began on Monday. At least 22 civilians were killed and  more than 100 injured today alone. Among them, three first responders of the Syrian Civil Defense (White Helmets) were killed and others injured when guided missiles targeted their ambulance in Douma.  (GMC FB-AR @SCDrifdimashq, @SiegeWatch)
  • 17 NOV: Reportedly, 20 civilians were killed in an ISIS car bomb attack in rural northern Deir Ezzor. (STEP-AR, @QSD_Jabha-AR, Sana) (TSI Analyst Note: This continues a trend of car bomb attacks in Deir Ezzor this month, suggesting ISIS is reverting back to insurgency-style tactics in the area as it loses territory.)

Political

  • 16 NOV: The foreign ministers of Russia, Turkey, and Iran will meet in Antalya this weekend in preparation for the 22 November Turkish-hosted summit between the nations’ leaders to discuss Syria. (Daily Sabah)
  • 17 NOV: Reportedly, Russia is opposed to Japan’s proposal of a 30 day extension of the UN-OPCW Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM), after it vetoed a resolution for a long-term extension yesterday.  The UN Security Council is scheduled to vote this evening on the extension. (Reuters, @NabilAbiSaab, RU-UN, NYT)
  • 17 NOV: In a televised speech, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stated that “Afrin needs to be cleared of the YPG terror group,” advocating for Turkish involvement in the city similar to their military expansion in Idlib province. Erdogan also repeated past criticisms of US support for Kurdish forces in Syria. (AFP)
  • 17 NOV: Germany will contribute 10 million Euro to a US contractor tasked with de-mining the former ISIS capital of Raqqa. Norbert Roettgen, chairman of the Bundestag’s Committee on Foreign Affairs, noted that such aid must be “combined with a reliable solution and political stability for Syria.” (Reuters)
  • 17 NOV: A Department of Defense spokesperson iterated that the US will be involved with stabilization efforts in a post-ISIS Syria, viewing such measures as key towards a political solution. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis also stated he is surprised by the number and rate of refugees returning to their homes. (DOD, The Region, @brett_mcgurk)
  • 17 NOV: Reportedly, after meeting with members of the White House National Security Council, Israeli officials were privately critical of the US-Russia de-escalation agreement in Syria, doubting American willingness to actually contain Iran. (Axios)
  • 17 NOV: After a warehouse of recently delivered aid was destroyed by the Assad Coalition, the Douma Local Council released a statement urging the UN to protect civilian and humanitarian infrastructure. The council said it had only distributed a third of the aid before the center was attacked. (@SiegeWatch)

Humanitarian

  • None.

Notable Media/Transcripts/Reports

  • 15 NOV: “Turkey’s Men: Syria’s Turkmen minority finds itself in the vanguard of Ankara’s plans for the country” – Mohanad Hage Ali (Carnegie)
  • 16 NOV: “Beyond Deconfliction in Syria” – Andrew J. Tabler (WINEP)
  • 16 NOV: “Druze in the Golan Heights have long been ‘on the fence’ between Syria and Israel. Syria’s civil war has changed things” – Eetta Prince-Gibson (PRI)
  • 16 NOV: OpEd “The Pentagon has detained a U.S. citizen for more than two months — and said little” – (Washington Post)
  • 16 NOV: OpEd “US and Russia partnership on Syria is limited and this just proved it” – Gayle Tzemach Lemmon (CNN)
  • 17 NOV: “Squaring the Circle in Eastern Syria” – Frederic Hof (Atlantic Council)