TSI Syria Update: December 18, 2017

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

Military

  • 17 DEC: At least ten civilians were killed in Khan Sheikhoun in airstrikes, reportedly from Russian warplanes. Russian aircraft also reportedly conducted airstrikes on the nearby town of al-Lataminah, using incendiary munitions. (@SyriaCivilDef, Enab Baladi-AR, Step News Youtube-AR)
  • 17 DEC: The Assad Coalition continues to push toward the opposition-held Idlib governorate, with heaving fighting reported in northern Hama governorate. (SOHR-AR, Sana, @FSAPlatform)
  • 18 DEC: ISIS’s Amaq news agency claimed a car bomb attack on US-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) near the Tanak oil facility in Deir Ezzor. Multiple casualties were reported, with ISIS claiming they killed 20 fighters. (Smart-AR, Enab Baladi-AR, Qasioun)
  • 18 DEC: Assad Coalition shelling continued in the besieged Eastern Ghouta community of Douma over the weekend, killing three civilians. (@SiegeWatch)

Political

  • 17 DEC: French President Emmanuel Macron stated in an interview that the coalition had won the war in Iraq against ISIS, and that “by the middle to the end of February, we will have won the war in Syria.” (France 24)
  • 18 DEC: Aftering holding talks with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin claimed Russia will be the only country to help Syria rebuild its energy facilities. (Reuters)
  • 18 DEC: Speaking to reporters Bashar al-Assad referred to groups that work under US command, including Kurdish forces, as “traitors.” (Syrian Presidency Youtube-AR, AFP, Sana) (TSI Analyst Note: Russian forces, Assad’s primary military ally in Syria, have repeatedly claimed to have assisted Kurdish operations against ISIS, and have met with YPG leadership.)
  • 18 DEC: Syrian Minister of Reconciliation, Ali Haidar, said in a media briefing the government is open to allowing extremist group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) to evacuate their small enclave in Eastern Ghouta. Reportedly, HTS leadership is deadlocked on the decision about leaving the besieged communities. Both rival opposition factions and civilians in the area want HTS to leave. (Haaretz, Smart-AR)
  • 18 DEC: Russian commercial goods will reportedly be allowed to enter HTS-held areas in Idlib through the Bab al-Hawa border crossing today. The Bab al-Hawa crossing is controlled by the HTS-affiliated “Salvation Government.” (Smart News-AR, Zaman al-Wasl)
  • 18 DEC: Iranian National Security Council Secretary said Iran is prepared to stay in Syria to provide counsel and military support, at the request of the Syrian government. (Enab Baladi-AR, Smart News-AR)
  • 18 DEC: The Trump Administration released its first National Security Strategy (NSS) today. The NSS specifically mentions that despite the “territorial defeat” of ISIS and al-Qaeda in Syria and Iraq, the US will pursue foreign fighters from leaving battlefields that could launch attacks on America. The NSS also warned of the proliferation of WMDs and chemical weapons used by the Syrian government and ISIS, as well as the dangers of Iran proxies such as Hezbollah. The Trump Administration also expressed its wish to foster a political solution in Syria that allows for the return of refugees. (The White House) (TSI Analyst Note: The US is continuing to conduct strikes against ISIS in Syria, and al-Qaeda-affiliated militia HTS is the primary opposition actor in Idlib governorate.)

Humanitarian

  • None.

Notable Media/Transcripts/Reports

  • 14 DEC: “All the President’s Militias: Assad’s Militiafication of Syria” – Charles Lister and Dominic Nelson (MEI)
  • 14 DEC: “Hardline Idlib authorities require single women, widows to live with male guardian” – Madeline Edwards and Mohammad Abdulssattar Ibrahim (Syria Direct)
  • 15 DEC: “Video Game Teaches Girls To Code in War-Torn Syria” – Anthony Cuthbertson (Newsweek)
  • 15 DEC: “Islamic State’s self-styled capital is in ruins and its population scattered. Who will rebuild Raqqah?” – Alexandra Zavis (LA Times)
  • 15 DEC: “Why Reports of ISIS’ Demise Have Been Greatly Exaggerated” – Hashem Osseiran (Syria Deeply)
  • 16 DEC: OpEd “An Accounting for the Uncounted” – Robert Malley and Stephen Pomer (The Atlantic)
  • 17 DEC: “Assad agreed to local cease-fires in Syria – but war crimes worsen in Eastern Ghouta.” – Maryam Saleh, Murtaza Hussain, Rajaai Bourhan (The Intercept)
  • 18 DEC: “How Syria’s White Helmets became victims of an online propaganda machine” – Olivia Solon (The Guardian)
  • 18 DEC: “Local brews make a comeback in Syria” – Maher Al Mounes (Times of Israel)
  • 18 DEC: “Syria: Suffering in Eastern Ghouta reaches ‘critical point’” (ICRC)
  • 18 DEC: “Revisiting the Islamic State’s 2011-2014 Reemergence: Lessons for the Future” – Aaron Zelin (WINEP)
  • 18 DEC: OpEd “Trump shouldn’t trust Putin on Syria — or anything else” – Frederick Kagan (Fox News)