TSI’s

Trump Administration Syria Policy (TASP)

Tracker

TSI’s Trump Administration Syria Policy (TASP) tracker lists relevant US political and military developments since the start of the Trump Administration in January 2017. The TASP tracker will make it easier for analysts, agencies, journalists, and others to answer the question: what is America’s Syria policy during the Trump Administration? The TASP tracker will be updated frequently with new events. When using the tracker, keep in mind the following:

  • Visit the TABLE KEY for descriptions of our event classification labels.
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  • Want to know what Donald Trump said about Syria during the 2016 presidential election? Check out our Trump Candidate Archive.
Date (dd.mm.yyyy)EventDescriptionEvent CategoryEvent TypeEvent Subject/TargetSourceAnalysis
01.08.2017Secretary of State Rex Tillerson commented on US goals in Syria and on Russian cooperationDuring press remarks at the State Dept., Tillerson addressed recent cooperation with Russia and desired end state conditions in Syria. On Russia, Tillerson said that the administration has "chosen the theater in Syria as a place in which we test our ability to work together," citing a shared view of the threat of ISIS. He stated the US is interested in pursuing ceasefire deals similar to that reached between the US, Russia, and Jordan in other parts of Syria, and voiced support for the Geneva process. Tillerson also said that Russian support of Assad is "unacceptable." Tillerson outlined two end state conditions the US wanted in Syria: a unified Syria with free/fair elections, a new constitution, and new leadership; and the removal of Iranian military presence (both IRGC and Iran-backed militias) from the country. He also said the US continues to believe that Assad has no role in the future governing of Syria. Tillerson went on to say "The sequence of all that we're open to, as long as that is...what is achieved in the end."PolicyCommentUS State Dept
01.08.2017President Donald Trump commented on the decision to dismantle the covert CIA Train and Equip program for Syrian opposition groups fighting AssadDuring an interview in the Wall Street Journal, Trump stated that he was not involved in the decision to discontinue the CIA covert program to armed Vetted Syrian Oppoostion (VSO) groups, saying it "was a decision made by people, not me." He also said that "It turns out its - a lot of al-Qaeda we're giving these weapons to."PolicyCommentPartner SupportPolitico
04.08.2017Special Presidential Envoy for the Anti-ISIS Coalition Brett McGurk gave a lengthy update on the fight against ISIS in Syria and IraqMcGurk stated that in the last six months, the campaign against ISIS "dramatically accelerated." He said that there are approximately 50,000 fighters in the US-led Coalition's main partner, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and that they were about half Arab and half Kurd. He also mentioned that the Vetted Syrian Opposition (VSO) backed by Turkey had been effective against ISIS, and stressed how closely the US was working with Russia on deconfliction. McGurk stressed that stabilization, the key to US post-ISIS strategy, is not reconstruction: "Stabilization is demining" and rubble removal and restoration of basic services. He also mentioned that US training of anti-ISIS fighters is continuing at the al-Tanf garrison in the southern Badiya region of Syria. Notably, McGurk outlined four ways the Trump Administration's approach to Syria has shifted from that of the Obama Administration: 1) the delegation of tactical authority from the White House to commanders on the ground, 2) the implementation of a strategy of "annihilation" - completely surrounding ISIS positions before launching an offensive, 3) increased burden sharing within the 73-member US-led Coalition, and 4) a whole-of-government approach to combating ISIS, meaning increased cooperation/coordination within government branches and departments. PolicyCommentISISUS State Dept.Note that both the SDF and the Raqqa Civilian Council that McGurk refers to as key partners in the US strategy are dominated by the Kurdish YPG forces and Kurdish political bodies. His claim that half of the SDF is composed of non-Kurdish Arab fighters is dubious.
06.08.2017Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met in ManilaTillerson and Lavrov met on the sidelines of the ASEAN conference in Manila. Among other issues, Lavrov and Tillerson discussed expanding on the agreement that established a ceasefire zone in southwestern Syria. PolicyMeetingSafe ZoneUS State Dept.; Russian Min. of Foreign Affairs
21.05.2017US-led Coalition airstrike killed an ISIS foreign fighter and external attack planner near MayadinA US-led Coalition airstrike killed Orhan Ramadani near Mayadin, Deir Ezzor. Ramadani was responsible for planning external terror attacks. He was an associate of Lavdrim Muhaxheri who was killed on 07 June.MilitaryDirect ActionISISUS CENTCOM
07.06.2017US-led Coalition airstrike killed an ISIS foreign fighter and external operations coordinator near QayiraA US-led Coalition airstrike killed Irfan Hafiqi near Qayira. Hafiqi, an ethnic Albanian, was involved in planning external attacks and recruiting foreign fighters from southeastern Europe. He was was a deputy of Lavdrim Muhaxheri, killed on 7 June.MilitaryDirect ActionISISUS CENTCOM
16.06.2017US-led Coalition airstrike killed an ISIS foreign fighter and external operations near MayadinA US-led Coalition airstrike killed Razim Kastrati and five other ISIS fighters near Mayadin, Deir Ezzor. Kastrati was an ISIS external operations coordinator known to be involved in planning external attacks and training and moving fighters from Europe to Syria. He was a close associate of Lavdrim Muhaxheri who was killed on 07 June.MilitaryDirect ActionISISUS CENTCOM
30.06.2017US-led Coalition airtrike killed an ISIS foreign fighter and external attack planner in RaqqaA US-led Coalition airstrike killed Jetmir Ismaili in Raqqa in late June (Note: 30 June chosen as placeholder, exact date UNK). Ismaili was an ISIS external attack planner and a close associate of Lavdrim Muhaxheri who was killed on 07 June.MilitaryDirect ActionISISUS CENTCOM
07.06.2017US-led Coalition airstrike killed prominent ISIS foreign fighter near MayadinA US-led Coalition airstrike killed prominent ISIS foreign fighter Lavdrim Muhaxheri near Mayadin, Deir Ezzor. Muhaxheri, an ethnic Albanian from Kacanc, Kosovo, was a self-proclaimed leader of ISIS foreign fighters from Kosovo. He was known for inciting extremist jihadi ideology in Europe and for encouraging foreign fighters to travel to ISIS-held territory. He was also responsible for planning multiple external terror attacks.MilitaryDirect ActionISISUS CENTCOM
13.07.2017US-led Coalition airstrike killed an ISIS explosives specialist near MayadinA US-led Coalition airstrike killed Abu Futtum and one of his associates near Mayadin, Deir Ezzor. Abu Futtum was an ISIS explosives specialist, part of ISIS' network to instruct and incite lone wolf attacks around the globe.MilitaryDirect ActionISISUS CENTCOM
16.07.2017US-led Coalition airstrike killed an ISIS external operation official near Deir Ezzor cityA US-led Coalition airstrike killed Abu Hammam along with three other ISIS members near Deir Ezzor city. Abu Hammam was an ISIS official who assisted Abd al-Ghafur in planning external operations against the West and Middle East. MilitaryDirect ActionISISUS CENTCOM
24.07.2017US-led Coalition airstrike killed an ISIS external operation official near Albu KamalA US-led Coalition airstrike killed Abd al-Ghafur and an associate near Al-Bukamal, Deir Ezzor. Al-Ghafur was an ISIS official responsible for planning and directing external operations and attacks against targets in the Middle East and the West.MilitaryDirect ActionISISUS CENTCOM
02.08.2017US Special Envoy for Syria Michael Ratney released a statement warning armed opposition groups (AOGs) in northern Syria against associating with the group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS)HTS is a coalition led by the core elements of Jabhat al-Nusra, which has rebranded several times in the last year in an attempt to distance itself from al-Qaeda. The US statement - which was released only in Arabic - said that HTS is just a front for al-Nusra and the group will continue to be treated as al-Qaeda in Syria regardless of what name it chooses. In the statement Ratney acknowledges that some AOGs joined HTS for “tactical reasons and not ideological or intellectual ones,” but says that any faction in HTS will also be considered al-Qaeda, and therefore a designated terrorist organization. The statement warns that if HTS takes control of Idlib “it will be difficult for the US to convince international parties not to take necessary military actions.” This US statement comes as HTS consolidates control of new parts of Idlib governorate after it reached a deal to end weeks of feuding with Ahrar al-Sham.PolicyComment@USEmbassySyriaThe threat of possible military action against Idlib is vaguely worded. When it refers to “international parties,” it is unclear whether this means the US-led anti-ISIS Coalition, Turkey, or even Russia - whose policy the US is increasingly falling in line with in Syria. This statement is different from other US Syria Embassy/Envoy statements in several ways that suggest that it is targeted specifically at Syrian opposition groups. In addition to being published only in Arabic, the statement is phrased in colloquial terminology used by revolutionary Syrian opposition groups and civilians: calling HTS the “Jolani Gang," and referring to Idlib as "the liberated north." In this context, “Liberated” is a reference to the area’s liberation from Assad, not ISIS.
31.05.2017US-led Coalition airstrike killed ISIS "Grand Mufti,” or chief cleric near MayadinA US-led Coalition airstrike killed Turki al-Bin’ali, the self-proclaimed “Grand Mufti,” or chief cleric, of ISIS, near Mayadin, Syria. Al-Bin’ali played a central role in recruiting foreign terrorist fighters and spreading propaganda to provoke attacks around the world. Al-Bin’ali was known to be a close associate of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.MilitaryDirect ActionISISUS CENTCOM
30.05.2017US-backed armed opposition groups said US-led Coalition increased military support in southern SyriaLeaders of two US-backed AOGs - Jaysh Ossoud al-Sharqiya and Maghawir al-Thawra - reported that the US and allies had increased the amount of military aid in southern Syria around al-Tanf within the previous two weeks, coinciding with the build-up of pro-government militias nearby. They said the aid was increased two separate channels: the cover CIA-backed "Operation Timber Sycamore" Military Operations Command, and a separate anti-ISIS training program run by the Pentagon. One commander said that the increased aid included more heavy military vehicles, anti-tank TOW missiles, and armored vehicles, in addition to intensified recruitment efforts. Although the US did not directly confirm the reports, a CJTF-OIR spokesman did say the US had increased its military footprint in al-Badiya.MilitaryOperationPartner SupportReuters; TSI
31.03.2017White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer talked about the future of Bashar al-AssadDuring a briefing, Spicer told reporters that "with respect to Assad, there is a political reality that we have to accept in terms of where we are right now," and deferred to statements made by Haley and Tillerson the day before which suggested that the US would no longer seek the removal of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Spicer said that "we need to focus on now defeating ISIS."PolicyCommentAssad CoalitionWhite HouseNotable as people search for clues as to the Trump administration's Syria policy, in that it suggests the US no longer sees Assad's removal as a goal.
30.05.2017Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley spoke at a UN Security Council briefing on the humanitarian situation in SyriaHaley condemned the actions of Assad against the people of Syria, and stated "Russia and Iran have either aided in or passively looked away as the Assad regime commits atrocities that are reminiscent of the history’s worst war crimes." Haley also stated that in addition to pursuing a political transition, attention must be given to the needs of countries hosting refugees, and work must begin to allow for the return of refugees to Syria.PolicyCommentUSUN; TSI
30.05.2017US began arming Kurdish YPG for Raqqa offensiveThe US began distributing weapons and military equipment to the Kurdish YPG forces taking part in the offensive to recapture Raqqa from the Islamic State (ISIS), based on authority given by President Trump earlier in the month. Items delivered reportedly include machine guns, vehicles, and ammunition.MilitaryOperationPartner SupportReuters; TSI
30.03.2017US to stop disclosure of troop deployments to Iraq and SyriaPentagon Spokesperson Eric Pahon told the LA Times that “In order to maintain tactical surprise, ensure operational security and force protection, the coalition will not routinely announce or confirm information about the capabilities, force numbers, locations, or movement of forces in or out of Iraq and Syria."PolicyOperationUS ActionLA Times
30.03.2017Secretary of State Rex Tillerson issued a statement on the future of AssadDuring a press conference in Turkey, Secretary Tillerson said "I think the status and the longer-term status of President Assad will be decided by the Syrian people," when asked whether Assad should stay or go.PolicyCommentAssad CoalitionUS State Dept.Notable as people search for clues as to the Trump administration's Syria policy, in that it suggests the US no longer sees Assad's removal as a goal.
29.03.2017A US service member died of natural causes in northern SyriaCENTCOM announced the death of a US service member in northern Syria from "suspected natural causes." No additional details provided.MilitaryCasualtyUS CENTCOM
30.03.2017Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley issued a statement on the future of AssadAmbassador Nikki Haley told a group of reporters that the US "priority is no longer to sit there and focus on getting Assad out."PolicyCommentAssad CoalitionReutersNotable as people search for clues as to the Trump administration's Syria policy, in that it suggests the US no longer sees Assad's removal as a goal.
28.06.2017Special Presidential Envoy for the Anti-ISIS Coalition Brett McGurk travelled to SyriaDuring his trip, Mcgurk met with members of the SDF-created Raqqa Civil Council to discuss post-ISIS governance issues amd stabilization efforts in Raqqa. An official statement on his trip stated "Once Raqqa is liberated, it is critical that local officials from the area take over responsibility for post-liberation security and governance. We are working intensively with myriad local entities to prepare for this transition."PolicyMeetingPartner SupportUS State Dept.; TSIMcGurk’s visit follows a recent report that the Raqqa Civil Council is effectively hamstrung by a lack of funding, even prior to assuming control of Raqqa. According to its members, the RCC has received only small private donations so far. The US has stated it is prepared to fund the council, providing they prove themselves to be “inclusive and representative.” The RCC estimates it will take approximately $10 million per year to rebuild Raqqa’s infrastructure. There is also tension on the local level regarding whether the RCC will actually represent the Sunni Arab majority population of Raqqa, since it was established by the SDF, which is dominated by Kurdish YPG forces
28.02.2017US co-sponsored UN Security Council Resolution on chemical weapons use in Syria was vetoed by Syria Russia and ChinaUS was a co-penholder with the UK and France on a draft resolution aimed at imposing sanctions on the Syrian government and ISIS for their use of chemical weapons. The draft was a follow up to Resolution 2118 (2013), which covered the dismantling of Syria's chemical weapons program and called for further measures under Chapter VII in case of non-compliance. Since then, the independent Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) has determined that the Syrian government is guilty of three cases chlorine chemical attacks and ISIS is responsible for one mustard gas attack. Russia and China vetoed the draft when it was brought to a vote on 28 February 2017.PolicyUNUNSC; Whats In Blue; USUN; TSI
27.06.2017Secretary of Defense James Mattis commented on arming KurdsMattis indicated in comments to reporters that the US may continue to supply the Kurdish YPG with weapons even after Raqqa is recaptured from ISIS.PolicyCommentPartner SupportReuters; TSIThis is notable because US ally Turkey wants the US to stop arming the Kurds, which Turkey see as a security threat. Mattis's comments contradict earlier assurances that Turkey has said it received that the US would take back heavy arms from the Kurds after the fall of Raqqa. The new Mattis statements could damage an already strained US-Turkish relationship.
27.07.2017Top Trump Administration Middle East advisor Derek Harvey firedTop Middle East advisor Derek Harvey was removed from his position on the National Security Council (NSC). Harvey was known to be hawkish, pushing a more aggressive approach to Iran and Syria than several other key administration military advisors. Harvey was a strong advocate of the administration's decision to strike Bashar al-Assad's airbase after the 04 April chemical attack.PolicyWeekly Standard; NBC NewsMay signal a shift in the administration's Syria policy priorities.
27.07.2017The US-led Coalition cut support for a Vetted Syrian Opposition (VSO) partner in southern Syria, told groups they will receive support only if they fight the ISIS not the Assad governmentThe US-led Coalition told its vetted Syrian partner forces that they must only fight the Islamic State, and not the Assad government. Coalition spokesman Colonel Ryan Dillon stated that any group that pursues objectives outside of fighting ISIS would no longer receive Coalition backing. As a result, the previously US-backed opposition group Shuhada al-Qaratayn, which engaged in an anti-Assad operations, will no longer receive Coalition support and has reportedly left the garrison at al-Tanf in southern Syria.MilitaryOperationPartner SupportUS Dept. of Defense; CNN; TSIShuhada al-Qaratayn is believed to have originally been supported by the US under the CIA covert program which began as an anti-Assad effort. Shuhada al-Qaratayn has been a US-led anti-ISIS Coalition partner since the al-Tanf base was first put into use, working with the Coalition first under the "New Syrian Army" banner and then under the Maghaweer al-Thawra banner. Though this has been US policy for years - using US arms to fight ISIS only - this is believed to be the first time that a Vetted Syrian Opposition (VSO) group has been cut from the program for this reason.
27.04.2017US-led Coalition airstrike killed an ISIS external operations facilitator near MayadinA Coalition airstrike killed Mustafa Gunes, a Syria-based ISIS external operations facilitator from Turkey, near Mayadin, Deir Ezzor. Gunes was linked to recruiting in Turkey, and to facilitating financial support for planning attacks outside Syria and Iraq against the West.MilitaryDirect ActionISISUS CENTCOM
26.06.2017US warned of potential preparations for new chemical attack from the Assad governmentUS Press Secretary Sean Spicer said the US had identified potential preparations by the Assad government for a new chemical weapons attack, similar to those that occurred prior to the 04 April chemical weapons attack on Khan Sheikhoun. Spicer stated that should Assad conduct another similar attack, he and his military would "pay a heavy price."PolicyCommentAssad CoalitionWhite House; TSIThis is the first time that the US has given public forewarning of an Assad government attack.
26.05.2017US-led Coalition airstrike killed an ISIS senior media official near MayadinA US-led Coalition airstrike killed senior ISIS media official Rayaan Meshaal sometime between 25-27 May near Mayadin, Deir Ezzor. Meshaal was the head and founder of the official ISIS propaganda media outlet Amaq.MilitaryDirect ActionISISCJTF-OIR
26.05.2017US soldier killed in vehicle accident in northern SyriaUS soldier Spc. Etienne J. Murphy died in al-Hasakah, Syria, of injuries sustained during a vehicle rollover related incident. Murphy was assigned to 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, Hunter Army Airfield, Georgia, and was in Syria supporting the anti-ISIS Coalition.MilitaryCasualtyUS CENTCOM; US Dept. of Defense; TSI
26.04.2017Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis requested a review of Force Management Levels (FML) in Syria and IraqMattis requested a review of the FML status in Syria and Iraq, but no changes have yet been made. The review reportedly included an audit of how the military determines force levels, what department will release information to the public, and how that information will be released.PolicyOperationUS ActionBuzzFeed; TSI
24.04.2017US sanctioned 271 members of Assad’s Scientific Studies and Research CenterUS Treasury Department sanctioned 271 members of Assad's Scientific Studies and Research Center, which is responsible for Syria's biological and chemical weapons programs. The sanctions are in response to the Syrian government's 04 April sarin attack on Khan Sheikhoun.PolicySanctionsAssad CoalitionUS Treasury Dept.; TSI
24.05.2017CENTCOM Commander commented on US/Russia deconfliction efforts and civilian casualties in SyriaDuring a press briefing, Lieutenant General Jeffrey Harrigan said deconfliction efforts with Russia had increased due to the tighter airspace as multiple forces fight around Raqqa, but noted that "we do not have specific zones that we are de-conflicting with them," and the US would operate wherever necessary. He also refuted recent analysis by Airwars and other monitoring groups suggesting that the number of civilian casualties had significantly increased under the Trump administration, stressing that "the rules of engagement have not changed." However, Harrigan did indicate that there had been changes to authority levels to "be more responsive to support our forces on the ground."PolicyCommentRussia CooperationUS Dept. of Defense; TSI
22.03.2017Secretary of State Rex Tillerson spoke about Syria at an anti-ISIS coalition Global summitAt the Ministerial Plenary for the Global Coalition Working to Defeat ISIS, Tillerson said that "While a more defined course of action in Syria is still coming together" the US will "establish interim zones of stability through ceasefires to allow refugees to go home." He also praised Turkey's Operation Euphrates Shield for pusing ISIS off of the Turkey-Syria border.PolicyCommentUS State Dept.; TSINotably, the interim zones of stability through local ceasefires described by Tillerson is essentially the strategy that Russia has been pushing. This strategy has thus far proven ineffective to support the return of displaced Syrians and difficult to enforce.
22.03.2017US-led Coalition partner Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) launched offensive to capture Tabqa DamThe US-led Coalition supported the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in the launch of the offensive to capture Tabqah Dam from ISIS by providing air support, artillery, and military advice to SDF leadership. The Coalition also airlifted SDF forces to the Tabqah area.MilitaryOperationPartner ActionUS CENTCOM; TSI
21.04.2017The US co-hosted a UN Security Council Arria-formula meeting on the Syria Commission of Inquiry (COI)The US co-hosted the Arria-formula along with the UK and France to focus on the reporting of the Syria COI. In a statement, the US said it was willing to work with Russia to bring an end to the Syrian conflict, but that it was crucial for Moscow to exercise its influence over Bashar al-Assad to bring an end to his government's attacks on the people of Syria.PolicyUNWhats In Blue; USUN; TSI
22.03.2017H.R.1677 - Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act of 2017 introduced into US House of RepresentativesThe bi-partisan Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act seeks to impose a large-scale sanctions program on the supporters of the Assad government, and aims to "halt the wholesale slaughter of the Syrian people, encourage a negotiated political settlement, and hold Syrian human rights abusers accountable for their crimes."PolicyLegislationAssad CoalitionUS Congress
20.06.2017US aircraft shot down pro-government drone in southern SyriaA US aircraft shot down a pro-government Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) threatening US-led Coalition forces near the al-Zakf outpost to the northeast of al-Tanf in the desert Badiya region of Syria. As per a CJTF-OIR statement, the Iranian-made Shaheed-129 drone was advancing toward US-led Coalition positions, displaying "hostile intent." The drone was intercepted by a US F-16E fighter, and was shot down after it failed to deviate from its course. This is the third US engagement with pro-government forces in less than a month.MilitaryDirect ActionAssad CoalitionCJTF-OIR; TSI
20.04.2017President Trump delegated authority to determine Force Management Levels (FML) in Syria and Iraq to Secretary of Defense Jim MattisThe decision gives the Pentagon and military commanders a freer hand in determining the number of forces deployed in the fight against ISIS in Syria and Iraq. Speaking on the delegation of authority, Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White stated, "Restoring [Force Management Level] FML decisions to the Secretary of Defense enables military commanders to be more agile, adaptive and efficient in supporting our partners, and enables decisions that benefit unit readiness, cohesion and lethality.”PolicyOperationUS ActionBuzzFeed; TSIThis decision is part of a shift in the Trump administration to allow military commanders greater autonomy in the field. This trend may be responsible for the increased number of civilian casualties reported in Syria.
21.03.2017Disputed US airstrike on a school in Mansoura, Raqqa, reportedly killed civiliansLocal sources claim that a US-led Coalition airstrike hit a school in Mansoura, Raqqa, where IDPs were taking shelter, killing more than 30 civilians. In its monthly Civilian Casualty report, the US said there was "insufficient evidence to find that civilians were harmed in this strike."MilitaryDirect ActionISISNY Times; US CENTCOM; TSIApparent increase in reports of high-civilian casualty strikes by US-led Coalition in Syria, indicative of potential shifts in rules of engagement. Although the military has denied changes in the rules of engagement, this comes amid the context of reports that the Trump administration is trying to roll back Obama administration measures designed to minimize civilian casualties.
19.07.2017Reports emerged that President Donald Trump decided to end covert CIA Syria rebel train and equip programThe Washington Post reported that President Trump decided to end the CIA's covert train and equip program, in an effort to increase cooperation with Russia. Officials spoke anonymously and the US government has not commented officially, though Trump later tweeted what could be a confirmation of both the program's existence and his decision to end it. US Special Operations Commander Tony Thomas similarly made comments that appeared to confirm the end of the covert program before trying to walk them back, as the program has never been officially discussed in public by the CIA.PolicyOperationPartner SupportWashington Post; @realDonaldTrump; Politico; TSIIn addition to fulfilling Russian strategic objectives, the move will also be welcomed by Assad, ISIS, and Iran, all of whom saw the moderate opposition forces as their primary enemy. Ending the program has the potential to strengthen extremist forces by pushing moderate Vetted Syrian Opposition (VSO) fighters into their ranks, both out of disillusionment and the lack of other options. One key question moving forward is how the move might impact other train-and-equip supporters - notably Saudi Arabia. They could step in to fill the gap left by the US, even sending heavier anti-aircraft weapons to VSO fighters that were previously vetoed by the US. They could also abandon the VSO groups, and redirect that support towards other fighters they also fund.
12.06.2017Secretary of Defense James Mattis comments on al-Qaeda in SyriaIn an Armed Services Committee hearing reviewing the Fiscal Year 2018 National Defense Budget Request, US Secretary of Defense James Mattis stated the US does not currently “have the reach” to address the presence of al-Qaeda in Syria. Instead, US focus will remain on defeating ISIS in the east of the country.PolicyCommentAl QaedaHouse Committee on Armed Services; BIVN
19.05.2017Top US military officials held a press briefing on the anti-ISIS campaignUS Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis said US focus in Syria is stabilization, not nation-building. Mattis mentioned a shift in US tactics in fighting ISIS: encompass ISIS forces, then attack to ensure its annihilation. He also noted that Trump had delegated military authority in order to rapidly respond to enemy vulnerabilities. In response to a reporter's question, he said that the focus on destroying ISIS remains the same under the Trump administration but "no longer will we have slowed decision cycles because Washington D.C. has to authorize tactical movements on the ground," referring to new delegations of authority. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Joseph Dunford said US strikes against pro-government forces are a "force protection" measure, not a sign of increasing aggression. He also mentioned that the US was working on a proposal with the Russians but could not give details. Dunford also said that the US had been stockpiling equipment which it had been able to quickly field to the SDF, but later walked back the statement, telling a reporter he "misspoke" and that the US had not yet begun providing the SDF with arm. He went on to say that they were taking efforts to mitigate Turkish concerns about arming the SDF. Additionally, Dunford described the importance of ongoing deconfliction communications with Russia, describing both sides as "enthusiastic" about it and calling the operational link on the ground as "robust." Special Envoy Brett McGurk said "we will never work with the Assad regime."PolicyCommentUS Dept. of Defense; TSIThe briefing included insight on several related topics. Notably that the US operations in Syria had indeed seen a shift under the Trump administration towards devolving combat decision-making closer to the ground level. This new level of permissions is likely responsible for the increased pace of anti-ISIS combat operations and of increased civilian casualties. Another takeaway is the emphasis on deconfliction coordination with Russia, which based on the descriptions, appears to have expanded from prior months.
18.07.2017US-led Coalition airstrike killed ISIS member who handled terror attack funds in MayadinA US-led Coalition airstrike killed Bassam al-Jayfus in Mayadin, Deir Ezzor. According to the statement al-Jayfus who handled funds for terror attacks around the world.MilitaryDirect ActionISISCJTF-OIR
18.06.2017US aircraft shot down manned Syrian government jet south of TabqaFor the second time, the US took military action against Syrian government-affiliated forces in order to protect US-led Coalition partners. Pro-government forces attacked US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) near Tabqa, forcing them to withdraw from the town of Ja'Din. The US-led Coalition contacted Russia via the established de-confliction line in an attempt to de-escalate the situation. Shortly thereafter, a Syrian Government SU-22 jet dropped munitions near SDF positions, and was immediately shot down by a US F/A 18E Super Hornet fighter. The US described the shoot down as being "in accordance with rules of engagement and in collective self-defense of Coalition partnered forces." The next day, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford said that he was confident that the communications link between US and Russian forces would remain open, despite a Russian threat to close the de-confliction channel.MilitaryDirect ActionAssad CoalitionCJTF-OIR; National Press Club; TSI
18.05.2017US-led Coalition struck pro-Assad militia convoy in southern SyriaFor the first time since it began operations in Syria, the US-led Coalition deliberately struck pro-government forces in Syria. A 27 vehicle pro-government convoy advanced into the de-confliction zone surrounding the Coalition base at al-Tanf, reportedly reaching within 17 miles of the US-led Coalition base. After multiple efforts to dissuade the convoy from advancing further (including warning shots and the use of the US/Russia de-confliction line), Coalition forces conducted an airstrike on the foremost section of the convoy.MilitaryDirect ActionAssad CoalitionCJTF-OIR; TSI
18.04.2017Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis said US & Russia still deconflicting in SyriaMattis said the US is deconflicting with Russia in Syria, but not coordinating with them. "We are not coordinating our attacks with them and integrating with them."PolicyCommentRussia CooperationUS Dept. of Defense
17.05.2017US-led Coalition begins training first batch of post-ISIS Raqqa Internal Security Forces (RISF)According to ARA News, a US-led Coalition spokesperson confirmed that the Coalition had begun training the first batch of 50 Raqqa Internal Security Forces (RISF) in Ain Eissa. The RISF is reportedly composed of vetted local members of the Syrian Arab Coalition, a component of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), and will serve as a police force to provide security and prevent ISIS attacks in Raqqa province after ISIS is defeated.MilitaryOperationPartner SupportARA News; US Dept. of DefenseWhile messaging from the Coalition stresses the Arab and multiethnic nature of the RISF, there are concerns that this is window-dressing for a Kurdish governance power grab in an area where Kurds are not the majority.
17.05.2017House of Representatives passed the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act (H.R.1677)The bi-partisan Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act seeks to impose a large-scale sanctions program on the supporters of the Assad government, and aims to "halt the wholesale slaughter of the Syrian people, encourage a negotiated political settlement, and hold Syrian human rights abusers accountable for their crimes."PolicyLegislationAssad CoalitionForeign Affairs; US Congress; TSI
18.02.2017President Donald Trump comment on Syria safe zonesAt a campaign rally, President Trump reiterated his desire to build safe zones in Syria, posing it as an alternative to taking in refugees. He said that they would have the gulf states pay for the safe zones.PolicyCommentSafe ZonesVox
16.06.2017US-led Coalition airstrike killed ISIS financial facilitator in al-BukamalA US-led Coalition airstrike killed Fawaz Muhammad Jubayr al-Rawi, a Syrian native and an experienced terrorist financial facilitator, in Al-Bukamal. Al-Rawi owned the Hanifa Currency Exchange in Abu-Kamal, which he used along with a network of global financial contacts to move money into and out of ISIS-controlled territory and across borders on behalf of the group.MilitaryDirect ActionISISCJTF-OIR
16.05.2017Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and his Turkish counterpart discussed the Kurds and Syria in a meeting at the White HouseA readout from the meeting between Secretary Mattis and Turkish Defense Minister Fikri Işık said that the two agreed on the need to combat the PKK and discussed the importance of continued cooperation in Syria. The meeting is in preparation for the next day when President Trump and President Erdogan will meet.PolicyMeetingPartner SupportUS Dept. of DefenseThis meeting comes within a week of reports that the US has agreed to directly arm the Kurdish YPG in Syria, which has ties to the PKK. The move has strained US-Turkey relations.
16.05.2017US sanctioned 10 individuals and entities related to the Syrian governmentUS Treasury Department sanctioned five entities and five individuals for the Syrian government's continued violence against Syrian citizens.PolicySanctionsAssad CoalitionUS Treasury
16.05.2017Turkish President Erdogan and President Trump discussed US relations with the Kurdish YPG during a White House meetingAt the top of the agenda for the meeting was US military support for the Kurdish YPG militia. Erdogan was expected to push for an end to this support, however, media reports indicate that Erdogan was ultimately unsuccessful in his attempt to dissuade futher military cooperation between the two actors. Trump commented that he was looking forward to working with Erdogan on combating shared threats; Erdogan stated there was no room for terrorist organizations in the region, and that Turkey would never accept the presence of the YPG and the PYD in the area.PolicyMeetingPartner SupportWhite House; The Guardian; TSI
16.04.2017US-led Coalition airstrike killed ISIS senior media director in MayadinThe US-led Coalition killed Abu Ali al-Janubi, ISIS's senior media director, in an airstrike in Mayadin, Deir Ezzor.MilitaryDirect ActionISISCJTF-OIR
16.03.2017Disputed US airstrike targeting al-Qaeda in al-Jinah, Idlib, reportedly killed civiliansUS CENTCOM released a statement stating US forces conducted an airstrike against an al-Qaeda meeting place in Idlib, killing several terrorists. Investigations conducted by Human Rights Watch, Bellingcat, and Forensic Architecture suggest that the strike hit a mosque in al-Jinah village during Friday prayer, killing at least 42 civilians and injuring dozens of others.MilitaryDirect ActionAl QaedaUS CENTCOM; bellingcat; HRW; Forensic Architechture; Airwars; TSIApparent increase in reports of high-civilian casualty strikes by US-led Coalition in Syria, indicative of potential shifts in rules of engagement. Although the military has denied changes in the rules of engagement, this comes amid the context of reports that the Trump adminstration is trying to roll back Obama administration measures designed to minimize civilian casualties.
15.05.2017The State Department released a newly declassified report on a crematorium constructed by the Syrian government to dispose of torture victims at Saydnaya PrisonThe State Department released newly declassified satellite imagery of Saydnaya prison showing what is believed to be a newly constructed crematorium. The State Department said it has credible intelligence that suggests the crematorium is used to dispose of the bodies of prisoners held and tortured at Saydnaya, covering up mass murder.PolicyCommentAssad CoalitionUS State Dept.; Defense Video Hub; TSI
13.07.2017US Envoy to the anti-ISIS Coalition Brett McGurk commented on US cooperation with Russia in Syria and the recent ceasefire in the southwestDuring a press briefing, McGurk made several comments about the US actions in Syria. He stated the US was working very hard with Russia on deconfliction efforts in Syria and said the US was "actually fairly encouraged" by the progress. He described the US as being in phase one of its approach in Syria: defeat ISIS. Phase two will involve de-escalating the civil war through ceasefires and de-escalation agreements in order to find a credible political solution. McGurk also commented on the recently-negotiated southern Syria ceasefire announced by Russia, the US and Jordan, saying it was different than past attempts because it had a "very detailed negotiated line," and the Russians were willing to put some personnel on the ground to enforce the ceasefire and prevent Syrian government violations.PolicyCommentRussia CooperationUS State Dept.; TSINotable in that the strategy that McGurk is describing is one that Russia has been pushing unsuccessfully for years. The comments suggest that the US is willing to concede to Russian leadership in Syria.
14.06.2017US relocated long-range missile system (HIMARS) to southern SyriaAccording to unnamed intelligence sources, the US redeployed its High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) from Jordan to its al-Tanf base in southern Syria. Although the HIMARS platform has been used to strike ISIS targets in Syria before from both the Jordanian and Turkish borders, this is the first time is has been stationed within the country.MilitaryOperationUS ActionReuters; TSIThe deployment of the HIMARS weapons platform to Syria comes at a time of increased tensions after the US attacked pro-government Assad Coalition forces perceived to be threatening US-led coalition partners in southern Syria on multiple occasions. The movement of HIMARS into Syria sends a clear deterrence message to both Russia, Assad, and to Iranian-backed militia groups in the area.
12.04.2017The US co-sponsored a UN Security Council resolution condemning the Khan Sheikhoun chemical weapons attack. Russia vetoed the resolutionRussia vetoed a UN Security Council resolution proposed by the US, UK, and France, which condemned the sarin gas attack in Idlib and pushed the Syrian government to cooperate with an OPCW investigation of the attack. US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley used the occasion to publicly pressure Russia to do more to stop Assad, telling the Council that: "Russia now has a lot to prove."PolicyUNUNSC; UNSC; Whats In Blue; Whats In Blue; UNSC; USUN; TSIThis marked the eighth time Russia vetoed a resolution on Syria in the Security Council.
12.04.2017Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in MoscowDuring the press conference afterwards, Lavrov said the discussion focused heavily on Syria, specifically the chemical weapons attack on Khan Sheikhoun and the US missile strike on the Shayrat airbase. Notably, during the meeting Putin and Lavrov decided to reinstate the US/Russia de-confliction line, previously suspended by Russia in response to the strike on Shayrat. Lavrov also said that both sides have appointed a special representative to talk through US-Russia issues, Tillerson called it a "working group." According to Tillerson, he "expressed the view that the current state of U.S.-Russia relations is at a low point and there is a low level of trust between our two countries." He said that Russia and the US agreed there needs to be high-level diplomatic and military communication between the two countries.Tillerson said the final outcome in Syria "does not provide a role for Assad" but left open when or how that would happen, saying it did not have to come before a political solution. The leaders still seemed to diverge on one key issue: culpability for the 04 April Khan Sheikhoun sarin attack, with Tillerson reconfirming that it was definitely the Assad regime while Lavrov denying this and calling for a "unbiased" independent investigation.PolicyMeetingRussia CooperationUS State Dept.; TSIOverall these statements demonstrate the increasingly clear shifts in US rhetoric and policty on Syria towards the positions pushed by Russia. This type of shift was resisted during the Obama administration due to a residual acknowledgment that Russia was supporting Assad's goals in Syria before any sort of counter-terrorism strategy. Also, note that it is not clear that the US-Russia de-confliction line was ever completely closed after the Khan Sheikhoun attack and US response, despite Russia's statements.
11.05.2017US-led Coalition airstrike killed an ISIS external operations planner near MayadinA US-led Coalition airstrike killed Abu Asim al-Jazaeri, a French-Algerian ISIS fighter and external operations planner, near Mayadin, Deir Ezzor. Al-Jazaeri was involved in training ISIS youths through the 'Cubs of the Caliphate' program.MilitaryDirect ActionISISUS CENTCOM
11.04.2017US-led Coalition forces killed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters in friendly-fire incidentA misdirected US-led Coalition airstrike resulted in the deaths of 18 SDF fighters near Tabqa. According to a CJTF-OIR statement, the strike had been called in by Coalition partner forces, who believed the location to be a ISIS fighting position, when it was actually a SDF position.MilitaryDirect ActionPartnerUS CENTCOM
10.05.2017Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov at the White HouseAccording to official State Dept. readout Tillerson and Lavrov discussed "the importance of defeating ISIS, de-escalating the violence in Syria, and ensuring that humanitarian assistance reaches hundreds of thousands of civilians throughout the country. Additionally, the Secretary and Foreign Minister restated support for the UN-led political process in Geneva, which is central to international efforts to bring about an enduring resolution to the conflict." Sputnik - a Russian state propaganda outlet - suggested that one of Moscow's main priorities was trying to get the US to join Russia in a "united anti-terrorist coalition against Daesh"PolicyMeetingRussia CooperationUS State Dept.; Sputnik News; TSI
09.03.2017US deployed 400 troops to northern SyriaAccording to Col. John L. Dorrian, spokesman for the US-led anti-ISIS Coalition, the said the US would temporarily provide an additional 400 US forces "to enable our Syrian partnered forces to defeat ISIS in Raqqa." The reinforcements consist of a team of Army Rangers and a Marine artillery, doubling the approximately 500 US personnel already on the ground.MilitaryOperationUS ActionNY Times; TSI
10.05.2017US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) captured TabqaThe SDF captured ISIS-held Tabqa city, Tabqa airfield, and Tabqa Dam, ending an offensive that was launched on 22 March. According to the US military statement, approximately 70 remaining ISIS fighters accepted the final terms of the surrender, which included surrendering arms and evacuating the area.MilitaryOperationPartner ActionUS CENTOM; TSIThe capture of Tabqah further isolates ISIS in the Raqqa governorate, and is a key stepping stone for the US-led SDF to launch an assault on the de facto ISIS capital of Raqqa city, to the east of Tabqa.
10.05.2017President Trump met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak at the White HouseAccording to the official White House readout about the private meeting: "President Trump emphasized the need to work together to end the conflict in Syria, in particular, underscoring the need for Russia to rein in the Assad regime, Iran, and Iranian proxies." Later investigative reporting found that during the meeting, President Trump revealed highly classified intelligence regarding a specific ISIS threat provided by a close ally - believed to be Israel - including naming Raqqa as the city from which the intel originated.PolicyMeetingRussia CooperationWhite House; Washington Post; NY Times; TSI
08.06.2017US-led Coalition airstrike targeted pro-Assad militia convoy in southern SyriaUS aircraft struck and destroyed two pro-Assad militia "armed technical vehicles" that were advancing toward the US-led Coalition base at al-Tanf in southern Syria.MilitaryDirect ActionAssad CoalitionUS CENTCOM; TSI
08.06.2017US aircraft shot down a pro-government UAV in southern SyriaA US aircraft shot down a pro-government Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) after it launched an attack on US-led Coalition personnel near al-Tanf in southern Syria. The munition fired by the UAV failed to detonate on impact, and the drone, roughly the size of a US MQ-1 Predator, was subsequently shot down. This shoot down follows and airstrike on a pro-Assad militia convoy earlier in the day.MilitaryDirect ActionAssad CoalitionCJTF-OIR; TSIPro-government forces, along with armed opposition groups, have previously employed the use of small, recreational sized drones for surveillance purposes. The drone shot down near the US-led coalition outpost at Zaqaf, however, was significantly larger (as stated in the CJTFOIR report, roughly the size of a MQ-1 Predator drone), and had weapons capabilities. Unidentified at the time, it was later determined to be a Iranian Shaheed-129.
08.05.2017President Trump authorized US Department of Defense to arm Kurdish forces against ISISTrump approved a Defense Department initiative to directly arm Kurdish forces for the pending offensive on the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa. In a statement, DoD Spokesperson said the US was aware of Turkey's concerns and committed to its security. A week after the approval, media reporting confirmed that the arms shipments would include anti-tank weapons.PolicyOperationPartner SupportTSI; White House; US Dept. of Defense; Zaman al-WslDamaging to the strained relationship with NATO ally Turkey, which is highly critical of the deepening US relationship with the Syrian Kurds, whom Turkey views as a security threat. The public reports of anti-tank weapons came out on 15 May, one day before President Erdogan was scheduled to meet with President Trump in DC.
07.07.2017US, Russia, and Jordan announced a ceasefire agreement in southwest SyriaAccording to Lavrov, the ceasefire goes into effect on 09 July at 12 pm Damascus time and will cover Daraa, Quneitra and Suweida governorates. He said that Russia and the US were committed to guaranteeing the ceasefire and were setting up a Monitoring Centre in Jordan. He also said that Russian military police would provide security around the zone in the beginning.PolicyAgreementSafe ZoneWhite House; Petra.gov.jo; Russian Min. of Foreign Affairs; TSIA former diplomat familiar with the backchannel talks between Russia, Jordan, and the US has stated that the Trump administration's priority on Syria “is to stop the killing. That's why they are willing to watch what Russia is doing. They are willing to give Russia a major role to play … to find a solution … in a way that Assad, in the endgame, should be out, and Iran should be out.”
07.07.2017President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on the sidelines of the G20 conference in MunichTrump and Putin met face-to-face for the first time in a closed meeting also attended by Tillerson and Lavrov but no other diplomatic or policy personnel. Much of the meeting was spent discussing Syria, and the US-Russia-Jordan de-escalation agreement for southwest Syria was announced shortly after the meeting adjourned. Tillerson told the press that the newly announced agreement shows the potential for increased cooperation between the US and Russia in Syria. He said that they had a "very lengthy discussion" on other areas the two countries can work together on in Syria including work on de-escalation in other areas, defeating ISIS, and ultimately a political process to stabilize the country once ISIS is defeated. Tillerson said they have a very clear picture of who will provide forces to secure the ceasefire in the SW but gave no specifics. He also reaffirmed US policy on the current Syrian president, saying: "our position continues to be that we see no long-term role for the Assad family or the Assad regime."PolicyMeetingRussia CooperationWhite House; TSI; Russian Min. of Foreign AffairsTillerson made several comments that suggest a US shift towards adopting Russian policies in Syria, saying of Russia: "by and large, our objectives are exactly the same" and "Maybe they've got the right approach and we've got the wrong approach." This is notable because the US government has long recognized that - based on its actions - Russia's primary objective in Syria is to prop up the Assad regime, not fight ISIS.
07.06.2017US-led Coalition airstrike killed ISIS financial facilitator near MayadinA US-led Coalition airstrike killed Samer Idris, key ISIS financial facilitator for external terror attacks and an international money launderer, near Mayadin, Deir Ezzor.MilitaryDirect ActionISISCJTF-OIR
07.04.2017Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley issued a statement on the US missile strikes on Shayrat airbase at the UNAmbassador Haley addressed the UN Security Council regarding the US strike on Assad's airbase. She said that the international community had failed to prevent the use of chemical weapons, compelling the US to take action. She said that Russia and Iran shared the blame for the 04 April Khan Sheikhoun chemical attacks and that the "United States will no longer wait for Assad to use chemical weapons without any consequences. Those days are over." Haley also said that preventing the spread and use of chemical weapons is a vital US security interest, and warned that the US was prepared to take similar steps should the Syrian regime use chemical weapons again.PolicyCommentUS ActionUSUN; TSI
07.04.2017US launched cruise missiles at Syrian government's Shayrat AirbaseUS warships in the Mediterranean launched 59 TLAM cruise missiles at the Syrian government's Shayrat airbase in Homs governorate, which US intelligence services believe to be the point of origin for the Syrian aircraft that carried out the chemical attack on Khan Sheikhoun three days earlier. The missiles targeted aircraft and infrastructure at the base, including aircraft shelters, petroleum and logistical storage, ammunition supply bunkers, air defense systems, and radars. According to the State Department, Russian forces were notified in advance of the strike, and precautions were taken to prevent casualties of Russian and Syrian personnel. It also said that the purpose of the attack was to deter the Syrian government from using chemical weapons again. In a statement, President Trump said "It is in this vital national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons."MilitaryDirect ActionAssad CoalitionUS CENTCOM; White House; TSIThis was the first time the US intentionally targeted Syrian military assets during its involvement in the Syrian conflict.
06.06.2017US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) launched Raqqa OffensiveThe US military announced that the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) were starting the offensive to capture the city of Raqqa in northern Syria from ISIS.MilitaryOperationPartner ActionUS CENTCOM; TSI
06.06.2017US-led Coalition airstrike targeted pro-Assad militia convoy in southern SyriaUS-led Coalition forces struck a convoy of pro-government forces advancing into the de-confliction zone surrounding the Coalition base at al-Tanf after giving the convoy multiple warnings to turn back. The convoy included a tank, artillery, anti-aircraft weapons, armed technical vehicles and more than 60 soldiers. The airstrike destroyed two artillery pieces, an anti-aircraft weapon, and damaged a tank.MilitaryDirect ActionAssad CoalitionCJTF-OIR; TSI
06.04.2017US-led Coalition airstrike killed an ISIS external terror attack facilitator near MayadinA US-led Coalition airstrike killed Abdurakhmon Uzbeki, a foreign fighter and external terror attack facilitator, in an airstrike near Mayadin, Deir Ezzor. He was a known associate of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and played a role in a deadly New Years Eve attack in Istanbul.MilitaryDirect ActionISISCJTF-OIR
05.07.2017Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made a statement about possible increases in US - Russia cooperation in SyriaIn a statement Tillerson said the US "is prepared to explore the possibility of establishing with Russia joint mechanisms for ensuring stability, including no-fly zones, on the ground ceasefire observers, and coordinated delivery of humanitarian assistance." The statement was made prior to traveling to the G20 summit in Munich, where Tillerson and President Trump planned to meet Russian leadership to discuss Syria. Tillerson's statement also stated that Russia has a responsibility to ensure that no faction illegitimately re-takes or occupies areas liberated from ISIS' or other terrorist groups' control, and to prevent any further use of chemical weapons of any kind by the Assad government.PolicyCommentRussia CooperationUS State Dept.; TSITillerson's comments are the latest in an apparent trajectory adjustment for US policy in Syria, which will allow Russia a far greater role in determining the outcome of the Syrian conflict.
05.04.2017Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley spoke about the Khan Sheikhoun chemical weapons attack at the Security CouncilSpeaking at an emergency UN Security Council meeting, Haley condemned the use of chemical weapons at Khan Sheikhoun and was highly critical of Russia, saying that the Assad regime has no incentive to stop chemical attacks while Russia continues to protect it from consequences. Haley also asserted that the Assad government was illegitimate, and stated that Assad, Russia, and Iran have no interest in peace in Syria and that both Russia and Iran shared the blame for the 04 April Khan Sheikhoun. She said that the international community had failed to prevent the use of chemical weapons, compelling the US to take action, telling the Council: "United States will no longer wait for Assad to use chemical weapons without any consequences. Those days are over." Haley also said that preventing the spread and use of chemical weapons is a vital US security interest, and warned that the US was prepared to take similar steps should the Syrian regime use chemical weapons again.PolicyCommentAssad CoalitionUSUN; TSIHer comments particularly on the role of Assad seem at odd with those made just days earlier, which indicated that the US does not see the removal of Assad as a priority. Her remarks are much more strongly worded than those of Sean Spicer or Rex Tillerson.
04.04.2017White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer commented on Khan Sheikhoun chemical weapons attackSpicer read a statement prepared by the President Trump's office regarding the Khan Sheikhoun attack, saying it was "reprehensible and cannot be ignored by the civilized world." The statement also made reference to the unenforced "red line" against chemical weapons use that was issued by President Obama. Spicer said that the President was discussing the matter with his national security team. In response to a question, Spicer said: "There is not a fundamental option of regime change as there has been in the past." He also referred reporters to the statements of UN Ambassador Haley and Secretary of State Tillerson.PolicyCommentAssad CoalitionWhite House; TSIThree days later, the US launched missiles at Assad's airbase.
04.05.2017State Department statement on Astana agreement and concerns of Iran as guarantorState Department spokeswoman Heather Nuart released a statement about the Astana de-escalation zones agreement created by Russia, Turkey, and Iran. The statement noted that the US supports any genuine efforts to de-escalate violence in Syria, but that it was not a party to the agreement. It expressed particular concerns about the role of Iran as a guarantor, saying: "Iran's activities in Syria have only contributed to the violence, not stopped it, and Iran's unquestioning support for the Assad regime has perpetuated the misery of ordinary Syrians."PolicyCommentUS State Dept.; TSI
05.04.2017President Donald Trump commented on chemical weapons attack in SyriaDuring a press conference, President Trump said that the images of victims of the chemical attack in Khan Sheikhoun had a big impact on him and his "attitude toward Syria and Assad has changed very much."PolicyCommentAssad CoalitionWhite House; TSI
04.02.2017US airstrike killed an al-Qaeda leader near IdlibA US airstrike in Idlib killed Abu Hani al-Masri, a senior Al-Qaeda figure with ties to Awman al-Zawahiri and Osama bin Laden. The Pentagon announced the death four days later.MilitaryDirect ActionAl QaedaUS CENTCOM; TSI
28.06.2017Secretary of State Rex Tillerson commented on the future of AssadTillerson reportedly told UN Secretary General Guterres that "What happens to Assad is Russia’s issue, not the US government’s,” during a private meeting.PolicyCommentAssad CoalitionForeign Policy; TSI
04.04.2017Secretary of State Rex Tillerson issued a statement on the Khan Sheikhoun chemical weapons attackSecretary Tillerson issued a brief statement condemning the 04 April Khan Sheikhoun chemical attack, laying the blame on Assad. He called upon Russia and Iran "yet again," to exercise influence over the Assad regime and said that they share moral responsibility for the deaths of those killed in the attack.PolicyCommentAssad CoalitionUS State Dept.; TSIHis comments are notably weaker than UN Ambassador Haley's, particularly those directed at Russia.
03.07.2017US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) entered Raqqa's Old CityBacked by US-led Coalition airstrikes, the SDF breached the Rafiqa wall that surrounds the Old City of Raqqa and entered the area, marking a milestone in the offensive to recapture the city from ISIS. Speaking on the latest development in the Raqqa offensive, Colonel Ryan Dillon stated "Coalition forces are making a great effort to protect civilians and preserve these sites for future generations."MilitaryOperationPartner ActionUS CENTCOM; TSI
01.06.2017CJTF-OIR Spokesman said US increased military footprint in southern SyriaIn response to a question during a media briefing, CJTF-OIR spokesman Colonel Ryan Dillon said that there are several hundred US and Coalition partner forces in southern Syrian, and that they had increased their combat power, presence, and footprint, in response to the threat from pro-government militias amassing outside of the 55 kilometer "deconfliction zone" around al-Tanf. the US increased its military footprint at the al-Tanf garrison in southern Syria in response to acts of aggression from pro-government militia in the area. Dillon stated there were several hundred of both coalition forces and their partners.MilitaryOperationUS ActionUS Dept. of Defense; TSI