SyriaSource|Amplifying Syrian voices

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In recent weeks, the so-called Islamic State (ISIS, ISIL, Daesh) has suffered a string of defeats in eastern Syria. It has lost swaths of territory in Deir Ezzor city to advancing pro-Syrian government forces and has been driven from villages and oil fields on the eastern banks of the Euphrates River by a US-backed paramilitary group.

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It is hard to have a conversation about Syria without speaking or hearing the words “how depressing.” This has, in fact, been true for years. The Obama administration observed, unopposed, a relentless, multi-year campaign of civilian mass homicide by a larcenous, incompetent, and brutal regime, one fully enabled and encouraged by Russia and Iran. The administration protected not one Syrian from a homicidal government, pretending that to try to do so could make things worse: a time-honored excuse for inaction in the face of mass murder. It stood aside and averted its gaze from the slaughter of innocents so that a nuclear agreement—supposedly the jewel in the crown of the administration’s foreign policy achievements—could be had with the Assad regime’s principal accomplice. Indeed, given the extent of humanitarian abomination and policy malfeasance, depression may be the luxury of those not directly affected by systematic state terror and its consequences, both human and policy.

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The fate of Idlib, the Syrian opposition’s last major stronghold, is coming to a head. Militarily, Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) is in control, but this military control is severely threatened. HTS could lose this control at any moment and is looking to find another way to continue to exert control over the affairs of the province. That is why HTS participated in the Syrian General Conference in Idlib in mid-September. The conference was called to establish a city administration to manage provincial affairs, but it would appear that HTS tried to influence its result so that the civil administration would be under HTS control, and through it, HTS could remain the dominant force in Idlib. Why is HTS involving itself in these kinds of calls for the civil administration of Idlib, especially when it already controls the city militarily?

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Once the Syrian regime realized the opposition had the ability to decide the war militarily, especially after the “Allahu Ghalibun” offensive launched by Jaish al-Islam which shook the foundations around Damascus, direct Russian intervention ultimately saved the Assad Regime from collapse.

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The US backed effort to territorially defeat the Islamic State (ISIS, ISIL, or Daesh) has grown more complicated in recent weeks, despite considerable progress to liberate Raqqa from ISIS. The Syrian regime’s capture of Deir Ezzor city in early September brought regime, Russian, and Iranian elements into proximity to the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a multi-ethnic umbrella group dominated by the Kurdish YPG. In response to the regime’s advance, the SDF announced the start of “Jazeera Storm,” an offensive to consolidate control over the country-side east of the Euphrates river. The SDF offensive began before the United States and Russia had agreed on a specific mechanism for military deconfliction, similar to arrangements reached to manage combat operations around Tanf in southern Syria and Tabqa, the SDF controlled town just south of the Euphrates.

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The bombing of a London District line at the Parsons Green station, falls within a long series of terror attacks claimed by the Islamic State (ISIS, ISIL, or Daesh) in the UK. The most recent spat of violence reflects a reversal of ISIS, from ambitioned state building, to a leaderless Jihad.

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"The Cubs of the Caliphate” is what the Islamic State (ISIS, ISIS, or Daesh) calls its child recruits and fighters under the age of  eighteen.  An estimated 2,000 conscripted minors have undergone “Sharia” and military training in ISIS camps, learning to use light and medium weaponry, shoot, dismantle and reassemble weapons, go on raids using live ammunition, and do other tasks for for the group such as logistics, spying, guard duties, manning checkpoints, and forced labour. The organization has raised them in its way of thinking, taught them to declare other Muslims infidels, and instilled them with all of its extremist beliefs. It has used them to spy and hunt down its enemies, as well as displaying them in its videos, to send a message to its enemies: this war will last generations.

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Since the beginning of the conflict in Syria, the primary ally of the US in Syria and the largest forces of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), recently entered into negotiations and coordination with the Assad regime to fight Syrian rebels and the Islamic State (ISIS, ISIL, Daesh). These negotiations led to several bilateral agreements, and the most recent handover of villages in the northern Aleppo countryside that the SDF seized from rebel forces.

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The Turkey, Iran, and Russia-led Astana talks concluded their sixth round in the Kazakh capital yesterday, with the announcement of an initial agreement about Idlib reached between the guarantors. After multiple rounds of UN-led peace talks over the course of the conflict failed to make progress, Astana has become the incubator for the current multilateral peace initiatives. While a process directed by the three main players at Astana is unlikely to form the basis for a political solution that assuages concerns of Western governments or international bodies, it does provide a roadmap toward a reduction in violence through the 'de-escalation' proposal, first posited at the fourth round of talks last May.

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From the perspective of September 2017, it seems that all the wrong people are celebrating the state of affairs in Syria: Bashar al-Assad, Vladimir Putin, and Ali Khamenei top the list. The first has inflicted mass homicide on defenseless civilians for years without shame or remorse. The second intervened decisively two years ago, to save a politically useful mass murderer from military defeat. The third complemented the second by introducing more than a hundred-thousand foreign fighters to prop up a client willing to subordinate Syria to Iran and Hezbollah. All three celebrate the fact that they now dominate militarily some 85 percent of Syria.

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