SyriaSource

  • Squaring the Circle in Eastern Syria

    Readers of SyriaSource are all too familiar with an argument advanced in these pages for well-over two years: ISIS (Daesh, ISIL, Islamic State) should be neutralized quickly in eastern Syria; an American-led, professional ground force coalition-of-the-willing should be assembled to preempt ISIS terror operations in Turkey and Western Europe and minimize Syrian civilian casualties in complex urban battle terrain; and that a post-combat stabilization plan should be drafted and implemented to keep ISIS dead, one drawing on pre-ISIS local councils and the anti-Assad Syrian opposition. The idea was to parlay the defeat of ISIS into a stable, protected eastern Syria where humanitarian aid could be expedited and reconstruction begun, and to exclude the cause of terrorism and state failure in Syria—the Assad regime—from the area.

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  • As Turkey Places New Restrictions on Aid Groups, Syrian Refugees Pay the Price

    Turkish authorities recently withdrew permits from several international humanitarian organizations working with Syrian refugees on its territory. Officials cited several reasons, some relating to security and others relating to new regulations for those organizations to continue working from Turkey.

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  • The Future of HTS with the Turkish Intervention

    The Turkish intervention in Idlib has done well so far, aided by soft coordination with Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) as Turkish battalions advance into the province and neighboring western Aleppo. It marks a defining phase of the various transitions of Jabhat al-Nusra; the former al-Qaeda affiliate that forms the backbone of the HTS coalition. The intervention will have a major impact on the future of the alliance. Its chief leader, Abu Mohammad al-Jolani, faces a far more daunting challenge than he did when he announced he was breaking ties with al-Qaeda and...
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  • Inside Rukban: One of Syria’s Most Dire IDP Camps

    The situation in the Rukban camp for internally displaced persons near the border with Jordan is rapidly deteriorating. International humanitarian groups are close to being overwhelmed, despite local NGOs and rebel groups trying to help out as well. Tens of thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs) stranded in an informal desert camp between Jordan and Syria have been cut off from aid for months. So far, there are no indications that assistance is on the way.

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  • Post-ISIS and Kirkuk: The Syrian Kurds and the United States

    Iraqi Kurds have lost control over the disputed city of Kirkuk after Iraqi central government forces and Iranian-backed militias retook the territory this October. This happened not only after the Iraqi Kurds’ controversial referendum for independence, but also after the two sides finished joint operations against the Islamic State (ISIS, ISIL, Daesh) in Mosul. The United States, the Kurds’ main backer, did not step in to support their allies, leaving the Kurds questioning Washington’s commitment.

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  • The Deadly Frontline of Deir Ezzor

    The race to Deir Ezzor in eastern Syria is accelerating. Syrian regime and allied forces, supported by Russia, are attempting to seize the strategically vital city by advancing from the north along the Euphrates valley. Meanwhile, the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) are advancing in an effort to take as much of the city as possible in operation code-named Jazeera Storm. The coming days therefore present the possibility of US and Russian-backed forces clashing in Deir Ezzor.

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  • Education in Syria Needs More Than Short-Term Solutions

    Syria’s situation—the massive amount of discussion, fragmented governance, and ongoing fighting—are not going to disappear anytime soon, and education models in Syria need to better adapt to it to address the growing learning gap. Although many organizations have programs to address education gaps for Syrian students, their approaches—focusing on access over quality, building traditionalschools, supporting underground schools—are not the only way to keep Syrian students learning. These approaches sweep the following under the rug: the reality of politicized curricula by state and non-state actors, dangers the journey to and presence in schools pose, as well as the psychological impact of learning under threat, specifically in areas out of government control vulnerable to shelling and airstrikes. While education overhaul in Syria goes hand in hand with a seemingly-distant political solution, new models can keep communities connected to learning while minimizing exposure to...
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  • It’s Complicated: The Fate of Idlib with HTS and Russia

    In late September, Russian jets bombed the city of Haram in Idlib province for the first time since the outbreak of the Syrian revolution in 2011. Not a single village or town in western Idlib was spared by Russian bombing this time. The air strikes hit  Haram, Idlib city, Jisr al-Shughur, Khan Sheikhun and towns in the Jabal Zawiyah region. Civil Defense members said most of the strikes targeted hospitals, schools, and any infrastructure left in the 5,000 sq. km rebel-controlled northern region. 

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  • Assad and Legitimacy

    During the Obama administration, one of the many public throw-away lines designed to paper-over an adamant refusal to protect civilians from a homicidal regime was that the President of Syria—Bashar al-Assad—“lacked all legitimacy.” Russia, on the other hand characterized Assad as the paragon of legitimacy: as the chief of a state represented in the United Nations; a state allegedly subjected to the regime-change machinations of that well-known militarist, Barack Obama. What is the truth? What are the practical implications of legitimacy—or the lack thereof—in Syria?

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  • Escalation Threatens South Damascus “De-Escalation” Deal

    The south Damascus suburbs are not Syria’s most pressing theatre of war. Syrian pro-government forces are busy routing out Islamic State (ISIS, ISIL, Daesh) jihadists in Deir Ezzor, and Islamist opposition from Eastern Ghouta in Damascus. Meanwhile, Russia and the international community are busy trying to monopolize Syria’s future.

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