SyriaSource|Amplifying Syrian voices

SyriaSource
sFacebook Twitter Instagram YouTube


In mid-September, Russia and Turkey signed an agreement regarding Idlib province in northern Syria. The agreement establishes a nine to twelve mile demilitarized zone (DMZ) between the Syrian regime and opposition forces along Idlib’s border. As part of the deal, Turkey pledged to find a solution to extremist groups in the province, withdraw heavy weapons from the region, and evacuate any presence of Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS)—an independent Salafi-jihadi group—fighters or moderate elements of the Syrian opposition by mid-October. Russia, in exchange, pledged not to launch any military operations in northern Syria. The deadline has since passed without any accountability for following up on its conditions, namely the removal of HTS, but there are few indications of a large scale offensive at the moment. However, the conditions of the agreement are likely to have far reaching consequences on extremist and opposition groups in the area, should it succeed.

Read More

On October 4, President Trump officially approved a refugee cap of 30,000—an all-time low. In August, despite previously increasing aid to Jordan, the US decided to end all UNRWA funding for Palestinian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and Palestine. This summer, the Supreme Court upheld Trump’s controversial travel ban that affects refugees and immigrants alike. Of the eight countries listed, five are in the Middle East/North Africa.

Read More

Prominent Assyrian Christian writer and dissident Souleman Yusph was in his home in northeastern Syria’s Qamishli last Sunday night when local security personnel reportedly burst in, arrested him, and carried off his laptop and cell phones with them.

By the following Thursday night, sixty-one year old Yusph—a vocal critic of the majority-Kurdish Self-Administration that controls the vast majority of Hasakah province, as well as parts of neighboring Raqqa and Deir e-Zor provinces—had been released, later seen reuniting at home with tearful family members in photos shared via social media.

Read More

The Syrian war continues to exacerbate long-simmering tensions between Israel and Hezbollah. The situation is further complicated by recurring Hezbollah and Iranian drone surveillance and targeted air strikes along the Israel-Syria border. Neither Israel nor Hezbollah is willing to enter into a protracted conflict; both sides realize that they’ve reached a point of “mutually assured heavy damage.” Furthermore, Hezbollah’s forces, based in Lebanon, are now overstretched across Syria. Tension between Israel and Hezbollah is unlikely to end, as engaging Israel militarily is a major part of Hezbollah’s doctrine. Its ideological conflict has merely shifted to Syria where—amidst the chaos of international and nonstate actors competing for territorial control—it is likely to continue for the foreseeable future.

Read More

In late 2015, Canada’s Liberal Party led by Justin Trudeau was elected, in part on a promise to resettle 25,000 Syrian refugees. The Liberal Party leveraged the ‘success’ into branding opportunities—championing ‘the Canadian modelat home and abroad. They delivered, but, in their haste, the limitations of Canada’s foreign missions were exposed as problematic with inefficient policies and practices. Without political pressure to learn from these mistakes, it is unclear if Canada’s policies for processing large numbers of refugees will improve.

Read More

As it draws closer to the eve of September 30when three years earlier Russian military intervention in Syria first beganit is telling that Russia’s influence in Syria continues to grow on the ground and internationally, particularly through various de-escalation zones, the Astana peace process, and more recently the de-militarized zone in Idlib province.

Read More

With reports that the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Council (SDC)—the political wing of the American-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF)—is meeting with Syrian president Bashar al-Assad for diplomatic talks, the possibility of greater Kurdish representation, or even autonomy, in Syria has found an unlikely boost. Chances that the Kurds will achieve these goals seem slim, but both sides have allegedly agreed on establishing committees to supervise the implementation of public projects and services in Kurdish areas. While this may be perceived as a step towards Kurdish autonomy, the US State Department has claimed to be committed to the territorial integrity of Syria.

Read More

Recent remarks by National Security Advisor John Bolton suggesting that the United States will maintain a presence—presumably military—in Syria until the departure of Iranian-led forces from that ruined country have inspired a flurry of media commentary, questioning, and speculation. Only a few months ago US President Trump was calling for a near-term American evacuation of Syria. And Secretary of Defense Mattis has stressed time and again that his military mission—the one for which he has the appropriate authorities—is to defeat ISIS (ISIL, Daesh, Islamic State). Has Bolton “hijacked” the Syria policy? Is Mattis along for a ride with someone else at the wheel? The view here is that there is less to the story of a Bolton-Mattis disconnect than some in the media would pretend, but that there is an interesting story of presidential policy evolution regarding Syria to be pursued.

Read More

A Syrian regime offensive on Idlib province has been avoided for now, through a Russian-Turkish agreement. This is a much-needed reprieve for the beleaguered people of Idlib. Turkey, Russia, and the United States are likely relieved as well. There is speculation that a new US policy in Syria compelled Russia to make concessions and agree to a deal, but it is more likely a result of Russian-Turkish convergence on key issues. This alignment of interests bodes relatively well for the deal (given the dismal standards of deals in this war). Yet some of Turkey’s obligations are unrealistic and the regime remains undeterred long term, making this an inherently fragile arrangement.

Read More

Damascus’s escalations in the rebel-held Idlib province in northwestern Syria in August and early September preempted tensions between the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan. While Turkey stated clearly its opposition to any action that would send additional hundreds of thousands of refugees to its borders, Syrian allies Iran and Russia adamantly supported Damascus’s mission of ousting all remaining opposition enclaves inside Syria.

Read More