• The Aftershocks of Reconciliation in Syria: Reflections on the Past Year

    Local reconciliation deals in Syria, which aimed to avert escalating violence, have proven to provide only short-term protections. The intense government offensive to retake Eastern Ghouta in early 2018 undoubtedly affected other communities’ decisions to surrender or negotiate through partial intermediaries in order to avoid all-out conflict later on. With no allies on the ground, the opposition was forced to negotiate with the regime through questionable local interlocutors or through the government’s stalwart ally, Russia. As the remaining opposition-held communities reflect on how settlements in Daraa and Northern Homs unfolded, they are provided with little reason to negotiate, making a bloody final stand more likely than ever before.

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  • The Potential Loss of Refugee Status for Palestinian-Syrians in Afrin

    A new documentation system in the Turkish-administrated region in northern Aleppo designed for security and administrative purposes seems to ignore the legal status of local residents; many of which are internally displaced peoples (IDP)s that are Syrian or Palestinian. The system raises concerns from displaced Palestinian refugees about their internationally recognized legal refugee status and their ability to preserve their Palestinian identity within the larger Syrian population.

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  • Consequences of the HTS Take-Over in Northwest Syria

    While the Trump administration’s flip-flops on Syria and the looming withdrawal of US personnel from the country's northeast have rightly drawn a great deal of public attention, important developments have simultaneously unfolded without much notice in the northwest. Specifically, while all eyes have been on the territories held by the Kurds and their allies to the east, the Salafist Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) militia has seized control of Idlib province and the adjacent opposition-held portions of western Aleppo and northern Hama, routing the Turkish-backed National Liberation Front (NLF). In short, the moderate opposition has collapsed on the ground inside Syria, except in areas directly controlled by Turkey. HTS and its affiliated "Salvation Government” are now in charge. Hard-line jihadists have won the northwest and the consequences could be dire.

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  • Why the Situation in Rukban is Deteriorating

    In the remote Rukban desert along the Syrian-Jordanian border, there is a makeshift settlement that houses approximately 50,000 Syrian refugees. The settlement is located inside a 20-square-mile deconfliction zone, north of the sand berm where the Jordanian, Syrian, and Iraqi borders meet; it is also south of the nearby US-led coalition base in al-Tanf. Starting in 2011, civilians in southern Syria fled the conflict to nearby Lebanon and Jordan. This was supposed to be a temporary refuge, as they expected the fighting to soon die down.

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  • President Carter's Plan for Syria is Unrealistic

    In an op-ed (“In Syria, An Ugly Peace is Better than More War”) published in The New York Timeson August 24, 2018, former President Jimmy Carter lays out a prescriptive course for Syria sure to be welcomed by an Assad regime preparing now to inflict state terror on civilians in Syria’s northwest. Mr. Carter rightly condemns the continuation of armed conflict and offers hope for Syrian healing and rebuilding. Yet he effectively entrusts the process itself to a criminal entity while asking Western governments to reengage it diplomatically, lift economic sanctions, and even undermine the American-led stabilization of post-ISIS (ISIL, Daesh, Islamic State) northeast Syria by encouraging Kurds to strike an autonomy deal with the regime—one the regime would never honor.

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  • Syria at Seven: Part One

    For the United States and its allies, the beginning of wisdom in Syria is to accept and act upon two points.

    First: so long as civilians are targeted effortlessly by a terrorist regime, nothing good can result; not for Syrians, not for their neighbors, not for the West.

    Second, the defeat of the Islamic State (ISIS, ISIL, Daesh) offers a one-time, perishable opportunity to produce a visible, functioning alternative to Bashar al-Assad: precisely the thing whose absence accounts for ongoing regime support by a significant minority of Syrians.

    Part one of “Syria at Seven” addresses the geopolitical importance of pushing back against the slaughter of civilians in Syria. Part two will examine making something of lasting value from the defeat of ISIS.

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  • The Conditions and Implications for the Afrin Attack

    The first substantial evidence of a US plan for stabilization in post-ISIS Syria was revealed this week—and it didn’t go well. On Sunday, spokesmen from the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and the US-led coalition to defeat the Islamic State (ISIS, ISIL, Daesh) announced intentions to build a “border security” force of around 30,000 troops; made up primarily of veteran SDF fighters. The plan illuminates Turkey’s summoning of the US charge d’affaires last week: Turkey is enraged by the proposal, and Erdogan vowed on Monday to “drown this army of terror before it is born.” SDF fighters, who would make up about half of the border...
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  • How Jabhat al-Nusra Hijacked the Syrian Revolution

    Battles between opposition groups in northern Syria have threatened the Syrian revolution and left Jabhat al-Nusra (now part of Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham) in control of Aleppo and Idlib; how did that happen?

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