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Idlib: The Pot is Boiling

MENAroundupMENA Roundup is a weekly publication containing insightful articles on politics in the Mid
January 25 · Issue #24 · View online

MENA Roundup is a weekly publication containing insightful articles on politics in the Middle East, focussing on Syria and Iraq.

Key developments
  • The ceasefire in Wadi Barada that was brokered by German diplomats apparently collapsed. Bashar al-Jaafari, head of the Assad regime’s delegation in Astana, said that the assault would continue. 
  • Talking about Astana: One of the rebel faction’s core demands is the withdrawal of foreign militias, especially of the Lebanese Hezbollah. However, the latter is a key force in the assault on Wadi Barada – and it won’t retreat. For the moment, Russia with its airforce might appear as the most influential force. Yet, Teheran with its long-term strategy of deep influence will turn out as the dominant player. And it is not Iran’s intention to withdraw its most powerful proxy. 
  • Anyway, Russia, Turkey and Iran agreed to establish a “trilateral mechanism to observe and ensure full compliance with the ceasefire”. Despite the fact that the exclusion of Wadi Barada undermines the agreement significantly, it remains to be seen how such a mechanism is supposed to work. It was the absence of serious monitoring and possible sanctions that led to the quick collapse of former ceasefires. 
  • Fighting is going on in Aleppo and Idlib, the province with the highest concentration of armed rebels of all persuasions. On Monday, the jihadists of Jabhat Fatah al-Sham attacked positions of other factions and provoked vigorous reactions. If it is true that Syria’s Islamic Council labeled JFS “khawarij” (a term used for groups who commit takfir, particularly the so-called Islamic State) the stage is set for prolonged infighting. 
Articles worth reading
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Iran Recruits and Trains Large Numbers of Afghan and Pakistani Shiites
Interview with Stephen Kalin of Reuters On Mosul
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