Rebels in Ghouta have already lost





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March 8 · Issue #80 · View online
MENA Roundup is a weekly publication containing insightful articles on politics in the Middle East, focussing on Syria and Iraq.

Key developments
  • Pro-regime forces, enabled by Russian bombing, have seized significant territory at the eastern frontlines of Ghouta. The distance between the Armored Vehicle Base and the eastern regime corridor is only about 1 km. 
  • It is likely that the regime will divide the area into two pieces. Dozens of pro-regime forces were killed but the situation for the rebels is hopeless. The Russian government offered them a safe exit if they surrender, but there is no information about a possible destination. The fact that the Russian defense ministry said that rebels could take small arms with them suggests an area outside regime control. But this remains speculative. 
  • Less speculative is Russia’s important role in negotiating a solution for Ghouta. Russia maintains contacts to Ghouta’s rebel groups and has already negotiated in the past. The so called ‘humanitarian corridors’ cannot be part of such a solution, however. People don’t use them because they fear crossfire and the regime’s revenge. Thus, the regime will exploit the unused corridors to justify its military campaign. 
  • In the Afrin region, Turkish forces and allies are advancing further. The YPG reacted and declared a pause of its operations against ISIS in eastern Syria. According to the YPG, the militia will send some 1700 fighters to Afrin. Note that those fighters have to cross regime territory to reach the region. So, we have the situation that US-trained and armed YPG militias fight Turkish forces and Turkish-backed rebels in Afrin. 
  • A Russian plane crashed close to the Russian Hmeimim military base southeast of Latakia city. All 39 people on board, including high ranking officers, died. There are reports that Jaysh al-Islam claimed the attack. However, Russia says the plane crashed due to technical issues.
  • Russia, Turkey and Iran will meet in Astana on March 16. Astana meetings use to settle military developments/spheres. Stay tuned, especially when you think of the dozens of pro-regime militias that have been killed by Turkish airstrikes in Afrin.
Articles worth reading
Russia's Favorite Syrian Warlord
Dangerous Liaisons
What Kind of Victory for Russia in Syria?
From Hasakah to Manbij: How I got shot at by rebel snipers in Syria
Israel’s Deepening Involvement with Syria’s Rebels
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