The Jihadi scene is always good for infighting

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MENAroundupMENA Roundup is a weekly publication containing insightful articles on politics in the Mid
 
November 30 · Issue #66 · View online
MENAroundup
MENAroundup
MENA Roundup is a weekly publication containing insightful articles on politics in the Middle East, focussing on Syria and Iraq. lars@menaroundup.com

Notions
  • According to the US, more than 400 Marines + their heavy artillery are going to leave northern Syria soon. The announcement comes amid discussions of the US’s future in the region. While the Turkish government claims that Washington has recently promised to cut off arms supplies to the YPG, the coalition prefers to speak of “adjustments”. 
  • There is little doubt that the US would drop the YPG/SDF if it considers that step to be useful. But for now, northern Syria in the YPG’s hand remains Washington’s foot in the door. As long as the US maintains its bases in the area it effectively functions as a shield for the YPG even if weapon supplies decrease.
  • There are reports about a deal between the SDF and ISIS concerning the situation in Deir ez-Zor until the end of 2017. Apparently, the deal allows the free movement of local and foreign fighters in a defined area, access to oil fields and attacks against rebels and regime forces. 
  • The eighth round of (indirect) talks has started in Geneva. On the opposition’s side, talks are led by the new High Negotiation Committee’s head Nasr Hariri. Despite the fact that the HNC now includes groups that are favored by Moscow, prospects for the discussions remain bleak: The HNC insists on Assad’s departure in the mid-term while Assad insists on the persistence of his position. 
  • Turkey has once again indicated that an offensive on Afrin is on the table. Such plans are usually put into practice in the aftermath of ‘international’ discussions in Astana, Sochi or Geneva. 
  • The Jihadi scene is always good for infighting. In Idlib province, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham has arrested influential individuals that are close to Al Qaeda. Now, Al Qaeda’s number one Aiman az-Zawahiri has released an audio statement in which he confirms that Julani is following his own project in Syria. Good or bad news for HTS? Maybe both, as the assessment below suggests. 
Articles worth reading
Zawahiri's statements reveal plenty about Syria's fractured jihadi scene
Has Trump Ditched the Kurdish Fighters Who Defeated ISIS? Maybe Not.
An Education in Fear
How the Syrian regime is dividing and ruling Aleppo: Syria From Within
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