Turkey has its belt - but what now?





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March 1 · Issue #79 · View online
MENA Roundup is a weekly publication containing insightful articles on politics in the Middle East, focussing on Syria and Iraq. lars@menaroundup.com

It is hard to follow the rapid developments in Syria and that’s why I can only highlight some aspects in these short roundups. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions or if you need information regarding specific issues.
  • The UN Security Council’s resolution demands a 30-day countrywide ceasefire. Emphasis on “demands”. As the resolution is non-binding, there wouldn’t be enforcement mechanisms anyway. Overall, the whole situation in Eastern Ghouta reminds of what happened in East Aleppo: 1. Heavy bombardment of civilian neighborhoods/infrastructure under the pretext that terrorist groups are excluded from any deal 2. Announcements of humanitarian corridors that lead into regime controlled areas 3. Conclusion, that the fact that almost no one uses such corridors means that terrorists are holding the people hostage (and definitely not that the people fear to fall in the hands of the guys who bombed and starved them for years!) 4. Justification of an all-out offensive.
  • The difference: When East Aleppo collapsed, tens of thousands of civilians and fighters were evacuated to the western Aleppo countryside and Idlib. Such forced displacements/rebel transfers are also thinkable in the case of Ghouta but appear to be less likely. 
  • Meanwhile in Idlib and western Aleppo, the war between the newly formed alliance Jabhat Tahrir Souriya (JTS) and the jihadists of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) continues. So far, HTS has lost significant territory in western Aleppo. HTS’s media accounts try to rally the many foreign fighters behind the group and prevent defections of both foreign and local fighters. Yet, a counterattack, apparently supported by the Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP)  is ongoing. Hard to say who will emerge victorious without intel regarding the backdoor-diplomacy that is undoubtedly ongoing and includes Turkey.
  •  Turkish backed rebels have sealed the entire border between the Afrin region and Turkey. That “security belt” connects the Euphrates-Shield areas with rebel controlled territory in western Aleppo and Idlib. 
  • Deir ez-Zor: Multiple reports not only say clashes between YPG forces and regime troops occurred east of the city but also that US  warplanes attacked those troops. Note that it is not so long ago that US firepower killed at least 100 (if not hundreds) pro-regime forces in the area, including Russian contractors. 
Articles worth reading
Understanding Eastern Ghouta in Syria Understanding Eastern Ghouta in Syria
Salih Muslim: Syria's Kurdish problems will be solved by Syrians, not Turkey Salih Muslim: Syria's Kurdish problems will be solved by Syrians, not Turkey
The Slow Decline of Syria's Southern Ceasefire The Slow Decline of Syria's Southern Ceasefire
In the EU, Syrian embassies have built a strong network to stifle opposition views In the EU, Syrian embassies have built a strong network to stifle opposition views
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