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Who's invited? And who's not?

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MENAroundupMENA Roundup is a weekly publication containing insightful articles on politics in the Mid
 
November 23 · Issue #65 · 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
  • The regime assault on Eastern Ghouta continues. Airstrikes and artillery fire, including cluster munitions and chlorine, have left hundreds of civilians dead or injured. A rebel offensive on a regime base in/near Harasta, a town on the western frontlines of the rebel-held area, has inflicted heavy casualties but the militants of the leading faction Ahrar al-Sham have been pushed back. 
  • SDF spokesman Talal Silo has left the SDF and fled to Turkey. Silo was the public face of the SDF and, as he is a Turkmen, important for the PYD’s/YPG’s efforts to portray the SDF as not exclusively dominated by their cadres. However, it is not clear why he left the SDF: Some reports suggest that he was at odds with the YPG’s leadership while others claim that Turkey put pressure on him by threatening his family. Either way, the grievances within the SDF are significant and the coalition anything but stable.
  • Talking about YPG dominance: A YPG parade in Hasakah with US made Humvees leaves slight doubts regarding the return of weaponry that the US promised.
  • In Sochi, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that concessions would be needed from all sides, including the the Assad government. However, talks about a new constitution and elections under UN supervision are misleading. There isn’t even consensus about the participants of Russia’s announced congress: Russia does not want to dupe the Kurdish PYD by not inviting them, but Moscow is well aware that Turkey won’t accept the PKK-offshot as a legitimized negotiation partner.
  • Also in Sochi, Rouhani pointed out that there would be no legal basis for the presence of American und Turkish forces on Syrian soil. The legal question is not that clear to answer, but the US government has already indicated that it intends to stay.
  • A new round of discussions in Geneva is scheduled for December, but resignations of opposition figures in the context of the Riyadh conference already show that a truly inclusive process remains illusory. Also, the Assad regime couldn’t stand such a process and clearly does not intend to initiate it. And why would it? 
Articles worth reading
Russia’s “Syrian People’s Congress” in Sochi: Goals and Realities
When the Islamic State Comes to Town
Iraq’s Fifth Column
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