Syria Daily: International Group to Resume Talks on May 17 — But Then?

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U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks during the seventh U.S.–E.U. Energy Security Council in Washington, U.S., May 4, 2016. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

PHOTO: US Secretary of State Kerry “Russia has an interest in not being bogged down forever”


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The International Syria Support Group, the 17 nations pursuing a “cessation of hostilities” and political talks, will reconvene on May 17 in Vienna.

US Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters in London that he expected discussions between the Assad regime and the opposition-rebel bloc to resume “some days after” the ISSG meeting.

“The ISSG will formally come together to build on what we did with the Russians in terms of this agreement and to talk about all kinds of things, ranging from duration, to enforcement to the political process,” Kerry said.

Working through the ISSG, the US and Russia led the declaration of a “cessation of hostilities” on February 27.

However, the truce only held in parts of Syria. It was never effectively implemented in the northwest, with the Assad regime continuing ground and air attacks and rebels launching a successful counter-offensive south of Aleppo city from the start of April. Russian and regime warplanes have subsequently killed hundreds of civilians in and near Aleppo, despite Damascus announcing a series of token “regimes of calm”.

Meanwhile, the political talks in Geneva made no progress since January and were suspended last month. President Assad effectively pre-empted the discussions by declaring that he will not accept a transitional governing authority, a central element of international plans since 2012. Iran has supported Assad’s position that he will not discuss his future, although his other major ally, Russia, has indicated that it might be willing to see his departure as part of a long-term transition.

The opposition-rebel bloc has also demanded an end to bombing, sieges, and political detentions.

However, Kerry maintained on Tuesday that the US Presidential election would spur progress between the two sides:

I think it’s actually an incentive to get things done now, while you have an administration that you know is working for a political solution and that you know would be prepared to bring parties together around a reconstruction process for Syria.

Asked by CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Tuesday how an agreement could be reached when Russia was “Assad’s partner”, Kerry replied:

Russia has an interest in not being bogged down forever in Syria. Russia has an interest in not becoming a target of the entire Sunni world and having every jihadi in the region coming after [it]….Russia’s economy is not exactly soaring. They’ve got other chalenges.


Russian Soldier Killed in Homs Province

Russian soldier Anton Yerygin has died from wounds suffered during operations in Homs Province.

Citing a military spokesman, the Russian State outlet TASS confirmed the death, saying it occurred when a Russian convoy of its “Center for Reconciliation” was shelled. Yerygin was severely injured and died soon after arrival in hospital.

Yerygin is the seventh Russian soldier whose death has been officially reported.


Last Obstretician in East Ghouta Killed Amid Rebel In-Fighting

The last obstetrician-gynecologist in East Ghouta near Damascus has died after he was struck by a stray bullet amid rebel in-fighting in Douma.

Dr. Nabeel al-Daas was struck in the head while he was sitting in his home.

The leading rebel group in East Ghouta, Jaish al-Islam, has been confronted by Failaq al-Rahman and Jaish al-Fustat, this spring. The groups reached a tentative ceasefire on Monday, soon after a Jaish al-Islam advance, including tanks, took control of the towns of Misraba and Mudira from Failaq al-Rahman.

A colleague said al-Daas’s death was “insurmountable”: “His kindness and selflessness in his work are what make him irreplaceable and what makes this such a great loss.”


Pro-Assad Newspaper Warns of “Bread Crisis”

The pro-regime Al-Watan has warned, amid economic difficulty and spiralling prices, of a bread shortage.

The newspaper, owned by Assad’s billionaire cousin Rami Makhlouf, published the headline on Tuesday night, “Bread…a crisis on the way! A decision to reduce the flour for auxiliary bakeries by 30%, and the ministry doesn’t know!”

The article claimed the Ministry of Internal Trade and Consumer Protection reduced flour allocation to bakeries by 30%, while ordering the facilities to cut their shifts and only open 16 hours a day.

Al-Watan calculated that the bakeries will be forced to lower production from 20,000 tons of bread monthly to 14,000 tons, or a 235-ton decrease per day.

The Director of Supply in Damascus on the matter, insisted that bakeries were working well and there were no cases of breadlines, even though the Al-Watan reporter wrote that crowds had been spotted the day before.


Syrian Pound Slides Farther as Cabinet Discusses Crisis

The Syrian pound has slid farther against the US dollar, a day after the Cabinet met to discuss the currency crisis.

The pound is now more than 640:1 vs. the dollar on unofficial markets, a 12% fall from last week and down from 500:1 only two months ago.

Before the uprising of March 2011, the pound was at 47:1.

State news agency SANA said the Cabinet’s weekly meeting on Tuesday “discussed the challenges facing the Syrian Pound and measures to stabilize it, as well as mechanisms to monitor prices in markets”.

Prime Minister Wael al-Halqi claimed that “there is no economic crisis in Syria but rather an organized economic war that aims at weakening the country”. He said the Government would counter this by cooperating with civil society, businessmen, and media outlets.

The Central Bank effectively abandoned Syria’s official rate on Tuesday, ordered currency exchanges to offer 620 Syrian pounds to the dollar. It said that it would re-evaluate the rate on a daily basis.

Last month the World Bank estimated Syria’s reserves at just $700 million, compared to about $19 billion in March 2011. Inflation is at 95%, and GDP is contracting about 15% each year.


Russia Fails to Get Leading Rebel Factions on UN “Terrorist” List

Russia has failed to get the addition of the leading rebel factions Ahrar al-Sham and Jaish al-Islam on a UN blacklist of terrorist organizations.

Diplomats said Britain, France, the US, and Ukraine blocked the Russian effort on Tuesday.

A spokesperson for the US delegation said:

“Russia publicly attempting to designate groups that are parties to the cessation of hostilities could have damaging consequences to the cessation just as we are trying to de-escalate the situation on the ground.

Now is not the time to shift course, but rather double-down on our efforts toward a reduction in violence.

Russia has tried since late 2015 to label the two rebel factions as “terrorist”, hoping to exclude them from political discussions on Syria’s future.

Ahrar al-Sham did not join an opposition-rebel bloc established at a conference in Riyadh in conference. However, Jaish al-Islam is part of the High Negotiations Committee, and its official Mohammad Alloush has been one of the lead negotiators in the Geneva talks.


Former Iran General: More Than 1,200 Iranian Troops Killed Since 2012

A retired Revolutionary Guards general has said that Iran has lost more than 1,200 troops in the Syrian conflict since 2012.

In comments to the Iranian Students News Agency, Abdullah al-Tabrizi also indicated that the Islamic Republic should pull back from its escalation in Syria and focus on the battle in Iraq against the Islamic State: “I did not fight Daesh in Syrian territory. We will have to fight on the borders of Kurdistan.”


US Failing to Meet Modest Target for Admission of Syrian Refugees

The US could fail to meet even its small target of the admission of 10,000 Syrian refugees in the 2015/16 fiscal year.

More than seven months since President Obama pledged to resettle the most vulnerable Syrians, the Administration has only admitted 1,736 of the goal of at least 10,000.

President Obama has said that he will raise the issue of refugee resettlement at this year’s UN General Assembly session.

But Eleanor Acer, the senior director for refugee protection at Human Rights First, noted, “The United States cannot lead by example unless the administration meets this year’s very modest goal and sets a more meaningful and ambitious goal for next year.”

Assistant Secretary of State Anne C. Richard insisted that the Administration remained committed to its promise to take in 10,000 Syrians by the end of September, without cutting back on “robust security screening”.


Video: Regime Airstrike Kills 10+ in Binnish in Idlib Province

Footage from the site of Tuesday’s regime airstrike on Binnish in Idlib Province, killing at least 10 people (Warning — Graphic Images):

A mosque was heavily damaged in the attack (see Tuesday’s Syria Daily).

The Jaish al-Fatah rebel bloc responded to the assault with shelling of the regime enclave of al-Fu’ah, north of Idlib city.

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23 COMMENTS

  1. Foreign Affairs Quarterly Hits It on the Nose: “Russia’s Perpetual Geopolitics: Putin Returns to the Historical Pattern”
    .
    For half a millennium, Russian foreign policy has been characterized by soaring ambitions that have exceeded the country’s capabilities. With an economy the size of Italy, tons or corruption and a horrific geographical position where its real threats lie to the south and southwest, Russia expects to be taken seriously as a superpower equal to the USA. What it needs to do is focus on economic development, not enemy making or a quest of ultra costly empires that would be seized by force and held by force. Anyone can see this so why can’t Putin?
    .
    https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/ukraine/2016-04-18/russias-perpetual-geopolitics

  2. The Battle To Succeed Khamenei Heats Up
    .
    https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/iran/2016-05-08/irans-supreme-politics
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    RedT observes: If Khamenei hangs on while things continue to go badly for Iran in Syria, Iranians could become as restive as Americans in the 1960’s with Khamenei playing the role of LBJ. That could influence the outcome of any choice by the Assembly of Experts.” The wrong choice at the wrong time could cause quick destabilization. Many Iranians are looking forward to Khamenei’s death and hoping for something better.

  3. How Al-Qa’ida is winning the war in Syria.
    .
    Ignoring the usual sensationalist headline, this article sheds detail on JaN’s usage of courts to mold Syrian society:
    .
    “Further, al-Nusra has increasingly prioritized tightening its control over institutions through which it indirectly influences and transforms Syrian society. These institutions range from shari’a courts and shura councils, to military alliances’ shari’a commissions. One of al-Nusra’s most salient tools is its shari’a courts. Unlike other armed groups, al-Nusra always ensures that its affiliated shari’a courts are professional and effective, endowing each with an executive security force to enforce its rulings. As a result, al-Nusra-affiliated courts have long compared favorably with those of its rivals, which are known to be ineffective, biased, and without the power to enforce their decisions. The declining Free Judicial Council is a case in point. In several areas in Idlib, interviews with residents and activists that I conducted indicated that people trusted and therefore preferred al-Nusra-affiliated shari’a courts. “If a court can’t enforce its ruling, no one would trust it or use it,” a lawyer from Idlib Province told me. He added that secular courts affiliated with FSA groups do exist, but due to their inability to implement their rulings, few local residents go to these courts.”
    .
    “Control of the judicial system gives al-Nusra powerful influence inside communities. First, it enables the group to rule and adjudicate based on its own interpretation of the law, which is Salafi and hardline. This in turn molds societal norms and pressures communities to conform to al-Nusra’s ultra-conservative tenets. Second, control of the judicial system in some cases may give the group possession of essential processes and documents such as marriage certificates, deeds, and bills of sale. In many cases, al-Nusra courts have been successful in seizing private and public property. Al-Nusra is slowly rendering a large portion of the population beholden to it for essentials such as proving lineage, land ownership, marriage, and other matters of personal law. As it embeds itself in the fabric of Syrian society, the group is able to influence the societal norms of the Syrian population.”

    • Shocking levels of incompetence, seriously strolling around in large numbers near building with high vantage points and not expecting to be struck at? I have a sneaking suspicion the casualty rate amongst the IRGC is way under-reported if the average IRGC fighter is behaving in a war zone in such a casual manner as above. Furthermore the IRGC weren’t this incompetent at the start of there intervention so this shows that the attrition rate is getting so high that all the competent IRGC troops are dying off and being replaced by raw recruits who aren’t equal to the quality of former IRGC troops they’re replacing.

      • K9, the iranian casualty rate amongst the IRGC & it`s mercenarios is growing since September 30th. Russians had started the airraids and IRGC has changed the military engagement being more offensive and more involved in the war. (South Aleppo)

        It is more likely that SAA & National Defence Forces are dying of being replaced by IRGC officials using ordinary troops from Iraq, Libanon and Afghanistan.

  4. Update:
    .
    #International: It seems the pressure is getting to some IRGC members “IRGCC Brigadier General Mhammad Nazir died of a heart attack “too much pressure’” – YallaSouriya
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    #National: “SyrianAirForce reduced by ~38% since July 2012 w/ at least 106 aircrafts & 85 helicopters crashed/shot down/grounded” – QalaatAlMudiq
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    I wonder if the Russians are propping up the Syrian airforce sufficiently with their freebie donations?
    .
    #Aleppo: “Regime forces fire artillery and rockets at #Khan_Touman.” –
    .
    One hopes that rebels will start using barbed wire around their trenches this. As I’ve mentioned before barbed was used in WWI to slow down enemy infantry long enough for the machine-gunners to pick them off.
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    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barbed_wire
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    Excerpt: “More significantly, barbed wire was used extensively by all participating combatants in World War I to prevent movement, with deadly consequences. Barbed wire entanglements were placed in front of trenches to prevent direct charges on men below, increasingly leading to greater use of more advanced weapons such as high powered machine guns and grenades. A feature of these entanglements was that the barbs were much closer together, often forming a continuous sequence.”
    .
    The closer rebels get to Assadist positions, or closer Assadists get to their positions, the more barbed wire rebels should use if they don’t want to give up too much territory too quickly. Barbed wire are quick and cheap to make and the rebel lives they would save would be worth the effort.
    .
    #Observation: 1) It seems that JaI aren’t the only ones having their social media accounts purged the Assadist &Iranian trolls have been extremly busying deleting the destruction of their troops “Sham Front (الجبهة الشامية) posted so many #ATGM hits yesterday smashing pro-Regime forces in #Aleppo that @youtube suspended its account…” – QalaatAlMudiq
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    And.
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    2) “Watch out! Iranian+regime trolls r out to destroy videos of their killing. ” – YallaSouriya

  5. ITEM #1:
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    In recent 24 hours at least 79 Assad-troops were killed all over Syria! Most of them around Tiyas-airbase and in Aleppo-province!–Tweet from “military expert.”
    .
    ITEM #2::
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    U.S. to switch on European missile shield despite Russian alarm
    http://reut.rs/1Oniv8v
    .
    It’s a reaction to empire questing and nuke rattling by Vladimir Putin. See the Russian invasion of Crimea and then the eastern Ukraine, the Russian Orthodox, the Russian attempt to take over the Artic, Russia feints threatening Sweden and Finland (both now thinking about NATO membership when they weren’t before, Russian military buildups, endless Russian flybys, etc. Putin gave NATO no choice.
    .
    Action is producing reaction and that reaction will be stronger when the US gets stronger leadership that Neville Chamberlain 2nd and Obama’s Rasputin, Ben Rhodes. Putin is counting of his worshiper Donald Trump and a foreign policy advisor who looks a like the KGP stooge who rose to a high position under Willy Brandt and who promoted Ostpolitik.
    .
    ITEM #3
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    #ISIS launched attacks on Al-Azzawi & Al-Mashouh villages in S. Shaddadi Hasakah, plus 4 suicide bombings, overall killing and wounding 30–Laith Alkhouri.
    .
    ITEM #4
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    Mosul: suspicion and hostility cloud fight to recapture Iraqi city from Isis. The stakes are high, but a power struggle between the Iraqi army and the Kurdish Peshmerga is hampering the battle against Islamic State. “There is no such thing as Iraq anymore.”
    .
    http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/may/11/mosul-the-city-that-will-define-not-just-iraqs-war-but-its-future?CMP=share_btn_fb
    .
    ITEM #5
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    In the past 24 hours, at least 9 Hezbollah fighters have died during battles with rebels on the Mt. Anadan, Aleppo frontline.–Hadi
    .
    ITEM #6: (VIDEO)
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    Khamenei’s army think they can just walk around Aleppo. As a TOW missile homes in, they attempt to flee but wind up flying trough the air.
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    http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=5aa_1462978046&utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter
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    ITEM #7
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    #Rebels ambush Shia militia in #KhanTuman southern #Aleppo
    18 killed and 10 detained incl #IRGC invaders !!!!–Source: Memo (16 minutes ago).
    .
    ITEM #8
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    Pro-Assad daily warns of impending bread crisis
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    Al-Watan published an article overnight Tuesday under the caustic headline “Bread… a crisis on the way! A decision to reduce the flour for auxiliary bakeries by 30%, and the ministry doesn’t know!”
    .
    https://now.mmedia.me/lb/en/NewsReports/566974-pro-assad-daily-warns-of-impending-bread-crisis

  6. Persian social media reaction to photos with Syrian ruins taken at the Teheran book fare:
    ======================================================================
    – How do you feel if a foreigner takes a joyful photo with ruins of a devastating earthquake in our country Iran such as Bam’s ruins right after the incident? How do you feel if someone with a big smile takes a photo with corpse of your beloved one? Don’t you think these are bunch of psychopaths?
    They must visit a psychologist!
    ==
    – You bastards make fun of the tragedy?! The Syrian catastrophe might happen one day in Iran!
    ==
    – These are not Iranian ordinary people; these are puppets of Khamenei!
    ==
    https://warreports.org/2016/05/11/persian-social-media-reaction-to-photos-with-syrian-ruins/
    (including original souces)

  7. Some comments:

    1. From Kerry (his photo needs my comment –lool)
    ” I think it’s actually an incentive to get things done now, while you have an administration that you know is working for a political solution and that you know would be prepared to bring parties together around a reconstruction process for Syria ”

    Sincerely I like this comment (not agreeing on what he says). IMO, he is blackmailing (a bit ) the Russians and the Assad’s regime ……. something like ….. “please do what we say , if not,there will be a military solution with another administration” ——- but practically he recognizes that Obama tries to block KSA & Turkey to move to Turkey; and it is sealed through Obama no matter what happens there.
    And later, he even foresees what Russia is on the ride to excavate: sunni rage (not so sunny) . (He gives to the Russians a warning; probably he got a similar warning against US and he answered : why against us, Russia is doing worse)

    2. Ragıp Soylu ‏@ragipsoylu May 10
    Diyarbakır Governor’s office confirms that 7 PKK militants were on bombed police shuttle. 3 dead. 45 wounded, including 12 police officers.

    So, PKK attacked to kill his own arrested members. (I don’t buy on the fact that the attackers didn’t know). This is typical Italian Mafia behavior(against their people suspected of cooperation)…. but it was 30-40 years ago .

    3.The new wave of ATGM attacks uploads are systematically attacked and erased on youtube. Why?

    IMO , 2015 Jais al Fateh movies enraged the young Syrian regime fighters in a manner that they preferred to revolt or to risk martial court better than being deployed to the moving coffins (Assad Tanks). And the regime + Russia,both came with the myth of the new anti ATGM system …
    The “modern” system did not work. I have seen even the latest Russian tank burned with was was inside. But these videos don’t make good to the selling tanks’ business , neither to the new waves of Iraqi and Afghani fighters that think they will survive the deployment to Syria.

    4.A new attack against the “white helmets”?! (and their online defenders).
    The criminal regime + Russia + online stooges are the adepts of “kill them all”. Civilians or military wounded by bombardments don’t need to be saved. They know that good teams of paramedics save lives: they know that people (with killed families and friends) once recovered become stronger and revenge prepared.

  8. Interesting (in a way how I supposed it was )

    Bampelaizha, and Lopez and Sastre , the Spanish journalists freed by J.N. after it was paid a ransom and after it was intermediated by Doha.
    “we were eating with all the J.N. fighters,sharing food; one tried to convince us to join Islam ; we were moved 6 times to be out of the Russian jet fighters attack”
    http://ow.ly/BdSo3007hOR
    (Arabic link) but can be found in El Pais too (in Spanish)…….
    IMO , Qatar has leverage on J.N. Qatar does not consider J.N. as being A.Q. Syria .

  9. Latest reports
    1.From Hasaka Al Hadath agency – Al Qamishli news

    -large number of Kurdish soldiers of SDF killed (and wounded )today by attacks of ISIS after a successful infiltration Ain Arab (Zour Mughar village)
    -4 SDF soldiers killed by ISIS S.W. Shadadi
    -another 10 Kurdish militias killed by ISIS at checkpoint Abu Fas (Shadadi)
    2. From Qassiun news, Al Jubair (KSA -FM) interview France 24

    Jubeir words came during a television interview on the channel France 24, and noted that the process of arming the Syrian opposition to escalate(deadly weapons), and done properly, adding that Assad must choose how to leave power in Syria:political transition or military solution .
    He said that right now military solution is out of question.

  10. Very bad day for regime in Homs ,in Aleppo ( Khan Tuman neighborhood ) and W Ghouta (Damascus)
    I think that the total number for regime and Iranian militias bigger than 100.
    Conform to some reports the numbers of pro regime fighters killed will surpass last Khan Tuman figures ( with 83 Iranian militias killed)
    And ISIS killed many SDF and it published the regime (captured and killed) soldiers in gas fields (Palmyra)

  11. Christian Turner ‏@CombatChris1

    Hasaka : #YPG arrested university students on the #Qamishli to #Hasaka road and forcibly conscripted them for armed service.

    Good old Ocalan has realised that he needs a real army beside his media warriors (a den of transgenders, feminazis and western “bien-pensants”).

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