Syria Daily: US Envoy Welcomes Russian Monitors for Ceasefire

The US envoy for the campaign against the Islamic State, Brett McGurk, in northern Syria, June 2017

US “very encouraged” by state of ceasefire in southwest Syria


The US has endorsed Russian monitors on the ground for a ceasefire in southwest Syria.

Brett McGurk, the US special envoy for the campaign against the Islamic State, said on Thursday, “The Russians have made clear they’re very serious about this and willing to put some of their people on the ground to help monitor from the regime side. They do not want the regime violating the ceasefire.”

McGurk’s remark is yet another shift in Washington’s position since the first US-Russian agreement for “de-escalation” was announced last Friday and went into effect on Sunday. On Wednesday, the State Department tried to pull back Russia’s proclamations of a joint monitoring center with the US and Jordan, based in the Jordanian capital Amman: “In terms of who is doing what, when, where, how, some of those details are still being worked out.”

See Syria Daily, July 13: US & Russia Squabble Over “De-Escalation” Agreement

Both Buzzfeed and Foreign Policy reported, citing officials, that “the US military has received no guidance on how to enforce the ceasefire” after Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the de-escalation agreement at the G20 summit in Germany last week.

McGurk said yesterday that he was “very encouraged” by progress since the ceasefire took effect.

The agreement has reduced violence in provinces along the borders with Jordan and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, including in Daraa city, where the Syrian uprising began in 2011. However, pro-Assad forces have continued shelling in the de-escalation zone and have redeployed forces for offensives in southeast Syria and the Damascus suburbs. Fierce fighting was reported in Jobar in northeast Damascus on Thursday, with video showing rebels forcing a regime unit to withdraw after taking casualties.

Speaking in Paris on Thursday, Trump said talks were underway to negotiate a ceasefire in a second region of Syria.

McGurk was cautious about Trump’s assertion, “I think the president is referring to a very constructive discussion that he had with the Russians in building from this southwest agreement,” but he added that the US had “very constructive…military-to-military discussions with the Russians about deconfliction arrangements” and is keen to explore the possibility of ceasefires in other areas.

Rebels: 2 Regime “Toxic Gas” Attacks Near Damascus in 24 Hours

Rebels claim that they have been targeted, in fighting near Damascus, by “toxic gas” twice in 24 hours.

Pro-rebel outlets said six fighters were having breathing difficulties.

Medics, activists, and rebels have reported regular use of gas, probably by chlorine, as pro-Assad forces try to advance in Jobar in northeast Damascus and in nearby Ein Tarma.

The Assad regime has resorted to chlorine, which is not banned under international conventions, since it had to hand over chemical stocks following its August 2013 sarin attacks near Damascus.

A victim of the latest attack on Ein Tarma:


The White Helmets with images of destruction and casualties in Ein Tarma:

UN: “Traumatized” Civilians Fleeing ISIS-Held Raqqa

Scores of civilians are fleeing the Islamic State’s center of Raqqa in northern Syria, as a US-supported, Kurdish-led force tries to capture remaining districts, the UN says.

Sajjad Malik, the UN refugee agency’s representative in Syria, said the numbers leaving had risen sharply in recent weeks: “They’re coming out really weak, thirsty, and frightened.

Malik, who visited camps for the displaced on Thursday, estimated that more than 240,000 people have left homes in and near Raqqa since the offensive by the Syrian Democratic Forces began in late 2016:

They’re traumatized (by) what they’ve seen. Dead bodies all over the place. In some more destroyed neighborhoods, bodies still in that heat rotting on the street and in debris….

Some places do not even have enough drinking water anymore.

An estimated 30,000 to 50,000 people remain in Raqqa. Malik said, “Those who are coming out now are paying enormous amounts of money, basically their lifelong savings, to smugglers to get them out. They’ve left family members behind.”

UN Envoy: Direct Regime-Opposition Talks Could Happen Soon

UN envoy Staffan de Mistura said on Thursday that the first face-to-face talks between the Assad regime and the Syrian opposition could be held soon.

De Mistura was asked, on the penultimate day of the seventh round of Geneva talks, if the negotiations could occur before the next round in late August. He replied:

Perhaps even earlier. I’m not pushing for it. Because I want, when it happens, that there should not be a row but should be real talks. We are actually pushing for areas where they do have common points.

De Mistura’s remarks contrast with the public position of the Syrian opposition and rebels, who have stood back from both the Geneva talks and those in Kazakh capital Astana because of the Assad regime’s refusal to halt attacks and sieges and to release political detainees.

The talks since January have also been hindered by Bashar al-Assad’s refusal to contemplate a transition in which he leaves power.

But De Mistura has held a series of discussions with the head of the regime delegation, UN Ambassador Bashar al-Ja’afari, this week. On Thursday, he promised the talks would “go into much more substance on the political side”.

Ja’afari has declared the discussions are focusing on “counter-terrorism” — often used by the Assad regime to refer to any armed opposition — while technical talks are held on a new Constitution.

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Scott Lucas is Professor of International Politics at the University of Birmingham and editor-in-chief of EA WorldView. He is a specialist in US and British foreign policy and international relations, especially the Middle East and Iran. Formerly he worked as a journalist in the US, writing for newspapers including the Guardian and The Independent and was an essayist for The New Statesman before he founded EA WorldView in November 2008.


  1. The aggressor monitoring a ceasefire? Looks like the Ruskies want to move troops into a rebel area without having to fight them, then they will attack from the inside.

    • damn ruskies ceasefire meaning in syria..stop firing but never stop gassing….damn yankees enemy no 1..always showed thier true colour.

  2. “Stork Retweeted
    Lara Nelson – لارا‏ @LN_Lara1 53m53 minutes ago

    Another gas attack against #FSA forces in #EastGhouta, 2nd in 24hrs, 4th this month. Bold move during a round of #SyriaTalks in #Geneva”
    Syria is fast becoming the graveyard of civilisation. Come Trump and Macron you are all talk and no balls!

  3. 13/ “It was just so easy to join ISIS in Syria. Now I look back &I think: Was this all a conspiracy to get us all in one place and kill us?” 7/13/2017

    34 soldiers fail to appear in coup hearing due to participation in al-Bab battle – CRIME… via @HDNER 1/24/2017

    If the coup was an inside job, Perincek may very well have been in on it. By blaming the Gülenists on one hand and both the United States and NATO on the other, Perincek saw the opportunity to deal a fatal blow to all of those he opposes so virulently. 6/30/2017

    • Yeah Jenan Moussa – it is all a conspiracy and a plot. ISIS was created by Obama and its purpose was to deliver Syria’s oil resources to America. Everything is a plot. Even you reporting on plots is a plot. SMH

    • Interesting article by Michael Rubin. It appears that Erdo’an is creating an “Islamic Republic Guards Corp.” in order to solidify his deep state. Erdo’an is even firing and prosecuting his former supporters because they are not enthusiastic enough about his deep state. Is Erdo’an going to turn against the Turkish nationalists? After all he managed to make himself president for life with their help. I say it is not beyond him. He will keep those nationalists who are willing to toe his line and remain loyal, and purge those who feel that they were cheated. Meanwhile the Turkish economy starts crumbling as law and order starts to break down and resources go to fight the Kurds and fight Erdo’an’s detractors. A failed state Venezuela will start emerging, and repression will increase as he decimates Turkish institutions in favor of his deep state. So very classic. After all, Islamism is another manifestation of backwardism such as communism.

  4. Eurasianists among Turkey’s military-civil elites are gaining ground, and the foreign-policy implications stretch from Syria to the EU to the United States and, of course, to Russia. 7/13/2017

    See also: Turanism [ ] 7/2/2017

    Remember the PMC named Turan operating in Syria? Here is their patch. h/t @IvanSidorenko1 6/26/2017

    • I am not so sure, but I think Turanism is not same as Turkish Eurasianism. Turanism would be Persian ultranationalism as Central Asia, once a very lush and resourceful land, was the birth place of the Persians and part of greater Persia prior to the invasion of the Mongols. As with everywhere else, Islam destroyed central Asia.

  5. #Deraa: “Special Tasks Abu Amara Brigade claims it infiltrated Baath Party HQ & set off bombs, destroying part of building in heart of city.” – QalaatAlMudiq
    I wonder the Buniyan Masous rebels will carry out something similar in Deraa before launching an offensive?
    #Damascus: “Pro-#Assad forces advancing against rebels in the Southern #Syria|n Desert. 13 kilometers are left before the rebels are besieged.” – worldonalert
    The FSA Tanf-operation group brought this upon themselves when they lost the courage to attack regime forces in Dumayr airbase when they had the chance to do so.

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