Syria Daily: France Warns of Humanitarian Disaster in Opposition Idlib

Damaged buildings at a marketplace bombed by pro-Assad forces, Idlib, Syria. March 23, 2018 [Ahmed Rahhal/Anadolu)

Foreign Minister Le Drian of Russia’s protection of Bashar al-Assad: “There is a denial of reality, and we have seen this several times.


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UPDATE 1445 GMT: Meeting a Russian delegation a day after US-UK-French airstrikes, Bashar al-Assad has highlighted the economic difficulties the regime faces.

Assad told the delegation, headed by a representative from the State Duma, that $400 billion will be required to restore Syria’s economy.

Delegation head Dmitry Sablin, quoting Assad, said the “restoration of infrastructure” will take from 10 to 15 years.

Sablin pointed to an incentive for Russia to provide the money, despite its own economic issues, with a further quote from Assad: “We are not waiting for Western companies here, especially in the oil and gas sphere. I spoke about that with President Putin in Sochi. We want Russian companies to work here, and we expect their fast market entry.”

UPDATE 1300 GMT: Pro-Assad forces are threatening an offensive to overrun opposition areas in Homs and Hama Provinces, outside any protection provided by Turkey’s zone of influence:

Pro-Assad forces have renewed bombing and shelling.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has warned of a humanitarian disaster in the opposition-controlled Idlib Province in northwest Syria.

Following the pro-Assad decimation of East Ghouta near Damascus — through a five-year siege and intensive conventional and chemical attacks — attention is turning to Idlib, held by the regime’s opponents since spring 2015.

Le Drian noted that Idlib has more than 2 million inhabitants, including hundreds of thousands of Syrians forcibly displaced from other parts of Syria.

“There is a risk of a new humanitarian disaster. Idlib’s fate must be settled by a political process, which includes disarming the militias,” the Foreign Minister said.

A pro-Assad offensive claimed part of southeast Idlib during the winter. It was halted when forces were redeployed for the East Ghouta assault.

Further attacks have also been limited by Turkey’s establishment of a series of observation posts around Idlib, northern Hama, and western Aleppo Provinces. However, Russian and regime warplanes have continued to bomb the area periodically.

Le Drian challenged Russia, saying that its protection of Bashar al-Assad cannot be justified: “There is a denial of reality, and we have seen this several times. Already in 2013 and then again in 2017 the Russians denied that the Syrian regime had used chemical weapons.”

Speaking about last weekend’s Assad regime chemical attacks in East Ghouta and Russia’s neutering of any investigation, he said, “It is no wonder that Russia voted against the renewal of this mechanism last autumn,” referring to Moscow’s veto of the mandate of the Joint Investigative Mechanism of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

The Russian action means that the OPCW cannot assign blame for the East Ghouta attacks. Russian personnel also reporting have removed and disturbed evidence from the sites.

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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.


    • ISIS has served Assad’s purpose and he now ready to eliminate this particular group.

      That would explain why ISIS launched an attack on Assad’s positions right after the strikes, just like what happened in Deir Ezzor.

      Nothing to see here, move along.

    • ISIS terrorists often surrender to Assad who then buses them to Idlib or to Israel’s border. And they find their way to Turkey, where Erdogan repackages them and sends them to Libya or Europe. Quite a lucrative lifestyle for these terrorists. They get employed with access to the sex slave market, and live like a king exploiting innocent people. When they lose the battle, they get to go to other areas and cause trouble, or they get invited by Erdogan to live in Europe.

  1. Is HTS also one of Assad’s creations? They have always been the most financed group amongst the rebels even when they where Al-Nusra, and the money has to come from somewhere!

    • So far HTS has been accused of receiving support from, among others, Israel, UK, US, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Qatar. If you wanted to, I guess you could fit Assad in there too. Because why not?

    • Nusra/HTS is not associated with Assad. But in the early days, Assad would concentrate his attacks on the FSA and not Nusra, which naturally caused rebels to seek the relative safety of Nusra and its efficiency of scale. Nusra was financed by Turkey and Qatar. Assad favored Nusra and ISIS over more moderate Islamists and secular FSA. When Assad attacks Idlib, HTS attacks moderate Islamists and FSA simultaneously. Also just recently hundreds of ISIS members surrendered to HTS.


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