LATEST: Fighting Between Islamic State of Iraq and Other Insurgent Factions

Jump to Latest Update

SUMMARY: On the surface, President Obama and American officials are presenting Saturday’s US-Russia framework agreement as a significant advance towards a resolution of the Syrian conflict.

The six-point agreement calls for Syrian declaration of its chemical weapons stockpiles by the end of this week, followed by inspectors from November with the objective — according to US Secretary of State John Kerry — of eliminating the chemical stocks by mid-2014.

Russia and the US also renewed the push for a “Geneva II” international peace conference, bringing together the regime and opposition groups as well as their foreign supporters.

The agreement can be read in a far different way, however, with the US effectively washing its hands — after 2 1/2 years — of the Syrian issue.

The framework is limited to chemical weapons, so it does not explain how the Syrian regime’s use of conventional weapons — including mass bombardment with airstrikes, rockets, and artillery fire — will be affected.

The agreement does not establish how a cease-fire might be arranged, and it does not have any provision for enforcement, even if the Assad regime fails to comply with the requirements over chemical weapons.

Neither Obama nor Kerry addressed the looming question. Do the developments of the last two weeks mean that the US has pulled away from support — military and political — of Syria’s insurgency and opposition?

Latest Updates, From Top to Bottom

Fighting Between Islamic State of Iraq and Other Insurgent Factions

Basma Atassi of Al Jazeera English reports on the Islamic State of Iraq and as-Sham’s clashes with other insurgent groups. She writes of a raid by the al-Nasr and al-Farouq battalions on ISIS in al-Bab in Aleppo:

The two groups had stormed the ISIS headquarters — based in a school —- in an attempt to evict its fighters. ISIL had refused to comply with an agreement among the town’s rebel factions to stay away from education institutions and allow children to return to school in the new academic year. The raid led to a hours-long firefight, and both sides traded blame after several fighters were left dead on both sides.

Atassi continues:

The situation in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor, near the Iraqi border, is hardly any better. On Saturday night, deadly clashes in al-Bu Kamal erupted between ISIS and the Allahu Akbar Brigade, an opposition group credited with the capture of the city from Assad forces in November 2012 and which also operates under the Supreme Military Council.

In the northeastern province of al-Raqqa, meanwhile, fighting between ISIS fighters and the Ahfad al-Rasoul battalion, another Supreme Military Council-linked organisation, also killed some 11 people in the past month.

ISIS accused Ahfad al-Rasoul of being collaborators with the Assad regime – and blew up its headquarters, rounding up several of its members. ISIL also released a video that purports to show an Ahfad al-Rasoul commander admitting to being a French intelligence agent.

Obama Confirms US Distancing Itself from Insurgency & Challenge to Assad

In an interview on Sunday morning with US ABC News, President Obama effectively confirmed — without saying so directly — that the US will no longer support the Syrian insurgency in the challenge to President Assad’s conventional military forces and his hold on power.

See Syria Video and Analysis: Obama Confirms US Withdrawing Support from Insurgency

Obama Plays Up Co-operation with Russia

In extracts from an interview on Sunday with US ABC, US President Obama has emphasized that Russia’s involvement in the deal over Syria’s chemical weapons is “helpful”.

Obama told the TV channel that any deal on Syria must include a verifiable way to ensure that Damascus gives up its entire chemical weapons capacity.

“I think there’s a way for Mr. Putin, despite me and him having a whole lot of differences, to play an important role in that… And so I welcome him being involved. I welcome him saying, ‘I will take responsibility for pushing my client, the Assad regime, to deal with these chemical weapons,'” Reuters quoted Obama as saying.

The President also defended the way he has handled the situation, saying that his approach and actions had resulted in an acknowledgement by Damascus that it possessed chemical weapons and led to Assad’s ally, Moscow, putting pressure on the regime to relinquish those weapons.

Dismissing criticism over how he had dealt with the Syria crisis, Obama said, “I think that folks here in Washington like to grade on style…And so had we rolled out something that was very smooth and disciplined and linear, they would have graded it well, even if it was a disastrous policy.”

Syrian Minister: Agreement On Chemical Weapons A Victory For Syria Won By Russia

Syria’s Minister for National Reconciliation Affairs has given an interview to Russian federal government owned outlet RIA Novosti, saying that Damascus is grateful to Moscow for averting a war in the region.

Ali Haidar told RIA that that agreement reached between Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and US Secretary of State John Kerry, “on the one hand, helps Syrians out of the crisis, on the other hand prevented a war against Syria, removing an excuse for those who wanted to unleash one.”

Haidar added:

“[The agreement] provides international support to all members of the Syrian people to sit at the same table and solve their internal problems in a next step… [they agreements are] thanks to Russian diplomacy and Russian leadership, they are isa victory for Syria won thanks to our Russian friends.”

The negotiations between Lavrov and Kerry, “provide an opportunity to solve all Syria’s problems going forward, and not only those of the chemical weapons.”

Videos: Regime Offensive Against Damascus Suburbs Continues With Airstrikes & Rockets

With the international community focussed on Assad’s chemical weapons, the regime continues to use heavy airstrikes and artillery shelling across the country, including in its offensive against the Damascus suburbs. That offensive began on August 21, with a series of chemical weapons strikes.

This footage from Sunday shows an airstrike hitting Daraya in East Ghouta.

Regime forces have launched surface-to-surface missile strikes against Muadamiyyat Ash Sham in West Ghouta, which was also the target of the August 21 chemical attacks. Activists say that several civilians have been injured.

Earlier on Sunday, the regime shelled the town with artillery, as regime ground forces attempted to push through the town’s northern front, prompting heavy clashes between between Free Syrian Army insurgents and regime troops.

Video: Regime Drops Barrel Bombs On Saraqib, Idlib (English Subtitles)

While the international community has been focussed on Assad’s chemical weapons, the regime has continued to use conventional weapons — including napalm-like agents — to bomb civilian areas across Syria.

One conventional weapon that the regime uses extensively in the conflict is the “barrel bomb”, an ordinary barrel packed with TNT, oil and chunks of steel. Barrel bombs are cheaper and far more destructive than regular bombs, and can be dropped by low-flying aircraft or helicopters onto densely populated areas, to cause mass damage, death and terror.

This footage from September 12 shows the affect of a barrel bomb on Saraqib in Idlib Province. The first part of the video shows the size of the explosion and the second part shows civilians observing the large hole it left behind. It is not known how many casualties there were as a result of this attack.

Video: Regime Bombs Makeshift Hospital In Aleppo (English Subtitles)

Footage with English subtitles of an attack by regime forces on a makeshift hospital in Al Bab city, Aleppo Province, on Wednesday.

The footage shows the destruction caused by the bombing, as civilians try to dig through the rubble to find any survivors. The local, Opposition-run Civil Defense team are seen trying to coordinate the rescue efforts.

Opposition Coalition Elects New “Prime Minister”

The opposition Syrian National Coalition elected former political prisoner Ahmad Tumeh as its provisional Prime Minister on Saturday.

Tumeh, a dentist from the eastern province of Deir al-Zor, won 75 of 97 votes cast in a meeting in Istanbul.

He replaces Ghassan Hitto, who resigned in July after a four-month term in which he failed to form an opposition Cabinet.

Tumeh was chosen after two days of talks between power brokers in the Arab- and Western-backed coalition.

Journalist Hassan Hassan posts a biography on Tumeh on Twitter:

Video Report: Extrajudicial Killings of Detainees in Air Force Intelligence Branch

The Violations Documentation Center has issued a report and video, claiming that Syrian forces have been killing detainees in the Air Force Intelligence Branch in Harasta, northeast of Damascus.

The VDC also asserts says that there are more than 400 detainees at risk of the death penalty.

The 30-page report is based on the testimonies of five former detainees who managed to escape earlier this year while carrying out excavation work.


The Local Coordination Committees claim 106 people were killed on Saturday, including 25 in Aleppo Province, 22 in Daraa Province, and 21 in Damascus and its suburbs.

The Violations Documentation Center puts the number of dead at 73,082 since the conflict began in March 2011, an increase of 84 from Saturday. Of the dead, 54,812 are civilians, a rise of 49 from yesterday.