LATEST: White House & Pentagon Retreat from Talk of Agreement With Turkey on No-Fly Zone


Syria Special: A Proposal for the Crisis — Safe Havens and “Internal Containment”

State news media SANA announces that the Assad regime hosted an “international conference on combating terrorism and religious extremism” on Sunday.

Prime Minister Wael al-Halqi opened the two-day conference with an address to “political, religious, cultural, and social delegations and figures from 25 Arab and foreign countries”.

Al-Halqi made the political aim of the conference clear — “to prove to the world that President Bashar al-Assad’s view has been correct” — while arguing that insurgents in the 44-month conflict have targeted the Syrian homeland and people rather than the regime.

Other Ministers, such as Justice Minister Najm al-Ahmad, made speeches to denounce foreign countries who are backing “terrorism”. Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, the UAE, and the US were among those criticized.

White House & Pentagon Retreat from Talk of Agreement With Turkey on No-Fly Zone

White Press Secretary Josh Earnest has pulled back from reports that the US is nearing agreement with Turkey on a limited no-fly zone in northern Syria (see earlier entry):

The Pentagon also stepped back. Its spokesman, Colonel Steve Warren, said, “We are in discussions with the Turks. Right now, we don’t believe a buffer zone is the best way to relieve the humanitarian crisis there in northern Syria.”

Asked what might be an alternative to the safe havens, Warren said, “Continuing for us to apply pressure on [the Islamic State] is probably the most effective way to relieve [the] crisis.”

World Food Programme Suspends Vouchers for More than 1.7 Million Refugees

The United Nations World Food Programme has suspended food vouchers to more than 1.7 million Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries, because of a funding crisis.

Many of the more than 4 milion Syrian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq, and Egypt used the vouchers to buy food in local shops.

WFP Executive Director Ertharin Cousin appealed to donors, “A suspension of WFP food assistance will endanger the health and safety of these refugees and will potentially cause further tensions, instability and insecurity in the neighbouring host countries.”

WFP needs $64 million to support the refugees during December.

US & Turkish Officials: Move Towards Agreement on Use of Airbases Against Islamic State — But What About Safe Havens?

US and Turkish officials are claiming a move towards an agreement on American use of Turkey’s airbases for operations against Islamic State targets in northern Syria.

In return, the US is considering a Turkish proposal for a protected no-fly zone along a portion of the Syrian border.

The officials said that the proposal has been reduced from Ankara’s original idea of a zone across one-third of northern Syria, from the Mediterranean to the Iraq border. The Obama Administration said that would constitute an act of war against the Assad regime.

The sources said the smaller zone of safe havens would not require strikes from the Turkish bases. Instead, the US and its partners would send a warning to the Assad regime to stay away from the zone or risk retaliation.

The officials did not say what will happen if Damascus disregarded the warning and Syrian aircraft flew over the zone.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan met with Vice President Joe Biden in Ankara a week ago and urged the Obama administration to do more to challenge President Assad, as well as striking the Islamic State.

A Week of US & Regime Airstrikes on Islamic State-Controlled Raqqa

The activist site NFZSyria summarizes a week of airstrikes by both the US and Syrian regime on the Islamic State-controlled city of Raqqa in northern Syria.

The site sets out at least 17 attacks by the US and up to 24 by the regime. On Tuesday alone, at least 90 people were killed, and some reports the toll at more than 200.

See Syria Daily, Nov 26: “At Least 90 Killed” in Regime Airstrikes on Raqqa

The Islamic State has held Raqqa, the largest city outside regime control, since late 2013.