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Syria Media Roundup (December 26)

[Image of a displaced Syrian child, Ahmed, trying to keep warm. Image via The United Nations Children's Fund via Flickr] [Image of a displaced Syrian child, Ahmed, trying to keep warm. Image via The United Nations Children's Fund via Flickr]

[This is a roundup of news articles and other materials circulating on Syria and reflects a wide variety of opinions. It does not reflect the views of the Syria Page Editors or of Jadaliyya. You may send your own recommendations for inclusion in each week's roundup to by Monday night of every week.]


Inside Syria

Russian Special Forces Seen as Key to Aleppo Victory Russian special-operations forces have played a pivotal part in the Syrian ground offensive to retake Aleppo, a role shielded by secrecy about their operations there.

Aleppo battle ends as Syria rebel deal reached Military action has ended in eastern Aleppo, Russia's ambassador to the UN has said.

In Eastern Aleppo, Public Health and Medical Care Are ‘Hell’ Some of the leading experts on health in Syria discuss the dire situation in eastern Aleppo and what to expect now that the city has fallen under government control.

Aleppo: Elegy for a doomed city whose history spans centuries Hassan Hassan recalls a visit before the outbreak of the Syrian civil war and reflects on the destruction of the city.

The Future of Syria’s Armed Opposition After Aleppo After four years of fighting, Syrian opposition groups in Eastern Aleppo have lost the majority of their control over the city as Evacuations continue, Syria expert Charles Lister discusses the future of the different opposition factions in Syria.

Aleppo sees shelling, air strikes again as Assad urges peace talks Syrian rebels shelled Aleppo and air strikes resumed around the city on Friday as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his allies said the insurgents’ withdrawal from the city could pave the way toward a political solution for the country.

The slaughter of Aleppo is being recorded in real time on Twitter, by its own victims As the battle for Aleppo enters its final phase, many residents have turned to Twitter to post their goodbyes.

Aleppo Ceasefire Collapses Just as End Seemed in Sight A ceasefire plan that would have allowed rebel fighters and civilians to exit the Syrian city of Aleppo collapsed less than a day after it was announced, as pro-government forces renewed airstrikes and artillery shelling on Wednesday. 

As a White Helmet I ask for one thing: safe passage for those in Aleppo Raed Al Saleh urges that all civilians in this besieged city need safe passage out. We will do everything we can, but the international community must match our efforts.

Syria negotiators race to salvage Aleppo evacuation deal Assad suspended a pact allowing residents to leave rebel territory after militants refused to allow simultaneous evacuation in Idlib.

Bashar Assad Claims A Major Victory, But Syria's War Isn't Over As President Bashar Assad's army pushes into the last few neighborhoods controlled by rebels in Aleppo, the Syrian leader can claim a stronger position than at any point since the early days of a war that broke out in 2011. 

Evacuation Effort in Aleppo Restarts A new effort to evacuate thousands of civilians and opposition fighters from the remaining rebel-held districts of the Syrian city of Aleppo started on Thursday (15 December), one day after a previous attempt collapsed amid fresh violence.

Aleppo deal stalls again after evacuation buses attacked and torched Vehicles set on fire going to Kefraya and Fua, where villagers were to be allowed to leave in exchange for Aleppo evacuation.

Major Rebel Groups Launch Project to Unite After Fall of Aleppo Alsouria Net details what rebel leaders have discussed and what has been reached so far in the projects to merge key groups after the city's defeat.

No survivors found after Russian military plane with 92 on board crashes en route to Syria A Russian military passenger plane carrying dozens of Red Army Choir singers, dancers and orchestra members plunged into the Black Sea minutes after it took off en route Sunday to a military base in Syria, killing all 92 people on board, Russia’s Defense Ministry said.

In A Syrian Suburb Cleared Of Rebels, A Gradual Return To Everyday Life Syrian officials say there are other areas where local truces have averted deadly military takeovers, and which offer the only way forward for the country. One of those areas is the Damascus suburb of Qudsaya.

Syria’s Bashar Assad Tops Off Another Year Of Bloodshed With A Holiday Photoshoot Photos and video that the regime released on its official social media platforms Christmas morning show the leader and wife Asma Assad kneeling to hug and kiss smiling children dressed in Santa costumes.


Regional and International Perspectives

Russia tested over 160 new weapons in Syrian operation – defense minister While the primary goal of Russia’s military operation in Syria is to prevent the disintegration of the country, it has also provided a chance to field-test 162 advanced Russian weapons, Russia’s defense minister reported.

Syria civil war: Five things you can do to help Aleppo ‘There is no justice,’ activists in the last rebel-held pockets of the city say, claiming the international community has failed them. 

Stop calling the Syrian conflict a ‘civil war.’ It’s not Hanin Ghaddar writes that calling the Syrian conflict a ‘civil war' gives the Assad regime a veneer of legitimacy and has serious impact on international accountability.

Blame game starts as Aleppo's rebels fall The scene at the Security Council in New York on Tuesday (13 December) afternoon was worth thousands of words about the failure of diplomacy in Syria.

Is Turkey’s fight against Syrian Kurds enabling Assad? Ankara’s constantly evolving intentions in Syria have eased the minds of Russia and the Syrian regime as they continue to consolidate their position in Aleppo and beyond.

After Aleppo, Russians prepare to defy Trump re: their Iran Alliance Juan Cole writes "The Russian victory in Syria against fundamentalist Sunni Arab militias was made possible in part by Iran. Russian fighter jets simply bombing from on high would have been useless." 

The Deadly Myth of Secular Arab Regimes Matthew DeMaio writes: "Like their predecessors, Assad and Sisi have abandoned their nominal secularism when it has suited them."

Recapture of Aleppo: What next for Syria? The battle for Aleppo may be over but the struggle for the future of Syria will continue. Indeed, it may become even more chaotic and bloody.

Why aren’t Russians protesting against war crimes in Syria? Across the world, the tragedy in Aleppo has brought thousands of protesters onto the streets. As usual, in Russia, nobody is taking a stand.

Russia, France agree on new UN resolution for safe Aleppo evacuations Russia had said it would veto a UN draft resolution demanding immediate access, 'neutral monitoring.' 

Al Qaeda and ISIL are still potent forces in Syria Hassan Hassan writes "As counterintuitive as it may sound, ISIL will still be stronger than Al Qaeda in Syria even after the former is dislodged from Mosul and Raqqa."

Samantha Power’s Syria Problem As Aleppo falls, the anti-genocide activist turned U.N. ambassador argues that Syria differs from past crises in which the U.S. intervened

Pope urges end to Syria fighting in Christmas message "It is time for weapons to be still forever and actively seek negotiated solution," Francis says in Vatican address.

Trump's Syria conundrum President-elect Donald Trump's position on the conflict in Syria has been a confusing assortment of positions, the latest of which - his call for a safe zone in Syria - seems informed by his most recent conversations with candidates he interviewed for the position of secretary of state.


Policy and Reports

Where Next? The Syrian regime has several military options as it advances after the Aleppo victory.

Time to debate the texts used by extremists Hassan Hassan examines how extremists use religious texts to justify their actions. 

Syria: Desperate Pleas for Protection from Aleppo Syrian government and allied forces should immediately take steps to protect civilians and captured fighters as the government retakes control of Aleppo after a deal was reached with armed opposition groups there, Human Rights Watch said on Tuesday 13 Dec. 

EXCLUSIVE: UN in talks to evacuate 100,000 from east Aleppo Anonymous UN source tells MEE that negotiations are taking place with Russia and Syrian representatives to secure 24-hour ceasefire.

UNICEF deputy chief: 2016 was ‘one of worst years in history for children’ From Aleppo to South Sudan or Yemen, UNICEF banged the drum for education in emergencies at a European Parliament event this week, highlighting the plight of tens of millions of children in conflict and emergency situations going without schooling.

 20 Syrian women reportedly chose suicide over being raped Per The Daily Beast, according to Othman and other reports amid the chaos unfolding in the besieged city, sexual violence has been so prevalent it’s forcing women into an unthinkable choice. 

Into the Tunnels: The Rise and Fall of Syria’s Rebel Enclave in the Eastern Ghouta In this report, Aron Lund shows in the Eastern Ghouta, Islam Army is weakened by its failure to control the tunnel economy and by the death of its leader, the Islam Army’s dominance was shattered by infighting in spring 2016. Since then, the enclave has been split and Assad is now moving to recapture it.

Keeping the Lights On in Rebel Idlib: Local Governance, Services, and the Competition for Legitimacy among Islamist Armed Groups In this report, Sam Heller shows the ways in which Idlib’s Islamist and jihadist factions have used local governance as a tool to extend control and compete for influence, but they have been stymied in part by limited resources and wartime conditions.

Liberalization and Conflict in the Syrian Economy Ferdinand Arslanian writes: "The economics of the Syrian conflict are reflected in many areas: as an underlying cause of the uprising in reference to the liberalization measures undertaken during the years of Bashar al-Asad; as a political tool employed by foreign adversaries given the imposed sanctions regime; and as one of the domains embodying the resilience of the Syrian regime."


Syria Conflict Mapping Project Reports

What's happening in Aleppo? The northern Syrian city of Aleppo has been caught in a four-year deadlock - but that has now been broken.

Ceasefire in Aleppo as eastern half burns, ‘bodies lie where they fell’ East Aleppo opposition forces agreed on Tuesday (13 Dec) to a joint Turkish-Russian ceasefire that reportedly stipulates the departure of armed rebels and their families, an east Aleppo rebel military spokesman told Syria Direct.

US says 75% of ISIS fighters killed Brett McGurk, the US special envoy to the anti-ISIS coalition, gave an update Tuesday (13 December). At least 75% of ISIS fighters have been killed during the campaign of US-led airstrikes.

Why Ahrar al-Sham is fighting itself - and how this impacts the battle for Syria Ideological and strategic disagreements threaten the unity of Ahrar al-Sham, one of the most powerful rebel groups in Syria. On a broader scale, this rift within Ahrar al-Sham is further deepening the divisions and fragmentation among rebel groups that are already in a disastrous state..


Documentaries, Special Reports, and Other Media

Assessing The Successes And Failures Of Obama's Approach To Syria Aleppo is often invoked as a symbol of the U.S. and the world’s failure in Syria. President Obama, in particular, takes a lot of the blame for failing to intervene to stop the country’s civil war, in which nearly half a million people have been killed.

Aleppo battle: Thousands trapped in violence In the hours before rebels prepare to leave besieged Aleppo, thousands of citizens remain trapped.

Trapped Aleppo journalist talks amid bombs A journalist trapped in east Aleppo has told the programme that "nowhere is safe" as heavy shelling was heard around him.

US journalist trapped in Aleppo feared he would be executed by Syrian army Bilal Abdul Kareem, the last foreign journalist left in east Aleppo, describes scenes of carnage as shelling resumed on rebel-held districts. 

Tens of Palestinian children in Gaza protest in solidarity with Aleppo Tens of Palestinian children Wednesday protested in front of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in solidarity with the people of eastern Aleppo who have faced government bombardment and massacres since forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad launched a devastating military offensive to retake the rebel-held area in Syria.

'Aleppo will remain a mark of shame on the international community': 5 residents say goodbye The evacuation of civilians and fighters from the 3km pocket of land still held by Syrian opposition forces in east Aleppo city began on Thursday. As of early afternoon Damascus time, the first group of buses carrying the wounded reached rebel territory in the countryside west of Aleppo.

Faraj Bayraqdar: Intellectuals Are Last-Line Defenders of Revolutions Culture is a vessel that holds the ferment of societies in terms of tradition, present and future, and that's why I don't see it as the first line of defense.

Samira Masalma Proposes Inquiry into Coalition Spending Key opposition figure says she does not know where the Coalition’s money has gone, adding that she is attempting to fight extremism within the organization.

'We'll be back': Syrians leave messages for Assad on walls of Aleppo 'One day we will return.’ This is just one of the messages that have been left behind on the walls by the Syrians being evacuated out of the besieged city of Aleppo. 

'Soup For Syria': Chefs Share Recipes To Raise Funds For Refugees The idea struck: a cookbook — to benefit refugees — devoted entirely to soup. Massaad called upon an all-star lineup of culinary celebrities for help with Soup for Syria. 

Leila Al-Shami: Emerging from ‘The Kingdom of Silence’ | Beyond Institutions in Revolutionary Syria This article published as part of Ibraaz's Future Imperfect project which looks at contemporary art practices and cultural institutions in the Middle East and North Africa. As part of the project Lois Stonock has also mapped organizations involved in Syrian art and culture. 

Bana Alabed, Aleppo's tweeting girl, meets Turkey's President Erdogan Bana Alabed - the seven-year-old Syrian who tweeted about life inside rebel-held east Aleppo - has met Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

FORSAKING THE SYRIAN REVOLUTION: AN ANTI-IMPERIALIST HANDBOOK Fadi A. Bardawil writes "Césaire’s letter raises cardinal issues for the Left that are still salient today. There is a long history within the Leftist tradition of justifying atrocities committed by one’s own camp in the name of the necessary price to pay for X – substitute X with progress, the preservation of the revolution, anti-imperialist struggle, etc. – or at the very least to turn a blind eye on them."


From Jadaliyya’s Syria Page

Humanitarian Needs Overview of Syria (December 2016) The following report on the humanitarian situation in Syria was produced on behalf of the Strategic Steering Group (SSG) for December 2016. 

Aleppo: Impending Battle [Ongoing Post] This is an ongoing post and is updated regularly. It was first published/launched on 4 November 2016. Recent posts/updates are below. The reports of suffering become more devastating as you scroll down. 

Yasser Munif on the State of the Syrian Uprising In this interview, Yasser Munif addresses the state of the Syrian uprising. In conversation with Bassam Haddad, Yasser discusses a number of related topics dealing with domestic and regional factors. The interview was recorded on 17 October 2016. 

The Left and the Syria Debate As`ad Abukhalil writes: "The Lebanese civil war makes for a good academic comparison with the current Syrian war in that internal and external actors are entangled and weapons and fighters are being poured into the country."

Summary of UN Board of Inquiry Report into Air Attack on UN-Syrian Arab Red Crescent Aid Convoy Summary by the Secretary-General of the report of the United Nations Headquarters Board of Inquiry into the incident involving a relief operation to Urem al-Kubra, Syrian Arab Republic, on 19 September 2016.


Arabic Links:

بعد حلب... أزمة المنظور الروسي في سورية Salameh Kaileh analyzes the implications following the the Aleppo battle and Russia's choice to depend on military solution. 

لماذا يحتفلون في طهران؟ Marwan Kabalan reflects on Iran plans to organize major celebrations at the beginning of the new year celebrating its victories in Syria and Iraq.

صادق جلال العظم الذي رحل كما لو أنّه قُتل Hazem Saghieh shares his thoughts on the death of Sadiq Jalal al-Azm.

مهمتنا اليوم في الثورة السورية Hussein Ghrer shares his perspective on what are the priorities of revolutionary activists should be after Aleppo tragedy. 

حلب ... نهاية «الثورة السوريّة» Louay Hussein argues, in this article, that both the Syrian war and revolution ended with the end of battle over Aleppo.

كيف تفاعل أهل الفن مع مجريات الأحداث بحلب؟ Wasim Ahmad explores the ways in which Syrian artists interacted with the events of Aleppo battle.

منذر مصري يكتب: المقدّس الشعبي.. والقيامة السورية Monther AlMasri shares what he heard and read by Syrian people in regard to doctrinal Islamism and his interpretations of that.

محطات بارزة في الحرب السورية An overview of prominent events in the Syrian war since the peaceful protests of March 2011. 

مثقفو دمشق الشباب: سؤال الموت والهجرة والأمل This article explores the stories and perspectives of Syrian artists and intellectuals who are still living inside Damascus.

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