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Extensive Syria Media Roundup (Jan 8 - Feb 19, 2017)

[A Syrian man reacts while standing on the rubble of his house while others look for survivors and bodies in the Tariq al-Bab district. Image by Nic6192131 via Flickr] [A Syrian man reacts while standing on the rubble of his house while others look for survivors and bodies in the Tariq al-Bab district. Image by Nic6192131 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 syria@jadaliyya.com by Monday night of every week.] 

 

Inside Syria

Eight Syrian Factions Merge ... Massacre in Azaz (8 January, 2017) Sources at the Syrian opposition announced on Saturday that eight large opposition factions had merged in the north of Syria under the name of “Leadership Council For Liberation Of Syria.”

Syria's Civil War: Aleppo's heritage sites 'in danger' (12 January, 2017) According to Maamoun Abdulkarim, Syria's Director General of Antiquities and Museums (DGAM): "We have more than 150 heritage buildings with different levels of damage, without taking into account places like the ancient souk, 60 percent of which is destroyed … Many of the traditional houses, dating from around the first century AD, are also damaged. 

Democratic Rep. Gabbard Makes Secret Trip to Syria (18 January, 2017) The Hawaii lawmaker, who has bucked both parties on the issue of Syria, met with government officials on a "fact-finding" mission.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad reportedly suffering under 'psychological pressure' (22 January, 2017) Five years of ‘war and tension’ have led Syria’s embattled leader to develop a nervous tick, newspaper columnist claims, citing Russian officials.

While the world was watching Trump, Russia just quietly enlarged its military presence in Syria (23 January, 2017) Moscow signs long-term leases ensuring both naval and air expansion in the Middle East despite beginning withdrawal from the Syrian conflict.

Syria's war: East Ghouta 'refuses any evacuation deal' (23 January,  2017) Residents of Syria's East Ghouta say they will refuse any government efforts to forge a truce deal or evacuation plans.

Does Syria really want to reconcile with Kurds? (30 January, 2017) The future of Syrian Kurds is uncertain, but they have at least made it obvious that things must change.

The Arabic version of this article can be found here: هل تريد سوريا فعلاً التّصالح مع الأكراد؟

Idlib's rebel split: A crossroads for Syrian opposition (2 February, 2017) Rebel divisions have forced a total reorder of the northern armed opposition a month before UN-led negotiations.

Turkey, US-coalition jets 'kill 47 ISIL fighters' (3 February, 2017) Military says a total of 47 fighters killed in northern Syria in clashes and air raids in the past 24 hours.

Besieged South Damascus 'wants truce not war'  (6 February, 2017) The last rebel-held districts near Damascus are under increasing pressure by the Syrian government to give up for good. 

Syrian and Turkish forces choke off Islamic State supply line  (6 February, 2017) Syrian and Turkish forces have effectively surrounded the key city of al-Bab, a critical waypoint for the Islamic State for moving fighters, weapons and supplies into the terrorist group’s de facto capital of Raqqa, setting the stage for the eventual assault on the group’s final stronghold in the region.

Syrian government jets target rebel-held area in Homs (8 February, 2017) At least eight people killed in air attack on rebel-held al-Waer neighbourhood of Homs, according to monitoring group.

Russian airstrike kills 3 Turkish soldiers in northern Syria (9 February, 2017) Andrew Roth and Liz Sly reports "A Russian airstrike in northern Syria killed three Turkish soldiers and wounded 11 others Thursday, in a friendly fire incident that could test the shaky coordination between the two countries in the fight against the Islamic State."

Displaced Syrians stuck in limbo at Idlib's Taiba camp (9 February, 2017) Thousands of Syrians evacuated from east Aleppo last year face an uncertain future in Idlib province.

Syria’s Assad Sends Signals to Trump in Interview (10 February, 2017) President Bashar al-Assad of Syria suggested in an interview published Friday that he could foresee cooperation with the Trump administration and might even countenance the deployment of American soldiers in the country one day.

Erdogan: Turkish army will press on to ISIL-held Raqqa  (12 February, 2017) President Erdogan says Turkey's military incursion into northern Syria aims to cleanse a 5,000sq km 'safe zone'.

Turkey’s Erdogan wants to establish a safe zone in the ISIS capital Raqqa (13 February, 2017) Liz Sly reports "Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan took his proposal for a Turkish-backed assault against the Islamic State’s self-proclaimed capital of Raqqa to the Sunni Arab states of the Persian Gulf on Monday, telling an audience in Bahrain that he wants to create a “safe zone” in that part of Syria." 

Contrary to Turkish optimism, an arduous battle against a ‘dug-in’ Islamic State in al-Bab (15 February, 2017) Turkish-backed Syrian rebels currently control 40 percent of the northern city of al-Bab, making slow progress in a week-long campaign against “dug-in” Islamic State forces.

A Very Personal Call for Peace in Syria (15 February, 2017) “Arms dealers and arms exporting countries are making a phenomenal amount on this war, while the cost of it is borne by families such as the Kurdis. Who is good or bad on the battlefields of Syria is perhaps not as important as who is making these vast sums of money arming all sides of the conflict”

Hardline Salafist brigade reportedly executes up to 160 rebel fighters as infighting rocks northwestern Syria (16 February, 2017) A hardline Islamist group allegedly tied to the Islamic State executed up to 160 Free Syrian Army (FSA) prisoners amidst ongoing infighting in northwest Syria, multiple rebel military sources directly affected by the executions confirmed to Syria Direct on Thursday. 

Kurds pledge to fight Turkey to retain Syria's Manbij (18 February, 2017) Turkish president's plan to clear Kurdish forces from Syrian city and set up a safe zone meets with Kurdish defiance.

Syrian government forces press attack on Damascus outskirts: monitors, medic (19 February, 2017) Syrian government forces fired rockets at a rebel-held area on Damascus's outskirts on Sunday, pressing an attack that began the day before and has killed up to 16 people, a medical worker and war monitors said.

 

Regional and International Perspectives

Respite, not reconciliation  (10 January, 2017) The ceasefire in Syria and the upcoming peace talks in Astana could be the beginning of the long denouement in the war-torn country, Vijay Prashad says.

Assad Has Won in Syria. But Syria Hardly Exists. (11 January, 2017) And how would Mr. Assad rule the rump state? Pre-existing patronage networks have been shattered and replaced by semi-independent warlords, militias or local governing bodies.

Iran repopulates Syria with Shia Muslims to help tighten regime's control (13 January, 2017) New communities are settling in areas where Sunnis have fled or been forced out as Tehran seeks an arc of control stretching from its borders to Israel

Obama Adviser Susan Rice Cites Syrian War As Biggest Disappointment  (16 January, 2017) Rice, who served as Obama's United Nations ambassador during his first term, says there have been many successes over the past eight years. But she says her biggest disappointment has been the failure of the international community to stop Syria's brutal civil war.

Obama’s Stark Options on ISIS: Arm Syrian Kurds or Let Trump Decide (17 January, 2017) Michael R. Gordon and Eric Schmitt writes "About 250,000 civilians are in Raqqa, and the Islamic State has fortified the city with trenches and mines and would defend it with suicide bombers. Because the Obama administration has ruled out the use of American combat troops, the United States has to rely on mobilizing local Arab forces to join battle-hardened Syrian Kurdish fighters." 

At Russia-led talks, Syrian rebels and government meet for the first time (23 January, 2017) Russian-backed peace talks aimed at ending the Syrian war brought rebels and the Syrian government face to face for the first time Monday (23 January), marking the launch of a new role for Russian President Vladimir Putin as a Middle East power broker.

Refugees Entering the U.S. Already Face a Rigorous Vetting Process  (29 January, 2017) President Trump has suspended entry of all refugees to the United States for 120 days, and he has barred Syrian refugees indefinitely. The current screening process for all refugees involves many layers of security checks before entry into the country, and Syrians were subject to an additional layer of checks. Sometimes, the process, shown below, takes up to two years. 

Trump wants to push back against Iran, but Iran is now more powerful than ever (5 February, 2017) "President Trump’s tough talk on Iran is winning him friends in the Arab world, but it also carries a significant risk of conflict with a U.S. rival that is now more powerful than at any point since the creation of the Islamic republic nearly 40 years ago." 

Syrian rebel groups see necessity in consolidating ranks (8 February, 2017) In response to losing Aleppo at the end of 2016, several Syrian opposition factions have unified their ranks into two large entities, namely Hayyat Tahrir al-Sham and Ahrar al-Sham.

The Arabic version of this article can be found here: الشمال السوريّ يشهد أقوى حركة اندماج بين الفصائل العسكريّة منذ بدء الثورة السوريّة

Is the PLO helping or harming Palestinians in Syria?  (14 February, 2017) Critics accuse the PLO of failing to protect or financially support Palestinian refugees in war-torn Syria.

Are Russia, US ready to cooperate on Syria and beyond? (15 February, 2017) Moscow is taking a wait-and-see position as the new US administration takes shape, but Russian President Vladimir Putin seems to see the potential for military and political cooperation with the US not witnessed since World War II.

Syria ceasefire opens door for political solution, UN says (19 February, 2017) US anti-ISIS chief says country seeks role to support ceasefire. UN envoy to Syria says ceasefire holding better than previous ones.

 

Policy and Reports

Addressing the Syrian refugee crisis: Recommendations for the next administration (16 December, 2016) “Five years into Syria’s civil war, the international community has come to recognize that 5 million Syrian refugees will not be returning home anytime soon. The scale of the refugee crisis poses vast and consequential challenges to Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey and, by extension, to American interests in the region. As this chapter shows, resolving this conflict will require the incoming presidential administration to renew its commitments to the U.S. refugee resettlement program and to challenge the international community to provide greater support to the frontline states.” 

The Battle for al-Bab Is Bringing U.S.-Turkish Tensions to a Head (9 January, 2017) Helping Erdogan take the city could greatly decrease the civilian death toll and preserve U.S.-Turkish cooperation in Syria, but Washington will still need to decide what to do with the Kurds, its other key ally against the Islamic State.

The Arabic version of this article can be found here: معركة استعادة الباب تفاقم التوترات بين الولايات المتحدة وتركيا 

Lion Odharbd 13,000 barrel bombs on Syria in 2016 ', and Chdj Salamz  (11 January, 2017) New NGO data says the Syrian government used the illegal munitions thousands of times last year, with 1,400 attacks on civilian infrastructure in total carried out by all parties. 

'No calm' in Wadi Barada following collapse of second ceasefire  (22 January, 2017) Pro-Assad and rebel forces in Wadi Barada exchanged heavy fire on Sunday (Jan 22) for the third consecutive day following a bilateral ceasefire agreement, as local opposition sources tell Syria Direct that the collapsed deal was a “deliberate distraction” in the regime’s campaign to “seize more territory by military force.”

Assad Needs 'Useless Syria' Too  (4 February, 2017) Eastern Syria holds major hydrocarbon and agricultural resources that make it a vital asset in Assad's quest for regime self-sufficiency, and a potentially powerful source of U.S. leverage against him.

The Arabic version of this article can be found here: الأسد بحاجة أيضا إلى "سوريا غير المفيدة"

What would safe zones mean for the Syrian conflict? (8 February, 2017) Samer N Abboud writes "Safe zones represent a solution to the symptom and not the larger problem." 

Warning Update: Turkish Aggression Against Syrian Kurds Threatens to Halt U.S. Anti-ISIS Operations in Syria (13 February, 2017) The U.S.-led coalition’s fight against ISIS in Syria is in jeopardy as Turkey threatens an offensive against the U.S.’s primary partner force on the ground, the Syrian Democratic Forces.

HRW: Syria carried out chemical attacks in Aleppo (13 February, 2017) Rights group accuses Syria of eight chemical attacks, killing at least nine people during offensive to retake key town. 

Security Council resolutions to be 'Geneva talks basis' (18 February, 2017) Elections, new constitution and governance to be on the agenda of forthcoming meeting in Geneva of Syrian factions.

 

Documentaries, Special Reports, and Other Media

Exodus (27 December, 2016) “Exodus,” a two-hour FRONTLINE special, tells the first-person stories of refugees and migrants fleeing war, persecution and hardship — drawing on footage filmed by the families themselves as they leave their homes on dangerous journeys in search of safety and refuge in Europe.

Syria and the Left (9 January, 2017) To illuminate the history and nature of the Syrian conflict, Yusef Khalil for Jacobin conducted an extensive interview with Yasser Munif, a Syrian scholar who studies grassroots movements in the country. 

Human Rights Activism in Documenting Violations and Its Relation to Transitional Justice in Syria (11 January, 2017) Isam Al Zubi writes: "In Syria today, many organizations work in the human rights field, but they still lack the ability to do such work correctly because they remain novices in this domain without enough experience, and because many of them have only weak legal information." 

This Is Serene Family sense among Ronatd Tanks Taha, a sleek Partnership, the stomachs of a Sad when a Sinjaj (13 January, 2017) Rasha Elandari left Syria herself in 2010. Her future seemed bright; she was 27 and had won the Fulbright scholarship and could begin her master's thesis in archeology at the University of Arkansas. She's currently a PhD student at the University of Toronto.

'Yahoo News' Reporter Interviews Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad (10 February, 2017) NPR's Robert Siegel talks with reporter Mike Isikoff. In a Yahoo News exclusive interview, Isikoff confronts President Bashar al-Assad about his human rights record, his relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and whether he would step aside as president if it could help end the war in Syria. 

EXCLUSIVE: Defiant Assad tells Yahoo News torture report is 'fake news' (10 February, 2017) Confronted with new evidence of torture and mass hangings in one of his military prisons, Syrian President Bashar Assad said in an exclusive interview with Yahoo News that the allegations were the product of a “fake news era” and charged that a human rights group, Amnesty International, had fabricated evidence to discredit his embattled government.

Syria's 'White Helmets' makers get US visas for Oscars (19 February, 2017)

Leader of rescue group and filmmaker plan to attend Academy Awards next week after suspension of Trump's travel ban.

 

Maps

Syria Situation Report: February 2 - 16, 2017 Turkish President Recep Erdogan reiterated that the “ultimate goal” of Turkey in Operation Euphrates Shield is the establishment of a five-thousand square kilometer ‘safe zone’ that includes Al-Bab, Manbij, and Ar-Raqqa City in Northern Syria during a speech on February 12. Erdogan stated that the proposed “terrorist-free zone” would require the implementation of a no-fly zone, noting that he had discussed the issue with both the U.S. and Russia.

 

Arabic Links:

مصالح روسيا والمشروع الإيراني في سورية   (January 6, 2017) Raghida Dergham writes about Russia's interests in the Syrian conflict and what she calls "the Iranian project" in the country.

سميرة التي وراء سبعة جدران   (January 9, 2017) Yassin al-Haj Saleh dedicates this piece to his wife Samira Khalil who is currently missing after being abducted in Douma on December 9, 2013.

الإنسانيّة والفعل النبيل يعيدان الأمل إلى ذوي الاحتياجات الخاصّة في حلب  (January 9, 2017) In the thick of the Syrian war, an athlete channels his skills to help amputees receive prosthetics.

The English version of this article can be found here: Sports champion provides artificial limbs near Aleppo 

معركة استعادة الباب تفاقم التوترات بين الولايات المتحدة وتركيا (January 9, 2017) Helping Erdogan take the city could greatly decrease the civilian death toll and preserve U.S.-Turkish cooperation in Syria, but Washington will still need to decide what to do with the Kurds, its other key ally against the Islamic State.

The English version of this article can be found here: The Battle for al-Bab Is Bringing U.S.-Turkish Tensions to a Head

بعد سنوات دامية من الحرب... السريان الآشوريّون في سوريا يبحثون عن وطن بديل  (January 11, 2017) A family of Assyrians, one of Syria’s Christian sects, tells Al-Monitor their story of surviving imprisonment by the Islamic State only to lose their son this year to the fighting in Raqqa.

The English version of this article can be found here: Family captive fierce long-F Hapetr, Desplkmenh

عودة إلى حلب: إرث ضائع  (January 12, 2017) Historic Aleppo was the center of many empires over the centuries but now resembles a city plundered once again by Mongols.

The English version of this article can be found here: Return to Aleppo: A squandered legacy 

إطلاق تقرير التشتت القسري -حالة الإنسان في سورية- التقرير الديمغرافي 2016 (January 14, 2017) This report, by Syrian Center for Policy Research, tackles forced displacement and provides future solutions for the crisis. 

موسم الأسئلة السوري  (January 15, 2017) Omar Kaddour explores various questions and issues that might have prevented the "Syrian revolution" from overthrowing the Syrian regime.

رحيل الفنان ممتاز البحرة.. مبتكر أيقونتي باسم ورباب في سوريا  (January 16, 2017) Mumtaz Al Bahra, a well-known illustrator who worked for Syrian children's magazines, died on 16 January, 2017. 

بعد سجالات حادة حول معرضه الأخير في دمشق: يوسف عبدلكي: وما بدّلوا تبديلا  (January 17, 2017) Youssef Abdelke, one of Syria’s leading artists, responded in this article to criticism and controversy in regard to his decision to stay in Syria and display a new exhibition in Damascus. 

ولدتُ لاجئاً (January 19, 2017) Dara Abdallah reflects on his personal experience as, first, a Kurdish refugee child in Syria; and second, as an adult Syrian/Kurdish refugee in Europe.

نقد نقد الإسلاميين بعد مأساة حلب  (January 20, 2017) Hussein Ghrer reflects on the mainstream trend of criticizing the "Islamists" by what he calls "non-Islamists" in the Syrian uprising. 

مؤسّسة إعلاميّة في حلب تفوز بالجائزة الكبرى في مهرجان "صندانس" الأميركيّ السنويّ (February 3, 2017) The documentary "Last Men in Aleppo," which captured the suffering of the city's residents in the Syrian civil war, was honored with a top award at the Sundance Film Festival.

The English version of this article can be found here: Sundance Film Festival shines light on Aleppo

 ردود فعل السوريّين المقيمين في تركيا حول المنطقة الآمنة  (February 9, 2017) A state of confusion and uncertainty prevails among Syrians living in Turkey, after the announcement by US President Donald Trump at the end of last month of his decision to create safe zones for civilians in Syria.

The English version of this article can be found here: Syrians in Turkey baffled by Trump’s safe zones plan

الأزمة السوريّة الداخليّة تدفع بممثّلين سوريّين للهجرة إلى مصر  (February 14, 2017) Dozens of Syrian actors who were forced to leave Syria because of the conflict are trying to reassemble their lives and careers in Egypt.

The English version of this article can be found here: Syrian actors look for fresh start in Egypt

"شيلني يا بابا" ... حكاية عائلة أدمتها براميل النظام السوري (February 19, 2017) This article highlights the story of Abdulbasit Ta’an Alstoof (8 years-old) whose legs were blown off at the knees in a barrel bomb strike in Alhbit village in Idlib.

 

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