The following is a selection by our editors of significant weekly developments in Syria. Depending on events, each issue will include anywhere from four to eight briefs. This series is produced in both Arabic and English in partnership between Salon Syria and Jadaliyya. Suggestions and blurbs may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Soft” Strike and “Fatal” Division
9-15 April 2018
This week witnessed the eruption of a new international conflict and the formation of a US-British-French tripartite coalition to “punish” Damascus.
After the claimed “chemical” attack on Douma in eastern Ghouta last week, the United States stepped up its threats to carry out a military strike against the Syrian government as “punishment for crossing the red line,” which was set by former President Barak Obama in 2012.
France and Britain supported President Donald Trump’s approach and expressed their desire to participate in the military action. After a failed session in the UN Security Council on Tuesday, which ended in a Russian veto against a US draft resolution calling for the establishment of an investigation mechanism regarding the use of chemical weapons in Syria, President Trump said on his Twitter account that Russia should get ready for US missiles that will hit Syria.
After that, he retracted his statement through another tweet saying that he did not set a time, and that it could be very soon or not so soon. This was echoed by Russian responses, which included the demand that Trump direct his “missiles towards terrorists instead of directing them towards the Syrian government.”
This strain showed the extent of tensions in the international arena, raised the stakes for a major deterioration among the super powers, and was reflected in currency and commodity markets and global stocks.
In the face of this escalation, Damascus agreed to receive an investigation committee from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which arrived on Saturday and is set to visit the site of the attack. (Reuters)
Before the arrival of international inspectors to Douma and before the British Parliament convenes on Monday (due to Prime Minister Theresa May’s concern that she would not get support, just like what happened with her predecessor David Cameron in 2013), the three countries carried out one hundred and five strikes on Saturday that targeted the Scientific Research Center in Barzeh, Damascus, the Scientific Research Center in Hama, and a military depot in Homs.
There were contradicting statements regarding whether the missiles achieved their objectives, as the Russian Defense Ministry said that seventy-one out of one hundred and three missiles were intercepted, while the Pentagon said that no missiles were brought down and that they successfully achieved their objectives. (Reuters)
The strike was not meant to stop the war or “change the regime” instead they were meant to target the Syrian government’s ability to use chemical weapons; it was a limited strike that has achieved its objective, according to several spokesmen from the tripartite coalition. The strike received support from NATO, Canada, Israel, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar, and was opposed by Russia, China, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, and Egypt, illustrating the continuous international and regional contradictions regarding the Syrian issue.
However, the limited scope of the strike and the Syrian government’s readiness for it, which was manifested by the evacuation of the targeted sites, in addition to not targeting any sites of the Syrian government’s allies, rendered the previous threats of a severe strike against the Syrian government meaningless. Some observers considered that the Syrian government was able to overcome the strike with minimal losses and would not change its policies, and that it will strengthen its alliance with Russia and Iran.
Amid all these thorny and contradictory issues, which indicate that the strike was a step in the deteriorating course of the Syrian war, and with the continuation of violence and no international will to stop the violence or find an exit, this strike once again showed the gravity of war for the Syrians. This war is getting increasingly complicated as time passes by, and the fragmentation within the Syrian people was manifested by those who celebrated repelling the aggression and others who celebrated launching the attack. This is one aspect of fragmentation that will be hard to cure.
Just like in Ghouta and Afrin, Syrians have shown a fatal rupture that threatens their identity and social fabric. The contradiction lies in the fact that Syrians have long suffered from the US role that has supported Israel for decades and destroyed Iraq by invading it and crushing its structure. Many people see Trump as a far cry from the demands of freedom and justice that the peoples of the region aspire to. On the other hand, the Syrian government has launched an internal law, violating all that is forbidden internationally and popularly, refusing change by force. Profanation of life has become a friend of Syrians. The more foreign support the Syrian government gets from Russia and Iran, the more intransigent it gets.
Are choices confined to local tyranny or international tyranny?
Douma in the Hands of the Government
14 April 2018
The pace of the agreement between Jaish al-Islam and Russian forces accelerated after the claimed chemical attack, which was accompanied by military escalation by the Syrian government and Russian forces last week. Jaish al-Islam agreed to leave for Aleppo countryside and hand over Douma to Russian military police. On Saturday, the Syrian army command announced the restoration of Douma and the entry of Syrian police into the city. Thus, eastern Ghouta is now under the control of the Syrian government and the only enclave remaining outside its control is Yarmouk Camp and al-Hajar al-Aswad, which are partially controlled by ISIS.
The next station is expected to be in southern Damascus and then in Homs countryside, leaving the future of Idlib, Daraa’ countryside, and east of the Euphrates subject to Russian understandings with regional and international powers.