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.
Chemical Weapons Once Again
8 April 2018
US President Donald Trump warned that those responsible for the reckless chemical attack on Douma in the Ghouta of Damascus would pay a “big price.” President Trump said in a tweet on Sunday that “President [Vladimir] Putin, Russia, and Iran are responsible for backing [Bashar] al-Assad… Big price to pay.”
At least one hundred civilians were killed on Friday night when the government continued its military airstrikes on Douma city, which is under opposition control in eastern Ghouta, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR). Reports regarding a suspected attack with “poisonous gases” stirred international condemnation after opposition members and rescue workers accused Syrian government forces of carrying out the attack which left scores of victims in Douma, the last enclave for opposition factions in eastern Ghouta.
Official Syrian television along with Russia, an ally of the government, denied accusations of using chemical weapons.
This latest suspected attack comes one year after the town of Khan Sheikhoun was subject to an attack with sarin gas, killing more than eighty people. The UN accused government forces of carrying out that attack.
Trump responded to the latter attack three days after by launching fifty-nine cruise missiles from US warships in the Mediterranean towards a Syrian airbase.
Assad denied giving orders for the attack as Russia continued to provide diplomatic cover for him in the UN.
President Trump criticized his predecessor on Sunday for failing to attack after warning that the use of chemical weapons in Syria was a “red line.” Trump said, “If President Obama had crossed his stated Red Line in The Sand, the Syrian disaster would have ended long ago! Animal Assad would have been history!”
Afterwards, the official Syrian television reported an official source saying that an agreement was reached that provides for the release of all the abducted people held in Douma by Jaish al-Islam, which controls Douma, in exchange for the exit of Jaish al-Islam from the city. The official source added that the fighters would leave and venture towards Jarablus in northern Syria near the Turkish borders.
Exploitation of Sovereignty: The Ankara Meeting
4 April 2018
Leaders of Turkey, Iran, and Russia met in Ankara, Turkey, on Wednesday. In a joint statement, the leaders said they were determined to accelerate efforts to guarantee “stability on the ground” in Syria and protect civilians in “de-escalation zones.” They confirmed their adherence to the Astana formula has been proven to contribute to stability, according to the Anatolia News Agency. They also confirmed their adherence to the sovereignty, independence, and political integrity of Syria.
It is worth mentioning that this summit comes after the Russians and Iranians provided support for government forces in their brutal military attack on Ghouta, which is one of the de-escalation zones, and after the Olive Branch Operation, in which Turkey, along with allied opposition armed factions, captured Afrin through a wide-scale military operation.
In a related context, Turkey criticized the ambiguous position of the United States in Syria regarding the uncertainty of how long US forces will stay. There is also heated debate surrounding Manbij, as Turkey is demanding the withdrawal of the People’s Protection Units from it or else it will intervene militarily, while US forces are present in the city, fueling the Turkish-US tensions over the situation of the Kurds. The irony continued with the spokesman for the Turkish President saying that there is no need to intervene in Tal Rafa’at in light of Moscow’s assertion that there are no People’s Protection Units in it.
Turkey accused France of supporting terrorists in Syria after a meeting between the French president and a Syrian delegation that included the People’s Protection Units and the Democratic Union Party on 30 March. The French president reiterated France’s support to stabilize northern Syria by combatting the Islamic State. Turkey said this support amounted to support for terrorism.
Negotiations and decisions regarding every aspect and village in Syria with the use of blatant military force and Syrians nowhere in sight, and under the slogan of protecting the unity and sovereignty of Syria, this is how the various parties are breaching the agreements signed, while the Syrian people are paying the material and moral price and celebrate the success of the agreements!
Exploitation of Property: Law No. 10
2 April 2018
In light of the legislative work frame for the reconstruction of Syria, within the context of collecting the post-war spoils and after all the injustice to the lives and property of Syrians, Law No. 10 of 2018 has been issued, which stipulates the creation of one or more regulatory zones within the regulatory plan for administrational units in cities, according to a decree based on a proposal from the Minister of Local Administration and Environment. The law also provides for the amendment of some of the provisions in Legislative Decree No. 66 of 2012. This law comes in the same context of previous legislation to pre-distribute resources and profits of the reconstruction of Syria, as it comes after Decree No. 19 of 2015 that allowed administrational units to establish “private” holding companies to deal with the property and rights of these units.
Law No. 10 is based on the creation of a new regulatory zone and calls upon property owners and in-kind right holders to submit applications to prove their rights within thirty days. Property and land cases and their allocation are one of the most complicated cases in times of peace and welfare, however, in times of war, destruction, loss of documents and rights, forgery, looting, displacement, and intimidation, they become close to impossible. The current steps are taken within short time frames that can only be justified by the will to continue to plunder what is left, which is the land and future projects.