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.
New Defense, Industry, and Information Ministers in Cabinet Reshuffle
1 January 2018
The first decree of 2018 named Major General Ali Abdullah Ayoub as the Minister of Defense (previously the Chief of Staff for the army and armed forces), Mazen Ali Yousef as the Minister of Industry (previously President of the Central Authority for Financial Supervision), and Imad Abdullah Sara as the Minister of Information (previously the Head of the General Authority for Radio and Television).
First: Major Gen. Ali Ayoub is the third Defense Minister since the start of the Syrian crisis in 2011. He succeeds Major Gen. Jasem Al-Fraij who became Minister of Defense after the assassination of Major Gen. Daoud Rajiha (a Christian) in the “crisis unit” incident in July 2012. Al-Fraij had failed in recapturing the village of Al-Rahjan, his own hometown, in the countryside of Hama province. The reshuffle also coincided with the retreat of Syrian government forces from the Vehicles Administration post, east of Damascus, after confrontations with opposition factions, including “Islamic Ahrar Al-Sham.” Ayoub is an Alawite from the Syrian Coast, whereas Al-Fraij is a Sunni from middle Syria.
Second: According to opposition sources, the appointment of Sara as Information Minister came weeks after Prime Minister Imad Khamis’s decision to relieve him from his duties as Head of the General Authority for Radio and Television. However, pressures from the presidential palace restored Sara’s position and he has become the Minister of Information.
Third: This government change comes weeks before a conference for Syrian dialogue in Sochi at the end of this month, which is scheduled to address the formation of a committee to draft a new constitution.
Damascus Cham Holding Company Signs Two Hundred and Fifty Million Dollar Contracts
30 December 2017
Damascus Cham Holding Company has signed contracts with businessman Mazen Tarazi valued at one-hundred and eight billion Syrian pounds. The contracts include the investment of the central mall in Marota City (in the orchards of Mazzeh neighborhood in Damascus) on an area of one hundred and twenty thousand km2 and the investment of six buildings on an area of twenty-six thousand km2. In an unprecedented manner, the investor’s share will be greater than the “public authority’s” share, as he will receive fifty-one percent, whereas Damascus Cham Holding company will receive forty-nine percent of the total value of the two hundred and fifty million dollar contracts. It is worth mentioning that Damascus Cham Holding Company is a private, limited liability company established in accordance with Decree Number Nineteen in 2015, which authorizes it to run properties belonging to Damascus Governorate.
Number of Syrian Refugees in Lebanon Drops
27 December 2017
The number of Syrian refugees registered in Lebanon has dropped to less than one million (approximately nine-hundred and ninety-eight thousand) for the first time since 2014, as per the spokesperson of the UNHCR. Syrian refugees are distributed in the region, according to the UNHCR, as follows: sixty-two percent in Turkey, eighteen percent in Lebanon, twelve percent in Jordan, five percent in Iraq, and two percent in Egypt. It should be mentioned that Lebanon has stopped registering Syrian refugees since early 2015.
Security Council Adopts a Resolution on Providing Humanitarian Aid to Syria
19 December 2017
The Security Council adopted Resolution 2393 concerning the authorization of access of cross-border humanitarian aid for those in need inside Syrian, with twelve votes in favor and three abstentions. The resolution comes as a twelve-month extension for Resolution 2165. The Swedish ambassador welcomed the adoption of the resolution stating that it represented a vital humanitarian life-line for three million people inside the country. The new resolution requested that the General Secretary conduct, within six months, an independent review of the humanitarian cross-border operations that included recommendations on how to strengthen the Monitoring Mechanism of the United Nations, taking into account the views of relevant parties including the Syrian authorities, concerned neighboring countries, and humanitarian agencies.
This extension comes after many organizations working in cross-border humanitarian relief expressed their concern over the potential of this mechanism’s cessation under Russian pressure, especially after the expansion of the regime’s military control last year.