[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 Media Roundup Editors or of Salon Syria. You may send your own recommendations for inclusion in each week’s roundup to info@SalonSyria.com by Monday night of every week.]

Inside Syria

Syrian Druze wary of Hezbollah, Iranian presence (16 January 2018) Since the Syrian war erupted, Iran has been trying to gain a foothold in Syria, most recently in the south, which includes trying to win over the local Druze community.

IS families lose their homes in Syria’s Akhtarin (18 January 2018) The local council of Akhtarin, in the Aleppo countryside, is confiscating the properties of former IS and regime fighters to benefit victims of the war.

The Arabic version of this article can be found here: درع الفرات… المجلس المحلّيّ في أخترين يصادر أملاك الأشخاص الذين انضمّوا إلى صفوف قوّات النظام وتنظيم الدولة الإسلاميّة وقاتلوا في صفوفهما

‘Afrin is a cemetery of Erdogan’: Syrian Kurds vow to resist Turkey (18 January 2018) Thousands of Kurds march to condemn Turkish preparations to invade Syrian canton of Afrin, and vow to defend themselves to the last.

Israel’s “Safe Zone” Is Creeping Farther Into Syria (23 January 2018) Nour Samaha discusses how Israel is expanding its influence and control deeper into opposition-held southern Syria.

Defeated in Syria, ISIS Fighters Held in Camps Still Pose a Threat (24 January 2018) Eric Schmitt writes “American-backed Kurdish militias in northern Syria are detaining hundreds of Islamic State fighters and family members in makeshift camps, raising fears among United States military officials of potentially creating a breeding ground for extremists — repeating a key security mistake of the Iraq war.”

Air strikes kill at least 13 in east Syrian Islamic State territory: reports (25 January 2018) Air strikes on a village held by Islamic State in the eastern part of Syria’s Deir al-Zor province killed at least 13 people including seven women.

Turkish operations on Syrian border to extend as far as Iraq, Erdogan says  (26 January 2018) President Tayyip Erdogan on Friday promised to sweep militants from the length of Turkey’s Syrian frontier, saying that Ankara could extend its current military operation in northwest Syria all the way east to the border with Iraq.

Al-Jaafari: Informal paper on reviving political process in Geneva is totally rejected (26 January 2018) Syria has rejected in full the informal paper on reviving the political process in Geneva because it contradicts international resolutions and aims to undermine the Geneva talks and the Sochi Congress.

Ceasefire takes effect in Syria’s Eastern Ghouta (27 January 2018) A Russian-negotiated ceasefire has gone into effect in Syria’s Eastern Ghouta, the last remaining rebel stronghold near the capital, Damascus.

Afrin: Turkey battles Kurds over key mountain (28 January 2018) Turkey is battling to take a key mountain in northern Syria, as it steps up its offensive against US-backed Kurdish fighters in the Afrin region.

Idlib: Dozens killed in Syrian government air raids (29 January  2018) At least 23 civilians have been killed in air raids launched by Syrian government warplanes as part of an ongoing offensive to gain ground in Idlib province from opposition fighters, according to a war monitor.

“When the SDF was shocked”- An Azaz Activist’s Perspective on the Afrin Operations (30 January 2018) Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi interviews Abd al-Qadir Abu Yusuf, a well-connected independent media activist based in the key rebel-held north Aleppo countryside town of Azaz and who is a supporter of the ‘Olive Branch’ operations against the SDF in Afrin.

Turkish shelling destroys iconic Iron Age temple in Syrian Kurdistan  (30 January 2018) Turkish bombardment of Syria’s northwest Kurdish-held region of Afrin has severely damaged the temple of Ain Dara. A report by Kurdistan 24 correspondent Akram Salih.

Iconic Ancient Temple Is Latest Victim in Civil War (30 January 2018) A Turkish airstrike destroyed much of the temple on Friday during an attack on the Kurdish-held area south of the city of Afrin, according to the Syrian Ministry of Culture and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Photos and video from the Syrian Observatory and Hawar News confirm that more than half of the temple is gone, including many of the sculptures that ringed the site.

UPDATE: Ain Dara (30 January 2018) Between January 20 and January 22, 2018 the Turkish Air Force conducted an airstrike on the Early Iron Age temple at Tell Ain Dara, an archaeological site located ca. 5.8 km south of Afrin in Aleppo Governorate. The temple is an important example of Syro-Hittite religious architecture and the most extensively excavated structure of its kind in Syria.

Regional and International Perspectives

Turkish Hands Redraw the Economic Map of Aleppo’s Countryside (19 January 2018) Turkey has worked to implement future plans for the region in numerous fields, including security, economy and the development of services.

Turkey upends US Syria strategy with attack on YPG (22 January 2018) Ankara seeks green light from Moscow, not Washington, in attack on US partner; UN warns of consequences of continued fighting in Eastern Ghouta and Idlib; local council in Aleppo confiscates land of Islamic State families.

The Arabic version of this article can be found here:تركيا تقلب استراتيجيّة الولايات المتّحدة في سوريا رأسًا على عقب بهجومها على وحدات حماية الشعب

A New Decision To Go To War In Syria (22 January 2018) Paul R. Pillar writes “The Trump administration is having U.S. troops participate indefinitely in someone else’s civil war, for reasons that are quite different from the original stated objective of helping to quash the so-called caliphate of the Islamic State (ISIS or IS).”

US’ Mattis sees risk in Turkey’s operation in Syria (23 January 2018) U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has called on Turkey to show restraint in its military incursion in northern Syria, warning that violence on the border could create a vacuum for ISIS and Al Qaeda militants.

By moving into Syria, Turkey is risking its own national security (23 January 2018) The Turkish authorities should long ago have realized that the Kurdish issue can only be solved in the longer term through some form of political settlement.

Turkey’s Afrin Offensive and America’s Future in Syria (23 January 2018) Aaron Stein explores how will Washington manage Bashar al-Assad’s victory and how will the United States get out of Syria?

Syrian opposition says will boycott Russia-brokered peace talks in Sochi (26 January 2018) The Syrian opposition will not attend a peace conference Russia is hosting next week dismissing the meeting as an attempt by the Syrian government’s close ally to “sideline” the current United Nations peace process.

Western, Arab states sidestep Assad fate in Syria proposals (26 January 2018) Five Western and Arab states that have backed the rebellion against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad make no reference to his future in a document proposing changes to U.N.-led talks, an apparent recognition of his strong position in the conflict.

Tillerson says Washington, Europe start work on Iran nuclear deal (27 January 2018) U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that working groups on fixing what the U.S. sees as flaws in the Iranian nuclear deal have already begun to meet, trying to determine the scope of what is needed and how much Iran needs to be engaged in it.

Syria opposition rejects Sochi constitution plan (30 January 2018) Participants of a Russia-hosted conference for peace in Syria have agreed to set up a commission to rewrite the war-torn country’s constitution.

Turkish delegation will represent Syrian opposition at Syria congress, MFA sources say (30 January 2018) According to sources from the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Turkish delegation will represent the Syrian opposition at the Syrian National Dialogue Congress in Russia’s Sochi.

Russian Syria peace talks achieve little beyond further division as fighting continues in Afrin (30 January 2018) Clashes, boycotts and one group refusing to leave the airport – the lack of movement towards an end to the Syrian civil war has become a sadly familiar motif.


Policy and Reports

 America Quietly Starts Nation-Building in Parts of Syria (18 January 2018) The U.S. has escalated its presence in the country and has signaled no timetable for when it will end.

How ISIS’ Strategy Is Evolving  (18 January 2018) Michael P. Dempsey discusses What the U.S. can do to counter the group’s shifting tactics that increasingly prefers to conduct isolated suicide attacks and hit-and-run operations.

Syrians in US fear Trump may end their ‘protected status’ (19 January 2018) About 6,900 Syrians reside in US under Temporary Protected Status, which does not count them as visa-holding immigrants or refugees

Confidential Sunni-Alawite Meeting in Berlin Summarized in Eleven-Item Document (22 January 2018) Blueprint outlining ‘social contract’ for Syria’s future developed by delegates from various ethnic, religious and sectarian groups.

Sochi talks to form ‘unified Syrian army and government’ (23 January 2018) Russian brokered talks on Syria will demand the formation of a unified army and national unity, a leaked Russian document obtained by Asharq Al Awsat newspaper said.

New American strategy for Syria could be doomed as allies of U.S. fight each other (27 January 2018) Louisa Loveluck, Liz Sly and Kareem Fahim writes “Turkey’s assault against Kurdish militants in Syria has exposed the limitations of the Trump administration’s new Syria policy, calling into question the feasibility of Washington’s plans to maintain a military presence in that country without becoming embroiled in a wider conflict.”

Exclusive: Tests link Syrian government stockpile to largest sarin attack – sources (30 January 2018) The Syrian government’s chemical weapons stockpile has been linked for the first time by laboratory tests to the largest sarin nerve agent attack of the civil war, diplomats and scientists told Reuters.

These Syrians could face deportation if the Trump administration stops protecting them (30 January 2018) Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen must decide by Wednesday whether to extend or end “temporary protected status,” or TPS, for roughly 6,000 Syrians.

With government flags flying in Sochi, opposition delegation leaves in protest, citing ‘unfulfilled promises’(30 January 2018) A delegation of Syrian opposition representatives departed the Black Sea city of Sochi in protest on Tuesday, refusing to attend Russian-sponsored peace talks as deadly airstrikes continued to pound rebel-held Idlib province.


Documentaries, Special Reports, and Other Media

2010 Atlantic City High School grad now ISIS commander  (19 January 2018) A Margate native who graduated from Atlantic City High School in 2010 is now a senior commander and fighter in the Islamic State, or ISIS, in Syria.

Failed Marriages to Foreign Fighters Leave Children as Orphans Without Lineage (19 January 2018) Zeitoun speaks with several Syrian women whose children are not recognized by authorities due to their connection with foreign-born Islamist fighters

At beloved falafel shop, Syrians get taste of pre-war Raqqa (20 January 2018) The al-Malik falafel restaurant, a culinary institution serving the city center for 40 years, finally reopened in early January to bring some color back to Raqqa.

Why is Turkey attacking Syria? (20 January 2018) Turkish war planes have launched airstrikes on Kurdish positions in northern Syria.

Syrian regime routinely bombs civilians in Eastern Ghouta (23 January 2018) The BBC has obtained shocking footage from the besieged area of Eastern Ghouta in Syria where 200 people have been killed in the last two weeks, including 50 children.

Angelina Jolie meets Syrian refugees, calls for end to war (28 January 2018) Angelina Jolie visited a camp for Syrian refugees in Jordan on Sunday, calling for a political solution to Syria’s war and saying that “humanitarian aid is not a long-term solution.”

Fitness tracker Strava lights up military base (29 January 2018) Online fitness tracker Strava appears to show the structure of foreign military bases in countries like Syria and Afghanistan, as soldiers move around inside.



The Carter Center: Syria Conflict Mapping Project Reports (Jan. 18-24, 2018 | Weekly Conflict Summary) During this reporting period, a new Turkish-led offensive (dubbed Operation Olive Branch) began attacking territory controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF, a Kurdish-led organization in Syria’s north). Pro-government forces and ISIS forces at the southwestern frontiers of the opposition-held Idleb pocket once again took significant territory from opposition forces in the area. Bombardment on opposition-held Eastern Ghouta by pro-government forces also continued, though there have been no advances on these fronts.

TURKEY’S NEXT PHASE IN AFRIN, SYRIA (23 January 2018) The Institute for the Study of War’s January 23 map depicts a possible course of action that would achieve Turkey’s likely operational objectives. Those objectives are to secure the Syrian-Turkish border, isolate Afrin city, seize the Mennagh airbase, secure ground lines of communication, and establish a new forward line of troops to serve as a future “de-escalation” line with pro-Bashar al Assad regime forces including Russia.

Mapping the Journeys of Syria’s Artists  (28 January 2018) Eliza Griswold traces the paths of Syria’s artists who who have fled Syria since 2011.

ERDOGAN ESCALATES AGAINST IRAN TO PROTECT AFRIN OPERATION (30 January 2018) Pro-Assad regime forces attacked a Turkish convoy that deployed from Turkey into Syria on January 29. Turkish forces stopped short of their objective after coming under fire and it is unclear whether they will resume their advance.


Arabic links:

تقدّم في عمل المنظّمات النسويّة في الجزيرة ولكن… (16 January 2018)إزاء حوادث العنف ضد المرأة تسعى بعض المنظمات النسوية لكشف الحقائق, فيما تكتفي منظمات أخرى بالدور التوعوي مفضلة عدم مواجهة المعوقات.

The English version of this article can be found here: Women’s organizations in northern Syria have come a long way

الحملة الجويّة والبريّة لقوّات النظام في ريف حلب الجنوبيّ وريف إدلب الجنوبيّ وريف حماة الشماليّ – الشرقيّ تتسبّب بتهجير عشرات الآلاف من المدنيّين وتنذر بكارثة إنسانيّة (January 19 2018)عشرات الآلاف من النازحين إلى شمال إدلب في حاجة إلى مساعدات مستعجلة، بعد أن هجّروا من منازلهم في ريف إدلب الجنوبيّ وريف حلب الجنوبيّ وريف حماة الشماليّ – الشرقيّ بسبب القصف الجويّ والمدفعيّ العنيف، الذي شنّته قوّات النظام والطائرات الروسيّة في المنطقة منذ بداية كانون الأوّل/ديسمبر من عام 2017.

The English version of this article can be found here: Humanitarian disaster looms in northern Idlib

ماذا يحدث في ادلب؟  (January 21 2018)ماذا يحدث في ادلب؟ وما تأثير ذلك على مناطق خفض التصعيد ومؤتمر الحوار في سوتشي؟ وهل سوف تتأثر العلاقات التركية الروسية بما يحصل حقيقة؟

المجالس المحلية والتجارب المنقوصة (January 22 2018) “أمام ما يطرح من حلول تسعى لتحويل سورية إلى مجموعة من الكانتونات والأقاليم الصغيرة الخاضعة لوصاية الضامن أو الراعي وتقسيمها من الناحية العملية؛ فإن أي تعويل على اللجان والمجالس المحلية كتجربة سياسية يبنى عليها، لإدارة سورية والحفاظ على وحدتها وحكم المجتمع من خلالها، هو اكتفاء بصيغة منقوصة لحكم الشعب الذي يقرر مصيره، عبر المشاركة الشعبية العامة في رسم سياسة البلد ومحاسبة المسؤولين، وهدرًا للتضحيات التي قُدّمت للوصول إلى دولة تحترم مواطنيها وتؤمّن الحقوق والحريات للجميع.”

الوثيقة الروسية لمؤتمر سوتشي: جيش وأمن تحت الدستور… و«إدارات ذاتية» (January 23 2018)الشرق الأوسط تنشر مسودة بيان «الحوار السوري» المطابقة لمبادئ دي ميستورا واقتراح تشكيل ثلاث لجان

العدوان التركي مستمر: «غصن الزيتون» برعاية الجميع؟ (January 24 2018)لم يكن العدوان التركي على عفرين مفاجئاً، بل جاء بمثابة انتهاز فرصة قدّمتها واشنطن على طبقٍ من ذهب حين أعلن «التحالف الدولي» عزمه على إنشاء «قوّة حرس حدود» جديدة. وتوحي المعطيات السياسية المتوافرة حتى الآن بأنّ «غصن الزيتون» لا تعدو كونها مقدّمة لفصل جديد من فصول الحرب السوريّة. فصل عمل معظم اللاعبين على إطلاق شارته، من دون أن تُغيّر التصريحات الداعية إلى «ضبط النفس» شيئاً من هذه الحقيقة

في تغليب العداء للكُرد على العداء لنظام آل الأسد وحماته  (January 25 2018)جلبير الأشقر ينتقد حملة الذي “يدّعي تحرير العرب السوريين من سطوة «الإرهابيين» الكُرد مثلما ادّعى الجيش الصهيوني تحرير اللبنانيين من سطوة «الإرهابيين» الفلسطينيين. ”

على الولايات المتحدة إبقاء “الحماية المؤقتة” للسوريين  (January 25 2018)حثّت “هيومن رايتس ووتش”  الولايات المتحدة الأمريكية على تجديد منح “وضع الحماية المؤقتة” لـ 7 آلاف سوري تقريبا مقيمين فيها، فمع استمرار  النزاع المسلح القائم في البلاد ” سيواجه أي شخص يجبر على العودة إلى سوريا مخاطر جسيمة جراء النزاع والانتهاكات الحقوقية والقانونية الواسعة النطاق”.

The English version of this article can be found here: US: Keep Temporary Protection for Syrians

وثيقة “مجموعة واشنطن” بشأن سوريا: وصاية للأمم المتحدة وتقسيم وحكومات مناطقية  (January 26 2018)الميادين تحصل على وثيقة خطيرة وضعتها “مجموعة واشنطن” لحلّ الأزمة السورية تتضمن إشارات إلى وضع سوريا تحت الوصاية المباشرة للأمم المتحدة، وتشير إلى تقسيم سوريا تحت مسمى اللامركزية وتشكيل حكومات مناطقية بصلاحيات كبيرة.

طائرات الاحتلال التركي دمر تل عين دارة الأثري (January 27 2018)”عفرين- تعرض تل عين دارة الأثري والتاريخي بناحية شيراوا بمقاطعة عفرين إلى غارات لجيش الاحتلال التركي ودّمر الموقع الأثري والتاريخي وأصبح كالركام.”

العدوان التركي يستهدف معبد عين دارة في عفرين (January 27 2018)تدين وزارة الثقافة -المديرية العامة للآثار والمتاحف الهجمات التركية على المواقع الأثرية في منطقة عفرين السورية والتي” أدى آخرها إلى تدمير معبد عين دارة وهو أحد أهم الأبنية الأثرية التي بناها الآراميون في سورية خلال الألف الأول قبل الميلاد.”

الدب السوري لم ينقرض ! .. آثار لاقدام للدب البني السوري في منطقة بلودان (January 28 2018)فيديو قصير مصور يوم السبت 20\1\2018، وتحديداً من جبل اليونان وهي أعلى قمة في بلودان تظهر آثار أقدام قد تعود للدب البني السوري الذي كان يُعتقد بأنه قد انقرض من خمسين سنة من سوريا

سَفَراتُ الموتِ واللّقاءِ تَقُصُّها ابنةُ ناجٍ من الإبادة الأرمنية (January 29 2018)الرابع والعشرين نيسان منْ كلّ عام الذكرى السنوية للإبادة الٲرمنية التي راح ضحيتها ما يُقارب المليون ونصف المليون ٲرمني خلال وبعد الحرب العالمية الٲولى. وقد أطلق الأرمن على تلك الأحداث بـ “الجريمة الكبرى” والتي ارتكبها الجنود الٲتراك من ربيع ١٩١٥ حتى خريف ١٩١٦ وبقي صداها المُؤلم يُؤرّق ابنة الناجي نظريان شوربجيان كالآلاف غيرها  ممّن كانوا ضحايا حروب ٲحرقتِ الٲخضر واليابس وسط تخاذُل المجتمع الدولي في ٲداء دوره الٳنساني بِرَدّ الحقوق ٳلى ٲصحابها.

قصة قريتين (January 29 2018)ع. الداغستاني من دير فول وسمير تسي من بئر عجم حاولا أن يحكيا عن قريتيهما، و بعضاً من التراجيديا التي عايشاها دون نقصان باليوم والساعة والدقيقة والثانية. ليست فانتازيا أو حكايات للتسلية المبرحة. إنها قصص الموت السوري اليومي وهي رواية الجرحى والمفقودين والمظلومين والهاربين من العسف والقذائف الطائشة والموت الحتمي. قريتان طحنتهما الرحى السورية الهائلة فيما يحاول شاهدان أن يسردا ما شاهداه وشهدا عليه وكيف كان عليهما أن يتركا كل شيء وراءهما ويغذان الخطى باتجاه المجهول الذي لا يعرفان عنه شيئاً.

 تراجع روسي عن «لجنة الدستور» في «وثيقة سوتشي» (January 30 2018)توصل المبعوث الدولي ستيفان دي ميستورا مع الجانب الروسي إلى مسودة نهائية لـ«وثيقة سوتشي» لمؤتمر الحوار السوري، حصلت «الشرق الأوسط» على نصها؛ تضمنت موافقة موسكو على شرط الأمم المتحدة، بترك تشكيل «اللجنة الدستورية»، وتحديد مرجعيتها وآلية عملها وأعضائها إلى دي ميستورا، وعملية جنيف برعاية الأمم المتحدة، في وقت علم أن المدعوين إلى المؤتمر تبلغوا خلال لقاء موسع في دار الأوبرا بدمشق «الخطوط الحمر»، بينها «رفض بحث صوغ دستور جديد والجيش والأمن» والتمسك بمبدأ «تعديل الدستور الحالي».

[This article is published jointly in partnership with Jadaliyya.]