Russia in Syria Monitor

Details of Russia’s military campaign in Syria:

  • A Syrian Kurdish militia says it will hand over the bodies of nine enemy fighters to Turkey following clashes with Turkish-backed Syrian opposition forces. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the handover was arranged by Russia. The Russian military maintains a handful of posts in Kurdish territory in northern Syria. (AP, 07.18.17)
  • Russia’s Rosoboronexport state arms seller will provide foreign delegations taking part in the MAKS airshow, which runs from July 18 to July 23, with data on the performance of Russian combat aircraft in the counterterrorist operation in Syria, the company’s press office said. (TASS, 07.18.17)

Response to Russia’s military campaign in Syria:

  • U.S. President Donald Trump has said he will not roll back sanctions on Russia unless Moscow agrees to negotiated peace deals between warring parties in Ukraine and Syria. "I would never take the sanctions off until something is worked out to our satisfaction and everybody's satisfaction in Syria and Ukraine," Trump told reporters on July 12 aboard Air Force One. "I've made great deals. That's what I do. Why would I take sanctions off without getting anything?" he asked, adding that Russian President Vladimir Putin did not raise the issue of sanctions in their recent meeting in Germany. (RFE/RL, 07.14.17)
  • Mortar shells hit the Syrian capital of Damascus, with one of the projectiles hitting the Russian Embassy and one falling nearby, causing some material damage, the state-run SANA news agency said on July 16. It was not immediately clear who was responsible for the shelling. Rebels fighting the government of Moscow-backed President Bashar al-Assad have previously struck the Russian Embassy. (RFE/RL, 07.17.17)

Strategies and actions recommended:

  • Sam Heller, a Beirut-based writer/analyst and a fellow at The Century Foundation writes: In partnering with the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), “the United States has won its way into a strategic dead end. It needs to look for an exit. In particular, it should seriously investigate possible coordination with Russia. Kurdish officials told me that Russia is already attempting to lean on the YPG to allow more of the regime back into a northwestern Kurdish enclave outside the United States’ protective umbrella. In the northeast, Russia may be able to help bring the regime and the YPG to a mutually dissatisfying but useful compromise, for which Russia could serve as guarantor.” (Foreign Affairs, 07.18.17)
  • Columnist Josh Rogin writes: “If humanitarian assistance is cut off, the largely Sunni population in northern Iraq could feel abandoned and turn back to the extremists… That, of course, is what happened about a decade ago… The Trump administration doesn't seem to have learned that lesson. For example, the United States doesn't have a well-developed plan to help rebuild the cities in Iraq and Syria damaged during the fight… In Syria, the current strategy is to partner with Russia to establish deconfliction zones and temporary cease-fires that Trump often praises. But partnering with Russia in Syria without a better plan to help liberated areas prosper could lead to disaster.” (The Washington Post, 07.17.17)
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