Syria Situation Report: September 8 - 22, 2016

Violence in Aleppo City spiked to new highs after the collapse of a nationwide ‘cessation of hostilities’ on September 19. The ceasefire marked a core component of a wide-ranging deal on the Syrian Civil War reached by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on September 9. The deal called for the implementation of a meaningful ‘cessation of hostilities’ and unimpeded humanitarian access to all besieged regions starting on September 12. If sustained for seven continuous days, the U.S. and Russia would establish a Joint Implementation Center (JIC) in order to share intelligence and coordinate airstrikes against both ISIS and Jabhat Fatah al-Sham - the successor of Syrian Al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra. Although diplomats expressed hope that the deal could allow a return to political negotiations to end the conflict, the deal lacked a concrete enforcement mechanism and almost immediately suffered from regular violations committed by both sides. The regime also continued to block humanitarian access to opposition-held districts of Eastern Aleppo City despite the terms of the agreement. The deal suffered significant blows following an accidental coalition airstrike against pro-regime forces outside Deir ez-Zour City on September 17 and a suspected pro-regime airstrike against a UN humanitarian convoy outside Aleppo City on September 19. International powers failed to reach a consensus on the path forward to restore the ceasefire during an acrimonious UN Security Council Meeting on September 21 as well as two separate meetings of the International Syria Support Group on September 20 and September 22. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called for the immediate grounding of all military flights over opposition-held regions as the only measure sufficient to restore the ceasefire, while Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has offered vague support for a new series of temporary truces. No initiative appears likely to prevent the ongoing escalation, pointing towards a new wave of violence that will benefit ISIS, Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, and other Salafi-Jihadist Groups.