U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on July 14 to discuss a proposal for bilateral military cooperation in the Syrian Civil War. The proposal calls for the establishment of a ‘Joint Implementation Group’ based in Amman, Jordan to “support deliberate targeting” of Syrian Al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra and “maximize independent but synchronized efforts” against ISIS in Syria, according to a draft memorandum leaked by the Washington Post.
Syria Situation Report
The Syrian Arab Army declared the start of a seventy-two-hour nationwide ‘regime of calm’ between July 6 and July 8 to celebrate Eid al-Fitr. Local activists nonetheless reported that pro-regime forces continued to engage in clashes, shelling, and airstrikes across the country, particularly near the flashpoints of Damascus and Aleppo City.
The White House issued a proposal for direct military partnership with Russia in an effort to reestablish a faltering political process to end the Syrian Civil War. The proposal appears to represent a major concession to demands from Russia for deeper cooperation from the U.S. in the fight against “terrorism” as part of its wider strategic objective to secure international legitimacy as a security guarantor in the Middle East at the expense of the U.S.
The White House defended its policy towards the Syrian Civil War following the publication of a diplomatic dissent cable calling for the “judicious” use of force against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Meanwhile, President Assad appointed a new prime minister despite international calls for a political transition. Unconfirmed reports also claimed that Russia and Iran may deploy additional forces to the country over the next few weeks.
The Syrian Civil War continued to escalate despite continued international pressure to enforce a diplomatic solution to the conflict. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called for the start of a new nationwide ‘cessation of hostilities’ within the “next week or two” but warned that U.S. patience was wearing thin. Meanwhile, Russia intensified its own air campaign on behalf of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad despite claims of continued support for a wider ceasefire.
ISIS faces mounting pressure upon its stronghold of Ar-Raqqa City and its access to the Syrian-Turkish Border via Aleppo Province. The Syrian Democratic Forces successfully isolated Manbij in Eastern Aleppo Province in an operation that began on May 31. Meanwhile, Pro-regime forces advanced into Ar-Raqqa Province on June 2. These overlapping pressures forced ISIS to abandon an ongoing offensive against key opposition strongholds in Northern Aleppo Province.
ISIS conducted an unprecedented series of complex suicide attacks in regime-held Tartus City and Jableh on the Syrian Coast on 23 MAY, killing at least 150 civilians and wounding over 200 others. ISIS will likely escalate its attacks against Alawites on the Syrian Coast during the upcoming holy month of Ramadan. Meanwhile, ISIS seized at least six villages in Northern Aleppo Province in a major setback for efforts by the U.S. and Turkey to deny ISIS access to the Syrian-Turkish Border.
The International Syria Support Group (ISSG) agreed to new measures to reinforce a nationwide 'cessation of hostilities' following a meeting on May 17. The ISSG pledged support to a campaign of "air bridges" starting on June 1 if actors continue to deny humanitarian access to besieged regions. The ISSG also threatened to exclude parties with a "persistent pattern of noncompliance" from the ceasefire. The meeting nonetheless failed to set a clear date for the resumption of the Geneva III Talks.
A temporary ceasefire ended in Aleppo City on May 11, sparking a new wave of violence throughout the city and its outskirts. The U.S. and Russia brokered the local truce on May 5 as part of an effort to reinstate a nationwide 'cessation of hostilities'. Meanwhile, Lebanese Hezbollah military chief Mustafa Badreddine reportedly died in an unidentified explosion near Damascus less than a week after the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps suffered one of its largest single-day combat losses in Syria.
The U.S. and Russia brokered an agreement to extend a temporary "regime of silence" to Aleppo City for 48 hours beginning on May 5. The agreement follows 10 days of violence in Aleppo City that killed at least 250 people and damaged at least 5 hospitals. Nonetheless, the renewed diplomatic effort to prevent an escalation in Aleppo City and re-institute a nationwide 'cessation of hostilities' faces severe challenges.