Syria Situation Report: September 22 - October 7, 2016

The U.S. suspended all bilateral engagement with Russia on Syria on October 3 in response to the an ongoing regime offensive on Aleppo City following the collapse of a nationwide ‘cessation of hostilities’ on September 19. The U.S. State Department accused Russia of “failing to live up to its own commitments” in the deal and being “either unwilling or unable” to ensure the compliance of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The U.S. will also withdraw personnel that had been forward-deployed in preparation for the establishment of 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. The breakdown in diplomatic coordination over the Syrian Civil War comes amidst reports that the White House is considering stronger action against the regime. Anonymous administration officials stated that the National Security Council will meet on October 8 to consider military options that include the potential use of limited military force against regime targets. The White House is also considering providing support for new UN sanctions against regime officials after the Joint Investigative Mechanism established by the UN and Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) blamed the Syrian Arab Air Force for a series of chlorine gas attacks conducted in 2014 - 2015. These developments set the stage for further conflict with Russia in Syria. The Russian Foreign Ministry warned that any military intervention by the U.S. in Syria could lead to “terrible, tectonic consequences” for the region. Russia also deployed an advanced anti-ballistic missile system and additional aircraft to the Syrian Coast in a likely attempt to raise the difficulty of any potential air intervention against the regime. The regime nonetheless issued a slight signal of de-escalation on October 5 with the announcement of an alleged humanitarian “reduction” of airstrikes and shelling on opposition-held districts of Eastern Aleppo City.