Week in Review: High-Octane Diplomacy, Big Shifts on the Ground

The diplomatic moves around Syria last week were preparation for the debate on Syria this week, as the U.N. General Assembly convenes in New York.

Written by Lara Setrakian Published on Read time Approx. 2 minutes

Over Russian objections, the U.S. is pushing a strong U.N. Security Council measure that would enforce a chemical weapons deal with President Bashar al-Assad (the agreement that would have him hand over the regime’s chemical weapons stockpile in exchange for avoiding a U.S. military strike). This weekend Assad fulfilled the first step in the framework, handing over a list of chemical assets. But the U.S. and its allies want to ensure he’ll follow through, and face consequences if he cheats or falters in delivering on the deal.

While diplomats convene at the General Assembly, the Syrian National Coalition, the opposition organization in exile, will be holding meetings on the sidelines. The hoped-for long shot is that we’ll see a breakthrough in planning a new round of peace talks, known as Geneva II, which would restart a political track for ending Syria’s war.

While global diplomacy inched forward, conditions on the ground shifted dramatically.  In the northern border town of Azaz we saw the gulf between rebel groups widen, separating al -Qaida-linked rebels (who push an extreme Islamist ideology) from the moderate, U.S.-backed brigades of the Free Syrian Army.

In the same week, in the town of Raqqa, we saw a deepening rivalry between the al- Qaida-linked groups themselves. Jabhat al Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), both considered terrorist groups by the U.S., are competing for power in areas free of Assad regime rule. In Raqqa, moderates told Syria Deeply they’ve chosen to align with al -Nusra to protect themselves from ISIS. Civilians in Raqqa are caught in the middle, unhappy with any al-Qaida influence and afraid to speak out against their new extremist overlords.

What’s the fallout for the average Syrian citizen? Among other things, ongoing power cuts, a women’s health crisis, and a surge of children fleeing Syria alone – amid an escalating rise of child labor among refugees.

Reads from the Week:

Economist: Syria’s War, An Unlikely Band of Brothers

New York Times: Syria Meets First Test of Accord on Weapons

Reuters: Fragmented Opposition, Syrian Government Hamper Aid

NPR: Syria Agreement Makes for Unstable Alliance

Washington Post: The Heroes Inside Syria

CNN: Russia on Syria: No More Nyet?

LA Times: Syria’s Pro-Government Militias a Major Boost for Assad’s Army

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