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Executive Summary for August 18th

We review the key developments in Syria, including the return of a Damascus trade fair for the first time since 2011, claims that the U.S. intends to stay in the north of the country even after ISIS is defeated and aid arrivals to a besieged suburb of the capital.

Published on Aug. 18, 2017 Read time Approx. 3 minutes

Syria Claims Business as Usual with Trade Fair

The Damascus International Trade Fair opened in the Syrian capital on Thursday for the first time since the conflict began in 2011, the Associated Press reported.

The return of the high-profile annual event, which once attracted major investors, has been hailed by Syrian officials as a sign of revived confidence in the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

“This comeback is an indication that the war in Syria is coming to an end,” Samer el-Debs, who heads the Damascus Chamber of Industry, told the AP. “After all that happened, all the economic sanctions against Syria and systematic attempts to destroy Syria, we see that this fair has been reopened.”

Citing Syrian state media, the AP reported that participants from at least 43 countries including regime allies Russia, China and Iran are attending the 10-day fair. Companies from Britain, France and Germany are also said to be taking part in a private capacity.

Sami Nader, head of the Beirut-based Levant Institute for Strategic Affairs, told Bloomberg that Assad is using the international trade fair “to project confidence and a business-as-usual attitude.”

“The trade fair is sending a message that the new era of Syria’s reconstruction has begun and Assad is here to stay,” he said.

SDF says U.S. Will Stay in Syria

The Washington-backed Syrian Democratic Forces said on Thursday that United States forces will continue to operate in northern Syria even after the so-called Islamic State is defeated, Reuters reported.

SDF spokesman Talal Silo told Reuters that the SDF believes the U.S. has a “strategic interest” in remaining in the area.

“They have a strategy policy for decades to come. There will be military, economic and political agreements in the long term between the leadership of the northern areas [of Syria] … and the U.S. administration,” Silo said.

The SDF spokesman also raised the possibility that the U.S. will set up a military air base in northern Syria that could serve as an alternative to the Incirlik base in Turkey.

The SDF is Washington’s main ally in Syria and the two are working together to battle ISIS in Raqqa.

Aid Arrives to Besieged Suburb: De Mistura

An aid convoy reached the besieged town of Douma on Thursday for the first time since May, Reuters reported, citing the United Nations’ special envoy to Syria.

Staffan de Mistura told a conference that a U.N.-Red Cross convoy consisting of 50 trucks carrying relief items for 35,000 people reached the Damascus suburb.

He added that Russian military police stationed along the route secured the road to Douma.

U.N. humanitarian adviser Jan Egeland said the aid deliveries were “hugely symbolic.”

“It took a lot of effort, a lot of negotiations and a lot of help from Russia and others to make it happen,” he said.

Last month, Russia announced the deployment of military police to the eastern suburbs of the capital to enforce a de-escalation agreement in the area.

Despite a cease-fire agreement, government shelling and airstrikes on Eastern Ghouta have increased since last week and the bombardment is at its heaviest since the government launched an offensive to reclaim the region two months ago.

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