Executive Summary for September 12th

We review the key developments in Syria, including reinforcements for the Syrian army arriving in Deir Ezzor, the SDF laying the groundwork for post-ISIS governance in eastern Syria and reports that Saudi Arabia is on board with Russia’s de-escalation zone agreement.

Published on Sep. 12, 2017 Read time Approx. 3 minutes

Reinforcements for Syrian Army Arrive in Deir Ezzor

Reinforcements for Syrian troops and allied fighters arrived in Deir Ezzor on Monday.

This comes ahead of a new push against the so-called Islamic State (ISIS) in the eastern districts of the contested city, Agence France-Presse reported.

“Huge military reinforcements – including equipment, vehicles and fighters – have arrived in Deir Ezzor ahead of an attack to push Daesh [ISIS] from the city’s eastern neighborhoods,” said Rami Abdulrahman, head of the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR).

The reinforcements come roughly a week after Syrian troops and allied fighters breached a three-year-long militant siege on parts of Deir Ezzor city. Over the past week, pro-government forces have made strides in the western districts of the provincial capital and are now preparing to push east with the aim of driving the militant group from its stronghold in eastern Syria.

Meanwhile, Russian warplanes carried on with their aerial campaign on the eastern province. At least 19 civilians were killed in an airstrike on the ISIS-held village of al-Khrayta, near Deir Ezzor city on Monday, AFP reported.

“Two sets of strikes 30 minutes apart hit civilians sheltering in tents along the Euphrates and boats on the river,” SOHR said.

SDF Begins Preparations for Post-ISIS Deir Ezzor

The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces have set up a preparatory committee to discuss who will govern Deir Ezzor after the so-called Islamic State is defeated, Agence France-Presse reported on Monday.

A statement released by the SDF’s media office on Monday said that the preparatory committee will carry out consultations with residents over the establishment of a so-called civilian council to administer the city after militants are ousted.

The statement comes only two days after the SDF launched an offensive against ISIS in Deir Ezzor. The Washington-backed campaign is separate from the Syrian government’s simultaneous offensive in the same province.

By Monday, the Deir Ezzor Military Council, which fights under the banner of the SDF, seized much of the province’s northeast and advanced within miles of the Euphrates River, according to AFP.

A spokesperson for the U.S.-led coalition backing the SDF said that the Kurdish-led force had captured around 96 square miles (250 square km) of former ISIS territory since the start of the operation on Saturday.

Russian FM: Saudi Arabia on Board with De-escalation Deals

Saudi Arabia, once a key backer of the Syrian opposition, is now on board with setting up so-called de-escalation zones in Syria, Russia’s foreign minister said on Monday, according to the Associated Press.

“I think Saudi Arabia is determined to solve the Syria crisis,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters one day after meeting with Saudi leaders in Jeddah. “they [Saudi leaders] would cooperate in creating de-escalation zones and implementing other initiatives which are being developed in Astana,” he added.

Saudi Arabia is a staunch opponent of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad and his primary backer, Iran.

The so-called de-escalation agreement, which entails a gradual process of negotiating local cease-fires in Syria, was signed by Russia, Iran and Turkey in the Kazakh capital of Astana in May with the aim of winding down the six-year-long war.

The Syrian opposition criticized Iran’s role in the agreement and claimed that the de-escalation zone deal was a pretext for widening government control over opposition-held parts of Syria.

Riyadh’s purported support for the Astana agreement and the process of setting up de-escalation zones stands to show how foreign support for Syria’s embattled opposition is waning as key backers push for an end to the conflict.

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