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Executive Summary for September 13th

We review the key developments in Syria, including reports that ISIS defectors in Syria are looking to cross into southern Turkey, Damascus granting Iran contracts to repair Syria’s power grids and Russia saying 85 percent of Syrian land has been cleared of militants.

Published on Sep. 13, 2017 Read time Approx. 3 minutes

Hundreds of ISIS Defectors Looking to Cross Into Turkey

Hundreds of defectors from the so-called Islamic State have fled to Syria’s Idlib province in recent weeks, with many attempting to cross into nearby Turkey, the Guardian reported on Tuesday.

“Several dozen” former fighters, including at least four Saudi Arabian extremists, had already crossed the Turkish border into areas in southern Turkey in recent weeks, the Guardian said.

The defectors are trying to enter Turkey then find ways back to other parts of the Middle East, North Africa and Europe.

A Saudi national who left Syria for southern Turkey in late August told the Guardian that as many as 300 former ISIS members, many of them Saudis, had established a community north of Idlib city.

“In Idlib, there are around 300 people trying to escape. Many of them are Saudis. Some want to see their families one last time and they say they will accept what’s coming to them,” the 26-year-old, who called himself Abu Saad, told the Guardian.

The defectors are trying to flee Syria at a time when ISIS is on the ropes in the war-torn country: It has lost most of its former capital of Raqqa and has been dealt an additional blow by swift government advances in its eastern stronghold of Deir Ezzor in recent weeks.

Tehran to Repair Syria Power Grids

Iran will rehabilitate sections of Syria’s electricity infrastructure as part of an agreement between Damascus and Tehran brokered on Tuesday, Al Jazeera reported.

A memorandum of understanding was signed by the two countries during an official visit to Tehran by Syria’s electricity minister.

Under the terms of the deal, Tehran will restore the main control center for Syria’s electricity grid in the capital Damascus and repair a 90-megawatt power station in Deir Ezzor province. Tehran will also build a power plant with a capacity of 540 megawatts in the province of Latakia and an Iranian company will be awarded a contract to supply electricity to the northern city of Aleppo as part of the agreement.

“We will stand by the Syrian people to rebuild this country … We will bring light to houses of the Syrian people,” said Sattar Mahmoudi, Iran’s acting energy minister, in a statement on the ministry’s website.

Tuesday’s agreement is the latest in a series of deals struck between the two allied countries, in an early sign of the significant role Iran is slated to play in the reconstruction of Syria. Last January, Iran and Syria signed five major economic contracts, including a license for Tehran to become a mobile phone service operator in Syria and phosphate mining contracts.

Russia: Most of Syria Cleared of Militants

Most of Syria’s territory has been cleared of militant groups and extremists, the chief of staff of Russia’s military contingent in Syria said on Tuesday, according to Reuters.

Alexander Lapin said that 85 percent of Syrian territory has been cleared of “the militants of illegal armed groups,” and added that the so-called Islamic State is still in control of roughly 10,400 square miles (27,000 square km) in Syria.

His comments come at a time when pro-government forces, backed by Russian warplanes, are pushing against ISIS militants in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor – the militant’s last major stronghold in Syria.

“The liberation of (Deir Ezzor) city is proceeding,” Lapin said. “Syrian troops are finalizing the defeat of the ISIL [ISIS] group blocking the northern and southern districts of Deir Ezzor,” he said.

The U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights dismissed Russian claims that the Syrian government had recaptured 85 percent of Syria, saying that President Bashar al-Assad controls only around 48 percent of the country, Reuters reported.

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