The Rendon Group Snapshot – 26 December 2016

by TRG Alerts Admin on January 2, 2017

The Rendon Group

(26DEC16)

Each week The Rendon Group’s media analysts will focus on a different continent and a different issue affecting that continent. As always, we remain available to answer any questions you may have and to provide additional information upon request. For more information regarding The Rendon Group’s products and services, please contact us at Alert@Rendon.com or +1-202-745-4900.

Aleppo: Turning Point in War After Country’s Once Largest City Back in Regime Control

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A photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, shows damaged buildings in the Sukkari neighborhood, east Aleppo, on Dec 23, 2016. (SANA/Associated Press)

This week’s snapshot focuses on the Assad Regime’s recapture of the Syrian city of Aleppo, which was once the largest city in the country. The city had been divided since 2012, when anti-Assad rebels established themselves in the city’s eastern districts. However, beset by infighting, the rebel forces were never able to capture the rest of the city while they faced intense Syrian and Russian bombardment that have destroyed much of the city. After mounting losses, the rebels and the government agreed to an evacuation plan, which was completed on 22DEC, giving control of the city to the Assad government in one of its biggest victories since the war began 5 years ago.

 

News summary of events during the week of 19DEC16 – 26DEC16

 

  • 19DEC: With Russia’s backing, the United Nations Security Council voted to send United Nations observers to monitor evacuations from the besieged Syrian city of Aleppo and to report back regularly. (NYT)
  • 20DEC: The Syrian government and other parties on the ground agreed to allow 20 observers to be sent to east Aleppo to monitor evacuations, the UN spokesman said. (AFP)
  • 21DEC: Syrian rebels said they have reached an agreement with the government in Damascus to complete their withdrawal from Aleppo, the country’s largest city. (AP)
  • 22DEC: The US army’s commander in Europe Lt Gen Ben Hodges accused Russia of using its military campaign in Syria as a “live-fire training opportunity”. (BBC)
  • 22DEC: Yasser al-Youssef of the Nureddin al-Zinki rebel group said that the return of Aleppo to full government control is a “great loss” to the five-year revolt against Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad. (AFP)
  • 22DEC: The evacuation of civilians and fighters from the last rebel-held part of Aleppo concluded after long delays because of frigid weather, putting all of the industrial capital back in the hands of President Bashar al-Assad’s forces for the first time since 2012. (NYT)
  • 23DEC: Russia has sent a battalion of military police to keep order in Aleppo, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said. (AFP)
  • 23DEC: Syrian rebels shelled Aleppo, killing three people, state television reported, a day after insurgents finished withdrawing from their last pocket of territory in the city. (Reuters)
  • 23DEC: Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah described the battle in Aleppo as one of the “harshest combats the region has seen in years.” (Xinhua)
  • 23DEC: Russian President Vladimir Putin called Bashar Assad to congratulate him on completing the “liberation” of Aleppo, the Kremlin said. (AFP)
  • 24DEC: The top Roman Catholic cleric in the Holy Land, Rev. Pierbattista Pizzaballa, says he’s glad that “at least the military war” in Aleppo is over and that Christians there can celebrate Christmas “without fear.” (AP)
  • 24DEC: Two people were killed in a blast at an ammunitions warehouse formerly used by rebels in Aleppo, state media reported. (AFP)
  • 24DEC: Russian jets stepped up strikes on several towns in rebel-held Idlib province and rural Aleppo, rebels and residents said. (Reuters)
  • 25DEC: Iranian President Rouhani and Russian President Putin welcomed the “Syrian army’s victory against the terrorists in Aleppo” during a late-night phone call, Iranian media reported. (AFP)

 

Sample of Twitter handles tweeting about the Syrian Army’s recapture of Aleppo

 

  • @iAssilIbrahim al-Assil, Fellow, Middle East Institute
  • @Rajaa_AltalliRajaa Altalli, Co-founder and Co-Director, Center for Civil Society and Democracy in Syria (CCSDS)
  • @rmslimRanda Slim, Director, Track II Dialogues Initiative, The Middle East Institute
  • @sarahleah1Sarah Leah Whitson, Executive Director, Middle East and North Africa Division, Human Rights Watch
  • @SultanAlQassemiSultan Sooud Al-Qassemi, Journalist and Commentator

 

Sample of Third Party Validators regarding the Syrian Army’s recapture of Aleppo

 

Hamidreza Azizi, Assistant Professor of Regional Studies, Shahid Beheshti University; Member, Scientific Board of the Iran and Eurasia Studies Institute (IRAS)

“Keeping the current Syrian ruling establishment in place and preventing its opponents from seizing power has been the overriding objective bringing Iran and Russia together in Syria. This shared interest aside, each is also pursuing individual goals that they do not necessarily share entirely. Thus, as the situation moves closer to the realization of these separate goals, one can anticipate that differences in the Russian and Iranian approaches will become more apparent.”

  • “Three reasons Iran should worry over Russia’s Syria plans,” Al-Monitor, 20DEC16

 

Emile Hokayem, Senior Fellow for Middle East Security, International Institute for Strategic Studies (UK)

“The rebels made a strategic mistake in 2012 because they were hubristic, they were overly optimistic. They saw the [antigovernment] protests in eastern Aleppo, but they didn’t have a plan.”

  • “Syrian Army Says Government Has Full Control of Aleppo,” WSJ, 22DEC16

 

Faysal Itani, Resident Fellow, Atlantic Council

“By lumping the displaced hostile populations in with the extremists [in Idlib], you’ve basically confined the problem to one place. Once that is done, the regime will go after it hard and no one will be able to make much of a fuss internationally.”

  • “Idlib likely to be Syria’s next bloody theater after Aleppo,” AP, 18DEC16

Joshua Landis, Associate Professor and Director, Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma; Member, Department of International and Area Studies in the College of International Studies; President, Syrian Studies Association

“Well, the center of gravity for opposition now shifts to Idlib province and Idlib city. That city is dominated by the al-Qaida wing of the opposition and other Salafist forces. The United States and the West cannot support those Salafists and al-Qaida. It means that the rebels are going to have a very hard time getting significant amounts of support. And it also means on a larger scale that a new security architecture is being laid down in the Northern Middle East, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, in which pro-Iranian governments are consolidating their grip on the territory and they’re backed by Russia, to a large degree.”

  • “The fall of Aleppo is a turning point. What’s next for Syria’s war?” PBS, 13DEC16

 

Yezid Sayigh, Senior Fellow, Carnegie Middle East Centre

“We’re now past the point where the opposition has any hope of pulling back…They just no longer have the numbers and the geographic spread to be able to mount major offensives.”

  • “Aleppo loss to spell end for Syria rebellion’s dreams,” AFP, 14DEC16

 

Sample of open source research conducted by TRG analysts related to the Syrian Army’s recapture of Aleppo

 

  1. Thousands leave Aleppo as UN backs sending observers

 

Media: Agence France-Presse (AFP)

Byline: N/A

Date: 19 December 2016

 

Aleppo, Syria, Dec 19, 2016 (AFP) – Thousands of traumatised Syrians including children left the rebel enclave of Aleppo on Monday as the UN Security Council voted to deploy observers to the battered city to monitor the evacuations.

 

Families had spent hours waiting in below-freezing temperatures, sheltering from the rain in bombed-out apartment blocks and waiting desperately for news on a new wave of departures.

 

Continue Reading

 

END

 

  1. Russia, Iran, Turkey agree on need to widen Syria truce

 

Media: Agence France-Presse (AFP)

Byline: N/A

Date: 20 December 2016

 

Moscow, Dec 20, 2016 (AFP) – Russia, Iran and Turkey agreed on Tuesday to guarantee Syria peace talks and backed expanding a ceasefire in the war-torn country, the Russian foreign minister said after talks with counterparts.

 

“Iran, Russia and Turkey are ready to assist in preparing the agreement in the making between the Syrian government and the opposition and to become its guarantor,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in Moscow, citing a joint statement.

 

Continue Reading

 

END

 

  1. ICRC confirms evacuation of civilians, combatants in Aleppo finished

 

Media: EFE (Spain)

Byline: N/A

Date: 23 December 2016

 

Beirut, Dec 23 (EFE).- The International Committee of the Red Cross confirmed on Friday the end of the evacuation process of civilians and combatants from eastern Aleppo, in which 35,000 people have left the city, according to their data.

 

The operation concluded on Thursday night, and among the evacuees are 100 wounded and seriously ill, the ICRC said in a statement.

 

Continue Reading

 

END

 

  1. Hezbollah says Aleppo fall means efforts to oust Assad have ‘failed’

 

Media: Agence France-Presse (AFP)

Byline: N/A

Date: 23 December 2016

 

Beirut, Dec 23, 2016 (AFP) – The Syrian army’s recapture of Aleppo has put an end to hopes that President Bashar al-Assad’s regime could be ousted, the head of Lebanon’s powerful Shiite movement Hezbollah said Friday.

 

“After Aleppo, one can comfortably say that the goal of regime downfall has failed,” Hassan Nasrallah said in a televised address.

 

Continue Reading

 

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  1. Syria army, civilians move into ruined Aleppo streets

 

Media: Agence France-Presse (AFP)

Byline: N/A

Date: 23 December 2016

 

Aleppo, Syria, Dec 23, 2016 (AFP) – Syrian troops cemented their hold on Aleppo on Friday after retaking full control of the city, as residents anxious to return to their homes moved through its ruined streets.

 

Syria’s army announced on Thursday it had recaptured the former rebel stronghold of east Aleppo following a landmark evacuation deal that saw thousands of opposition fighters and residents bussed out.

 

Continue Reading

 

END

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