Charles Lister Profile picture
Jul 5, 2018 26 tweets 34 min read Twitter logo Read on Twitter
Amid #Assad regime offensive in south #Syria, worth bearing in mind its continued bombing of areas in #Idlib - also under a so-called “de-escalation zone.”

Having watched the southern zone dissolved w/o response from #Jordan or #Israel, #Turkey’s now warning #Idlib = “red line."
#Turkey has deployed its own armed forces to x12 “observation posts” fencing in opposition areas & enforcing de-escalation.

#Russia seems invested in stability in #Idlib - but for how long?

After #Deraa, will #Assad & #Iran destroy the last remaining “de-escalation zone”?
For now, expect periodic regime bombing raids & notably, also ‘spoiling’ attacks by fighters unrestrained by #Turkey’s iron grip.

#HTS will remain internally divided on de-escalation -- the more regime bombings, the heavier the pressure for #HTS to respond = #Assad opportunity.
Amid this foggy climate, expect #Turkey to accelerate attempts to fuse its proxies - from east-west, #EuphratesShield, #OliveBranch, western #Aleppo & into northern #Idlib - in an attempt to consolidate a more durable deterrent to any pro-#Assad attempt to break de-escalation.
There are big stakes to the future of #Idlib - it’s estimated to house 3.3 million people, a *massive* 30% of #Syria’s entire estimated 2017/18 population.

1.2 million are IDPs.

10,000s are armed fighters - many exiled from elsewhere.

#ISIS is trying to mount a comeback + AQ.
A mass outbreak of conflict in #Idlib is #Turkey’s nightmare scenario - refugee flows, threat to #TSK troops, jihadi spillover, etc.

BUT, a long-term opposition+Islamist+jihadi zone in #Idlib in close proximity to the #Assad regime’s coastal heartlands is similarly unacceptable.
In the end, the issue comes down to leverage:

- How much can #Russia control #Assad & #Iran’s long-term goals?

- How much can #Turkey influence mainstream opposition fighters & constrain jihadis itching to resume fighting?

- Can Al-Qaeda convince #HTS to ‘come back to fold’?
Despite sustained anti-#ISIS operations (mostly by #HTS) across #Idlib, it’s becoming increasingly clear that #ISIS is achieving some success in mounting a [v. slow, methodical] comeback in the NW #Syria province.

Today, Amaq issued a formal claim for an attack & a videoed IED.
Scary - #ISIS is now conducting motorbike drive-by assassinations in #Idlib, and publishing imagery online. This attack targeted FSA Jaish al-Izzeh fighters.

Eerily similar to #Iraq circa-2012-2014.

Watch this carefully - #ISIS has been preparing this ground for 1-2yrs.
Beyond #ISIS's destabilizing, another concerning development in #Idlib is the rising militarism of pro-#AlQaeda factions, whose actions appear - to all intents & purposes - designed to provoke a mass #Assad attack on the northwest, raising the prospect of conflict with #Turkey.
A recent attack on Jabal al-Turkman (by AQ-linked Huras al-Din, Turkestan Islamic Party, Ansar al-Tawhid, Forsan al-Iman & others) was the biggest assault on pro-#Assad forces in the NW in some time.

Such acts will eventually guarantee a catastrophic escalation in NW #Syria.
These provocations by AQ-linked factions come amidst an intense debate around the status of #Turkey & its presence in #Idlib.

#HTS remains internally divided on this tricky issue - something AQ seems determined to exacerbate & exploit.

Divide, divide, divide - just like #ISIS.
For more on the effect that the #Turkey & #Erdogan issue has had on the AQ-oriented jihadi movement in NW #Syria, read this great piece by @ToreRHamming in @jihadica:…
@ToreRHamming @jihadica This animated look at #Idlib by @CrisisGroup is well done & worth a read.

Their recommendations are spot on too - all too few have been willing to truly grasp the nuances of NW #Syria for use in smart policy proposals.
@ToreRHamming @jihadica @CrisisGroup In an interesting post, @LabibAlNahhas says #Syria’s opposition needs to break "out of its comfort zone” & develop “fresh realism”

- Consolidate the northwest as a “safe-haven", dissolve armed groups, build credibility & seek joint #Turkey-US protection.…
@ToreRHamming @jihadica @CrisisGroup @LabibAlNahhas x15 #ISIS prisoners just escaped from a Faylaq al-Sham prison in northern #Syria, according to @saleelalmajd1.

A further 20 reportedly escaped from an Ahrar al-Sham facility a month ago, and 20+ more from a prison at Bab al-Hawa, near #Turkey.
@ToreRHamming @jihadica @CrisisGroup @LabibAlNahhas @saleelalmajd1 #ISIS allegedly offers $20,000 per prisoner allowed to escape from opposition prisons for smuggling back into operations - a prospect too tempting to many otherwise deeply hostile to #ISIS.

#Syria #Idlib #Aleppo
Rumors floating around in #Idlib that #Turkey is paying opposition groups to share coordinates of AQ/Huras al-Din facilities; something AQ-linked people like "al-Ansar al-Barqawi” deem “treachery” (via @IbnNabih1).

Such intel sharing is a fact & not new - ongoing for 6months+.
@IbnNabih1 BIG news - Senior #HTS official Abdulrahim Attoun (Abu Abdullah al-Shami) has been assassinated outside Marat al-Numan in #Idlib.

#ISIS is suspected.

Attoun was #HTS leader Abu Mohammed al-Jolani’s loyal right-hand man - a staunch defender of the evolution away from Al-Qaeda.
@IbnNabih1 #Attoun is widely accused of lying to cover up #Jolani’s early willingness to break away from AQ command in '16-17, to personally protect him from criticism.

#Attoun has also been cut off from several family members, due to longer-term accusations of dishonesty & double-dealing.
@IbnNabih1 Some possible room for skepticism on reports of #Attoun’s death - as per @IbnNabih1’s tweet below.

Some initial information sent my way was from ordinarily reliable sources, but only time will tell. #Idlib #Syria
@IbnNabih1 The world’s first “jihadi PMC” - staffed by #Russia-speaking former soldiers - offers “elite" training on “high-profile combat & infiltration operations” in NW #Syria.

- Last week, AQ-linked militants trained by “Malhama Tactical” killed 20+ in #Latakia.

@IbnNabih1 NEW - A deal has been reached between #HTS & #Iran to evacuate besieged villages of Fuah & Kafraya in #Idlib, in exchange for a sizable release of opposition prisoners (including 30+ senior Nusra figures).

Sources say evacuations are to begin tomorrow. Money changed hands too.
Worrying - pro-#Assad forces have shelled #Turkey armed forces at their observation post near Jisr al-Shughour tonight.

Unclear if any casualties, but #Turkish jets have entered Syrian airspace in response.

#Ankara has warned: #Idlib is a redline.
An unnamed #PYD/#SDC source says the #YPG/#SDF may assist #Assad in a future attack on #Idlib.

That’ll definitely contribute towards de-escalation - #Turkey would go nuts.…
BREAKING - After several secretive preparatory/scoping meetings, the [U.S-backed] #PYD/#SDC is “in #Damascus to discuss administrative & military matters,” as per its President, Riad Dirar.

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More from @Charles_Lister

Sep 21, 2018
My goodness: here's a prime example of policy advocacy on #Syria based either on ignorance, or [hopefully not] malign intent.

This is *riddled* with inaccuracy & misinformation.

@steelejourno says the West should force an opposition surrender in #Syria:…
@steelejourno #pt: @steelejourno says the US, UK & #France are “less honorable” in seeking to delay #Syria & #Russia’s “success” in regaining territory.

- They seek to enable a meaningful political process, in which there’s an opposition entity to sit at the table. I’d say that is honorable.
@steelejourno #pt: Here, @steelejourno says UK, US, France & "Gulf Arab monarchies” want ceasefires to protect rebels, not civilians.

In #Idlib, nothing could be further from the truth. None of those countries have *any* ties to rebel groups in #Idlib, who only equal ~0.5% of the population.
Read 10 tweets
Sep 20, 2018
Absolutely extraordinary.

#Syria’s air defense systems have no way to determine “friend” from “foe.” #Russia doesn’t export that tech.

Within a complex & unpredictable environment, that raises the risk to civilian aircraft
#Israel says #Syria’s air defense fired “dozens” of anti-aircraft missiles from several batteries across the country over the space of 40-mins… *after* #IAF planes had returned to #Israel.

One took down #Russia’s IL-20.…
To me, this looks like messaging more than a truly dramatic change in reality/dynamics:

- S-300s already deployed in #Syria.

- #Israel (& US) uses encrypted radar/GPS; less vulnerable to counter-measures

- #Russia has been “jamming” for 2+ yrs.

- #Israel fires most from Med.
Read 5 tweets
Sep 17, 2018
BREAKING - Likely #Israel airstrikes just hit a scientific research center - reportedly linked to the SSRC - in #Latakia.

#Assad regime air defenses were allegedly activated in multiple provinces: #Latakia, #Tartus, #Homs & #Hama.
Mabrouk #Assad - your invincible air defenses shot down an aircraft!

... a #Russia IL-20 reconnaissance plane was shot down over #Syria tonight - amid #Israel airstrikes in #Latakia.


Tonight’s developments vis-a-vis #Israel & Russia are a pretty big deal.

It would seem #Israel may have acted without giving #Moscow prior warning = big challenge to their prior arrangement.

Or, #Russia did know, but got attacked by their errant ally in #Damascus = humiliating.
Read 7 tweets
Aug 22, 2018
Fascinating work by @HaidHaid22 - looking at initiatives (or a lack, thereof) by the #SDF & the #FSA to reconcile/rehabilitate/reintegrate #ISIS detainees in northern #Syria.

Really important backgrounder:…
@HaidHaid22 #pt: According to @HaidHaid22’s work for @ICSR_Centre, one’s decision to join #ISIS in #Syria was driven primarily by x4 factors:

1. Financial benefits
2. Protection
3. Military capacity
4. Ideology

Less than 20% of recruits joined for ideological reasons.
@HaidHaid22 @ICSR_Centre #pt: @HaidHaid22 raises a number of important questions for @CJTFOIR & its #SDF partner:

- Surging strains on the #SDF's makeshift prison network holding 1,000s of #ISIS prisoners, raises risks of eventual #ISIS attacks, aimed at replicating #Iraq’s 2012-3 “Breaking the Walls.”
Read 4 tweets
Aug 20, 2018
Here, a @UKLabour MP praises a notorious conspiracist who says meeting Bashar al-#Assad was her "proudest" moment.

She's justified incendiary weapons & barrel bombs on civilian targets; suggested 9/11 was a false flag; Zionists rule #France & the #CharlieHebdo attack was fake.
@UKLabour Extraordinary.

@UU_University invited notorious conspiracist Vanessa Beeley to lecture on “War Reporting.”

Her claims were so outlandish, the students walked out & boycotted the course, calling it “a propaganda camp.”…

(PS - Look at the pictured slide)
@UKLabour @UU_University #pt: Among Beeley’s claims at @UU_University:

- @hrw is run by a secret “Jewish organization called the #Washington elite.”

- #Russia only promotes international peace

- #Syria’s opposition "tear pregnant women in half, betw'n cats”

- All media (e.g. @guardian) are govt tools
Read 4 tweets
Aug 17, 2018
Images of White Helmets weeding and cleaning the exterior of a Church in #Idlib appear to have terrified the pro-#Assad community.

Nothing short of hysteria coming from the regime loyalist crowd over the last 12hrs. #Syria
This “veteran correspondent” is losing it.

#Syria #Idlib
St. Joseph’s Church in the village al-Quneya - the one cleaned by White Helmets - in west #Idlib suffered substantial damage when it was bombed by #Assad regime forces in April 2013.

So much for being the protector of Christians & #Syria’s minorities.

Read 5 tweets

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