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Sep 17, 2018 12 tweets 4 min read Twitter logo Read on Twitter
Thread listing Preliminary observations on the announcement of the “Demilitarized Zone” in #Idlib today: What does it mean for Turkey, Russia, Damascus and the armed groups? What is the likely risk/reward calculus for each party? What should we expect going forward? ===>
2– Let’s recap what we seem to know first: A zone 9-12 miles long would be established by Oct. 15. It would contain no heavy weapons or extreme elements of the insurgency (al-Qaeda-linked militants). It would be be patrolled by Turkish and Russian forces
3-First critical point to note is whether this deal will end up securing the highway that passes through Idlib and links the north and south of the country under Govt control together. This was of course one of the strategic aims of Damascus from any #Idlib operation
4-Staying with Damascus, a deal that secures the highway will be seen as short term benefit. But, the deal will also mean a delay in the State’s plan to regain “every inch” of its territory back. Damascus is very wary of letting an insurgency turn into a separatist project
5-Moving on to the armed groups, the deal specifies that the zone will contain no heavy weapons or HTS-AQ-Nusra but that all other armed groups can stay. What we are likely to see therefore is wholesale change of clothing/branding from Nusra to say Zangi/Ahrar/faylaq etc
6-There are various scenarios here:A-Turkey has real control over HTS-AQ-Nusra and hence ability to move them out of the new zone. B- The group makes an agreement with the others to change clothing and rebrand. C-Turkey finds itself unable to keep its side of the deal & AQ stays
7-Regardles of whether HTS-AQ-Nusra dissapears merely optically or for real, this deal is predicated on assumption that all armed groups are going to keep their side of the deal and adhere to Turkish demands to cease all military operations against the Syrian State from this zone
8-When it comes to Turkey, there is little doubt that Erdogan was able to delay/prevent a military operation in #Idlib for now. But, it has to make the trains run on time now. The conduct of the armed groups inside the province is now explicitly the responsibility of Ankara
9-As for Russia, its own military is now officially patrolling a zone with a NATO member. Putin is patient and will see this deal as chipping away at the NATO alliance. All he had to pay for this is to promise a delay in any military operations in #Idlib.
10-The US was of course absent from today's agreement. Washington will of course take credit for putting pressure on Russia to prevent an attack on #Idlib. In reality, both Moscow & Ankara are now the lead foreign capitals in charge
11-Like most previous "deals" in #Syria, time will tell if this "demilitarized zone" agreement is any different than those that preceded it. Implicit in this agreement is the assumption that Erdogan can and will be able to control all these armed men roaming in this province
12-For now however, Erdogan has further cemented his legendary status within the Syrian opposition. He will take personal credit for averting military strikes on the province & this will add to his already very high popularity within most opposition circles

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More from @EHSANI22

Sep 18, 2018
Thread on status of Syrian Opposition post the "demilitarized zone" agreement in #Idlib . Thus far, most commentary has regarded the deal as a win for the Opp since risk of imminent strike on the province has been avoided. But is this deal really a positive for opp? Answer: No=>
2-Let's step back first. This is an Opp that was formed with goal of toppling the State (diplomatic language of Geneva process called it political transition). Nothing short of above was acceptable to this opp. As of yesterday, mere avoidance of strikes is now seen as a win
3-Let's not also forget that from early days of Geneva's political transition talks, the only political activity left now is an attempt to establish constitutional committee. All else has been shelved. Now that we established the general status of the opp, let's discuss this deal
Read 7 tweets
Sep 17, 2018
For the record, while everyone seems to believe that the number of civilians in #Idlib is close to 3 million, a Damascus source who has been very prescient in the past believes that the actual number may not exceed 1 million.
2-To suggest that 3 Million civilians live in #Idlib is to suggest:

A-That pre-war housing stock & other infrastructure was able to accommodate double the pre-war population

B-Moreover, safe to assume both housing & infrastructure now nowhere near pre-war conditions/capacity
3-In effect, for #Idlib to host 3 Million now compared to 1.2-1.5 pre-war is to assume either a building boom (not war) or construction of massive camps that would host such massive numbers. Yet to see credible images of such camps or investments in the housing stock
Read 6 tweets
Sep 11, 2018
Erdogan in an op-ed in @WSJ :

“Moderate rebels played a key role in Turkey’s fight against terrorists in Northern #Syria; their assistance and guidance will be crucial in Idlib as well”
2-Erdogan: “Preventing the assault on #Idlib need not set back counter-terrorism efforts. Turkey has succeeded in fighting terrorist groups, including ISIS and the PKK, without harming or displacing civilians”

Notice how he doesn’t include Nusra /al-Qaeda in above group
3- Erdogan: “Turkey’s ability to maintain order in Northern #Syria is proof that a responsible approach to counter-terrorism can win hearts and minds”
Read 7 tweets
Sep 9, 2018
In order to truly understand the dynamic inside the #Syrian Armed Opposition, one must start to look into the ever closer marriage between the the Moslem Brotherhood and Nusra / al-Qaeda. Both have been joined at the hip through the sponsorship & support of #Qatar #Turkey ==>
2-Moslem Brotherhood (MB) lost its original military wing during the battle with the Syrian State in the 80’s. Best to think of Nusra/HTS/al-Qaeda in #Syria today as the new military wing of the M Brotherhood. One is the brain, the other represents arms & legs of the same body
3-The coordination between MB & Nusra/HTS/al-Qaeda has afforded the latter the chance to transform itself from non-state actor that had been hiding in the mountains of Afghanistan to an outfit with clear lines of communications to regional capitals that are supporting the MB
Read 16 tweets
Sep 7, 2018
1-Set below is a short thread summarizing some of exchange w this Tajik Muhajir (Foreign Fighter)

Q: How did you come to Bilad al-Sham [Syria]?
A: I heard the Muslims in al-Sham were oppressed. I made hijra [migration] to help them.

Q: All the factions in Syria are oppressors?
A: God knows best. They love money.
Q: So you thought there were jihad and defending Islam, but it's not like that on the ground?
A: Yes. Most of them declare takfir on whoever they like.

Q: Currently you are not with any faction?
A: No. They are all liars. They say what they do not do.
Q: There are people who say that jihad must continue in Syria. What do you say to these people?
A: If there are no honest factions. With whom [do you wage] jihad?

Read 4 tweets
Sep 4, 2018
Nearly every #Idlib insurgent was allowed in, supported, financed & armed to help topple Assad which was thought to be a sure bet. Idea was that these men would then hand the keys to those with the brains & suits who would fly in from abroad & run the country happily thereafter
2-With the above sure bet now largely a pipe dream, what we are witnessing is revisionist rewriting of how we got here & what this is really about. Those who supported, financed, facilitated and armed these men are suddenly out of the conversation.
3-The Syrian State that was the direct target of domestic / regional / international attempt to topple it is now being asked to refrain from reclaiming full sovereignty over its territory while al-Qaeda & hard core foreign fighters run the territory. The rest you hear is fiction
Read 4 tweets

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