Report

Thousands Flee Regime Offensive in Aleppo

The Assad regime’s offensive in Aleppo, backed by heavy bombing by Russian planes, is driving thousands of people to flee the city. The new surge in displaced persons has drawn concern from Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu. “Now, 10,000 new refugees are waiting in front of the door of (the Turkish city of) Kilis because ...

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The Assad regime’s offensive in Aleppo, backed by heavy bombing by Russian planes, is driving thousands of people to flee the city. The new surge in displaced persons has drawn concern from Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu. “Now, 10,000 new refugees are waiting in front of the door of (the Turkish city of) Kilis because of air bombardments and attacks against Aleppo,” he said on Thursday in London. “Sixty to seventy thousand people in the camps in north Aleppo are moving towards Turkey. My mind is not now in London, but in our border — how to relocate these new people coming from Syria?”

The heavy fighting comes as regime and Russian forces work to cut off rebels based in Aleppo. The front escalated as peace talks took place in Geneva, during which time rebels say the United States pressured countries supplying arms to opposition groups to lessen their support. The offensive, which also relies heavily on Shia militias, has taken a toll on Iranian foreign fighters, as well. A brigadier general for the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and at least six basij state security volunteers have been killed, according to Iranian state media.

Saudi Official Says It Could Send Ground Troops to Syria

A Saudi military official said yesterday that the country is prepared to deploy ground troops to Syria to fight the Islamic State if the coalition decides to intervene with ground forces. Representatives of coalition nations will meet in Brussels next week to discuss military strategy. U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter responded to the Saudi official’s comments by saying that “that kind of news is very welcome” and noting that “Saudi Arabia’s indicated a willingness to take the lead in marshaling some Muslim majority countries.”

Headlines

  • A Saudi airstrike on Wednesday targeted an inactive cement factory north of Sanaa on Wednesday, killing 15 people including civilians in the surrounding area.

 

  • An armed U.S. drone crashed in southern Turkey when it apparently suffered a mechanical failure after taking off from Incirlik air base; the drone and its weaponry were quickly recovered by U.S. and Turkish personnel.

 

  • Two Israeli juveniles who were convicted of burning a Palestinian man to death have been sentenced to life in prison and 21 years in prison; a third man convicted of the attack has not been sentenced and is pleading insanity.

 

  • The man who organized the Islamic State attacks on Paris, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, reportedly boasted about the success of the violence and claimed to have entered France with 90 extremists, according to testimony from the woman who tipped off police to his whereabouts.

 

  • Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the top Shia cleric in Iraq, announced today that he is suspending his Friday sermons on political affairs and will only deliver them “as demanded by events.”

Arguments and Analysis

The Regimen of Sisi’s Non-Regime” (H.A. Hellyer, EgyptSource)

“But this current administration is a non-regime, with autocracy underpinning it on the one hand, and a multi-establishment on the other. Each part of the Egyptian state has its own establishment – the military, the security apparatus, the media, the religious establishment, the judiciary, the business elite, and the presidency. They act relatively autonomously of each other, with the presidency having a ‘godfather’ veto power, particularly given his entrance from the military establishment and popular support – but he’s not always willing to exert that veto, and has made that clear. We have seen that in the aforementioned Al Jazeera case, and more recently in the arrest of Diab, as well as the failed Civil Service law. In all three cases, it was clear that the executive wanted one thing – but that other powers within the broad make-up of the Egyptian state wanted something else. Sisi didn’t override them – Mubarak would have. With that being the case, the potential for building a ‘regime’ has slipped into, by default, a non-regime, or a set of interconnected self-governing islands.”

 

The populism/realism gap: Managing uncertainty in Turkey’s politics and foreign policy” (Nora Fisher Onar, Brookings Institution)

“There is also danger in the reverse dynamic when unrealistic foreign policy positions are leveraged for domestic popularity. At best, this creates unnecessary tension, as with Trump’s description of China as an ‘enemy.’ And all too often, such postures come at high domestic and international costs. A case in point is the recent confrontation between Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan over the November 24 shooting down of a Russian jet. The move was driven by both leaders’ aspirations to become regional kingmakers in general and define outcomes in Syria in particular. The result, however, has been an economic, diplomatic, and security fallout, especially for the smaller of the two players: Turkey. Russian sanctions may cost Turkey some .5 percent of GDP, and the face-off has put its NATO allies in an awkward position, given the S-400 anti-aircraft missiles Russia has now put on the ground in Syria. The move, moreover, has complicated any plans Ankara may have had to balance strategic relationships in the West with more intensive Eurasian engagements (e.g. with the Shanghai Cooperation Organization of which Russia is a founding member). In short, the volatile relationship between populism and realism has become a driver of uncertainty in Turkey’s politics and international relations, a dynamic this paper will assess.”

-J. Dana Stuster

THAER MOHAMMED/AFP/Getty Images

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