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October 11-17, 2014

Weekly Media Monitoring report for Syria
Posted on October 17, 2014

Compiled by Asad Ali Walji


Coalition Strikes on Kobane
  • The Kurdish stronghold continues to be under siege after more than a month of fighting between IS and YPG elements
  • The ISW released its summary of this week's events, reporting that the US-led coalition intensified its strikes on the area in response to IS gains last week
    • CENTCOM confirmed daily responses against IS 
  • Syria Deeply has reported throughout week on the developments in Kobane, generally explaining the situation as tense but the Kurds holding their ground
    • As the US intensified coalition airstrikes (nearly tripling the number of airstrikes) on IS across the country, IS resorted to a series of suicide attacks on Kobani; specifically these attacks targeted administration buildings like government offices and a police station
    • However, the BBC reported that YPG commanders claimed that IS was retreating from the area 
Analysis
  • IS and Kurdish forces continue to sustain casualties in heated skirmishes across the area
  • However the two factions along with the international actors involved are engaged in an equally intense media war over twitter and through video sites
    • Both factions are attempting to display their dominance in the region as Kobane becomes an international control and credibility as a state for IS, and a last-ditch effort by Kurdish rebels to fight between two perceived ruthless powers (IS and Turkey)
    • Additionally, the Kurds hope that the fight for Kobane will indicate that they are the most credible fighters to oust IS, and deserve international support despite NATO's complex arrangement of alliances
Coalition Politics – Complex Political Situation Develops Along the Turkish-Syrian Border
Islamic State crisis: Kurds 'recapture key Kobane hill'
  • Under pressure from the US and the IS threat adjacent to the Turkish-Syrian border, The Guardian says Turkey has decided to take a more active role in aiding the US with containing the IS threat
  • However, as Syria Deeply reports, there has been much confusion over the extent to which Turkey will expand their role
    • On October 13th, some Turkish officials stated that they would aid the coalition and moderate rebels by allowing the US to use its territory to launch attacks and train moderate rebels; this would be conducted at a base in Incirlik 100 miles from the Syrian border
    • However immediately after this, on October 14th, Turkish officials denied ever coming to this agreement and are still adamantly claiming the need for a no-fly buffer zone between Turkey and Syria to help contain the refugee crisis pouring over it's borders as well as the possible threat of IS overflowing into the country
    • Turkish officials say that there is a consensus on the train and equip program for Syrian rebels, but that further steps are pending discussion of a no-fly zone
  • Syria Deeply reports that the US also held talks with the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) that has close ties to the PKK, a Kurdish militant group in Turkey that Turkey considers to be a terrorist organizational
    • The PYD is a predominant force among Syrian Kurds and holds significant influence in the region
    • However, the BBC reports that Turkey just finished conducting a series of airstrikes against the PKK complicating the situation further
  • As this regional drama unfolds, the US has intensified its airstrikes (NBC) against the IS in Kobane, launching the most in the region since the beginning of the US-led coalition campaign
    • Although claiming that the strategy is working, Deputy National Security Adviser admitted that the absence of ground troops is trivializing any progress made through the strikes (NBC°
    • Additionally, US-backed rebels in Syria are warning the US that airstrikes could in fact hurt moderate rebels, considering that airstrikes do not target Assad nor do they protect civilians (in fact there have been some civilian casualties from the coalition strikes)
    • Syria Deeply covered protests in the country that shed light on the unfavourable view some Syrians hold towards the coalition strikes
Analysis
  • The regional dynamics are becoming increasingly complex as Turkey and the US attempt to mesh their interests into a cohesive strategy without infringing upon each other's geopolitical goals
    • Turkey seems to be resisting US pressure to become more active in the conflict because it sees Kurdish interests as benefiting completely from its intervention
    • However, Turkey sees that intervention is inevitable, hence it is conducting strikes against the PKK to weaken any benefit the organization might gain from Turkey's intervention in Kobane
  • The US is also reluctant to grant Turkey it's demands of a no-fly zone, which would be both an expensive endeavour and also jeopardize regional considerations such as the US-Iran nuclear talks; a no-fly zone would imply that the US is orienting itself against Assad militarily, but current strikes focusing on the IS are making moderate rebels question the US's commitment to their cause
Syrian Government Broadens it's Attacks on Rebels
  • ISW reports that despite the previous weeks' regime gains in Damascus, rebels regaining territory in the Jobar district of the rebel-held Eastern Ghouta has resulted in the regime suppressing the gains through the use of bombardment and chemical weapons
    • specifically the alleged use of chlorine gas and surface-to-surface missiles supposedly against JaN forces in the area
    • SANA reports over twitter and on their website confirm the government presence in Jobar as the Syrian Army moved into the Ain Tarma area of the Jobar district
  • Syria Deeply reported that the Syrian air force has launched a strong offensive on rebels across the country focusing on non-IS rebel forces that US-led coalition airstrikes are ignoring
    • SANA reported on the US airstrikes in ar-Raqqa and al-Hasaka in the North East of the country and also on the resilience of Kurds in Ayn al-Arab against IS
    • Meanwhile according to Syria Deeply, the Syrian army has conducted on average 40 raids in Idlib and Hama provinces
    • SOHR reported 15 air raids in Idleb alone on October 13
Analysis
  • As airstrikes on IS led by the coalition are in full swing and deterring the threat IS poses to the regime's territory, the government army has focused its efforts on the urban areas in the West
  • additionally, with the Islamic Front's announcement of a renewed offensive in the South Western provinces, the regime is anticipating renewed resistance from the Eastern Ghoutta, hence preemptively consolidating its power over the city and its surrounding suburbs
Dar'aa and Quneitera – Intense Fighting Between Rebels and Government Forces
  • ISW reports that rebel forces have been making continued headway in the South on retaining strategic checkpoints, and pushing forward under the new Ahlo al-Azem campaign aiming at reaching and reinforcing rebel held areas in Damascus
  • SOHR reports (Opposition) that in Quneitra, Islamic factions are collaborating with their allies in Da'ara and also conducting a new offensive hoping to push foward to Damascus
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