Saturday, April 29, 2017

Russia's Unrelenting Attacks on Syrian Civilians

By Genevieve Casagrande and Ellen Stockert

Russia’s campaign against Syrian civilians continued undeterred by the U.S. strike on April 6 in response to the Bashar al-Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons in southern Idlib. Local reports indicate Russia regularly used incendiary munitions and bunker buster munitions in Idlib and Aleppo Provinces in order to inflict mass casualties on the population in rebel-held terrain following the U.S. strike. Russian airstrikes also targeted local civilian infrastructure from April 4 - 25, including hospitals, schools, mosques, and civil defense centers across Syria. Russia continually targeted Khan Shaykhoun, the site of the regime’s chemical attack on April 4, throughout the reporting period. Furthermore, activists claimed Russia targeted a hospital and civil defense center treating those wounded in Khan Shaykhoun immediately following the regime’s sarin gas attack. The use of chemical weapons is just one of many means the pro-regime coalition has to punish anti-Assad populations in Syria. Russia remains a principal contributor to President Assad’s purposeful campaign to target Syrian civilians. The Assad regime has a long history of violence against its own people, but the advanced capabilities Russia has brought to theater have allowed the pro-regime coalition to target civilians with even greater precision.

The U.S. strike on Shayrat did not meaningfully degrade the ability of the Assad-Russia-Iran coalition to attack anti-Assad forces and civilians throughout Syria. Russia provides the bulk of the pro-regime coalition’s asymmetric airpower against anti-Assad forces in Syria, while Iran provides high end manpower through the deployment of Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Hezbollah, and other Iranian proxy forces. Russia continued to provide the regime with necessary airpower to blunt opposition advances in Dera’a City in southern Syria, for example. However, Russia predominantly focused its airpower in northwestern Syria against the opposition and civilians from April 4 - 25, despite the pro-regime coalition’s continued counter-ISIS narrative. Russian airstrikes supported pro-regime advances in northern Hama Province, enabling pro-regime forces to regain all territory lost to the opposition in the rebels’ most recent Hama offensive launched on March 21. Iran, Russia, and the regime have continued to push north amidst aggressive Russian airstrikes in the area, placing pro-regime forces within 13 miles of Khan Shaykhoun as of April 25. The regime’s rapid advance towards Idlib Province may increasingly force the remaining acceptable opposition to turn towards powerful Salafi-Jihadi partners for support. Russia’s continued operations in support of the Assad regime coupled with continued attacks against civilians in rebel-held areas will only further drive instability and radicalization within the Syrian conflict.

The following graphic depicts ISW’s assessment of Russian airstrike locations based on reports from local Syrian activist networks, statements by Russian and Western officials, and documentation of Russian airstrikes through social media. This map represents locations targeted by Russia’s air campaign, rather than the number of individual strikes or sorties. The graphic likely under-represents the extent of the locations targeted in Eastern Syria, owing to a relative lack of activist reporting from that region.

High-Confidence Reporting. ISW places high confidence in reports corroborated by documentation from opposition factions and activist networks on the ground in Syria deemed to be credible that demonstrate a number of key indicators of Russian airstrikes.

Low-Confidence Reporting. ISW places low confidence in reports corroborated only by multiple secondary sources, including from local Syrian activist networks deemed credible or Syrian state-run media.

Friday, April 28, 2017

The Campaign for Mosul: March 2-April 28

By: Jessa Rose Dury-Agri, Patrick Martin, and the ISW Iraq Team

Iraq’s Counter Terrorism Service (CTS) units resumed their advance in western Mosul on April 11 after a 19-day pause. CTS units are advancing along two axes. The northern advance will link up with the 9th Iraqi Army (IA) Armored Division conducting clearing operations northwest of the city. Additional CTS units are encircling the Old City toward the sector’s northern boundary. CTS Commander Abdul Ghani al-Assadi indicated his troops may open a corridor north of the Old City in hopes that ISIS militants will flee the Old City rather than fight in the dense complex. The U.N estimates as many as 400,000 civilians are trapped within the Old City. ISIS has intentionally drawn U.S.-led Coalition airstrikes on structures within the Old City where it has forced civilians to congregate. ISIS will continue this strategy, as it successfully stirred up political blowback. ISIS also conducted small-scale chemical weapons attacks on ISF in the Old City, though with minimal impact according to ISF and U.S. Department of Defense sources. ISIS will likely allocate its greatest defenses to al-Nuri Mosque, where ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi appeared publically in 2014.

Turkey’s escalation of attacks on U.S. partner forces in northern Syria and northwest Iraq threaten anti-ISIS operations. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stated he would launch a new, Iraq phase of operation in Syria, Operation Euphrates Shield on April 4. The Turkish Air Force conducted airstrikes on positions held by Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) affiliates near Sinjar in addition to Hasaka Province, eastern Syria on April 25. The Turkish airstrikes also hit a Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) base near Sinjar, likely unintentionally. Turkey also pressured Iraq’s Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi to redirect Iranian-backed Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) from Tel Afar, a primarily Turkmen town west of Mosul by threatening action should the PMU seize Tel Afar. PM Abadi cut a deal with PMU elements to divert efforts from Tel Afar to villages southwest of Sinjar, near the Iraq-Syria border. PM Abadi’s decision reduced the threat of a Turkish-Iranian contest over Tel Afar that could have threatened the final phase of the Mosul operation. Turkish incursions in northern Iraq strain relations between Baghdad and the Kurdistan Regional Government and also detract from the Mosul campaign’s final phase. 

Turkey May Launch New Ground Offensive against US-Backed Forces in Syria

By Jennifer Cafarella

Key Takeaway: Turkey’s President Erdogan is trying to coerce President Trump into shifting American support from Kurdish forces toward Turkey’s proxies in Syria, which include al Qaeda-linked elements. Erdogan may launch a new ground operation into Syria in order to create ground realities that could force the U.S. to reconsider his demands.

Erdogan may open a new front line in his campaign against America’s primary anti-ISIS partner in Syria, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), in coming days. Erdogan seeks to coerce President Trump into accepting Turkey and Turkish-backed opposition groups as alternative ground partners to the SDF in the fight against ISIS. The YPG dominates the SDF and is the Syrian branch of the Turkish Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK), which is waging an active insurgency against the Turkish state. Erdogan views the YPG’s ascendancy in northern Syria as his primary national security threat. Erdogan has signaled that he will launch a cross-border operation to seize the Syrian border town of Tel Abyad, north of Raqqa City. Turkish forces are shelling the town and local sources indicate that Turkish warplanes are flying sorties above it, although without dropping munitions thus far. Unconfirmed reports also indicate Turkish-backed opposition groups may be amassing for an offensive. Erdogan may launch the operation before his upcoming meeting with President Trump in Washington on May 16-17.

Erdogan’s plan is to siphon Syrian Arab support away from the SDF, which would block America’s planned Raqqa operation. Tel Abyad is an Arab-majority town currently under military control by the Syrian Kurdish (YPG). An operation against Tel Abyad, if it occurs, would open a fissure between Arabs and the YPG in northern Syria that could be sufficient to neutralize the SDF as a reliable American partner force for the Raqqa operation. Turkey likely also intends to undermine Arab support for the SDF’s larger governance project in northeastern Syria by providing an option for independent Arab governance outside YPG control.

Erdogan has been threatening an operation in Tel Abyad for some time. Erdogan had proposed an alternative approach to the US plan to seize Raqqa City in interviews and in meetings with U.S. officials in February and March 2017. Erdogan offered to use Turkish troops and allied opposition fighters to create a 12-mile wide corridor from Tel Abyad to Raqqa City. The US was reportedly unsatisfied with the proposal, which offered to commit only 3,000 Turkish soldiers. The Turks reportedly claimed to be able to field 10,000 Turkish-trained opposition forces, but those numbers have not materialized. The U.S. rejection did not change Erdogan’s commitment to block the Raqqa operation, however. Erdogan warned on April 3, 2017 that he intended to launch “new surprises” targeting ISIS, the PKK, and the YPG. Turkey recently tested America’s resolve to defend the YPG in eastern Syria. Turkey launched airstrikes against YPG headquarters in eastern Syria and YPG proxy fighters in northern Iraq on April 25, 2017. The U.S. condemned the strike but did not take action in response.

Erdogan may use an operation against Tel Abyad to demonstrate his ability to rally Arab tribal support in order to force the U.S. to reconsider. Turkey convened 50 Sunni Arab tribal leaders from eastern Syria in the Turkish town of Sanliurfa, north of Tel Abyad, in mid-March to discuss resistance against the YPG. Turkey formed a new Syrian Arab military force named the “Eastern Shield Army” on April 19, likely drawing from the tribes represented at the summit in Sanliurfa. The group includes members from the al-Nai’m tribe, which operates near Tel Abyad, in addition to rebel fighters linked to al Qaeda that operated in eastern Syria before the rise of ISIS in late 2014. The group’s influence reportedly extends through Raqqa and into Deir ez Zour Province, although the size of its fighting force remains unclear. Turkish Defense Minister Fikri Isik stated on April 21 that continued cooperation between the U.S. and the Syrian Kurdish YPG threatens to create “long-term instability” between Arabs and Kurds, signaling Turkey’s intent to exploit Arab discontent with YPG domination in northern Syria.

An operation against Tel Abyad would mark the start of a second phase in Turkey’s military intervention in Syria and its first major ground operation directly against the YPG. Turkey began its intervention in August 2016. It first seized the Syrian border town of Jarablus, west of Tel Abyad, from the Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS) on August 26, 2016 using a similar partnered rebel force. Turkey then cleared the remainder of the ISIS-held Syrian-Turkish border and pushed south to recapture the ISIS-held town of al Bab on February 23. Turkey had only limited success gaining U.S. support for its operations and has not managed to weaken America’s commitment to the SDF. The U.S. provided intermittent support to Turkey’s operations against ISIS but blocked Turkey’s move to attack the SDF near al Bab. Erdogan’s resolve to prevent the SDF from taking Raqqa City has not diminished. President Trump congratulated Erdogan for his victory in the Turkish referendum earlier this month, which may have emboldened Erdogan to start a new phase of his Syrian campaign. Erdogan reciprocated on April 28, stating “I believe that we will open a fresh page with Trump” in a conference in Istanbul.

Turkey’s alternative plan for Raqqa is unacceptable even if Turkey secures large-scale Arab buy in. The Syrian opposition forces that Turkey is using to support its operations include elements linked to al Qaeda, such as Ahrar al Sharqiya. Turkey will likely also use the Salafi jihadi group – and al Qaeda ally – Ahrar al Sham, which has messaged its willingness to participate alongside Turkey in operations to seize Raqqa. Turkey previously used Ahrar al Sham as a logistical backbone for the first phase of the Euphrates Shield operations in northern Aleppo. The form of governance that Turkey is emplacing in its de facto safe zone is meanwhile antithetical to U.S. objectives. Turkey is allowing groups like Ahrar al Sham to implement social control, for example imprisoning members of a local governing council. The US cannot allow groups like Ahrar al Sham to dominate governance in a post-ISIS Raqqa because it would create a permissive environment for al Qaeda in the long term. The U.S. must contain the escalating Turkish-YPG war, and should accept delays in the timeframe for the Raqqa operation in order to do so. Defeating ISIS must remain a priority, but the U.S. risks producing more dangerous futures by rushing into clearing operations in Raqqa under current conditions. The possible dangerous outcomes of a Raqqa operation on current trajectory include a failure to recapture the city due to a war between Turkey and allied Arabs and the YPG or an al-Qaeda rise to power in Raqqa after its recapture from ISIS. 

Friday, April 21, 2017

Syria Situation Report: April 14 - 20, 2017

By ISW Syria Team and Syria Direct

Russia, Iran, and Syria demonstrated their enduring partnership during a trilateral foreign ministerial meeting in Moscow on April 14 to discuss their response to the recent strike by the U.S. against Shayrat Airbase in Syria on April 6. The ministers stressed the three countries share “common procedures against any aggression” and expressed concern regarding expanded deployments by the U.S. to the Syrian-Jordanian Border. Meanwhile, activists and anonymous officials continued to report the consolidation of pro-regime warplanes onto former civilian airfields – including the Bassel al-Assad International Airport in Latakia Province – in anticipation of any future strikes by the U.S. in Syria.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad continued to consolidate his grip around core regime terrain in Damascus and Hama City. Buses evacuated over two thousand opposition fighters and civilians from the besieged towns of Zabadani and Madaya near Damascus in exchange for the evacuation of nearly eight thousand pro-regime fighters and civilians from the besieged towns of Fu’ah and Kefraya in Idlib Province. The evacuations come as part of a broader deal brokered by Iran and Qatar that includes population transfers, prisoner releases, and the release of a member of the Qatari Royal Family kidnapped in Iraq in 2015. Pro-regime forces also reversed all of the gains achieved by opposition forces in Northern Hama Province since the start of a major offensive against Hama City on March 21.

Finally, Turkish President Recep Erdogan achieved his longstanding goal to solidify his political dominance. Turkey voted by a narrow margin on April 16 to approve a controversial constitutional referendum to implement an executive presidential system amidst allegations of widespread fraud as well as condemnations from international observers. Erdogan has long pursued constitutional reform to concentrate executive power within his hands. The disputed results will likely generate additional domestic and regional instability as Erdogan defends his claims to a nationwide mandate and attempts to bolster the stability of his fracturing nationalist electoral coalition – potentially by launching new military operations against Kurds in Iraq and Syria.

These graphics mark the latest installment of our Syria SITREP Map made possible through a partnership between the Institute for the Study of War and Syria Direct. The graphic depicts significant recent developments in the Syrian Civil War. The control of terrain represented on the graphic is accurate as of April 3, 2017.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Iraq Situation Report: March 20 - April 20, 2017

By Patrick Martin, Jennifer Cafarella, Jessa Rose Dury-Agri, and ISW Iraq Team

ISIS is waging a renewed offensive campaign in recaptured areas that could exploit vulnerabilities in the Iraqi Government’s ability to respond amidst accelerating political competition before upcoming elections. ISIS attempted to fix, penetrate, or divert security forces with ground attacks against the ISF and PMU at Baiji, Tikrit, and in Diyala. ISIS also attempted to conduct isolated attacks in secure areas near Baghdad, Fallujah, and Samarra, a reflection of historic attack patterns of the 2012-2013 era. Prime Minister Abadi faces competing requirements to manage a renewed Kurdish bid for an independence referendum and Turkish President Erdogan's threat of future Turkish military activity in northern Iraq against the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). Abadi is simultaneously campaigning to position himself politically to win in Iraq’s upcoming elections. Iran meanwhile continues to use its Iraqi proxies to produce cross-theater outcomes, undermining the legitimacy of the Iraqi state and demonstrating Iranian freedom of action in Iraq. The requirement for coalition military support in Iraq will endure after the recapture of Mosul, and could actually increase if political competition in Iraq undermines stability and creates new opportunities for ISIS and other Sunni insurgent actors.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Syria Situation Report: March 30 - April 14, 2017

By ISW Syria Team and Syria Direct

U.S. President Donald Trump demonstrated a new willingness to use force against the regime after conducting cruise missile strike targeting the Shayrat Airbase in Central Syria on April 6. The strikes came in response to the regime’s use of sarin gas against the opposition-held town of Khan Sheikhoun in Northern Syria on April 4 that marked one of its deadliest chemical weapons attacks since the 2013 Sarin Attacks in Damascus. The U.S. attempted to leverage its limited strikes against the regime to force Russia to reveal the extent of its commitment to Iran and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The Kremlin rejected calls to distance itself from Assad after U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian President Vladimir Putin on April 13. Russia also vetoed a draft UN Security Council resolution outlining an investigation into the regime’s culpability for chemical weapons attacks. The White House nonetheless also messaged continuity in its military stance towards the Syrian Civil War. Tillerson noted in an interview on April 11 that the “first priority” remains the defeat of ISIS in Syria and warned against “violent regime change” similar to Libya. U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis also stated that the “military policy in Syria has not changed” and stressed that the “rest of the campaign stays on track…exactly as it was before” the chemical weapons attack. 

These graphics mark the latest installment of our Syria SITREP Map made possible through a partnership between the Institute for the Study of War and Syria Direct. The graphic depicts significant recent developments in the Syrian Civil War. The control of terrain represented on the graphic is accurate as of April 3, 2017.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Syria Strike Opens Doors for U.S. Strategy

Jennifer Cafarella and Genevieve Casagrande with the ISW & CTP Research Teams

The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) produced this product with the American Enterprise Institute’s Critical Threats Project (CTP). The ISW-CTP team recently released “America’s Way Ahead in Syria,” which details the flaws in the current U.S. approach in Iraq and Syria and proposes the first phase of a strategic reset in the Middle East.

The U.S strike against an Assad regime base in northern Syria on April 6, 2017 opened the door to a reorientation of American strategy in the Middle East. President Trump’s action could reset the terms of America’s confrontation of other hostile states, such as North Korea. President Trump may be shifting away from a narrow focus on the Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS) as the strategic priority in Syria and toward a new approach. It remains unclear whether he will take additional action against the Assad regime, but his statement after the strike appeared to signal an emerging anti-Assad policy. Responses from major international powers and key regional actors indicate that these parties perceive the strike represents a possible strategic inflection rather than an isolated incident. President Trump has the opportunity to exploit the effects of his limited action to pursue America’s strategic goals.
Regional actors responded as if a wider American reorientation against Assad is possible. Traditional U.S. partners in the region like Saudi Arabia and Jordan supported the strike. Turkey also praised the strike and called for additional U.S. action against the Assad regime. These reactions indicate that the strike created an opportunity for President Trump to repair America’s relationships with traditional partners, which had begun to reorient toward Russia or to act unilaterally in dangerous ways in the absence of American leadership. European states under Russian pressure also supported the strike, indicating that the U.S. can still shape European policies toward Syria. President Trump may have an opportunity to leverage European support for counter-Assad measures to reengage Europe on the need to confront Russia in Syria. Actors deeper within the Russo-Iranian orbit, including Egypt and Iraq’s Shi’a political parties, expressed caution.
The pro-regime axis—Assad, Iran, and Russia—reacted in different but complementary ways. The Assad regime and Iran initially responded with caution. Their reactions indicate shared intent to avoid additional U.S. responses. The Assad regime downplayed the impact of the strike and resumed normal operations. Iran portrayed the U.S. as a regional aggressor but did not take military action. Iran’s initial reaction reflected a desire not to provoke the U.S. to escalate against Assad. Iran’s proxies also displayed discipline and did not escalate above previous levels of anti-American rhetoric. Iran’s response indicates that Iran seeks to avoid drawing the U.S. further into the region. The lack of immediate escalation by Iran or its proxies does not indicate that Iran will fail to respond if the U.S. takes additional action against Assad. Iran will undertake a sophisticated and possibly offensive strategy against U.S. interests and personnel in theater if it perceives further U.S. action against Assad is likely. Iran will also attempt to develop a joint response with Russia.
Russia’s initial response was reactionary. Russia focused first on repairing Vladimir Putin’s strongman image and the perception of the strength of Russian aerial defensive capabilities by condemning the strike and undertaking a show of force. Russia deployed a missile frigate to the Mediterranean Sea, conducted massive domestic military exercises, halted use of the aerial deconfliction mechanism with the U.S. in Syria, and stated it would bolster the Assad regime’s air defenses to deter further U.S. action. Russia later stated that it will speed up development of the S-500 system for domestic air defense. Russia shifted its narrative approach after 24 hours to cast President Trump as reckless. Russian rhetoric and propaganda portrayed the U.S. as an irresponsible aggressor in an effort to deny popular support for further U.S. intervention in Syria.  

Pro-Regime Axis
Assad regime
  • 07 APR: Syrian Information Minister Mohammad Tourjman stated that the strike had been “expected” and “limited in time and scope” while downplaying the possibility of “any military escalation” by Syria and Russia. Tourjman alleged that the strikes aimed to “support terrorist organizations” after their “heavy losses” at the hands of pro-regime forces. Tourjman claimed that the affected airbase was a “specialized base in the fight against terrorism.” (ReutersHurriyet, SANA)
  • 07 APR: The Syrian Presidency Office condemned the strikes as an “unjust and arrogant aggression” against a “sovereign state” and accused the U.S. of “attempting to dominate the world” through “reckless and irresponsible acts.” The statement vowed to “increase the pace of operations” against “terrorist agents” in Syria. (SANA)
  • 07 APR: The Syrian Arab Army General Command accused the U.S. of conducting a “blatant act of aggression” that undermines operations against terrorism. The statement accused the U.S. of acting as a “partner” to ISIS and al Qaeda in Syria and “sending wrong messages” that will “embolden [terrorists] use chemical weapons in the future.” The statement noted that the military will respond by “continuing its national duty” to “beat terrorism” and “restore security and stability to the entire territory” of Syria. (SANA, YouTube)
  • 07 APR: Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad stated that the strikes represented “aggression as defined by international law” that aimed to undermine the Syrian Arab Army. Mekdad noted that the strikes came after the “failure of the recent aggression” by Israel on Syria, stressing that the “two aggressions cannot be separated from each other.” Mekdad condemned the “fallen and unreliable opposition” for “fabricating allegations” against the regime rather than participating in the Geneva and Astana Talks. Mekdad stated that the U.S. remains committed to “supporting the terrorists” in order to weaken Syria against Israel and warned that countries backing the opposition will “all pay a heavy price” from the “terrorist attacks [that] will target them next.” (SANA)
  • 07 APR: Syrian Presidential Media Advisor Bouthaina Shaaban claimed that the strikes came under “false pretenses” to “rescue terrorists” and “undermine powers which fight terrorism” after gains by pro-regime forces. Shaaban accused the U.S. of conducting an “aggressive act without enough evidence” and noted that Israel is a “major beneficiary” of the conflict. Shaaban stated that Syria will support Russia at the UN Security Council to “condemn the U.S. aggression on a sovereign state.” (SANA)
  • 08 APR: Syrian Prime Minister Imad Khamis stated that the strikes represented “blatant support to terrorism” and emphasized that the incident will “increase [our] determination to confront the terrorist war.” (SANA)
  • 07 APR: Russia called for an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council in response to the U.S. strike. Russian deputy U.N. envoy Vladimir Safronkov stated that the U.S. strike on Shayrat was “illegitimate” and warned that it could have “extremely serious” consequences. (Reuters, Kremlin, UNSC)
  • 07 APR: Foreign Ministry announced the suspension of the air deconfliction mechanism with the U.S. in Syria. (The HillZaman al WaslAP, AFP)
  • 07 APR: The Kremlin condemned the strike as “aggression against a sovereign state” that violated international norms under “far-fetched pretexts” of a chemical weapons attack. The statement warned that the strike “inflicted considerable damage” to bilateral relations between the U.S. and Russia. (APReutersReuters, AFP)
  • 07 APR: Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev warned that the strikes had come “one step away from military clashes” with Russia. (APReutersReuters, AFP)
  • 07 APR: Russian Federation Council Foreign Affairs Committee Chairperson Konstantin Kosachev stated that the strikes “put to rest without even being born” any possible counter-terrorism cooperation between the U.S. and Russia. (APReutersReuters, AFP)
  • 07 APR: Russian Defense Ministry Spokesperson Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov stated that Russia will take a “complex of measures “to strengthen air defenses and “protect the most sensitive infrastructure” in Syria. (APReutersReuters, AFP)
  • 07 APR: Russian military holds a combined arms drill for the Eastern Military District that includes the participation of four combat aviation groups from the Southern military district. (RG.RU)
  • 07 APR: The Russian Ministry of Defense announced the redeployment of the Admiral Grigorovich from the Black Sea to Tartous, Syria. (Newsweek)
  • 07 APR: Russia opens a branch of its International Mine Action Center in Homs Province. (Sputnik)
  • 08 APR: Commander of the Russian Aerospace Force Col. Viktor Bondarev announced that the Russian S-500 air defense system will be put in service “in the near future.” (Sputnik)
  • 07-08 APR: Russian officials alleged that the U.S. strike against the Assad regime benefitted ISIS, leaving pro-regime forces without air support during ISIS ground operations in the area. (RT,, UNSC)
  • 08 APR: The Russian Foreign Ministry alleged that the U.S. is using direct military action against Assad in order to “divert attention” from recent civilian casualties from U.S.-led coalition airstrikes in Mosul, Iraq. (Sputnik)
  • 08 APR: A pro-regime airstrike targeted the town of Khan Shaykhoun in southern Idlib, the site of the chemical weapons attack, killing one woman. (SOHR, Chicago Tribune)
  • 07 APR: Head of Parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Committee Alaeddin Boroujerdi called the U.S. airstrikes on Syria a “conspiracy” because “everyone in the world knows that the Syrian government… has handed over all its chemical weapons.” Boroujerdi said that the airstrikes demonstrate the “defeat” of U.S. policies in the Middle East. Boroujerdi stressed that the airstrikes’ “consequences will not be good for America.” Boroujerdi said that Trump’s decision to launch the airstrikes is contrary to his promises during his campaign and thus “shows Trump’s decline.” Boroujerdi stated that Iran’s response to the airstrikes will occur “according to [Iran’s] cooperation with Russia, Iraq, and Syria.” Boroujerdi stated, “Undoubtedly, America’s ill-advised action will be followed by serious consequences, because Russia and Iran will not sit quietly in the face of acts which are contrary to the region’s interests.” Boroujerdi also noted that a country usually chooses to use chemical weapons when its armies are failing in war, and stated that “the Syrian army is in its best position right now. Aleppo has been liberated and other areas are also being liberated. (IRNA, Shafaqna, Asr Iran)
  • 07 APR: Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif stated that just as the U.S. resorted “to military force” in its invasion of Iraq in 2003 “over bogus [chemical weapons] allegations,” so it is resorting to military force “over bogus [chemical weapons] allegations” in its airstrikes in Syria. Zarif claimed that “Not even two decades” after the September 11 attacks, the U.S. military is “fighting on the same side” as al Qaeda and ISIS in Yemen and Syria. (ISNA, IRNA)
  • 07 APR: Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Ghassemi stated that “Iran condemns any use of chemical weapons, regardless of the perpetrators and the victims.” Ghassemi indicated that the U.S. used the “suspicious chemical attack” as an “excuse” to launch the airstrikes. Ghassemi stressed that America’s “use of a chemical attack in Syria” as “pretext for unilateral action is dangerous, destructive,” and in “violation of peremptory principles of international laws.” Ghassemi stated America’s actions will “reinforce declining terrorists and add to the complexity of the situation in Syria.” (CNN, Fars News Agency, Fars News Agency)
  • 07 APR: Hossein Amir Abdollahian, the international affairs advisor to Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani, stated that the U.S. airstrikes prove “that the fight” against ISIS is “still” not America’s “priority.” Larijani called the airstrikes “hasty,” contrary to international law, and “to the detriment of regional and global security.” He stressed that the U.S. is ignoring international endeavors to resolve the Syrian crisis politically. (Tasnim News Agency)
  • 07 APR: Interim Tehran Friday Prayer Leader Ayatollah Mohammad Emami Kashani stated that the U.S. launched the airstrikes in order to conceal its “support for the terrorists.” Emami Kashani reiterated the regime’s statement that the U.S. helped create terrorist groups in the region. He also stated that the allegation that the Assad regime was responsible for the chemical weapons attack is a “lie.” (Fars News Agency, IRNA)
Iranian Axis Parties
  • 07 APR: The al Houthi movement in Yemen backed Syria’s Assad regime. Al Houthi-Saleh Prime Minister Abdul Aziz bin Habtour condemned the U.S. cruise missiles strikes in Syria as a “blatant violation of a sister Arab state's autonomy” and a violation of international law. Bin Habtour expressed support for the Iranian and Russian governments for their condemnation of the attacks. Bin Habtour also stated that he is not surprised by Arab states expressing their support for their attack, as they are also “official sponsors of the Sunni extremist terrorist groups that kill the Syrian people.” The Political Council of Ansar Allah (al Houthi political union) issued a formal statement mirroring bin Habtour's and added that it supports “any steps to respond to the American aggression” taken by Syria. (Saba)
  • 07 APR: Iranian proxy militia Harakat al Nujaba spokesperson Hashim al Mousawi stated that the U.S. airstrike “does not change the rules of engagement and our position does not change (regarding) the direction of the war in Syria.” Nujaba blamed the chemical weapons attack on the U.S. as an attempt to save “terrorist gangs.” He added that the airstrike was in response to the shooting down of an Israeli aircraft targeting Syrian air defenses. (Facebook)
  • 07 APR: A statement by the political bureau of the Badr Organization reported that the U.S. strike against the Syrian Government was based off on “flimsy” pretenses. The statement continued, condemning the “brutal attack” calling it “a serious turning point in the Syrian crisis” and stressing the concern of international and Arab communities that the attacks will “constitute an opportunity to strengthen terrorist groups in the area.” The Badr Organization reiterated that the “Syrian people alone have the right to self-determination and to choose their system of government with full freedom and sovereignty” and called on the international community to use diplomacy to resolve the Syrian crisis and assist only in counter-terrorism matters. (al Ghadeer)
  • 07 APR: Media Spokesman for the Badr Organization Jaafar al Quraishi stated that Syria is fighting terrorism and that the U.S. strike on a Syrian airbase was the “wrong target” and the U.S. did not “act correctly with targeting Syrian and Russian forces at the Shayrat airbase.” (RUDAW)

Regional Actors Balancing U.S and Russo-Iranian Coalitions
  • 07 APR: Turkish President Erdogan stated Turkey’s support of U.S. missile strikes as a “positive concrete step” but “not enough” against the Assad regime’s war crimes. Recent developments have once again proved how accurate Turkey's efforts to create safe-haven protected areas in Syria are. (TCCB)
  • 07 APR: Turkey's Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed full support of U.S. steps to hold the Syrian regime accountable and also stated Turkey would continue to advance a political solution process in Syria. (MFA)
  • 07 APR: Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu advocated to oust the Syrian regime. (Reuters)
  • 08 APR: Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Ankara sees the U.S. intervention in Syria as appropriate but not enough. Cavusoglu stated “If this intervention is limited only to an air base, if it does not continue and if we don’t remove the regime from heading Syria, then this would remain a cosmetic intervention.” (Washington Post)
  • 07 APR: The Egyptian Foreign Ministry released a statement calling Russia and the U.S. to contain the Syrian conflict and achieve a comprehensive and final solution to the Syrian crisis, and to act on the basis of international legitimacy decisions. The statement also called for sparing Syria and the Middle East the risk of an escalation of the crisis, in order to preserve the lives of the Syrian people, through the commitment of all Syrian parties to immediately cease fire, and return to the negotiating table under the auspices of the UN. The ministry stated that Egypt is following with deep concern the repercussions of the Khan Shaykhoun crisis. (Al Arabiya)
  • 07 APR: State of Law member Firdaus al Awadi stated that the strike “will negatively affect the progress of fighting in Iraq” and that the chemical weapons attack was the pretext to “change the equation in the Middle East,” weakening Russia and returning to a unipolar world. Awadi stated that the U.S. could not abandon ISIS, which was a pretext for the U.S. to re-occupy the Middle East. Awadi stated that the U.S. would try to restore its military presence in Iraq and work to build permanent bases. (Almirbad)
  • 07 APR: National Alliance leader Ammar al Hakim expressed “deep concern” over the U.S. strikes on a Syrian air base in Homs. Hakim called for “calm dialogue and a political solution,” stating that “the region cannot tolerate further conflicts and escalation, as it would only serve ISIS’s interests.” Hakim called for “a scientific, neutral, transparent investigation into the chemical weapons attack in Khan Shaykhoun.” (All Iraq News)
  • 07 APR: Kadhimiyah-based pro-Sadr cleric Ayatollah Jawad al Khalisi stated the need for a “comprehensive resistance” in the region against “American aggression” after the U.S. strike against the Syrian government as it “represents the beginning of a dangerous phase,” noting that the strike occurred near the anniversary of the “aggression against Iraq.” Khalisi denounced the strikes adding that they would only “escalate the confrontation.” (NRTTV)
  • 08 APR: Sadrist Trend leader Muqtada al Sadr stated that it was fair for Syrian President Bashar al Assad to resign to save Syria from the "scourge of war and domination by terrorists." He called the airstrike harmful to the international community. He "did not rule out" that the decision to strike Syria was pretext to "expand" and warned that the U.S. is a sponsor of terrorism. He also warned that the strike could draw the region into conflict, as Syria has become a "crucible of abhorrent political conflict." Sadr stated that the U.S. should instead support dialogue if it wants to be a sponsor of peace and to be impartial to any side in conflicts, including in the Palestinian territories, Burma, and Bahrain. Sadr stated that "everyone knows" that U.S. military intervention was not feasible and not useful, noting how the U.S. decision to launch strikes in Iraq did not stop terrorism from proliferating in Iraq. Sadr called on all actors, including the U.S. and Russia, to withdraw from Syria and allow Syrians the right to determine their own future. (All Iraq News)
  • 08 APR: Prime Minister Abadi received a telephone call from Vice President Mike Pence to discuss Mosul operations and the security situation in the region. PM Abadi stressed the importance of focusing on fighting ISIS. PM Abadi condemned the use of chemical weapons and condemned "any party" that used them. He stressed the need to form a comprehensive plan to solve the crisis in Syria and to unite efforts to defeat ISIS. (All Iraq News)
Kurdish Factions
  • Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG)
    • 07 APR: The KRG Council of Ministers condemned the Chemical Weapons attack in Khan Shaykhoun and released a statement saying they hoped the U.S. missile attack on a Syrian airfield would become a reason to end such “crimes.” The KRG called on the international community to seriously work to find primary solutions to the conflict in the Middle East. (NRTTV)
  • Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP)
    • 07 APR: KDP leader and former Iraqi finance minister, Hoshyar Zebari, stated that the U.S. strikes on the Syrian air base in Homs is “good news.” Zebari added that “the strikes punished those who carried out the chemical attack [in Khan Shaykhoun].” (Shafaaq)
  • Kurdish National Council (KNC)
    • 07 APR: Representative of ENKS in Kurdistan Region of Iraq Khaled Ali stated that this event pleases not only the Kurds, but also the whole Syrian community. (Kurdistan 24)
  • Democratic Union Party (PYD)
    • 07 APR: Co-Chair of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) Salih Muslim stated, “We (PYD) believe this attack has a positive effect on the situation on the ground.... We hope [the attack] will force the actors involved to accept a political solution grounded in reality because peace is better than war.” (Dengea)
  • Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF)
    • 07 APR: The SDF did not release an official statement on 07 APR 17.

Regional Actors Expressing Full Support for U.S.
Saudi Arabia
  • 07 APR: The Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed its strong support for U.S. military operations carried out against military targets in Syria. (SPA)
  • 07 APR: Prime Minister Netanyahu announced his full support for President Trump's decision to strike the Syrian regime’s base in Homs, noting that the use of chemical weapons will not be tolerated. (MFA)
  • 07 APR: Israel's President Reuven Rivlin stated the U.S. serves as an example for the free world, which “must support any step required to bring atrocities in Syria to an end.” (Official statement)
  • 07 APR: Jordanian government spokesman Mohammad Momani stated that Jordan considers the U.S. strikes “a necessary and appropriate response to the non-stop targeting of innocent civilians” with Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs). (CNN)
  • 07 APR: Internationally recognized Yemeni President Abdu Rabbu Mansou Hadi expressed his full support for U.S. military operations in Syria in response to the Khan Shaykhoun chemical weapons attack. Hadi stated, “The U.S. strike is a necessary step to prevent the use of prohibited weapons against innocent civilians.” (Saba News)
  • 07 APR: The Bahraini Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed support for U.S. military operations against military targets in Syria and praised President Trump. It called on “efforts by all to maintain a ceasefire and arrange for negotiations that will lead to a comprehensive political settlement, on the basis of the 2012 Geneva 1 Conference.” (BNA)
  • 07 APR: The Emirati Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed its strong support for U.S. military operations carried out against military targets in Syria. (MOFA)
  • 07 APR: The Kuwaiti Foreign Ministry expressed support for the U.S. strike in Syria and denounced the use of chemical weapons. (KUNA)
  • 08 APR: The Qatari Foreign Ministry expressed support for U.S. military operations carried out against military targets in Syria. (All4Syria)
Free Syrian Army (FSA) in Syria
  • 07 APR: The Syrian FSA issued a statement welcoming the U.S. strikes against the Syrian air base in Homs, stating that “it is step in the right direction for the international community to assume its moral responsibility to help Syrian civilians.” The statement added that the strikes do not hinder counter-terrorism efforts, as “fighting the regime and sectarian militias is a big part of the counter-terrorism effort.” Moreover, the statement claimed that “the strikes are the first step towards a political settlement” and called on the U.S. and its allies to adopt a “clear position.” The statement further added that holding Assad and his accomplices accountable “can only be achieved by applying military pressure alongside political pressure.” The statement stressed that “military operations against the regime must continue.” (Twitter)

Salafi-Jihadist Groups
Al Qaeda
  • 07 APR: Al Qaeda ideologue Abu Muhammad al Maqdisi stated the U.S. strikes are "but a feather compared to" U.S. strikes on Muslim lands. He further condemned praising the strikes as akin to praising "a professional killer." (Twitter)
  • 07 APR: Several pro-al Qaeda Telegram accounts issued anti-American statements warning supporters that the U.S. is still an enemy of Muslims. Pro-al Qaeda Telegram accounts are also claiming that the U.S. coordinated the attack with Russia and Syria to ensure there were minimal casualties. (SITE)
  • 07 APR: Failed to make a statement on 07 APR 17.

Western Europe
  • 07 APR: European Council President Donald Tusk welcomed the move and said the EU will "work with the U.S. to end brutality in Syria.” (Telegraph)
  • 07 APR: A spokesperson for the UK Prime Minister’s Office released the following statement: "Overnight, the U.S. has taken military action against the Syrian regime, targeting the airfield in Shayrat which was used to launch the chemical weapons attack earlier this week. The UK Government fully supports the U.S. action, which we believe was an appropriate response to the barbaric chemical weapons attack launched by the Syrian regime, and is intended to deter further attacks." (Telegraph)
  • 08 APR: UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson denounced Russia’s “continued [defense]” of the Assad Regime and expressed support for a political settlement in Syria. Johnson cancelled a trip to Moscow planned for Monday 10 APR following the chemical attack in Syria. (BBC)
France and Germany
  • 07 APR: France and Germany issued a joint statement denouncing Syrian President Assad for the use of chemical weapons and stated they would work with the UN to hold Assad responsible for his crimes. (Telegraph)
  • 07 APR: All three major French presidential candidates condemned the U.S. missile strike and did not implicate Assad in the chemical weapons attack. (Lejdd)
  • 07 APR: Deputy Prime Minister Lodewijk Asscher and Foreign Minister Bert Koenders stated the attack should be seen as “warning against future chemical warfare.” (Dutch News)
  • 07 APR: Denmark’s Foreign Minister Ander Samuelsen stated, “I support the American attack 100 percent. It is a response to a clear violation of all international rules, namely the use of chemical weapons.” (The Local)

Eastern Europe
  • 07 APR: Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko called VP Pence to express support for U.S. actions to prevent President Assad's crimes against the Syrian people. (Twitter)
  • 07 APR: The Polish government supports the U.S. air strike in Syria according to a Polish cabinet spokesman. (Reuters)
  • 07 APR: The Slovenian Foreign Ministry expressed understanding for the U.S. strike in Syria, stating it considers the strike a “deterrent against potential new chemical attacks.” (Sta)

  • 07 APR: Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics stated the U.S. strike in Syria was an “adequate response” to the chemical attack in Syria. (Baltic Times)
  • 07 APR: Estonian Minster of Foreign Affairs Sven Mikser stated the U.S. strike in Syria was “appropriate and necessary.” (News EER)
  • 07 APR: Swedish foreign minister Margot Wallström released the following statement: “It is unclear whether the missile attack last night is the new American policy. It is important that there is also an international legal basis for action. Last night's missile attack also raises questions about how this could be compatible with international law. The issue must therefore return to the security council, which must take responsibility to reach a lasting political solution. There is already too much military power in Syria. It is high time that the Syrian people get to decide their own future.” (The Local)
  • 07 APR: Lithuania's President Dalia Grybauskaite released the following statement: "The whole world, except for Russia and the Assad regime (…), view this as a war crime and a crime against humanity, therefore, a response is necessary. The response was directly demonstrated by the United States.” (Baltic Times)

Southern Europe
  • 07 APR: Italian Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano released the following statement: "Italy understands the reasons for a U.S. military action, proportionate and well-timed, as a response to an unacceptable feeling of impunity, and as a deterrence signal against the risk of further use of chemical weapons by Assad." (CNN)
  • 07 APR: The Spanish government released a statement calling U.S. action against Assad "a measured and proportionate response" to the regime’s use of chemical weapons. (CNN)
  • 07 APR: Portuguese Foreign Affairs Minister Augusto Santos Silva expressed understanding for the U.S. strike in Syria, but did not implicate the Assad Regime in the chemical weapons attack. (Portugal Resident)
  • 07 APR: Kosovo's President Hashim Thaci announced his full support of President’s Trump action against “Assad’s murderous regime,” stating that Assad must “face justice” and the Syrian people “must be liberated.” (Twitter)

U.S. partners outside the Middle East and Europe
  • 07 APR: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe stated his support of the U.S. strike against the Assad regime. (Telegraph)
  • 07 APR: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stated, “Canada fully supports the United States' limited and focused action to degrade the Assad regime’s ability to launch chemical weapons attacks.” (Official Announcement)

Russian Partners outside Middle East
  • 07 APR: The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated, “China always opposes the use of force in international affairs and we advocate resolving disputes peacefully through dialogues... We always hold that the Syrian issue should be resolved through political means.” (CNN)
  • 07 APR: Bolivia requested an emergency, closed session of the UNSC. Bolivia condemned the strikes during the UNSC meeting. (Twitter, Fox News)

Other Actors
North Korea
  • 08 APR: North Korea Foreign Ministry condemned the U.S. airstrike “a clear and unforgivable act of aggression against a sovereign state,” adding that “the reality of today proves our decision to strengthen our military power to stand against force with force was the right choice a million times over.” (Reuters)