Weekly coverage round-up (Mar 4 - 8)

A quick English summary of our Arabic news coverage this week.

“The Syrian Muslim Brotherhood’s double delusion” (4 March, 2019). A recent statement issued by the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood calls on Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to impose a “safe zone” in northern Syria. The statement misrepresents what would in truth be a step solely to squeeze the Kurdish PYD party, taken by Turkey in coordination with Russia and Iran, as one akin to the no-fly zone envisaged by Syrian rebels in the early days of the uprising, argues Yassin al-Haj Saleh. For the full article, click here (Arabic).

“Donors resume funding the medical sector in the north” (4 March, 2019). In February, the German Corporation for International Cooperation (GIZ) resumed its funding for healthcare providers in opposition-controlled parts of Idlib, Hama, and Aleppo provinces, marking a return of vital international funds to the sector in these areas after more than a month’s suspension. For further details, read our full report (Arabic).

“Putin plays chess with himself” (5 March, 2019). On Monday, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov declared there was no need for any new diplomatic “working group” concerning Syria in light of the existence of the Astana process, appearing to backtrack on an agreement between President Putin and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu during the latter’s visit to Moscow last week. While Putin may imagine he’s outmaneuvering the other parties to the conflict with such tactics, in reality Moscow is losing influence on the ground, argues Orwa Khalife. For the extended analysis, see the full report (Arabic).

“The Baghuz battle still isn’t over” (6 March, 2019). On Tuesday, the battle for the town of Baghuz—the last morsel of Syrian territory held by the Islamic State—was put on hold once again, in order to give the town’s remaining civilians an opportunity to leave. With hundreds of the group’s jihadists having already surrendered to the Western-backed Syrian Democratic Forces leading the assault, a military defeat for ISIS is seen as a foregone conclusion, though a die-hard core continues to fight, including by sending car bombs and infiltrators to surrounding areas. For more analysis, including the complex political and legal questions set to arise the day after the “caliphate’s” official fall—not to mention the enduring mystery surrounding the fate of ISIS’ leader, and the group’s foreign hostages—see our full report (Arabic).