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Executive Summary for June 17th

We review the key developments in Syria, including U.S. officials calling for airstrikes on President Assad, two Syrian media activists wounded in an explosion in Aleppo and Syrian government forces taking control of 90 percent of the Turkmen Mountains.

Published on June 17, 2016 Read time Approx. 3 minutes

U.S. Officials Call for Airstrikes Against Assad in Leaked Cable

Some 51 U.S. State Department officials are signatories on an internal memo calling on the White House to initiate airstrikes against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, according to the New York Times.

The cable, a copy of which was given to the Times, criticized the White House’s stance on Syria, saying that U.S. policy had been “overwhelmed” by the continuing violence and Assad’s repeated violations of the cease-fire.

The State Department signatories, the majority of which are midlevel employees, urged the Administration to take steps to “stem Assad’s flagrant abuses,” warning that a failure to do so would only “bolster the ideological appeal of groups such as Daesh [an alternative Arabic name for ISIS], even as they endure tactical setbacks on the battlefield,” according to the Wall Street Journal.

The memo was filed under the State Department’s “dissident channel,” an internal system created during the Vietnam War for employees to voice their disagreement with government policy.

The cable’s recommendation for a much stronger position on Syria, including “a judicious use of standoff and air weapons, which would undergird and drive a more focused and hard-nosed U.S.-led diplomatic process,” is a far cry from President Barack Obama’s current policy to train and equip Syrian opposition on the ground to fight ISIS militants.

U.S. policy in Syria has repeatedly failed, and the memo warned that if nothing changes on this front, “the status quo in Syria will continue to present increasingly dire, if not disastrous, humanitarian, diplomatic and terrorism-related challenges.”

Two Syrian Media Activists Wounded in Aleppo Explosion

A prominent media activist and his colleague were severely injured this week when an explosive device detonated at their apartment building in Aleppo city, the Associated Press reported Friday.

Hadi Abdullah, a Syrian journalist who has been covering the war in Syria, and his cameraman Khalid AlEissa were transported to Turkey for treatment, according a doctor familiar with the case who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity. Abdullah was hit in his lower limbs, while AlEissa suffered a head injury and a blow to the stomach, the doctor said. The activists were reportedly hit on Thursday, according to the AP report.

Earlier reports from media outlets affiliated with the Syrian opposition claimed that Abdullah and AlEissa were injured in a barrage of barrel bomb attacks in Aleppo on Tuesday. The assault killed at least 34 civilians and injured dozens more, according to Etilaf, the Syrian National Coalition and main political opposition branch.

Syrian Government Forces Take Control of 90 Percent of Turkmen Mountain

Clashes were ongoing on Friday between opposition factions and forces loyal to the Syrian government in the northeastern part of Latakia province bordering Turkey.

Early Friday morning, forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad were able to capture the town of Shahroura. Pro-regime troops now control 90 percent of the Turkmen Mountain region, home to a significant portion of the Syrian Turkmen community, according to the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Later on Friday, several rebel factions, including al-Qaida affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra, launched a counterassault on the villages of Shahroura, Ain Issa and Naourah in the Turkmen Mountains, according to Al-Manar News, a media outlet affiliated with Lebanese Hezbollah.

Syrian opposition factions claimed to have bombed a government ammunition depot on Mount Zahiya in the Turkmen Mountains. Syria Deeply could not independently confirm this claim.

The Syrian government and Russia have pounded the area with heavy airstrikes for over a month, hoping to seize the strategic mountain range. On Thursday, the Syrian army clashed with opposition and extremist factions in the Turkmen Mountain area, killing some 16 fighters.

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