https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/interactive/2015/05/syria-country-divided-150529144229467.html The above is the map as of August 8, 2018. Live updates are found here: https://syria.liveuamap.com It certainly doesn’t look like Assad has won, either.
UN News Story:
“UN envoy says he ‘is ready to go to Idlib’ to help ensure civilian safety amid rising fears of government offensive 30 August 2018
A massive military escalation by the Government of Syria to retake Idlib risks a “worst case scenario”, United Nations negotiator Staffan de Mistura said on Thursday.
Speaking to journalists in Geneva, the UN Special Envoy for Syria offered to personally escort residents of Idlib to safety ahead of any attack on the last main opposition-held area in the country, echoing an offer to do the same in Aleppo in 2016.
The envoy’s comments reiterate an earlier appeal by UN Secretary-General António Guterres, who cautioned against a full-scale military operation and expressed deep concern over the growing risk of a “humanitarian catastrophe” in the war-torn province, which borders Turkey and is home to nearly three million people.
“There is…no other Idlib, where can they go?” Mr. de Mistura said. “Where can anyone go? So, for every time there was a crisis and there was a conclusion to that one crisis, there was a place where many could opt to go. There is no other Idlib.”
The fate of Idlib is important because it’s mainly civilian population has been displaced or evacuated from other conflict zones in the country amid territorial gains by Government forces in the more than seven-year war.
So I’m once again prepared, personally and physically, to get involved myself, with the Government cooperation this time, because that is an area where they are in charge outside Idlib – Staffan de Mistura
It is also the last zone in Syria that is covered by an internationally-agreed ceasefire deal, Mr. de Mistura explained, a reference to a de-escalation pact between Russia, Turkey and Iran, known as the ‘Astana guarantors’ after the Kazakh capital where the deal was struck.
“Why such a hurry and not provide more time, to allow more discussions, especially among the Astana guarantors?” he said. “They are the ones … who announced and provided the guarantees originally for this last but hugely inhabited de-escalation area.”
In the past six months alone, a reported 500,000 people have arrived in Idlib after fleeing Government offensives in Dera’a, eastern Ghouta and other opposition-held areas.
The north-western province is also the base for “an extremely high concentration of foreign fighters”, Mr. de Mistura said, noting that this amounted to approximately 10,000 Al Nusra or Al Qaeda members, who have been recognized as terrorists by the UN.
The extremists are understood to have the capability of weaponizing chlorine – as is the Government of Syria – Mr. de Mistura said, highlighting the risks of a “worst case scenario” occurring in the event of a military attack.
Although “no-one questions” the Syrian Government’s right to fight UN-identified terrorists, nor its right to recover “all of its territorial integrity”, there was “no justification” to using heavy weapons in densely populated areas, he added.
Reiterating the UN Secretary General’s statement on Wednesday, he noted that the systematic use of indiscriminate weapons in populated areas may amount to war crimes.
It would be a “tragic irony” at the end of the war inside Syria with a “most horrific tragedy” involving large numbers of civilians, Mr. de Mistura insisted, ahead of his offer to escort people away from Idlib.
His offer to do the same in Aleppo in 2016 had been rejected by Al Nusra, he reminded journalists, saying that this had led to thousands of people dying.
“So I’m once again prepared, personally and physically, to get involved myself, with the Government cooperation this time, because that is an area where they are in charge outside Idlib,” he said. To ensure such a temporary corridor(s) would be feasible and guaranteed for the people, so that they can then could return to their own places untouched once this is over.”
Responding to questions, the UN official said he had no “specific information” that an attack on Idlib was imminent. “But I do have eyes and information regarding preparations and build-ups and messages and declarations,” he said. “And the fact that while we are talking, two of the main guarantors – in this case Turkey and the Russian Federation – are trying and we hope will succeed, in avoiding the worst-case scenario.”
UN-led efforts to secure a peaceful solution to the conflict are set to continue with meetings planned in Geneva on 10 and 11 September with representatives from Russia, Turkey and Iran, Mr de Mistura said.
Those discussions are due to be followed on 14 September by encounters on constitutional matters with senior delegations from seven other Member States: Egypt, France, Germany, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom and the United States” https://news.un.org/en/story/2018/08/1018042
UN Press Release:
“Deeply Concerned by Risk of Humanitarian Catastrophe in Idlib Province, Syria, Secretary-General Urges All Parties to Exercise Restraint, Protect Civilians, SG/SM/19183, 29 AUGUST 2018
The following statement was issued today by the Spokesman for UN Secretary‑General António Guterres:
The Secretary-General is deeply concerned about the growing risks of a humanitarian catastrophe in the event of a full‑scale military operation in Idlib Province in Syria.
The Secretary‑General once again reaffirms that any use of chemical weapons is totally unacceptable.
The Secretary‑General urgently appeals to the Government of Syria and all parties to exercise restraint and to prioritize the protection of civilians. He calls on the Astana guarantors to step up efforts to find a peaceful solution to the situation in Idlib, the last remaining de‑escalation zone.
The Secretary‑General further calls on all parties to take all necessary measures to safeguard civilian lives, allow freedom of movement and protect civilian infrastructure, including medical and educational facilities, in accordance with international humanitarian law and human rights law.”
Excerpted from UN Press Briefing:
“30 AUGUST 2018
The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
As you will have seen in Geneva, the Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, spoke to reporters at the UN Headquarters there and he warned of what he called a possible “perfect storm” in Idlib due to the potential military escalation in the area. Mr. de Mistura stressed that 2.9 million lives are at stake in Idlib, which is the largest of the so‑called de‑escalation areas.
Mr. de Mistura cautioned that, although discussions are taking place to avoid a worst‑case scenario, miscalculations could occur, leading to unforeseen escalations.
He also echoed the Secretary‑General’s own statement from yesterday, underlining the use of chemical weapons would be totally unacceptable. The Special Envoy said there is a need to maintain moral pressure to not hurry with a drastic military option and allow more time for a sustainable formula that could be linked to fighting terrorism but also to save civilians…” https://www.un.org/press/en/2018/db180830.doc.htm
“Russia keeps saying the West is planning chemical attacks in Syria — and it’s a sign Assad may be about to use them again“, by Daniel Brown https://www.businessinsider.com/assad-may-be-about-to-use-chemical-weapons-again-and-blame-the-us-2018-8
Emphasis our own throughout.
Top map is public domain; Second map license is: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/