Multiple forced population transfers in Syria
Reports have been mounting for months that Assad is replacing those (mostly Sunni Arabs) displaced from his reconquered territories with Iranians and Iraqi Shi'ites, in a form of "sectarian cleansing." Now come reports that Turkey is replacing the Kurds displaced from its conquered "buffer zone" in Syria's north with those displaced by Assad—specifically, the Kurdish residents who fled the town of Afrin are being replaced by Sunni Arabs that fled Eastern Ghouta, according to Middle East Eye. Alarmingly, the Kurdish YPG militia tweeted in reference to the Ghouta displaced now resettled in Afrin: "We reiterate that these terrorists and their families are the main targets of our forces." (Emphasis added.) The tweet was apparently deleted after an outcry, but a screenshot of it remains online. The Arab-Kurdish ethnic war in northern Syria that we have long warned of now seems to be arriving.
Those being displaced at this precise moment are the already once-displaced Palestinians of Yarmouk refugee camp outside Damascus, which continues to come under savage bombardment by the Assad regoime. Some 3,500 Palestinians have fled Yarmouk in recent days, and are "sleeping in the streets and begging for medicine," according to an UNWRA official. "There is almost no water or electricity. Their suffering is unimaginable." It is uncertain where they will ultimately end up. The Assad regime says the camp shelters ISIS and HTS militants. (Al Jazeera)
Israel, which presumably has little problem with the bombardment of Yarmouk, meanwhile launched air-strikes on an Assad regime military base in Hama that had just received anti-aircraft missiles from Iran. (Haaretz, Al Jazeera) Israel has repeatedly bombed Syria over the past years as the Iranian military footprint there has grown.
In addition to Iranian elite Revolutionary Guard units, there are perhaps 4,000 Russian troops in Syria backing up the Assad regime, and some 2,000 US Special Froces troops embedded with the Kurds in the north. (NYT) But these Special Forces are the ones Trump has now pledged to remove—essentially providing a "green light" to Turkey to continue its aggression against Kurdish territory.
Three members of the main opposition body have now stepped down in protest of the apparent carve-up of Syria into spheres of influence, which they see as an accommodation of the Assad regime. Suhair al-Atassi, George Sabra and Khaled Khoja resigned from the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, stating that "the current official track toward a political solution in Syria has become identical with the Russian track which rehabilitates the Assad regime and its war criminals and undermines a real, material political solution, and transfers it to a division of powers and the benefits of powers among forces, figures and countries." (Syria Observer)