MESOP ALEPPO UPDATE : Iran Tears Up Aleppo Evacuation Agreement
December 17 – By Scott Lucas – eaworldview – UPDATE 0810 GMT: Local sources and pro-opposition activists say a new evacuation deal has been agreed.The sources say the deal includes a provision for the removal of some wounded from two regime enclaves in opposition-held Idlib Province, a demand that led Iran to break two previous agreements.
ORIGINAL ENTRY: Pro-Assad and Iranian-led militias have broken the evacuation agreement for Syria’s largest city Aleppo, renewing uncertainity over the fate of tens of thousands of people in opposition areas.A day after the implementation of the latest deal brokered by Russia and Turkey, the militias — said to be Iran’s Lebanese ally Hezbollah by most accounts — intervened by blocking a convoy of about 800 passengers. According to those on the convoy, they surrounded the buses with armored vehicles, fired into the air, and forced the men to undress before seizing mobiles, money, and clothing.
Some of the passengers said four evacuees were killed, including a rebel who resisted, although a BBC reporter said another “source on the convoy” denied any deaths.Others — including the rebel’s pregnant wife — were wounded. At least seven people were detained, the passengers said.Before the militia attacks, eight convoys had brought about 10,000 people out of Aleppo. An estimated 50,000 are still awaiting transport.Meanwhile, in opposition districts in eastern Aleppo city, the militias ordered aid agencies to leave and fired on residents. Videos showed civilians fleeing and crying.
Iran’s Power Play
The breaking of the deal appeared to be Iran’s latest objection to its terms, overruling Russia, the Assad regime’s other main ally.
The militias also broke the initial agreement on Wednesday and threatened it early Thursday with shelling and gunfire, delaying the removals from eastern Aleppo by 36 hours.
Iran is insisting that the deal include the evacuation of wounded from two regime enclaves in opposition-held Idlib Province. Rebels have objected because the provision could endanger the opposition-held towns of Madaya and Zabadani in Damascus Province.
The regime enclaves, al-Fu’ah and Kafraya, are linked to Madaya and Zabadani in an arrangement which ensures provision of aid and assurances against being overrun. Rebels say that the de-linking, through an Aleppo deal, could lead to tightened sieges and attacks on the two Damascus towns.
Russia has broken from Tehran by supporting the exclusion of al-Fu’ah and Kafraya from any formal agreement. Reports said that Turkey has given private assurances that evacuations of the wounded will proceed, but pro-Assad outlets say rebels have refused and declared that this was the cause of Friday’s attack on the Aleppo convoy.
After the initial defiance of the deal by the Iranian-led and pro-Assad militias on Wednesday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin spurred its renewal through a series of phone calls.
On Friday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu tried to revive the deal with a call to Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.
However, Russia publicly declared the termination of the agreement in an abrupt shift of position: hours earlier, Putin had hailed the agreement and co-operation with Turkey, saying that regime-opposition talks would soon be held in Kazakhstan: mOscow put out a series of false pretexts, claiming that all those who wished to leave Aleppo had done so, as the Syrian military asserted — with no evidence — that rebels were smuggling abducted people out of the city.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon reacted: “Aleppo is now a synonym for hell. I very much regret that we had to stop this operation.”