Charles Lister Profile picture
Senior Fellow & Director of @MEI_Syria & @MEI_CTE programs at @MiddleEastInst. Author, analyst & more. American-British in DC.
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Sep 21 5 tweets 5 min read
#Putin's call for a "partial" mobilization is the clearest sign yet that his #Ukraine invasion has been a pitiful failure.

That flights from Russia to its immediate neighbors are now selling out at 100mph tells you everything you need to know.

We *must* keep the pressure on. Image #Putin's nuclear threat, meanwhile, should be taken even less seriously than 6 months ago -- anyone who actually says "this isn't a bluff" has already lost his/her own credibility.

Following through on the threat would kill off his few remaining friendships -- chiefly #China.
Sep 5 12 tweets 14 min read
2 children on the boat have died in recent days -- and the health of others are deteriorating.

To ignore such a tragedy, just off #Malta's coast, represents an unspeakable lack of humanity.

Time for someone to step up, @MaltaGov. @MaltaGov That Syrians are still fleeing for #Europe is no surprise, particularly those in #Lebanon where authorities are preparing to *illegally force* them back to #Syria.

5+ million #Syria refugees remain in neighboring states & polling suggests ~0.5% would consider an eventual return.
Aug 31 4 tweets 4 min read
NEW -- reports of a possible #Israel airstrikes hitting #Iran-linked targets in the western edge of #Aleppo International Airport as well as a section of the runway. Here's video filmed showing #Aleppo International Airport in the distance -- showing multiple successive explosions.



Reports now coming in of possible airstrikes in #Latakia too.
Aug 30 4 tweets 4 min read
ICYMI -- for the 1st time since 2011, #Idlib's Christian community gathered on Sunday at the Church of St. Anna in al-Yacoubiya, near Jisr al-Shughour, #Idlib to celebrate the Orthodox St. Anna's Day.

#HTS leader Jolani met with the Church's Bishop Luay al-Bisharat in July. ImageImageImage Since #Jolani's visit to al-Yacoubiya in July, rumors have swirled around #HTS's agenda for #Idlib's Christian minority.

There are reports that #HTS has communicated with Syrian Christians in #Germany, inviting residents/property owners to return & re-assume property ownership.
Aug 29 5 tweets 5 min read
Local sources say 12+ killed in #Baghdad today.

Despite curfew, heavy gunfire & explosions heard in #Baghdad -- multiple security offices attacked. Green Zone on security alert & U.S. Embassy sirens sounding off.

In #Mosul, security forces say they foiled a major #ISIS attack. The situation in #Baghdad is deteriorating fast -- mortars, rockets, RPGs & heavy machine guns all reportedly in use, including within/targeted at the Green Zone. Many casualties; grisly images emerging.

#Basra also in a very bad place -- heavy fighting too.

#Iraq spiraling.
Aug 1 14 tweets 16 min read
Wow -- #Zawahiri killed in a U.S. drone strike in the #Kabul area over the weekend -- the 1st strike since the #Taliban's takeover of #Afghanistan in August 2021.

BIG blow for #AlQaeda's central leadership, but huge questions about how he was located (or who sold him out). In Nov 2020, I wrote about #AlQaeda's looming "succession crisis" -- as the group's most likely No.2 (Sayf al-Adel) is based in #Iran, a location that for most AQ affiliates, has resulted in deep distrust.

jihadica.com/al-qaedas-lead…

AQ's decentralization will only increase now.
Jun 8 9 tweets 15 min read
"I've been asking a simple, but important question.. What is the administration's strategy on #Syria?" -- @SenatorMenendez

"I remain concerned this administration has accepted #Assad's rule as a foregone conclusion." -- @SenatorRisch

SFRC hearing, now. @SenatorMenendez @SenatorRisch "I was shocked to see Bashar al-#Assad welcomed as any other Head of State by the #UAE."

- @SafiraLeaf, Assistant Secretary of State for #MiddleEast.
May 10 5 tweets 7 min read
"The Age of Political Jihadism"

- This is an excellent in-depth look at #HTS by @azelin, a group that's changed markedly over the past 5-7yrs & represents an entirely different challenge than its #AlQaeda-aligned predecessor.

washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysi… @azelin I've been studying #HTS (& JFS & Nusra before it) closely for 11yrs & as @azelin makes clear, it's existed in its current form for longer than its previous, #AlQaeda-aligned Nusra days.

That evolution dates back to at least early-2015, when I wrote this:

huffpost.com/entry/an-inter…
May 6 4 tweets 7 min read
By all accounts, the NRF have launched a major offensive against the #Taliban across #Panjshir today -- taking multiple districts.

No doubt the #Taliban can respond in force, but it's yet another sign (beyond #ISKP) that #Afghanistan's new rulers are far from unchallenged. NEW - x7 rockets fired into #Tajikistan from #Afghanistan.

In one month, #Pakistan, #Uzbekistan & #Tajikistan have all been hit by cross-border attacks, and #Iran affected by border clashes.

Tajik incident comes amid NRF (long associated with #Dushanbe) offensive in #Panjshir.
May 3 4 tweets 6 min read
NEW - @USAmbUN says that while U.S. chairs UNSC in May, @SecBlinken will chair a UNSC meeting on the intersection between food insecurity & conflict.

The U.S. will also chair x3 meetings on #Syria:

- Humanitarian on 20th
- Chemical weapons on 23rd
- Political situation on 31st @USAmbUN @SecBlinken .@USAmbUN also announces that on May 18, the U.S. will convene & @SecBlinken will chair a Ministerial meeting at the UN, focused on food insecurity & conflict, amid #Russia's war in #Ukraine.

Vitally important, as food crises worsen by the week in #Africa & the #MiddleEast.
May 3 4 tweets 5 min read
#Russia's invasion of #Ukraine catalyzed a massive U.S. & #NATO pressure campaign -- sanctions, weapons etc.

Good.

For years in #Syria, #Russia bombed hospitals, IDP camps & schools; besieged 100,000s; covered for CW use & more.

The response? Nothing. Not even x1 sanction. I know it's been said before, but I still find it hard to wrap my head around just how cold & risk averse the U.S. & allies were over #Russia's role in Syria.

And the costs are just staggering -- not just to #Syria & its neighborhood, but to the world at large. What an error.
May 2 7 tweets 6 min read
U.S. & NATO assistance to #Ukraine has had an extraordinary effect so far -- but triumphant talk of 'winning' is premature & dangerous.

Yes #Russia is on the backfoot, but it's got room to adapt & drag this out into more favorable dynamics.

My warning:

politico.com/news/magazine/… Amid optimism over #Ukraine, let's also remember the invasion still happened -- 11 million civilians have been displaced; towns/cities turned to rubble; & 10,000s civilians killed.

#Putin rode a wave of impunity we paved for years prior -- it'll take a long time to redraw norms.
May 2 4 tweets 6 min read
In 2021, #Assad's regime produced & exported ~$30 billion worth of #Captagon -- roughly 35x #Syria's legal exports.

That *enormous* operation cemented #Syria's status as a narco state of international significance.

My latest, for @MiddleEastInst:

mei.edu/publications/w… @MiddleEastInst The regime's integral role in #Syria's #Captagon industry is well known -- and Maher al-#Assad is *the* central figure.

Drugs are literally the lifeblood of #Assad's regime & it's destabilizing the #MiddleEast. Dozens have died in #Jordan in recent months in border clashes.
Mar 18 6 tweets 7 min read
After 11yrs of sustained, brutal war crimes & crimes against humanity -- and 48hrs after the @nytimes published evidence of #Assad's mass graves, concealing 10,000s of murdered prisoners.

We have more evidence against #Assad than we had against #Hitler at #Nuremberg. @nytimes From late-'21 to early-'22, a sustained pressure campaign from the U.S put a big obstacle in the way of regional normalization with #Assad -- & the "Small Group" was restructured accordingly.

#Russia & #Ukraine appears to have dissolved that delay altogether -- full speed ahead.
Mar 14 9 tweets 11 min read
NEW -- #Russia's invasion of #Ukraine has killed #Syria diplomacy & will trigger an unprecedented humanitarian crisis.

To adapt to this challenge, I propose a bold new approach -- "Freeze and Build" -- focusing more strategically on aid/stabilization:

mei.edu/publications/f… Image The war in #Ukraine has severed all meaningful U.S.-#Russia diplomatic contact, & the same for #Europe.

#Moscow is more likely than ever to veto cross-border aid at the UNSC in July & #Syria's wheat supplies are lower than ever -- a famine in 2022 is now very much on the cards. ImageImage
Mar 11 5 tweets 6 min read
For what it’s worth, *IF* #Assad’s regime begins sending troops to #Ukraine, they’ll be no more than cannon fodder in a battle & environment that’s completely alien to them - it’ll be like “sending Martians to fight on the Moon,” as I told @WSJ:

wsj.com/amp/articles/r… When, on the rare occasion, #Assad needed capable urban warfare fighters, he turned to #Hezbollah — NOT his own military.

#Syria’s military was good at brutal, sustained sieges, indiscriminate bombardment, horrific [sectarian] violence, mass torture & organised crime. That’s it.
Mar 4 5 tweets 5 min read
In the last 48hrs, #Syria's banned almost all food exports, amid acute concern about the implications of war in #Ukraine.

#Syria is *deeply* reliant on staple food (esp. wheat) shipments from #Russia via the Black Sea. Those shipments (& #Russia financial aid) have 100% stopped. Already, #Syria's fiscal crisis, energy shortages, unprecedented drought & the resulting crippled agricultural output had seen some aid figures warn of a famine in 2022.

#Putin's war on #Ukraine has just placed those fears on steroids -- I'm told #Damascus is extremely worried.
Mar 3 4 tweets 5 min read
#Putin's invasion of #Ukraine has thrown a spanner into the #Russia-#Turkey relationship.

That offers the U.S. (& NATO) an opportunity to explore avenues for improving ties with #Ankara -- far from straightforward, but it's an opening.

For #Syria policy, this could be vital. War in #Ukraine will have extremely negative impact on the humanitarian situation in #Syria -- and #Russia is now more likely than ever to veto cross-border aid access in July.

Any alternative plans will be dead in the water, without #Turkey playing a central role. We need that.
Mar 2 4 tweets 4 min read
Bear in mind the true number is likely far higher, not to mention that 1,000s of #Russia troops who have fled &/or been captured.

That's a staggering scale of loss in less than a week. #Ukraine #Russia is clearly taking painfully significant losses in #Ukraine -- and is now even admitting it.

That'll surely have domestic repercussions, but #Putin is unlikely to concede anything; he'll double down.

#Syria shows what a terrifying prospect that could be.
Feb 24 5 tweets 5 min read
NEW -- this may indicate #Russia intends to land ~2,500 troops outside #Kyiv in about an hour's time. With an airfield outside #Kyiv already under Russian control, #Russia appears intent on taking the capital before the #EU, U.S. or anyone else even announces punitive measures.

These IL-76s could be landing within minutes, within city limits.
Feb 24 9 tweets 10 min read
Chilling close from #Putin, clearly aimed at the U.S. & #NATO:

“A couple words for those who would be tempted to intervene. #Russia will respond immediately & you’ll have consequences that you’ve never had in your history.” NEW - massive explosions being reported in #Ukraine’s capital #Kyiv, as well as #Kramatorsk & #Odessa.