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Syria Update February 2018

There are reports that al-Qaeda (namely Hayat Tahrir al-Sham) is getting kicked out of a bunch of locations in Idlib, including Deiret Izza and Kafranbel. It looks like it's a new group (groups? operation room?) that's doing it, but I'm seeing a number of possible names for them. Based on the iconography on one of the press releases, I'd guess they're moderate Islamist, but Zinki (the militant group, not the Secretary of the Interior) also seems to be involved, which would suggest they have more of an edge to them.

I swear this war gets weirder every day.

Turkish tanks in Aleppo

Turkish tanks are going deep into Aleppo to head off a potential regime offensive toward Foua and Kafraya. This is the offensive I expected the government to make after defeating ISIS in the east. There are a bunch of important strategic targets along the way, it would have allowed them to threaten Idlib and Saraqib, diverting rebel forces away from the front lines in Hama, and it would have severely disrupted rebel supply chains to the south.

Turkish forces in Afrin

SYRIA UPDATE: Turkish ground forces have entered the Kurdish canton of Afrin, making minor headway in three locations in the north. There's also been heavy fighting in the south by Jandaris, but it sounds like they haven't made as much progress there. Turkish-aligned rebel groups are also attacking the canton from the east.

Syria Update January 2018

SYRIA UPDATE: As we enter 2018, I thought I'd take a quick look back at the events of 2017, to refresh the memories of old friends and bring new ones up to speed. I usually post an update whenever something major happens, but it can be difficult to synthesize that information into a coherent view of the conflict.

More Oil for the SDF

The tribal forces protecting the Omar oil field (the biggest in the country) just defected to the Kurds. The regime reached the southwestern edge of the oil field about a week ago, but has been very slow to consolidate its beachhead, and still hadn't made any moves to take the oil field itself.

US Troops in Niger

Someone in a comment thread asked some questions about why there were any US troops in Niger in the first place, and what the general situation is. Here are my answers, posted here for curious minds:

Q: Exactly what the fuck are we doing in Niger?

Losses for the Iraqi Kurds

The Iraqi Kurds continue to lose vast swaths of territory. Forces loyal to Baghdad have now secured all of Kirkuk's oil fields, along with all of the disputed border crossings. Yazidi PMU have also taken control of the Sinjar region, finally solidifying the region's already ongoing shift away from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) and towards Baghdad.

Battles around Deir-az-Zor

The regime's Tiger Forces have finished their bizarre expedition to the north, capturing Maadan and eliminating the last ISIS position northwest of Deir-az-Zor. The Kurdish SDF has reached and mostly surrounded the city of Suwar, thereby effectively securing most of the Khabur river. They also took the Conoco plant, and are approaching the Jafra oil field. Once it falls, ISIS will no longer control any oil fields north of the Khabur (except the Derro oil field, which is way to the north).

Assadists Securing Random Farmland

The regime ended up crossing the Euphrates at Mazlum, a little to the north of where I'd expected, and the Tiger Forces are pushing north, not south. No movement from the Kurds. It looks like Assad's goal is to deprive the Kurds of all of the oil fields, even the one northwest of Deir-as-Zor, which would require a second river crossing. I'm guessing that tomorrow we'll see the regime push from Mazlum to the adjacent Tabiyah oil fiels, and then probably north to cut the N-7. The result is total strategic failure for the Kurds.

Oil and the Left bank of the Euphrates

I had realized so many of the oil fields were on the left bank of the Euphrates. There's no way in hell the regime will let the Kurds cross south of the Khabur. The question is whether the regime is willing to accept the Kurds taking the three oil fields to the north of it. Kurdish forces are only a few kilometers away from the closest one, so the regime would need to cross the Euphrates as soon as possible in order to secure them. This also makes it considerably less likely that they'll cross at Mayadeen, since it would take too long to secure the town.


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