Hamma and Raqqa

SYRIA UPDATE: Multiple major events underway today. The rebels, who have spent the last few months consolidating their command structures (which they should have done at the start of the war) have launched a massive offensive toward the city of Hama, which is between Aleppo and Damascus. Yesterday, they were about 9 km away from it; now, they're about 3.5 km. This has been a major blitzkreig style offensive and has taken a large swath of territory, mostly countryside. They're now in a position where they can easily shell Hama's airport. The regime needs to respond to this ASAP.

Hama is currently defended by the NDF, a pretty competent local militia. They might be able to handle it. Because this is the first time we've seen the consolidated rebel forces in action, though, the regime is likely to redeploy one of its two elite units to Hama. One of these, the Tiger Forces, is currently trying to take the city of Deir Hafir from ISIS, and just cut the last supply road. They were probably going to assault to city soon, but that may no longer be an option. The other elite force, the Desert Whatsits, are (I think) around Palmyra trying to secure the city from ISIS. Pulling them away will mean the regime could lose Palmyra a third time. They could also redeploy Hezbollah from whatever they're doing right now.

The other big news is that US troops made a surprise airdrop into ISIS territory and captured a few villages near the Tabqa Dam. This dam is directly upstream of Raqqa, and needs to fall before Raqqa city or ISIS may sabotage it. After the US captured the villages, the Kurdish SDF began moving forces from a nearby castle on the opposite shore to the new beachhead. The obvious next step is for them to take Tabqa city and then the dam itself. It's difficult to tell how Turkey will react to this, but the direct involvement of US combat forces severely limits their options.

In other recent news, the SDF has taken much of the Euphrates between Raqqa and Deir-az-Zor. They're honestly expanding so fast that they may need to calm down for a while and give TEVDEM (the Kurdish civil administration) the chance to set up shop in the newly conquered areas.

Russia has established a base in the Kurdish city of Afrin, cementing the alliance between Russia and the Kurds and further blocking Turkey's options. (Russia may have issued an official denial of this, but I'm not sure whether I'd believe it.)

The rebels launched an offensive in Damascus a while back that clearly had no chance of going anywhere. In retrospect, it may have been a diversion to distract the regime in advance of the Hama operation.

In Iraq, roughly three quarters of Mosul has been liberated.

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