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. This comes on the heels of an apparent deal between Russia, the Kurds, and the regime, which had apparently set the boundaries between the Kurds and the regime somewhere north of the Omar field.

SDF forces have also done a second crossing of the Khabur just north of the river's mouth, as I was expecting, but then pushed south to Shuhail, which was one of the points where I was expecting the regime to cross the Euphrates. Unless that's where the tribal forces that defected were based? The details of all this still haven't become clear.

It still amazes me how little urgency the regime feels regarding the largest concentration of oil fields in the entire country. They've been screwing around for something like a month now, making slow progress on the western side of the Euphrates (i.e. the side without any oil) and only establishing token footholds on the eastern side (i.e. the side with the oil). As I've said before, I suspect that the regime simply doesn't have enough troops to hold the rebels at bay, secure the massive supply line to Deir-az-Zor, and take the oil fields.

Meanwhile, the SDF has completely cleared ISIS's former capital of Raqqa, after a long and brutal battle that's devastated large parts of the city. It will be a long time before life even begins to return to normal again. That long and difficult reconstruction, though, will be the task of TEVDEM (the mostly Kurdish civilian administration), not the YPG (the Kurdish military). With the battle for Raqqa finally over, the YPG will be free to focus on securing the Khabur, and potentially claiming additional oil fields if the regime proves unable to do so.

There are rumors that roughly a third of ISIS's remaining territory in Syria may be preparing to surrender to the US-backed coalition. The area in question contains Syria's largest oil reserves. It was also one of the earliest places to rise up against Assad, and the tribal leaders may prefer alliance with the Kurds to living under Assad's boot. The diplomatic implications of such a surrender, of course, would be huge.

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