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Syria Update: Tanf and Mabij

SYRIA UPDATE: Other than that weird Russian airstrike on Tanf, the big news continues to be Manbij. The Kurds have taken a huge amount of countryside around the city, and are currently assaulting the city itself. This will be ISIS's biggest defeat since they lost Palmyra.

The Kurds are also positioning themselves for a future offensive west of Manbij, targeting al-Bab. The regime is also well-positioned for an offensive against al-Bab, so the Kurds will need to take it as quickly as possible to prevent the regime from getting it first. The main strategic goal here is to link up their main territory with the area around Afrin, and al-Bab is by far the least politically risky way to do that. They appear to be avoiding the Turkish border, since that area is ethnically Turkoman and is well within range of Turkish artillery, so going north of al-Bab would cause problems. They also need to beware the possibility that the regime could launch an offensive against ISIS north of Aleppo, since that could potentially require a politically ugly offensive against the rebels in Marea (which is Mare' on the map). We may see the Kurds in Afrin launch an offensive soon to capture the area south of Marea and head off that possibility.

Elsewhere in Syria, the rebels are launching an offensive to capture the area south of Aleppo, as part of the years-long struggle by both sides to encircle the city. If they succeed, they'll mostly just be retaking territory they lost to the regime after Russia launched its intervention.

In Iraq, ISIS has been broken in Fallujah, which means the only city they still control along the Euphrates is Qaim. It looks like the next offensive will probably be a push north along the Tigris to Shirqat, which would get the Iraq army closer to Mosul, and also cut off Hawija.

This week's big winners: The Kurds, Iraq
The big losers: ISIS
Consolation prize: The rebels in Allepo
No one cares: The regime

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