DAMASCUS, SYRIA (7:30 P.M.) – The liberation of Aleppo city from Jihadist-Islamist militant forces in December 2016 was a great victory which freed up considerable reserves of Syrian Army troops, shifted the balance of power in Aleppo province decisively in favour of the pro-government coalition and served to boost morale within the ranks of the Syrian Army and its allies. However, the post-Aleppo euphoria led some of the most optimistic pro-government observers to believe the war would be over by the end of 2017. The brilliant campaigning of the Tiger Forces in the east Aleppo countryside and the rapid recapture of Palmyra by 5th Corps fuelled this speculation. In late-December 2016, OZ Analysis had predicted that the final drive against ISIS would not commence until the Spring of 2018. This was based on calculations that, one, the Syrian Army was still not powerful enough to commit to a large scale advance against both the Jihadist-Islamist coalition in Idlib and ISIS in eastern Syria at the same time, which is in fact still the case, and two, that the pro-government coalition would choose to liquidate the Idlib bastion before advancing east towards the Euphrates, this being an incorrect assessment. Though the first four months of 2017 has shown that pro-government forces hold the strategic initiative against militant groups operating in the country, recent advances against ISIS by US-backed factions in both the northern and southern Syria parts have now changed the strategic dynamics of the war which many very well reverse this current trend. Here in lies the threats for 2017.

ALSO READ  Syrian Army, Hezbollah inch closer to Deir Ezzor

THIS NARRATION SCRIPT IS THE INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY OF OZ ANALYSIS

Advertisement

The US-backed Free Syrian Army grouping in the southern Syrian desert, having recovered from its devastating defeat in the Summer of 2016, is now making preliminary advances in the direction of the al-Bukamal in order to place themselves in a position to storm the strategic town. Al-Bukamal is the last border-crossing between Iraq and Syria which remains under ISIS control. Control of the town will help the US to continue to deny ground-based communications between Syrian and Iraqi forces, which are de facto allies (much to the displease of Washington). Meanwhile, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) – backed up by heavy US firepower and considerable a number frontline special forces units, possibly up to 2,000 troops, are now closing in on the city of Raqqah. The capture of the city of Raqqah would represent a major PR victory for the United States on the one hand, but also – more strategically – entice the bulk of ISIS forces to relocate themselves further south. That both of these are taking place simultaneously can leave no doubt that the US-led strategy for 2017 will be to force ISIS towards the centre of the country and onto the shoulders of pro-government forces who will in turn be forced to bear the burden of a great terrorist exodus. Should this outcome be achieved without the Syrian Army being able to lift the siege of Deir Ezzor and instead become bogged down in fighting a concentrated ISIS presence in central Syria, whilst US-backed forces continue to snatch territory in the eastern parts of the country, then the pro-government will lose the strategic initiative in 2018, a year which may very well prove to be the last year for decisive action to be made.

ALSO READ  In pictures: Bashar Al-Assad inspects latest Russian military equipment

THIS NARRATION SCRIPT IS THE INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY OF OZ ANALYSIS

Thus, the solution to this potential threat can be found in a re-prioritising of strategic objectives for pro-government forces in 2017. To avoid the aforementioned scenario and in order to maintain the strategic initiative well into 2018, pro-government forces will have to commit considerable military resources to a dedicated offensive against ISIS in central Syria, and more specifically, to lifting the siege of Deir Ezzor. However, for reasons of strategic soundness, such an objective remains untenable until the ISIS bastion in east Hama is liquidated. The ejection of ISIS from east Hama will also secure the flanks of pro-government forces for additional offensives towards the center of Syria further north, but nonetheless, Deir Ezzor should be the priority.

THIS NARRATION SCRIPT IS THE INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY OF OZ ANALYSIS

If the pro-government alliance can reduce the east Hama bastion and reach Deir Ezzor by the end of 2017, then the defeat of ISIS in other parts of the country throughout the rest of the year by US-backed forces might very entice the terrorist group to withdraw the bulk of its mobile forces from Syria, rather than flee towards the central areas of Syria which would theoretically no longer be under ISIS control.

THIS NARRATION SCRIPT IS THE INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY OF OZ ANALYSIS

Share this article:
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  

Notice: All comments represent the view of the commenter and not necessarily the views of AMN.

All comments that are not spam or wholly inappropriate are approved, we do not sort out opinions or points of view that are different from ours.

If your comment is held for moderation, please just be patient, it will be published unless it falls into one of the two categories as mentioned above.

1 COMMENT

  1. I suppose, now with the de-escalation zones, the focus on the conflict in Syria, indeed turns to the Syrian dessert, and the aforementioned region. I wonder why the only two groups that the Americans’ support in Syria (SDF & NSA) are not included. The SDF rather because of Turkey. But the New Syria Army aiming for Abu Kamal is a suspicious omission.