The liberation of Palmyra (Tadmur) by the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) has opened the door to a long list of options for the government forces, including a possible offensive to liberate the Al-Raqqa Governorate.
However, the odds of the Syrian Arab Army pushing north towards Raqqa City is very unlikely at this stage of the war, given the fact that their forces are currently besieged by the Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham (ISIS) inside the Deir Ezzor Governorate.
The Syrian Arab Army’s Central Command has already announced their intentions to liberate the Palmyra-Deir Ezzor Highway in order to lift the 10 month long siege of Deir Ezzor; and while this may see like the government’s main priority at this time, it is truly just a small part of their military contingency after Palmyra.
The Syrian Armed Forces can liberate the main highway that leads to the Deir Ezzor Governorate; however, in the long-run, if they do not clear the mountains of northeastern Homs, they could see another push by ISIS to retake Palmyra.
As we have seen time and time again, ISIS has been able to infiltrate several sites along the Al-Sha’ar and Jazal mountains of northeastern Homs; this has made it incredibly difficult to maintain a steady flow of electricity to the province because of the terrorist group’s attacks on the government’s electrical grids.
In reality, Northeastern Homs can be dealt with in time; it is currently not an immediate concern for the government because most of southeastern Homs is under ISIS’ control.
Currently, the Syrian Armed Forces do no control the Tanf border-crossing that links the Homs Governorate with the Iraqi province of Al-‘Anbar.
Why is this important?
Well, as long as ISIS controls southeastern Homs and its border with Al-Anbar, the Syrian Armed Forces will always find themselves in danger along this vast desert front.
The only way for the Syrian Armed Forces to secure this part of Homs is to retake the strategic city of Quraytayn.
Before the Syrian Armed Forces can even consider conducting their Deir Ezzor offensive, they must retake Quraytayn from ISIS.
Following Palmyra’s liberation on Sunday, a large force from the Syrian Arab Army made their way to Quraytayn in order to help the 67th, 81st, and 120th brigades.
Luckily, the battle for Quraytayn is almost over, thanks in large part to the Russian Air Force’s integral aerial campaign over the vast Syrian Desert and the Syrian ground forces that have inched their way through this rugged wasteland.
In the coming days, the battle for Quraytayn will intensify as the Syrian Armed Forces launch a Palmyra-like assault on ISIS’ defenses in order to recapture this ancient Assyrian city.