ISW-CTP Intelligence Estimate and Forecast: The United States will continue to risk its vital strategic interests in the Middle East unless it changes its policies in Syria and Iraq. The U.S. must apply meaningful pressure against the Assad-Russia-Iran axis and regain leverage over it rather than accommodate it.

This fourth report in a series recommends a course of action that represents the best possible path forward for the U.S. that the ISW-CTP team could identify based on an evaluation of American interests, the current political-security dynamics, and forecasts of various actors’ plans. The ISW-CTP team tested 15 different courses of action to destroy both ISIS and al Qaeda without jeopardizing wider American interests or accepting undue cost or risk.

The U.S. cannot drive a wedge between Russia and Iran in the near term. Tehran and Moscow share an overarching objective to expel the U.S. from the Middle East which will likely bind Iran and Russia together into an enduring partnership.

Iranian military cooperation with Russia in Syria is dramatically increasing Tehran’s ability to plan and conduct complex conventional operations.

The 10th symposium in the Asymmetric Threat symposia series explores how the U.S. can combat asymmetric threats that have expanded in prevalence and complexity.

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The "War after ISIS" begins in Iraq

A battle is underway between the Iraqi Government, backed by Iran, and Iraqi Kurds for control of Kirkuk, Iraq. Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), Counterterrorism Services (CTS), Federal Police, and Iranian-backed popular mobilization forces (PMF) launched a combined offensive with intent to seize the K1 military base, the Kirkuk airport, and Kirkuk’s oilfields from Kurdish Peshmerga forces at 2:00 a.m. on October 15th.

Syria Situation Report: September 27 - October 10, 2017

This graphic marks the latest installment of our Syria SITREP Map made possible through a partnership between the Institute for the Study of War and Syria Direct. This graphic depicts significant developments in the Syrian Civil War from September 27 – October 10, 2017. The control of terrain represented on the graphic is accurate as of October 10, 2017.

Moscow Presses in the Mediterranean

Russian President Vladimir Putin continues to leverage uncontested basing in the Eastern Mediterranean to demonstrate Russian naval capabilities, while asserting its freedom of action on NATO’s southern flank. Russia focused on showcasing the increased cruise missile capability of its Black Sea Fleet’s permanent Mediterranean Task Force (MTF) from August – October 2017.

Intelligence Estimate and Forecast: The Syrian Theater

The United States will continue to risk its vital strategic interests in the Middle East unless it changes its policies in Syria and Iraq. President Donald Trump and his administration inherited a weakened U.S. position, with Russia imposing constraints on American freedom of action and options. The Trump administration has taken initial steps to advance U.S. prestige in the region by reassuring America’s traditional allies and acting more firmly against its enemies and adversaries. The tactical tasks of recapturing Mosul and liberating Raqqa from the Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS) are complete and nearly complete, respectively. Nevertheless, its efforts to define and execute policies that secure America’s vital interests are moving more slowly than those of America’s enemies, adversaries, and spoilers who are more agile than the U.S.