Likely Courses of Action in the Syrian Civil War: June - December 2015

The purpose of this intelligence forecast is to outline ISW’s assessment of the courses of action available to Syrian actors and their principal benefactors over the next six months. ISW assesses that the dynamic stalemate that has defined the Syrian civil war since 2013 may be broken in this timeframe. The expansion of ISIS’s maneuver campaign into Syria’s central corridor is one potential inflection that could change the course of the war by shattering the Assad regime’s area defense strategy in western Syria. Rebel groups and Jabhat al-Nusra are also positioned to escalate their offensives against the regime in southern and northern Syria, and their aggregate effect may force a contraction of the Syrian Arab Army in the mid-term. Alternately, the regime along with increasing Iranian support may alter its battlefield disposition to concentrate upon limited offensive operations against key rebel positions in pursuit of decisive effects, especially in Damascus. The range of actions that various actors in Syria may take generate a spectrum of possible outcomes for the Syrian war and its potential post-war environment, several of which  are perilous to U.S. policy in the Middle East and current strategies to defeat ISIS in the coming year. This assessment will forecast the most likely and most dangerous contingencies that may transpire in Syria in the second half of 2015 from a U.S. policy perspective.