The U.S strike against an Assad regime base in northern Syria on April 6, 2017 opened the door to a reorientation of American strategy in the Middle East. President Trump’s action could reset the terms of America’s confrontation of other hostile states, such as North Korea. President Trump may be shifting away from a narrow focus on the Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS) as the strategic priority in Syria and toward a new approach.
By: Chris Kozak, Genevieve Casagrande, and Tom Ramage
Pro-regime basing data accurate through March 21, 2017. Syria Control of Terrain data accurate through April 3, 2017.
Al-Qaeda resumed large-scale offensive operations against the regime following a consolidation phase in Northern Syria. The U.S. accelerated its campaign to isolate and seize Ar-Raqqa City alongside the Syrian Kurdish YPG.
The Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) slowed its advance into western Mosul on March 26 in order to regroup and prepare for an assault on the Old City, the densest part of western Mosul in terms of both population and infrastructure. The U.S. is deploying an additional 240 soldiers to Mosul, likely to support a final push through the Old City. The ISF has also slowed its operation out of continued concerns of civilian casualties throughout the western Mosul operation. Humanitarian concerns flared when local sources claimed that a Coalition airstrike on March 17 killed as many as 200 civilians. Meanwhile, Iran is deepening the role of its proxy Badr Organization in Ninewa Province to influence the post-ISIS security and political structure in the province.
The major events from March 29, 2017 in the theaters and from the trans-national groups that ISW monitors: Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Egypt, Russia, Ukraine, and ISIS.
Regional actors are vying to dominate the post-ISIS security structure and political order in northern Iraq.
This update highlights why Russia remains an unfit partner to fight ISIS and al Qaeda in Syria.
Russian President Vladimir Putin is leveraging Russia’s position in Syria to further diminish U.S. influence in the broader Middle East and North Africa. Russia will increasingly constrain U.S. freedom of maneuver in the broader region by expanding its military footprint and its anti-access and area denial zone. Putin advanced his regional strategy from February 27 to March 20, 2017 in three ways. First, he promoted economic relationships with key U.S.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s primary objective in Syria is to constrain U.S. freedom of action – not fight ISIS and al Qaeda. Russia’s military deployments at current levels will not enable the Iranian-penetrated Assad regime to secure Syria. Moscow’s deepening footprint in Syria threatens America’s ability to defend its interests across the Middle East and in the Mediterranean Sea. The next U.S.
Conditions on the ground are not set for a political solution to the Syrian Civil War despite diplomatic efforts by regional powers. The third round of Astana Talks on March 14 – 15 failed to generate significant results amidst an opposition boycott. Meanwhile, two major double suicide attacks targeted the Old City of Damascus on March 11 and March 15.