ISIS launched offensives against the Syrian regime in Deir ez Zour, eastern Homs province, and eastern Damascus province in January 2017, exploiting the regime’s focus on Aleppo and attempting to offset or divert regime operations near al-Bab. Regime forces began to reverse ISIS’s gains in Homs province on February 14. ISIS lost additional territory in Mosul to the U.S.-led anti-ISIS coalition in early 2017.
The U.S. cannot drive a wedge between Russia and Iran in the near term. Tehran and Moscow share regional and global interests across the Middle East, North Africa, Caucasus, and Central Asia. Their common interests and overarching objective of expelling the U.S. from the Middle East will likely bind Iran and Russia together into an enduring partnership.
The Syrian Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have seized the majority of ISIS-held territory in the eastern countryside of ar-Raqqah and is positioned to complete the isolation of the city in coming months. The U.S.’s main partners in Syria, the SDF and Turkey, are competing to lead the next phase of operations to seize ar-Raqqah City and thereby solidify their influence over post-ISIS governance.
The Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) recaptured the Mosul Airport and Ghazlani military base on February 24 from where they advanced into neighborhoods in western Mosul.
The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) entered its 10th Anniversary year empowered by its unique role within the U.S. national security community. America confronts a growing and increasingly complex set of threats and challenges abroad while managing a government transition at home. This environment has already generated important opportunities that ISW has seized.
Opposition groups backed by Turkey in Operation Euphrates Shield seized full control over Al-Bab in Northern Aleppo Province as well as two neighboring towns, ending more than three months of heavy clashes. Meanwhile, UN Special Envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura opened the Geneva IV Talks with the goal of reaching a political solution to the Syrian Civil War.
ISIS Wilayat Khorasan may be developing a regional powerbase in northwestern Afghanistan. Former Taliban militants operating in the name of ISIS executed international aid workers and held others captive in a prison in Jowzjan Province in February 2017, a step change in ISIS’s operations in Afghanistan.
The Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) launched operations to retake western Mosul on February 19. The ISF has not yet begun operations inside western Mosul city, focusing instead on isolating ISIS in Mosul by cutting off exits routes west of the city and setting conditions to breach the city limits through the southern airport.
Baghdad witnessed serious breaches of security from February 11 to 16 due to both escalating protest movements and ISIS attacks.
Turkish President Recep Erdogan reiterated that the “ultimate goal” of Turkey in Operation Euphrates Shield is the establishment of a five-thousand square kilometer ‘safe zone’ that includes Al-Bab, Manbij, and Ar-Raqqa City in Northern Syria. Meanwhile, preparations continued for the next round of Geneva Talks on the Syrian Civil War scheduled to begin on February 23.