Confrontation between protesters and Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) flared in Nasiriyah, Dhi Qar, after protesters there demanded the government hold a referendum on newly designated Prime Minister (PM) Mohammed Tawfiq Allawi. Protesters likely felt emboldened to demand new change when the PM-designate met with popular, former CTS commander Lieutenant General Abdul-Wahab al-Saadi, whose firing was a major spark for the start of mass protests in October. Three days after the demand for a referendum, unidentified ISF used live ammunition to disperse protesters blocking access to al-Ain University buildings in Nasiriyah.
The pro-regime coalition is poised to make further gains in Greater Idlib province, adding on to already substantial territorial advances. Russia will govern the speed at which these advances happen based on its political calculus, both in Syria and elsewhere. The conflict has the potential to escalate dramatically, posing a risk to the U.S. and its allies.
The following Syria Situation Report (SITREP) Map summarizes significant developments in the war in Syria during the period January 21-February 4, 2020.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko is using energy policy in his latest efforts to resist growing Russian pressure to integrate into Russia-dominated structures. Lukashenko’s efforts to diversify Belarusian oil imports will likely provide him with sufficient leverage to secure higher payments from Russia on Russian oil transiting Belarus. However, Lukashenko lacks leverage on the issue of Russian gas subsidies to Belarus. Lukashenko will not, in the long run, be able to prevent further integration with Russia.
Iraq’s President Barham Salih asked Mohammed Tawfiq Allawi to attempt to form a government and serve as prime minister. Allawi holds no parliamentary, popular, or military leverage and is unlikely to gain the necessary political capital to address the demands of protesters or challenge parliamentary powerbrokers. Allawi will not immediately take office – his cabinet must still be formed and approved.
Russian President Vladimir Putin launched a new phase in his campaign to retain power after 2024 when his current term expires. Putin offered Russians a revised social contract. Putin is reconfiguring the balance of power within the Russian government as he seeks to carve out an optimal spot for himself. Putin is in uncharted territory, trying to create a new transition model for Russia.
Davison traveled to Iraq with a team of experts organized by the United Nations High Commissoner for Refugees to assess the security and humanitarian situation on the ground. Listen to the ISW Overwatch podcast episode for her firsthand perspective.
Iran is attempting to coalesce its lethal Iraqi proxy militias, and potentially Moqtada al-Sadr and his supporters, into a more unified military force to target U.S. forces in the region.