This series of graphics 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. These graphics depict significant developments in the Syrian Civil War from January 24 - February 7, 2018. The control of terrain represented on the graphics is accurate as of February 8, 2018.
Vice President Nouri al-Maliki–seeking to regain the premiership–is likely leveraging his influence over the judicial process to marginalize political rivals ahead of the legislative and provincial elections, slated for May 12, 2018. Maliki previously influenced Iraq’s judiciary and ostensibly independent bodies to eliminate rival candidates and politicians during his two terms as Prime Minister (2006-2014).
Turkey is succeeding in its campaign of imposing cost on pro-regime forces in northwestern Syria. Turkey’s recent deployment to reinforce the de-escalation zone in Idlib Province capitalizes on the divergent tactical prioritizations between Russia and Iran in Syria.
The U.S. should reassess military and political plans that rest on Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s continued premiership after Iraq’s May 12, 2018 elections. A series of splits from Abadi’s electoral list will increase opportunities for alternative candidates to gain the premiership. Abadi’s failed political alliance with Iranian-backed Popular Mobilization Forces and inability to maintain the confidence of Ammar al-Hakim’s political allies signals that Abadi is unable to manage varying political interests and will struggle to hold together a post-election coalition.
Stalled negotiations between Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and his political rival Balkh warlord Mohammad Atta Noor may lead to a protracted conflict that would endanger the U.S. mission in Afghanistan. Atta has negotiated with Ghani for over a year in order to gain a greater share of power for himself personally and for his political party, Jamiat-e Islami. Atta has threatened imminent mass demonstrations if Ghani does not agree to electoral and constitutional reforms that would likely set favorable conditions for Atta to run for president in 2019.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his allies in Russia and Iran are preparing to launch imminent combat operations in violation of the de-escalation zone in southern Syria. Al Qaeda is also likely preparing for a return of hostilities to southern Syria. The end of the ceasefire would generate new military and humanitarian crises on the borders of Jordan and Israel.
The Assad regime and Iran attacked Turkish forces that deployed into Syria with apparent Russian permission to establish a blocking position near a critical front line south of Aleppo City. Turkey’s goal was to deter Assad and Iran from providing military support to Kurdish forces defending Afrin against a Turkish offensive.
It will take a long time and a hard struggle to achieve any outcome in Syria that the U.S. should be willing to live with. It is time to focus on it, devote resources to it, and prepare to do so for a long time, ISW's Jennifer Cafarella writes in a January 2018 opinion essay.
Turkey is preparing to launch the main effort of its Operation Olive Branch assault against the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in the Afrin area in northern Syria. Turkish forces and Turkish-backed Syrian opposition groups have set military conditions for a Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) ground operation in the coming days.
Turkey launched an air-ground operation against the American partner force in Syria, the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), in Afrin district northwest of Aleppo City on January 20th, 2018. Turkey’s goal is to extend its buffer zone along the Syrian-Turkish border. Turkey may subsequently attack the town of Manbij, east of Afrin on the banks of the Euphrates River. Turkey’s operations threaten to provoke a widening Turkish-Kurdish war that could unravel the U.S. stabilization effort in eastern Syria, place U.S. service members in Manbij at risk, and force the U.S. to reconsider support for the YPG.