Iran-backed Shia militias set conditions to disrupt or deny U.S.-backed forces freedom of maneuver near the Iraq-Syria border. Iran-backed Popular Mobilization Unit (PMU) forces began clearing territory in western Ninewa Province toward the Syrian border. Iran-backed PMU forces also conducted offensives against ISIS in northern Diyala and Salah al-Din provinces, and defended positions north of the Makhoul Mountains and southwest of Tuz Khurmatu from ISIS ground assaults.
The U.S. conducted an airstrike targeting a pro-regime convoy advancing against allied opposition groups at Al-Tanaf on the Syrian-Iraqi Border on May 18. The U.S. and Turkey failed to overcome their strategic divide during a meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and Turkish President Recep Erdogan on May 16.
Russia, Iran, and Turkey agreed at a new set of Astana Talks on May 3 - 4 to establish four large “de-escalation” zones over opposition-held regions of Western Syria. The U.S. signaled its intent to move forward with an imminent offensive to seize Ar-Raqqa City from ISIS that includes the Syrian Kurdish YPG despite clear objections from Turkey.
By Jessa Rose Dury-Agri and the ISW Iraq Team
By Alexandra Gutowski and Jessa Rose Dury-Agri
Key Takeaway: Turkey’s President Erdogan is trying to coerce President Trump into shifting American support from Kurdish forces toward Turkey’s proxies in Syria, which include al Qaeda-linked elements. Erdogan may launch a new ground operation into Syria in order to create ground realities that could force the U.S. to reconsider his demands.