Russia enabled pro-regime forces to complete the physical encirclement of Aleppo City on July 28, isolating the primary nexus of the non-jihadist opposition in Northern Syria. These gains threaten the long-term survival of mainstream opposition groups that could serve as potential partners against ISIS and Syrian Al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra.
The failed coup attempt in Turkey on July 15 will generate significant upheaval in the Syrian Civil War. Turkish President Recep Erdogan will likely direct his attention inward over the coming months in order to consolidate his power. This distraction will likely disrupt the flow of logistical support provided to opposition groups by Turkey, enabling short-term military gains by a number of actors including Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS).
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on July 14 to discuss a proposal for bilateral military cooperation in the Syrian Civil War. The proposal calls for the establishment of a ‘Joint Implementation Group’ based in Amman, Jordan to “support deliberate targeting” of Syrian Al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra and “maximize independent but synchronized efforts” against ISIS in Syria, according to a draft memorandum leaked by the Washington Post.
The Syrian Arab Army declared the start of a seventy-two-hour nationwide ‘regime of calm’ between July 6 and July 8 to celebrate Eid al-Fitr. Local activists nonetheless reported that pro-regime forces continued to engage in clashes, shelling, and airstrikes across the country, particularly near the flashpoints of Damascus and Aleppo City.
ISW has produced nearly 60 maps on Russian airstrikes in Syria since they first began on September 30, 2015. The first map appeared less than 24 hours after the Russians began strikes and they continue today as do the strikes despite a declared "cessation of hostilities" and an alleged Russian withdrawal.
The White House issued a proposal for direct military partnership with Russia in an effort to reestablish a faltering political process to end the Syrian Civil War. The proposal appears to represent a major concession to demands from Russia for deeper cooperation from the U.S. in the fight against “terrorism” as part of its wider strategic objective to secure international legitimacy as a security guarantor in the Middle East at the expense of the U.S.
The White House defended its policy towards the Syrian Civil War following the publication of a diplomatic dissent cable calling for the “judicious” use of force against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Meanwhile, President Assad appointed a new prime minister despite international calls for a political transition. Unconfirmed reports also claimed that Russia and Iran may deploy additional forces to the country over the next few weeks.
The Syrian Civil War continued to escalate despite continued international pressure to enforce a diplomatic solution to the conflict. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called for the start of a new nationwide ‘cessation of hostilities’ within the “next week or two” but warned that U.S. patience was wearing thin. Meanwhile, Russia intensified its own air campaign on behalf of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad despite claims of continued support for a wider ceasefire.
ISIS currently faces an unprecedented threat to its core terrain in Northern Syria from an array of competing actors. Nonetheless, the degrading position of ISIS in Northern Syria is poised to ignite further conflict. The terrain vacated by ISIS will likely host renewed competition between Syrian Kurds, opposition groups, and pro-regime forces as well as a geopolitical struggle involving Turkey, Syria, Russia, and the U.S. These conflicts could stall further progress against ISIS in Syria.