ISW Daily Update March 24, 2017

 These are the major events from March 24, 2017 in the theaters and from the trans-national groups that ISW monitors: Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Egypt, Russia, Ukraine, and ISIS.

SYRIA: Pro-regime rhetoric risks driving local support for ISIS or al Qaeda amidst U.S.-backed operations against ar-Raqqah City. The spokesman for the US- backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) indicated the SDF may be willing to work with the Syrian regime in ar-Raqqah in comments to a pro-regime news outlet. His comments indicate that the SDF may pursue a deal with the Syrian regime to govern ar-Raqqah in exchange for supporting the Syrian regime as the legitimate Syrian national government. 

IRAQ: Civilian casualties in Mosul threaten the U.S.’s freedom of action in Iraq. The international coalition opened an investigation into a pair of coalition airstrikes on March 13 and 17 that reportedly killed between 100 to 200 civilians in western Mosul. Ninewa-based Sunni Mutahidun leader Osama al-Nujaifi called for an “immediate end” to airstrikes in western Mosul and a revision of the rules of engagement (RoE). Other members of the Council of Representatives (CoR) called for an investigation into the airstrikes and artillery shelling by the Coalition and the Federal Police. Iranian militias and political parties will leverage the incident to reduce U.S. presence and influence in Iraq.

AFG: Russia’s outreach to the Taliban and its parallel cultivation of international peace talks to end the Afghan conflict are designed to control U.S. action in Afghanistan reflexively. The U.S. announced it will not attend 12-party talks concerning the future of Afghanistan hosted by Russia in Moscow in APR 2017. The U.S. still seeks cooperation with Russia in Afghanistan according to an unidentified State Department official. Remarks by Supreme Allied Commander of NATO General Scaparrotti inferring material support to the Taliban by Russia; as well as Pakistan’s plan to attend 12-party talks in Moscow increase the stakes of Russia’s new strategy in Afghanistan. Russia will continue to establish itself as the dominant broker of peace in Afghanistan in order to gain leverage over the U.S. and NATO.


RUS/UKR: Russia continued to support nationalist political parties in Europe in order to weaken the European Union and undermine sanctions against Russia for its occupation of Crimea and invasion of Ukraine. French Presidential candidate Marine Le Pen spoke to the Russian parliament and voiced her opposition to sanctions and support for Russia regarding the situation in Ukraine. She described her view as “identical to Russia’s." She held an impromptu meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin who stated Russia is in no way attempting to influence the outcome of the upcoming French election. Russia will continue its efforts to influence the French election and will increasingly interfere in elections elsewhere if Le Pen’s and her “National Front” perform well.