The leader of the ISIS would have ordered to reduce the charges and evolve towards agile operations, such as “hit and run” and terrorist attacks.
Up to now the information tension on the events in Syria has been maintained, because the news was moving at the tactical and operational level, concrete things that can be told. There was a common enemy, the Daesh (Arabic acronym to refer to Islamic State or ISIS in its English acronym) whose defeat was desired by all forces. But what will happen after the “total” defeat announced by Donald Trump, on March 23?
It must be remembered that ISIS is still present and active in Syria, after the conquest of its last bastions, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) had to take over more than 55,000 women and children and transfer them to the camp. Al Hawl.
Al Baghdadi would have ordered this movement as part of its new strategy: to reduce the burdens and evolve towards agile operations, such as “hit and run” and terrorist attacks.
The main actors (United States, Russia, Iran, Turkey …) have not changed, but their positions, alliances and strategies have changed.
With the “defeat” of Daesh, the common enemy, a new phase in this conflict begins: more (geo) political and strategic, and less operational. It is no longer the moment of decisive battles but of positions, influences and lines of action, which will delimit the real results of it.
Today, the actions take place in three areas: Deraa, the province of Idlib and the southeast of the Euphrates. Deraa is controlled by the old opposition, now has reconciled with the Government, but with dissidence and complex relations with officials. But it is a problem that can be managed with Russian support.
In Idlib, the main actor is the group Hayat Tahrir al Sham, linked to Al Qaeda. Conquering the Idlib enclave is the main objective for government forces, supported by Russia and Iran, but Idlib borders Turkey’s area of influence (perhaps more). Idlib is also in contact with an enclave of the Syrian Democratic Forces, pro-American and supported by the Kurds.
Here the new alliances play a major role: Putin wants to expel the United States from the Syrian scenario, and Erdogan, a traditional ally of the United States, wants to wrest the Kurds, American allies, from their area of influence. The concurrent interests have allowed a cooperation that only a few decades ago would be considered as a non-nature. The next operations will foreseeably occur in this area, and not much later.
The last scenario is that of the Euphrates, essentially geopolitical, as it is an area with important resources. The opposing forces are the government forces, supported by Iran and Russia, to the west of the river, and the Syrian Democratic Forces, supported by the US, to the east of it.
If the government forces managed to control Idlib, the next step to recover an eventual total control would be to cross the Euphrates in economically more profitable areas. The competition between the areas of interest of the United States and Russia in this scenario is manifest, and the maintenance of the North American presence is essential. An ill-considered decision by President Trump could facilitate Putin’s goals, and indirectly Erdogan’s weakening of Kurdish positions.
The main objective of Putin’s new geopolitics in the Middle East is to recover the former areas of influence of the former Soviet Union, and Syria is a key element in achieving this goal. The United States, suffering from its various syndromes, (Vietnam, Somalia, Iraq …), has decided to leave the region of the Middle East to its fate. First Obama opted for a “Pivot Strategy to the Pacific”, which terrorized its partners in the area, and with Donald Trump came uncertainty.
The enemies of my enemies are my freinds
The cards have been reshuffled and Bashar the Assad is targeted as the winner of this second game, thanks to Russia and Iran –with or without the support of the Lebanese Hezbollah militia. Turkey will maintain (and control) its zone of influence, while punishing its traditional enemies, the Kurds.
And the USA? Everything happened “while you were sleeping”. A total abandonment would be dramatic for its partners in the area.