Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Into Raqqa

The battle for Raqqa proper began yesterday:

The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said on Tuesday it had begun a battle to capture Raqqa, Islamic State's de facto capital in Syria, launching attacks from the east, west and north of the city.

Given that ISIL pretty much shifted their leadership away, I wonder how hard those left to fight for the city will resist?

Still, the Mosul defenders fought hard despite leadership escaping to fight another day.

I wonder how much the Kurds will participate? I've long figured that the Kurds are not reliable offensive partners for anything beyond their homeland. So I assume Syrian Arabs will dominate the fight for the city even if allied Syrian Kurds help hold he flanks and rear areas.

So will ISIL take the opportunity of Western focus on Raqqa to hammer the Syrian government forces at Dayr az Zawr further southeast that I'd heard was being prepared as the backup capital?

And how will Iran and Assad's forces react? Will they sprint to Raqqa to exploit the defeat of ISIL?

And what will we do if Assad tries to impose control over former ISIL-held territory being liberated by Western-backed rebels?

It's an odd war where you really need a scorecard to figure out who is with and against who.

UPDATE: The battle for Iran's supply line is looming and the Iranians aren't willing to wait until ISIL is destroyed to wage it:

American warplanes bombed an Iranian-backed militia that entered a supposed no-go zone near a U.S garrison in southern Syria on Tuesday, U.S. officials said.

The strike marked the second by a U.S. aircraft in less than a month and signals a growing risk of direct conflict between American and Iranian forces and their partners in Syria.

Iran has not been a friend since the overthrow of the Shah and after nearly 40 years of "Death to America!" the regime was not transformed by the soothing balms of hope and change into an ally.

UPDATE: The Iran-US stand-off is intensifying even as the Raqqa fight rages:

A US warplane shot down a pro-regime drone in Syria on Thursday after it fired at coalition forces, officials said, marking a new escalation of tensions in the war-torn country's south. ...

The shoot-down came after another incident earlier Thursday, when coalition forces struck "technical vehicles" advancing toward At-Tanaf and threatening coalition and partner forces, US Central Command said in a statement.

It was the third time the coalition has struck pro-regime forces near At-Tanaf in less than a month.

Does the ISIL attack in Iran pressure Iran to hold back in Syria while America takes ISIL down?

The situation is certainly perplexing for Iran after 8 years of a supine American posture toward Iran under the mullah regime.

UPDATE: ISIL will still have a truncated caliphate southeast of Raqqa. So we are not at the point that ISIL must abandon their cherished objective of ruling a caliphate and resort to pure underground terror. The former was their unique brand. The latter just makes them one of many Sunni Arab terror groups, eh? I assume ISIL won't give up that brand easily.