BEIRUT, LEBANON (8:00 A.M.) – The Syrian Conflict is nearing its eighth year and the country still remains in a political deadlock despite significant territorial losses for the opposition and Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL/IS/Daesh) forces.
In the month of January, the majority of the fighting in Syria took place inside the Aleppo, Idlib, and Deir Ezzor governorates, as rebel infighting and the Syrian Democratic Forces’ (SDF) offensive east of the Euphrates were responsible for the largest territorial changes.
Rebel Inter-Civil War
The Turkish-backed National Liberation Front suffered a major setback in the month of January when their forces conceded large chunks of the Idlib and Aleppo governorates to the jihadist-led Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham group.
Among the towns and villages seized by Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham in January were the Harakat Nouriddeen Al-Zinki stronghold of Dart Izza in west Aleppo and the Jabal Shashabo region in the Al-Ghaab Plain.
Furthermore, Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham managed to take hold of the entire western countryside of the Aleppo governorate and all of the rebel-held parts of the Al-Ghaab Plain in the Idlib and Hama governorates.
Making matters worse for the National Liberation Front, Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham has surrounded the key cities of Ma’arat Al-Nu’man and Saraqib, despite the large presence of the Turkish Army in the southern and northeastern parts of Idlib.
Should the National Liberation Front lose these cities and the large town of Ariha, they will ultimately have no major presence inside Idlib anymore.
The month of January was really good to the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces as they managed to capture almost all of the Islamic State’s eastern Euphrates pocket.
At the start of January, the Syrian Democratic Forces seized the strategic town of Hajin, which was the Islamic State’s de facto capital after losing the cities of Albukamal and Al-Mayadeen to the Syrian Arab Army.
Since capturing Hajin, the Syrian Democratic Forces have also captured Al-Shafah, Baghouz Fouqani, and Al-Sousah.
The Syrian Democratic Forces are now working to capture Murashida amid the complete collapse of the Islamic State’s front-lines in the eastern Euphrates.
As February approaches, three major offensives are expected to begin within this short month.
The first offensive that is set to take place is Hashd Al-Sha’abi’s cross-border offensive in the Al-Anbar (Iraq) and Deir Ezzor (Syria) governorates.
According to the official media wing of Hashd Al-Sha’abi, their offensive is expected to kick off in the coming days.
The last two offensives are tentative at this point and could be delayed until March:
- Syrian Army’s Hama and Idlib offensives
- Turkish military’s eastern Euphrates operation
The Syrian Arab Army’s offensive is contingent on the outcome of the upcoming Astana Peace Conference.
If Turkey agrees to remove their observation posts in both Hama and Idlib, then the Syrian Army will be given the green light to launch their offensive.
In regards to the Turkish Army’s invasion of the eastern Euphrates region, this will be contingent on the U.S. military’s withdrawal from Syria, a possible safe zone in northern Syria, and a potential agreement between the Syrian Democratic Council and Damascus.
Turkey is pushing to capture the Kurdish-held territories in Syria; however, the U.S. may prolong Ankara’s operation by implenting their own safe zone.