Syria receives a “hot summer” – a period of important military operations designed to cut several gordian knots. Preliminary results of the campaign inspire optimism, Americans and Kurds in such conditions will not be envied, but the sacrifices from Damascus are also inevitable: the forces of Bashar Assad risk running into very unpleasant surprises.
The relative calm that has been established in Syria since recent times turns every small operation of jihadists into a serious informational occasion, which subsequently swells up to a “major offensive.” In reality, nothing terrible happens: before the already announced “hot summer”, a regrouping of forces takes place, in parallel the results of the events of winter and spring are analyzed.
These results inspire. The tasks, which in the middle of winter were voiced by the head of the General Staff of the Russian Federation, General Valery Gerasimov, were successfully resolved.
The capital, its nearest suburbs and the road Damascus – Homs – Hama are completely liberated. The integrity of the central districts was restored. The numerous small jihadist enclaves throughout the country were eliminated, previously distracted by attention and constrained the actions of significant forces, including Iran. Several previously large and influential groups (for example, “Jays al-Islam” and “Failak Ar-Rahman”) suffered so significant losses that they lost their former importance and are unlikely to take part in the further arrangement of Syria. A similar outcome is also the history of the notorious Jebhat an Nusra, just its potential was somewhat larger.
However, the war did not end there, and the tasks for the new season have to be formulated on the go.
Turkey already promised “hot summer” to everyone around it and unambiguously informed the Kurds that it was ready to occupy all the cities in the border zone if the Kurdish self-defense troops continue active combat operations. Suddenly, a sharp pressure on them and Damascus, threatening to regain the strength of all the land that the Kurds appropriated during the offensive in 2017. As a result, some influential Kurdish commanders agreed to negotiate with Bashar Assad, not mentioning more about the “republic of Rozhava” and other attempts to create a new purely Kurdish entity with a claim to autonomy.
There are only a few small enclaves left from the ISIS militants, the destruction of which is a matter of time. It is much more unpleasant that their tactics are still alive. Now the greatest concentration of jihadists is in the desert between Mayadin and the T-2 base, as well as on the border with Iraq near Abu Kamal and Al-Qa’im. The government troops have neither the strength nor the means to clear the desert and destroy these gangs physically, meanwhile, it is extremely necessary. In the desert, the struggle can drag on for years,
In the Syrian case, the situation is further complicated by the fact that the remnants of the jihadists are at war with all without holding the front, so that the gang that previously fought against the Kurds and Americans on the other side of the Euphrates can easily be in the rear of government troops in the Deir ez-Zor area. At the same time, “raids on deep rear areas” divert significant forces that have to be transferred from the center of the country to the desert, but by the time of their arrival in the desert, there is already no one. This is bad for the information background – for every raid you can not have enough force.
But the question with Deraa is practically solved. The regrouping of government units in the area as a whole was completed in the second half of May. There remain technical details of a purely political and diplomatic nature, and in the summer one can expect a quiet operation to free the whole province up to the Golan Heights. The militants are ready to cooperate – they are carrying out serious propaganda work to prevent senseless bloodshed.
At the same time, Russia will shy away from direct participation in possible Iranian-Israeli tensions, insisting on the territorial integrity of Syria. The non-admission of Shiite forces to the Golan is already now perceived in the United States as “a great victory for the West.” Trump even in Singapore stressed that “Iran has stopped its progress towards the Mediterranean”, and has traditionally filed this as the success of the sanctions policy. But his interpretations of reality in this context are already insignificant, and Europe is now basically forgetting where Syria is.
The most confusing situation is in Idlib: “goblin reserve” absorbed too many different fighters, which, incidentally, did not lead to an increase in their military component. Representatives of so different groups moved to this province that it was simply impossible to imagine their peaceful cohabitation on such a small territory without a constant influx of resources and reinforcements. In theory, Turkey should be responsible for all this, but it lacks its own forces, and, for example, the Turks themselves do not fight with their own hands, feeding for these purposes another group – Ahrar ash-Sham, which does not tolerate competitors. This can also last for years, especially since there are no attempts to cut off the “Latin ledge” from Damascus – the front has stabilized,
the enclaves were destroyed, the national-religious conflicts were eliminated by direct exchange of the population of entire villages. Most likely, around Idlib, political games will continue mainly. But if the situation in Deraa and the Golan is resolved in favor of Damascus and with the interests of Israel, this experience will be tried to transfer to Idlib. Only to conduct similar in meaning and circumstances negotiations with Ankara is an order of magnitude more complicated than with Tel Aviv. That it is sick that on the nose there are combined parliamentary and presidential elections, the result of which is largely programmed, but still able to influence the alignment of forces. The main problem in this situation is the region around At-Tanf. The Pentagon has stumbled and does not want to dissolve the jihadist groups that have warmed around its base. Perhaps they now can not even deal with them, and therefore do not react to endless raids through the desert. This is very annoying, but it will not be possible to surround At-Tanf with a wall or a moat (Morocco tried it in Western Sahara – it did not work out).
The situation there resembles a problem with gangs of ISIS on the Iraqi border, only those militants do not feed Americans with spoons and do not supply consumables. In recent weeks, they have transferred part of their units from At-Tanf to Khasek and Al-Shaddady, but still war on them the base will not be used, and the US continues to trade At-Tanf and the Kurds in its schemes with Russia and Turkey, which are almost certainly entangled. Kurds are now trapped. If a year ago they were in euphoria and made plans for the creation of some statehood with the support of the United States, now they simply have nowhere to run: Damascus will steadily return control of the captured territories (if necessary, as stated above, by force).
The guerrilla war against the Turks risks becoming eternal, but after the elections, Ankara will almost certainly make claims to control an even larger territory with the Kurdish population, including part of Iraq, that is, the expansion of the “security zone” that has already moved beyond the border zone. At the same time, the behavior of the Turks in Kurdistan borders on barbarism, which was worth only one “marauder’s day” after the capture of Afrin. But Ankara does not seek to improve its image among the Kurds. It would be the will of the Kurds to be evicted from the globe, but in the current situation, still have to negotiate with the United States, Russia and France. Americans are increasingly inclined to leave even Manbig, but so far they are clinging to Haseka. The Kurds explain this by “lack of choice,” which automatically pushes the Kurdish groups to contact Damascus, which gives at least some guarantees of autonomy. Thus, before the end of the calendar year, the war will not end, but the contours of the future world are already visible. The multilayeredness of the Syrian conflict and the propensity of some acting forces and external actors to provocations and unnecessarily emotional moves, of course, does not add optimism. But if everything goes as it is now, in 2019 it will be possible to expect an almost complete cessation of active hostilities throughout the territory of the SAR with some amendments to the wind.