Hassan Hassan writes: Ever since they expelled ISIL from Tal Abyad in mid-June, Syria’s Kurds have been at the centre of many rumours. In particular, there has been talk of upcoming battles against ISIL in northern Syria, including Kurdish-Russian cooperation.
The idea of a Kurdish-led offensive to capture Raqqa has been widely discussed in policy circles in western capitals in recent weeks. The idea has became more relevant since the Russian intervention, which many thought would include a campaign to retake Palmyra so Moscow could have a public-relations win over the US.
Fighting between ISIL and the Kurdish and Shia militias has become less intense in recent months. ISIL has turned to low-scale attacks in vulnerable or less strategic areas to avoid air attacks, primarily in Syria where the Russian air campaign has targeted groups that fight on two fronts against the Assad regime and ISIL.
This new reality, along with the recent breakthrough between Ankara and Washington about a Kurdish role in the war, spurred talk of a major offensive against ISIL in northern Syria, building on the success in Tal Abyad. The fact that the Kurds control key areas near ISIL heartlands in both Iraq and Syria, and that Syrian rebels have all but vanished from eastern Syria, leaves the Kurds and the regime as the only forces that could potentially provide ground troops for any air campaign. [Continue reading…]