Hassan Hassan writes: The imminent battle to dislodge ISIL from Raqqa can deliver many things. It can be a deadly blow to ISIL in a country where it has little experience – relative to Iraq where it originated. It can be the beginning of a process to steer much of the country in a new direction. Or it can merely reset the conditions for a more chaotic north where ISIL will still be a player and other jihadist organisations will return.
The most significant battle against ISIL in Syria is muddled by the conflict between Turkey and the Kurdish militias in northern Syria. Both the United States and Turkey exerted little effort over the past two and a half years to adequately prepare for this battle. As the battle approaches, the two find themselves stuck with the forces they perceive as better positioned to do the job, when neither choice is appropriate for such an important battle.
The US had an Iraq-first strategy for the best part of the Operation Inherent Resolve, while it relied on the YPG, the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, to fight in Syria. Whereas the international coalition prepared well for Mosul and ensured that Kurdish and Shia militias do not fight in the city, the same has not been done in Syria. Kurdish militias appear primed to spearhead the fight in Raqqa. [Continue reading…]