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For $5.000, ISIS fighters can escape Syria

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February 14 · Issue #77 · View online
MENAroundup
MENAroundup
MENA Roundup is a weekly publication containing insightful articles on politics in the Middle East, focussing on Syria and Iraq. lars@menaroundup.com

Notions
  • The US killed at least 100 pro-regime troops and wounded many more in a counterattack on advancing forces that included battle tanks and artillery. The pro-regime forces were apparently attacking SDF-positions near the Conoco gas field and plant that has been captured by the SDF from ISIS in September 2017. The US didn’t just repel the attack, they rather decided to send a strong message. The usage of F15E fighter jets, MQ-9 Reaper drones, B-52 strategic bombers, AC-130 gunships and AH-64 Apache attack helicopters leaves no doubt that the US want to signal that offensives east of the Euphrates are off-limits. However, there are reports of further pro-regime attacks at the same location. 
  • It is notable that fighters of Russian origin participated (and died) in the battle. The numbers are not clear by now, but the Russian participation could be significant. These fighters are affiliated with the so called ISIS hunters, a loyalist formation with Russian backing, and/or the Wagner group, private contractors who have economic incentives to seize oil fields. 
  • Despite losses and the already obvious problem of defending armored vehicles and tanks from the YPG’s anti-tank missiles, Turkish-backed Syrian rebels are pushing deeper into Afrin along 4-5 fronts. Interviews confirm that the Assad regime allows YPG reinforcements coming from the eastern cantons and Sheikh Maqsud in Aleppo city to pass through its territory south of the Euphrates Shield.
  • The UN’s Human Rights Office says that 277 civilians have been killed and 812 injured in the first week of February, most of them by pro-regime airstrikes in East-Ghouta and Idlib. 
  • The latest Israeli airstrikes, following the downing of an unarmed Iranian drone that appears to be a pretext for a show of force, illustrate the dangerous dynamics of Israeli-Iranian confrontation. An all-out war is not in anyones interest, but limited violence definitely is. The inherent potenzial for escalation cannot be underestimated. 
Articles worth reading
Israel, Hizbollah and Iran: Preventing Another War in Syria Israel, Hizbollah and Iran: Preventing Another War in Syria
Syria’s Civil War Is Ending. But The War For Syria Is Just Beginning. Syria’s Civil War Is Ending. But The War For Syria Is Just Beginning.
The Manbij Conundrum The Manbij Conundrum
Civilians and Islamic State fighters pay thousands of dollars to leave south Damascus for opposition territories Civilians and Islamic State fighters pay thousands of dollars to leave south Damascus for opposition territories
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