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Should the US withdraw from Syria?

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February 7 · Issue #76 · 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
  • Rebels in Idlib have shot down a Russian Su-25 near the town of Saraqeb, where Russian warplanes conducted dozens of airstrikes last week. It is not clear which rebel faction exactly did it (both HTS and Jaish al-Nasr claimed it) but maybe thats the idea: The usage of MANPADS has always been a sensible political issue because these weapons could change the military balance in Syria significantly. It is conceivable that Turkey gave green light. Note that it is a rebel faction very close to Turkey that handed over the pilot’s dead body.
  • In response, Russia fired Kalibr missiles from warships in the Mediterranean (the ones they use when they *really* want to express their anger about something) and intensified airstrikes. Dozens of civilians have died in attacks that deliberately targeted civilian infrastructure.
  • In close proximity, the Turkish army has finally set up an observation post in al-Eis, a town ca. 30 km southwest of Aleppo and south of the Aleppo-Damascus M5 highway. According to the Turkish military, artillery fire by ‘terrorists’ (-> pro-regime militias ) killed one Turkish serviceman. There might be some smaller skirmishes in the future, but it is likely that Turkey has negotiated its advance and won’t leave al-Eis soon. Expect more observation posts to be set up.
  • In Afrin, the Turkish army and pro-Turkish rebels were able to make gains on some of the at least 11 smaller frontlines. However, the gains are limited and the Turkish army lost 8 soldiers on Saturday alone. Additionally, Russia appears to have closed the airspace above Afrin since rebels have downed a Russian Su-25 on Feb. 3. Reports that the regime has deployed anti-aircraft missiles to the northwest indicate that the pro-regime side is keen to send a strong message that its air supremacy is a red line. 
  • Meanwhile, the US is keen to ensure that no one gets distracted from the one true fight against the Islamic State. A spokesperson for Operation Inherent Resolve said that the US wouldn’t support forces who join the battle in Afrin any more. That could affect at least 1000-2000 fighters and their brigades who have already left the US-dominated parts of northern Syria.
Articles worth reading
The West’s war on itself
‘The war is coming to an end, and the US should let it end’
Foe not Friend - Yemeni Tribes and Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula
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