"BEIRUT, LEBANON (5:40 P.M.) – Three years ago, the Syrian Arab Army was withdrawing from much of eastern Syria, with little hope to hold onto the provincial capital of Deir Ezzor. However, that would all change in late September 2015 when the Russian Air Force began its aerial campaign against the terrorist groups occupying large parts of Syria.
With today’s liberation of the Islamic States (ISIS) de facto capital, Al-Mayadeen, the Syrian Arab Army is in prime position to liberate the Deir Ezzor Governorate’s largest oil fields. The Al-‘Umar Oil Fields have been one of the Islamic State’s most important revenue streams; its liberation is now one of the Syrian military’s top priorities in the Deir Ezzor Governorate.
In the coming days, the Syrian Arab Army will clear the Islamic State’s last pockets in the provincial capital and then shift their focus to the Al-‘Umar Oil Fields, where they hope to reach this site before the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF)." (Al Masdar News)
I don’t know if Leith Fadel knows the R+6 will cross the Euphrates and drive the ten to fifteen kilometers due east to occupy the Omar oil fields or if he’s just making an educated guess. If sufficient mobile forces can be pushed across the river quickly, this would be a wise move. The real prize is still Al Bukamal, but a Tiger Force presence in the Omar fields would pretty much scotch CJTF-OIR plans to push the YPG/SDF to Al Bukamal ahead of the R+6. Then the R+6 could take the rest of the Euphrates valley and Al Bukamal at their leisure.
I believe it is well within Tiger Force capabilities to conduct an airmobile insertion into the Omar fields, force a river crossing and advance to a link up with the airmobile force. All depends on the disposition and strength of IS defenses and how fast the R+6 could put such a complicated operation into action.
To the north, in Deir Ezzor itself, what’s left of the IS jihadis in the city are now cut off from reinforcement, resupply and any hope of a retreat. The R+6 forces on the east side of the Euphrates, spearheaded by elements of the 5th Legion, drove north and cut off the last IS lines of communication into the city.
To the south, Iraqi PMU and Army units are massing just east of Rawa and are preparing to launch an operation to liberate al-Qa’im. The distance from Rawa to al-Qa’im is roughly the same as from Al Mayadin to Al Bukamal, about 80 kilometers. Not only would this Iraqi offensive pull IS forces away from the R+6 drive to Al Bukamal, but the success of both these drives would finally open up the main Bagdad-Damascus highway. I don't think the CJTF-OIR will be sending anybody any congratulations cards. Just imagine what Bibi will do. Perhaps he will scream in rage and drive his right foot so far into the ground that he creates a chasm and falls into it, never to be seen again. I can hardly wait.
Far from Deir Ezzor, a Turkish Army column entered Syria to take on some variety of jihadi in Idlib. The government in Damascus issued a statement calling for the removal of these Turkish troops. At the same time, a captured Syrian pilot was finally released by the Turks. I get the feeling this has all been arranged by Moscow and the Syrian protest is largely theatrical. In the meantime, jihadis are still killing jihadis in Idlib. Good.
Thanks TGG great update.
While all this has gone on, the SAA has completed taking control of all of Rif Dimashqa in the east, including the border with Jordan. The FSA/US forces are now confined to a semicircle of territory with a radius of about 50 – 70 kms. I wonder how long US airpower will stick around to enforce the ‘security perimeter’, which is all that stands between the rebels and the SAA closing the pocket.
“Far from Deir Ezzor, a Turkish Army column entered Syria to take on some variety of jihadi in Idlib. ”
This is simply wrong. Turkey will not take on any of the Jihadis. It will not fulfill the Astana agreement. The Damascus protest against the move is not theatrical.
Turkish reconnaissance entered Idelb governate under the protection of al-Qaeda (HTS) forces. Later some armed units followed. Those took up defensive positions along the demarcation line between al-Qaeda controlled Idleb and YPK/PKK controlled Efrin. To surround the Kurdish Efrin area is the ONLY purpose of the Turkish incursion. It does not want to fight al-Qaeda.
Al-Qaeda released a statement that describes the Turkish plan that was agreed upon.
A description thereof and a translation can be found here:
What Hayat Tahrir al-Sham has agreed to, per Nazzal and other prominent Tahrir al-Sham figures, would seem not to satisfy the expected terms of a tripartite Turkish-Iranian-Russian agreement in Astana. Nazzal is emphatic that Turkey is taking up positions opposite the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Afrin, an enclave north of the insurgent-held northwest, and not deploying further south to police the line of contact between Tahrir al-Sham and the Assad regime. It’s tough to imagine how this would address the concerns of Turkey’s co-guarantors in Astana
For a NATO member state to enter Syria with an armed escort from a sort-of al-Qaeda affiliate is, um, non-standard.
“And for [everyone’s] information: This [Turkish] entrance has conditions, including that the Turks will not control [these areas] or interfere in any form in the administration of any village or city, as well as our total dominance over them, such that we have the power to expel them at any time. ”
al-Bukamal is west of the Euphrates. I don’t believe the YPG ever had plans to take al-Bukamal. Perhaps some SDF Arab elements are from al-Bukamal area and want to take part in its liberation. Maghawir al-Thawra did some fighting there last year, but more like commando raids and not a full scale attack.
I suspect that the Coalition and the Russians have already divvied up the pot in eastern Deir ez-Zor. The YPG is fine with that as they are concentrating on Daesh while looking over their shoulder at Turkish intentions. The majority of the SDF Arabs seem fine with it also as they know Assad is not going anywhere.
IMO there is no race for al-Bukamal. And as for the Omar oilfields, YPG/SDF forces crossed the Khabur river more than a week ago and have not made a run towards Omar. They are concentrating on clearing Daesh from the towns up and down the Khabur. I believe that is at the urging of their Assyrian Christian allies in the SDF, many of whom have farms along that river. And the Syrian Army does not appear to be in a hurry to retake the Omar fields either, it seems like they know there is a deal in place, so no hurry. Therefore no race for the Omar oilfields, despite the press and some armchair anti-Americans hyperventilating about it two weeks ago.
TTG – Thanks, and a question if I may. The rapid bridging of the Euphrates was covered here but I have not seen much R+6 action on the East bank. Have they been building up a sizeable force (readying for this phase) or just securing the bridgehead? I had expected an earlier push east to block the SDF’s passage south.
The R+6 forces east of the river include elements of the 5th Legion and the 4th Armored Division. I don’t know if the entire units are across or not. So far their main effort has been to the north to help clear Deir Ezzor. I thought the’d move south or further east, too. Perhaps soon.
I agree that preventing the Rojava Kurds from ever reaching the Mediterranean is Turkey’s prime objective. I think Ankara and Damascus are in agreement on this.
Great SITREP TTG !
Some minor points:
– Bridge in DeZ was built mainly to allow technical and resupply to cross Euphrat. It was necessary to complete Dez encirclement.
– SAA is now able to use Mayadeen bridge. it’s broken at each end but can be repaired very fast using T72 MTU AVLB or something akin.
– There is no race to Al Bukamal, but not because there is an agreement SDF/SAA but because SDF has no enough manpower to do it. I was wondering why SAA didn’t cross Euphrat in DeZ ” in force ” to prevent SDF to conquer oil fields. The only reason is that SAA has good intel about SDF capabilities and probably intel guys inside SDF. They have reached the conclusion that SDF are not able to keep all territories conquered.
As soon as SAA will have cleaned and combed western Euphrat bank up to Al Qa’im, they will be able to engage a big sized force ( 30 to 40 000) using 3 bridges, DeZ, Al Mayadeen, Al Bukamal.Facing such an overwhelming force, SDF will have to pack and leave.
The comment from ‘b’ is right on the money. It gets clear if you look at areas of Turkish Army activity inside Idlib. They are only taking up positions along the Afrin/Idlib border: Atimah, Qah, Salwa, Deir Sam’an. They appear to be deliberately ignoring the HTS held areas further south and using this thrust to deny efforts by Afrin based YPG to respond to attacks by Turkey’s proxy Ahrar al Sham.
I never understood the claim that the Rojava Kurds want to reach the Mediterranean. How would they possibly do that. They are separated from the sea by Turkey’s Hatay Province. It is true that Afrin Canton is within 32km of the Turkish port of Iskenderun. But they would have to fight their way through the full weight of the Turkish Army and Air Force to get there. Plus they are separated from the sea by the north/south running Nur Mountains.
I was wondering about the condition of the Mayadeen bridge. I’m sure it can be easily repaired if it’s just damaged at both ends. I read the IS fighters ended up having to swim for it because their boat evacuation effort was clobbered by air attacks. The SDF is also busy addressing the latest IS attacks around Hasakah. The videos out of there are pretty grim.
Here you have
Nice. That opens up some possibilities.
From a Facebook page reported to be in Mayadin “the first woman to enter to enter Mayadin without Hijab since March 2012:
ttg wrote I get the feeling this has all been arranged by Moscow and the Syrian protest is largely theatrical.
I agree that Moscow and Iran have agreed to this Turkish incursion (they actually refer to a deescaltion zone where their troops are located). However the Syrian response is not theatrical — they certainly must make it clear that Turkish troops are not welcome on Syrian territory for the good reason Erdoqan has hinted in the past he wants to annex some of those territories. It makes it sound pretty complicated and there are a number of ways that this whole mess goes completely south. Maybe b is right and Turkey is using this as an excuse to conquer Syrian territory.
Another IRGC general killed in Syria. This is the third that i have heard of. It is strange though that they list him as a battalion commander. Translation error perhaps? And what is the ‘Fatahin Battalion’ – Hazaras? Palestinian? Iraqi?
Article also claims that the number of Iranian soldiers killed in Syria’s six-year civil war amounts to 2.200. Does that # only represent traditional Iranians, or does it include Liwa Fatemiyoun fighters from Afghanistan?
SAA elements are across the Euphrates at Mayadin. They have taken the town of Thayban. That puts them about five miles from the Omar oilfield. And perhaps about ten miles from the Omar north field.