The Syrian and Iraq armies are no strangers to war; but, they have never coordinated with one another, despite their shared interest in defeating the Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham (ISIS). However, this changed in April of 2016 when both the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and Iraqi Armed Forces launched a simultaneous offensive to wedge ISIS in the vast desert landscape that links both their countries. Unbeknownst to many, the Syrian and Iraqi forces are advancing towards one another on the Damascus-Baghdad International Highway. (Al-Masdar News)
This is an eye opening analysis by Leith Fadel of Al-Masdar News. He claims that Baghdad and Damascus are coordinating a major offensive against the IS and this coordination is being accomplished through Tehran.
The SAA continues their offensive from Palmyra towards Deir Ez-Zor while the Iraqi Army and Popular Mobilization Forces have taken Hit and are on the outskirts of Al-Baghdadi. The goal is to meet up at the border crossing at Al-Qa’im. The majority of the area between Syrian and Iraqi forces is open desert – ideal for offensive mobile forces with close air support.
There is a third element to this offensive. Fadel claims an element of Hashd Al-Sha’abi, a powerful Iraqi Shiite paramilitary unit has been moved to Deir Ez-Zor with the goal of assisting the SAA in taking the city of Mohassan. This may be the toughest part of the offensive moving through the populated, urbanized and probably heavily tunneled lands along the Euphrates.
This is an ambitious plan which, if successful, would restore an uninterrupted land bridge from Iran through Iraq and Syria to Lebanon. Tehran is clearly feeling it’s oats. Is this a real plan fully coordinated within the R+6 coalition? How does this impact the inevitable battle for Aleppo? How will the Shia masses in the Green Zone affect all these plans?