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On 17 October, The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) announced that the city of Raqqa had been recaptured from the Islamic State, even though fighting continued in near-by surrounding areas.
Considering the strategic and symbolic importance of Raqqa for most players, it is likely that the victory in Raqqa is ushering the start of a new phase in Syria, and beyond.
For previous and other signals check the
Considering the international and regional reactions to the attempts at independence that took place in Iraqi Kurdistan, the Syrian Kurds and the various administrations and forces they have created are highly likely to be very cautious in the way they handle the overall situation to try as much as possible to reach their goal (autonomy of a new type of polity within a unified Syria). Indeed the SDF forces quickly handed over Raqqa to an Arab Raqqa City Council that will be responsible for the city and its reconstruction. However, the damages are such, considering notably the U.S. coalition carpet bombing, that reconstruction will most likely be long and difficult, opening the way to all possible types of disorders and fighting.
The government of Bashar al-Assad’s decisions and actions regarding the overall strategic, operational and tactical political and military chessboard, and how to handle the Syrian Kurds project are critical uncertainties.
Turkey is likely to heighten its involvement. Its aim is to prevent the settlement on its southern border of a Kurdish-led strong polity, whatever its shape. It is highly likely to do its utmost to succeed in achieving its objective. Indeed, the Turkish operations have already started, with the surrounding of Afrin (the isolated Western tip of the Syrian Kurdistan) through deployment in Idlib and near the Bab al-Hawa border, and with the promotion of an alternative Raqqa City Council to the one instated by the SDF.
The Islamic State is likely to be perceived as defeated and a gone threat by many actors, which would be a dangerous error, as it is likely to continue fighting with all means and on all territories seen as points of Ribat.
Iran is likely to pursue its strategy of influence over Syria and the region (see Signals regarding Iraq). In this framework, its strategy is likely to range from opposing the Kurdish project and thus trying to prompt the Syrian government into defeating the Kurdish idea to accommodating it, as long as it can use the borders crossing with Iraq as it sees fit. The first end of the spectrum would probably be beneficial to its relations with Turkey, which grew closer with the Gulf Countries’ crisis. The other end of the spectrum would possibly benefit more its relations with Russia.
The U.S. and Russia will be tried in their resolve, influence and capabilities to design, set up and operationally implement an efficient strategy. Russia has however here an advantage considering its heavier direct involvement on the ground. Both will nonetheless have to consider the complexity of the situation, as well as alliances or relationships at odds with each other. Should Russia appear and be more successful, then, in turns, this may heighten the American anti-Russian sentiment and related actions elsewhere.
As a result, the activity and fundings of NGOs, then contracts to companies involved in reconstruction will be impacted.
The Gulf Countries save Qatar are likely to have to face hard choices if they go on perceiving Iran as a threat – which is likely – and want to thwart as much as possible Iranian influence. Alliances or to the least strength of relationships with other extra regional powers are likely to evolve.
As a whole the overall situation is highly likely to remain very fluid and volatile, and uncertainty is very high.
The official spokeswoman for the campaign of Qazab Euphrates, Jihan Sheikh Ahmed, said that the military operations and direct battles against the terrorist organization were completed within the city of Raqqa. Our forces liberated the city center and all the centers and facilities where the terrorists were holed up.
RAQQA, Syria/BEIRUT (Reuters) – Kurdish groups who led the fight against Islamic State in its former capital Raqqa must navigate a complex peace to avoid ethnic tension with the city’s Arab majority and to secure critical U.S. aid.
AMMAN (Reuters) – The Turkish army is expanding its deployment in northwest Syria with the goal of encircling a Kurdish enclave and reining in Russian strikes in the Idlib border province under a deal to reduce clashes, rebels and witnesses said on Sunday.