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Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Russia Expands Air Presence in Northeast Syria

By: John Dunford

Key Takeaway: The U.S., Russia, and Turkey continue their competition for influence in Northeast Syria. Russia expanded its rotary-wing basing in Northern Syria under the terms of a deal it brokered with Turkey regarding the Syrian-Turkish Border on October 22. Russia established a permanent rotary-wing headquarters and support structure at Qamishli Airport on November 14 and its attack helicopters began overflying its joint patrols with Turkey in Northern Syria. Russia also likely intends to deploy new air defense systems to Qamishli, allowing it to constrain further the freedom of movement of the U.S. in Eastern Syria. Meanwhile, the U.S. expanded its ground patrol routes to villages west of Qamishli. The U.S. will thus likely come into closer contact with the growing number of pro-regime forces - including Russians - based in and around Qamishli.


Monday, November 18, 2019

Iraq Situation Report- November 8-14

By: Brandon Wallace


The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) is assessing the ongoing unrest and its effects on political-security dynamics in Iraq. The Iraq Situation Report (SITREP) series summarizes key events and likely developments to come. This SITREP update covers the period November 8-14, 2019.



Friday, November 8, 2019

Iraq Situation Report: November 5-7, 2019


Street protests rooted in popular discontent and a harsh government response have embroiled Iraq in a crisis since early October 2019. The protesters – largely though not exclusively from Iraq’s Shi’a communities in Baghdad and southern Iraq – are airing growing frustrations over the Iraqi government’s failure to enact reforms and deliver basic services, a lack of economic opportunities, and the Iranian regime’s deepening control over the Iraqi state.

The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) is assessing the ongoing unrest and its effects on political-security dynamics in Iraq. The Iraq Situation Report (SITREP) series summarizes key events and likely developments to come. This SITREP update covers the period November 5-7, 2019.


Key Takeaway: Iran and elements of the Government of Iraq (GoI) set conditions for a violent crackdown on protests in Baghdad and Southern Iraq. The GoI reinstated an internet blackout amidst new reports of assassinations of journalists and activists. Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mehdi met with security officials to organize a response to ongoing protests. Demonstrations have blocked roads in key cities in Southern Iraq and the Umm Qasr port, leading to an estimated $6 billion in economic losses.

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Syria Situation Report: October 23 - November 5, 2019

By ISW's Syria Team and Syria Direct

The following Syria Situation Report (SITREP) Map summarizes significant developments in the war in Syria during the period October 23 - November 5, 2019. Key SITREP events include ISIS activity in Southern Syria, backlash against the Syrian al Qaeda affiliate in Idlib Province, and the targeting of a U.S. convoy potentially by Turkish-backed militants.

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Thursday, November 7, 2019

A New Competition for Influence in Northeast Syria

By John Dunford 

Key Takeaway: Russia, Turkey, and the U.S. are engaged in a new competition for influence in Northeast Syria. The Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) did not withdraw thirty kilometers from the Syrian-Turkish Border by October 29 as demanded in a deal between Russia and Turkey. The YPG and its affiliates are now hedging their position by pursuing partnerships with both the U.S. and Russia. The U.S. redeployed forces to Northern Syria on October 31 and resumed its partnership with the Syrian Kurds to secure two oil fields in Hasakah Province. Russian Military Police have meanwhile conducted multiple separate patrols farther west with both Turkey and the Syrian Kurds. The U.S. and Russia have both patrolled with the Syrian Kurdish Asayish - an internal security force linked to the YPG but technically exempt from the withdrawal deal with Turkey. Turkey is unlikely to accept this technicality over the long term but it has thus far prioritized the symbolic victory of joint patrols with Russia inside Syria. The Syrian regime has meanwhile conducted its own unilateral patrols in areas where the U.S. has patrolled in Northern Syria, increasing the risk of confrontation between the U.S., Syria, Russia, and Turkey.

Click the image below to view an enlarged version of the map.


Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Iraq Situation Report: November 1-4, 2019


Street protests rooted in popular discontent and a harsh government response have embroiled Iraq in a crisis since early October 2019. The protesters – largely though not exclusively from Iraq’s Shi’a communities in Baghdad and southern Iraq – are airing growing frustrations over the Iraqi government’s failure to enact reforms and deliver basic services, a lack of economic opportunities, and the Iranian regime’s deepening control over the Iraqi state.

The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) is assessing the ongoing unrest and its effects on political-security dynamics in Iraq. The Iraq Situation Report (SITREP) series summarizes key events and likely developments to come. This SITREP update covers the period November 1-4, 2019.


Key Takeaway: Protests continued to grow in Baghdad and southern Iraq after Iran intervened to block the resignation or ouster of Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mehdi in a no-confidence vote on October 30. Protests became increasingly anti-Iran in Karbala and Baghdad and spread to Diyala Province. Meanwhile, PM Mehdi refused the Iraqi parliament’s summons for questioning, likely recognizing that the measure has insufficient support in the parliament for the proceedings after Iran’s intervention.

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Friday, November 1, 2019

Iraq Situation Report: October 29 - 31, 2019


Street protests rooted in popular discontent and a harsh government response have embroiled Iraq in a crisis since early October 2019. The protesters – largely though not exclusively from Iraq’s Shi’a communities in Baghdad and southern Iraq – are airing growing frustrations over the Iraqi government’s failure to enact reforms and deliver basic services, a lack of economic opportunities, and the Iranian regime’s deepening control over the Iraqi state.

The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) is assessing the ongoing unrest and its effects on political-security dynamics in Iraq. The Iraq Situation Report (SITREP) series summarizes key events and likely developments to come. This SITREP update covers the period October 29 - 31, 2019. 


Key Takeaway: Iran intervened to prevent Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mehdi from resigning or being voted out. Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Quds Force Commander, Qassem Soleimani, instructed Iranian proxy leaders to support Mehdi during a meeting in Baghdad on October 30. Soleimani’s meeting followed a new effort by nationalist Iraqi Shi’a cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and Iranian proxy leader Hadi al-Ameri to dismiss Mehdi via a no-confidence vote in the Iraqi Parliament. Sadr is unlikely to reach the necessary threshold for dismissing Mehdi (165 votes) without Ameri.


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