Russia shifted the focus of its air campaign to Eastern Syria from January 14 – 25 in order to counter a major offensive by ISIS in Deir ez-Zour City. Nonetheless, the dramatic surge in strikes against ISIS in Syria represents an attempt by Russia to maintain its strategic interest in bolstering the claim of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to all of Syria rather than an opportunity to serve as a reliable counter-terrorism partner.
The recapture of Mosul can reset the balance of power between Iran and the U.S. in Iraq and the region.
Delegations from the regime and opposition held indirect negotiations on the Syrian Civil War at the Astana Talks brokered by Russia, Turkey, and Iran on January 23 - 24 but failed to reach an initial breakthrough on efforts to reinforce a faltering nationwide ceasefire. Meanwhile, Al-Qaeda continued to consolidate control over Idlib and Western Aleppo Provinces in preparation for the next phase of its campaign against the regime.
The Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) pushed ISIS out of eastern Mosul on January 24, but will need to continue efforts to expel ISIS from historic support zones in Diyala and Anbar.
The ISF stormed the last neighborhood in eastern Mosul on January 23, nearing the end of a nearly three month long battle to clear the eastern half of the city. The ISF is preparing to enter the smaller, but denser and heavily populated, western half within the coming days.
Russia and Turkey implemented a nationwide ‘cessation of hostilities’ agreement on December 29 in preparation for negotiations between the regime and opposition scheduled to be held in Astana, Kazakhstan on January 23. The deal will exclude all groups designated as “terror organizations” by the UN Security Council including ISIS and Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (JFS).
The Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) is rapidly consolidating control over eastern Mosul following a major push from January 10 to 18. The ISF has extended its control along the Tigris River and recaptured the University of Mosul, once ISIS’s major logistical hub in the city.
The U.S. is proceeding with an emergent strategy to retake ar-Raqqah City from ISIS. The composition of forces and the contours of future operations to clear ISIS from the city remain undecided, despite ongoing operations by the SDF to isolate the city. Both Turkey and the SDF continue to apply pressure on the U.S.-led coalition to exclude the other in any future capture and governance of ar-Raqqah City. The U.S. nonetheless moved forward with operations to isolate the city in early November to apply dual pressure to ISIS amidst an ongoing campaign to seize Mosul from ISIS in Iraq.
ISIS continued to demonstrate its ability to carry out spectacular attacks inside Baghdad from January 6 to 11, following weeks of increasing activity in the capital in response to its losses in Mosul.
The Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) reached the Tigris River on January 8 after recapturing several of the remaining neighborhoods in southeast Mosul. In the north, the ISF pushed into central Mosul from the north and east from January 4 to 9, nearing the University of Mosul.