Iraq and Syria. Tribal insurgent attacks against the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) quintupled in the past week compared to previous weeks, a trend that will almost certainly cause the SDF to lose control over some of the population in southern Deir ez Zor province. The tribal insurgency’s increasing violence means the SDF will likely become less capable of supporting the primary US objective of countering ISIS.
Middle East Security
July 2015: The United States currently faces multiple national security threats in an environment of growing disorder. ISIS is executing a sophisticated global strategy that involves simultaneous efforts in Iraq and Syria, the Middle East and North Africa, and the wider world.
Russia has been "reflexive control" in Ukraine since early 2014 that causes a stronger adversary voluntarily to choose the actions most advantageous to Russian objectives by shaping the adversary’s perceptions of the situation decisively.
March 2016: International negotiations to reach a political settlement in Syria resumed following two weeks of a “cessation of hostilities” in which the Russian air campaign in Syria decreased notably, though it did not entirely cease.
Pro-regime forces seized Palmyra as well as the adjacent Palmyra Airbase in Eastern Homs Province on March 27 after ISIS withdrew from the city, completing an operation that began on March 7 with the aim of recapturing the strategic crossroads.
The Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) is not the only Salafi-Jihadist threat emanating from Syria. JN rivals ISIS as a sophisticated, intelligent, strategic actor in the region.
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The Institute for the Study of War launched its Middle East Security Project in November 2011. The project seeks: to study the national security challenges and opportunities emerging from the Persian Gulf and wider Arab World; to identify ways the United States and Gulf States can check Iran’s growing influence and contain the threat posed by its nuclear ambitions; to explain the shifting balance of power within the Middle East caused by recent upheaval, and assess the responses of the United States and Arab States to address these changes as they emerge.
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The United States’ adversaries in Syria are prioritizing confronting the United States over ISIS, which will give the group space to grow its capabilities, rest, and refit. Iran, Russia, and Syria have deployed forces along the line of control separating parts of Syria held by the regime and US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). Russian forces are also harassing US aircraft, which draws limited Russian assets away from counter-ISIS operations. CTP has identified four possible scenarios that will affect ISIS's ability to reconstitute itself in Syria: Iran, Russia and Syria reprioritize ISIS; Russia and Iran continue coordinated coercive pressure aimed at forcing a US withdrawal from Syria; Iran chooses to target US forces or the SDF using explosively formed penetrators (EFP); and Iranian- and regime-backed forces attack SDF territory.
Middle East Security Maps
ISW in the News
ISW's Research Director, Jessica D. Lewis, talks about ISIS and Iraq on MSNBC's 'The Cycle," stating that ISIS has a "post-war vision to make this Caliphate a reality."