Turkey and Saudi Arabia deepen strategic partnership

Turkey and Saudi Arabia officially revealed plans to establish strategic cooperation council between the two powers on 29 December 2015.

The plans represent continuing realignment between Turkey and the Arab coalition against the background of the ongoing geopolitical struggle in the Middle East. These two forces had not been allies by default. Nor will they probably be in the future. They have already fought a proxy war against each other in Libya. At this point, however, the need to stop Iranian challenge represents the priority for both Turkey and the Arab coalition, including its leader Saudi Arabia. Hence deepening strategic cooperation.

Assad forces retake Mahin… again

On 29 December 2015 Syrian government forces retook the town of Mahin from Daesh. This is the fourth time the town is changing hands.

Daesh first took it from the Assad forces on 31 October 2015.  Assad forces retook it on 23 November, but then lost it to Daesh again on 10 December.

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Regularly updated interactive map of war in Syria & Iraq. Press View Larger Map for better view:

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The permanent page of this interactive map is here: 

https://stratreview.wordpress.com/syria-iraq-war-map/

Iraq retakes Ramadi from Daesh [ISIS]

By 27 December 2015 Iraqi army has retaken most of Ramadi, including its central parts and governmental buildings. Daesh has lost the city, and now Iraqi army only has to clear remaining pockets of resistance which are not relevant in strategic terms and cannot survive for a long time.

Daesh captured Ramadi on 17 May 2015. The necessity to retake it has slowed Iraqi advance, the ultimate goal of which is to retake Mosul. The Baghdad government will pursue this objective in 2016.

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Regularly updated interactive map of war in Syria & Iraq. Press View Larger Map for better view:

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The permanent page of this interactive map is here: 

https://stratreview.wordpress.com/syria-iraq-war-map/

Syrian Democratic Forces liberate Tishrin dam from Daesh [ISIS]

On 26 December 2015 Syrian Democratic Forces – an alliance of Syrian Kurds and a number of Arab rebel groups supported by the U.S. – captured Tishrin dam from Daesh.

SDF had launched their southward offensive from the area of town Sarrin days ago. With the capture of Tishrin dam their first objective has been accomplished.

The development is quite significant. Tishrin dam is also strategic bridge between eastern and western banks of Euphrates. While Daesh still can move to their territory on the western bank through other bridges closer to Ar Raqqah, loss of Tishrin dam will hamper their communication with the front lines in Alleppo Province.

Another significant factor is the fact that capture of Tishrin dam brings mortal enemies of Daesh closer to their capital of Ar Raqqah, yet Daesh has not been able to stop their advance so far. This could imply increasing vulnerability of Daesh as a geopolitical and military entity.

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Regularly updated interactive map of war in Syria & Iraq. Press View Larger Map for better view:

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The permanent page of this interactive map is here: 

https://stratreview.wordpress.com/syria-iraq-war-map/

Taliban takes Sangin and Gulistan

Town of Sangin finally fell to the Taliban on 23 December 2015. Complete capture of the town had been preceded by days of heavy fighting in the streets after Sangin was surrounded by the Talibs.

Sangin is located 65 kilometers from Lashkar Gah – the capital of Helmand province. Several other districts of Helmand are already in the hands of the Taliban, including Ghorak, Musa Qala and Nauzad.

Reportedly, Taliban forces have also taken Gulistan District, north-west from Helmand Province.

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Regularly updated interactive map of war in Afghanistan. Press View Larger Map for better view [the map is still being developed and will be fully completed soon] : 

Assad forces gain new territory south of Aleppo

Syrian government forces continue gaining ground south of Aleppo. On 20 December 2015 they took over area about 5-7 kilometers south-west from Aleppo city from the rebels. The area includes towns of Qarasi and Khan Tuman.

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Regularly updated interactive map of war in Syria & Iraq. Press View Larger Map for better view:

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The permanent page of this interactive map is here: 

https://stratreview.wordpress.com/syria-iraq-war-map/

Turkey and Israel move towards normalizing ties

The two powers have reached preliminary agreement on the subject on 18 December 2015.

Several years ago Turkey chose to oppose Israel in order to gain legitimacy in the Muslim world to be better positioned to spread its influence there – the same reason why Iran is opposing Israel since the Islamic Revolution in 1979.

Now, however, Turkey finds itself embroiled in the fierce confrontation in Syria against Iran and Russia. As a result, Turkey improved its relations with Saudi Arabia and its Arab allies, who also find themselves engaged in geopolitical struggle against Iran. Normalization of relations with Israel (at least, for the time being) is the next logical step for Turkey.

Yemen: troops from Saudi Arabia take 2 towns

Two towns in Yemen were taken by the Sunni coalition troops from the Houthis in 17-18 December 2015. In both cases troops crossed the Yemeni border directly from Saudi Arabia.

On 17 December Sunni coalition troops took Harad in the north-west of Yemen, 30 kilometers from the sea coast. On 18 December they took Al Hazm in the north-east of the Houthi-controlled territory.

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Regularly updated interactive map of war in Yemen. Press View Larger Map for better view:

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The permanent page of this interactive map is here: 

https://stratreview.wordpress.com/yemen-war-map/

Turkey to establish military base in Qatar

In December 2015 plans to establish Turkish military base in Qatar have been officially declared. The project is impressive with 3000 Turkish ground troops, as well as air and naval forces, to be stationed in Qatar.

Turkey and Qatar are allies and constitute one of the “camps” of powers involved in the complex and furious geopolitical struggle unfolding in the Middle East. Both powers support the Muslim Brotherhood movement that exists in most of Muslim countries. Creation of a large Turkish base in the Persian Gulf is an important move in this geopolitical game. It also underscores Turkey’s large-scale geostrategic ambitions and its will to re-establish itself as a great power – something it had not been since late 18th century.

Other “camps” involved in the struggle for influence and control in he Middle East, besides the Turkey-Qatar-Muslim Brotherhood coalition, are:

The Western powers led by U.S., with other major contributors being Britain and France;

Iran, with its satellites in Baghdad, Damascus, Beirut and Sana, as well as its proxy Shia organizations all over the Middle East and beyond. This camp gets support from Russia which aims at complicating matters for the West.

The Sunni Arab coalition led by Saudi Arabia, with its most active partner being UAE;

The jihadist movement aiming to create the global caliphate, now most vividly represented by Daesh [ISIS]

Kurds have their own national project, despite their internal differences, and are not permanent members of any of these “camps”. Meanwhile, Israel, besides its alliance with U.S., is getting closer to the Sunni Arab coalition.

Assad forces take Marj al-Sultan near Damascus

Syrian government forces took Marj al-Sultan, with its airbase, from the rebels on 14 December 2015. The town and its airbase, located east of Damascus, had been captured by the rebels back in 2012.

Warfare in Damascus and its outskirts is largely positional, with rare changes in territorial control. Capture of Marj al-Sultan represents one such change.

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Regularly updated interactive map of war in Syria & Iraq. Press View Larger Map for better view:

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The permanent page of this interactive map is here: 

https://stratreview.wordpress.com/syria-iraq-war-map/