Syrian rebels take most of Al Rai

On 7 April 2016 Syrian rebels, supported by Turkey, took from Daesh most of the town of Al Rai, near the Turkish border. The Turkish-backed rebels now control the stretch of the Syrian-Turkish border from their Azaz enclave to Al Rai.

The rebels’ advance will hinder the Kurds’ plans to take over this Daesh-controlled area themselves in order to unite their own enclaves – a plan vehemently resisted by Turkey.

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Assad’s forces and Kurds take over rebels’ territories in northern Aleppo province

On 15 February 2016 the rebels suffered another series of territorial losses at the hands of government forces and Syrian Kurds.

The Kurds took Tall Rifat – one of the three towns that had been remaining in the rebels’ hands in their northern enclave. They also took the village of Ayn Deqna.

The Assad’s forces took villages of Kafr Naseh and Ahras.

The northern enclave of the rebels is cut from the rest of the rebels’ territory and faces destruction. Turkey, however, has stated it will not allow the fall of the enclave’s most significant town of Azaz into the Kurdish hands.

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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.

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.

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.

Libya’s rival governments reach initial deal

On 6 December 2015 the two rival government’s in the Libyan civil war achieved initial deal to create single government and unify the country.

It remains to be seen whether the deal will be actually implemented. If it is, Libya will also have to eradicate the Daesh [ISIS] colony which has been established in parts of northern Libya, including city of Sirte.

The two sides of Libyan civil war are supported by various Middle Eastern geopolitical players. Internationally recognized government in eastern Libya is supported by the Arab coalition including Egypt, UAE and Saudi Arabia. The rival government that took control over western Libya as a result of the coup is supported by Turkey. It seems that deal between these two Libyan sides has become possible as a result of the Turkish-Arab alignment in the face of Iranian opposition, especially in Syria.

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Syrian rebels advance against ISIS in the border region

Western-backed Syrian rebels gained ground against ISIS on 21 November 2015. The advance occurred along the Turkish-Syrian border. The territory regained by the rebels includes villages Delha and Harjalah.

The area where the rebels have advanced is located in the region designated by U.S. and Turkey for their announced operation aimed at removing ISIS from the portion of the border which it still controls.

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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: 

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U.S. and Turkey announce the operation to establish control over border region

On 17 November 2015 U.S. and Turkey formally launched an operation to take back a portion of Turkish-Syrian border from Islamic State. The operation is supposed to involve air campaign, with American and Turkish-backed rebel units capturing territory from ISIS on the ground. The territory in question stretches from Azaz to Jarabulus, possibly stretching southward towards Manbij and Al Bab.

If successful, this operation could fully cut ISIS from the border with Turkey.

The special Turkish interest is prevention of the takeover of this territory by Syrian Kurds, which would place almost all of Syrian-Turkish border under Kurdish control (except small portion near Mediterranean) and unite all Kurdish enclaves in Syria into a single territorial entity. This scenario is unacceptable to Turkey. The latter made that clear after Syrian Kurds took over another area on the Turkish-Syrian border in June 2015.

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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/