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The further the world comes into 2021, the more it begins to resemble 2014, at least in Syria, mixed in with a bit of 2015. ISIS is returning, the US is bracing to “fight it”. The “moderate opposition” is living its renaissance fighting against the Syrian Government and its Russian support.
The 2015 bit is the fact that Russia is present, and its activity has greatly increased in the first weeks of February.
In the ten days leading up to February 14th, Russia reportedly carried out more than 700 airstrikes on ISIS cells in Central Syria. This is an impressive number, but the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights claimed that as a result only 33 ISIS terrorists had been killed. According to the same report, the Syrian Arab Army had more significant losses – 56, but it is being targeted by almost every “moderate” and “radical” party on the battlefield.
The attempts to rebrand Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham as a “reformed group” that’s no longer affiliated with al-Qaeda also continues. The US has chosen its future ally.
In a clear disagreement, on February 13th, Russia targeted a secret HTS headquarters in Idlib and completely devastated it. It also continues to attempt and enforce the ceasefire agreement in Idlib, tracking every violation and punishing it. The agreement is largely ineffective due to Turkey’s non-implementation.
Moscow is not only on the giving end, but also on the receiving one.
On February 14th, an Orlan-10 drone was reportedly downed by militants over Greater Idlib. In Manbij, near the Turkish-occupied region of Afrin, the Turkish-backed “moderate opposition” opened fire on Russia’s military police. Russia was forced to deploy more troops and equipment to the region.
On February 13th, the Russian military sent a new batch of equipment and vehicles to its base at the Qamishli Airport.
In the area of speculation, Russian opposition media reported that Russia was extending the runway at the Hmeimim Air Base, to be able to host strategic long-range aircraft. It is a potential preparation for future chaos. Or an attempt to show parity with the United States’ continued flights of B-52 bombers over the Middle East in recent months.
The United States is not keeping still, while Russia is operating. In a rare event, it eliminated an ISIS commander in a drone strike. It also vacated one of its many positions in northeastern Syria.
This is only significant in the view that it likely will reposition, and support some of its new allies. The biggest players have began their movements in expectation of the coming storm.