Category: MENA

Battle for Raqqa: Daily Journal (LIVE)

T-Intelligence presents the daily journal for Raqqa. This space will contain (hopefully) daily entries regarding the developments in the battle for Raqqa, yet time gaps may very as this project…

T-Intelligence presents the daily journal for Raqqa. This space will contain (hopefully) daily entries regarding the developments in the battle for Raqqa, yet time gaps may very as this project depends not only on what happens in the field but also on what amount of data (quantity, quality, credibility) surfaces online.

Methodology and Objectives

From reasons of time efficiency, information privilege and empirical manners, this journal will not have a complete reference system. The methodology is based on OSINT (open-source intelligence) and crowdsourcing. Sources stretch from mainstream media, to local news posts in English or translated from Arabic or Turkish (Furat FM, Raqqa24, Rudaw, Rojava News etc.), individuals on social media (accounts of fighters, independent OSINT analysts), monitoring groups or primary sources (YPG Press Office, Amaq Agency, Inherent Resolve Coalition).  

While there are many other crowd sourced maps or pages, what this project also attempts is to provide a larger context and a comprehensive understanding of the situation and how it evolves  in an analytical intelligence-memo framework. Each day will contain a tactical briefing reflecting the situation on the ground as depicted through open-source channels, periodically a battle-map, and always will include the facts and figures of the Coalition’s air strikes.

Please consult this page regularly, especially in the evening to catch the daily updates.

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For Dust and Rubble: Iranian Ambitions at the Syrian-Iraqi Border

General Considerations (a) In the remote, deserted and extremely sparsely populated area of the Syrian Desert, notably around the tri-border area with Republic of Iraq and the Kingdom of Jordan,…

General Considerations

(a) In the remote, deserted and extremely sparsely populated area of the Syrian Desert, notably around the tri-border area with Republic of Iraq and the Kingdom of Jordan, the impact of the civil war has been relatively moderate with rare high-intensity waves generated by intertwined moments or actions from other battlefronts. The area was sharply captured by ISIS since late 2014 in order to secure the supply lines from the loyal Iraqi region of Anbar in order to fuel military operations in Homs and Rural Damascus.

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The Day Will Come When You Won’t: Radiography of ISIS’s Desperate Tactics in Mosul’s Operational Playground

Situation Report and Tactical Annexes  – The Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) have issued an updated battle war suggesting a finalized phase for the months-long battle.  The last western neighborhoods controlled by ISIS…

Situation Report and Tactical Annexes  – The Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) have issued an updated battle war suggesting a finalized phase for the months-long battle.  The last western neighborhoods controlled by ISIS are equated by Bagdad’s estimates at 10% of the city.

Operation “We Are Coming, Nineveh” (قادمون يا نينوى; Qadimun Ya Naynawais) is a joint ISF (Iraqi Security Forces)-KRG’s Pashmerga (Kurdistan Regional Government)  effort supported by the US-led International Coalition ‘Inherent Resolve’ against Da’esh/ ISIS/ ISIL/ IS. The current developments where proceeded by Operation ‘Fatah’ that consisted in a series of missions that took place in mid-2016 with the purpose of clearing the way to Nineveh province (north-western Iraq). The actual assault on the city came around October 2016,and only after key operational assets have been seized (as the Qayyarah/Q West Air Base) in the Nineveh region, as well as having secured a southern supply line towards Baghdad. Co-extensively from late 2015 to late 2016 the Kurdish factions attributed to the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Iraq, such as the Pashmerga have cut the main supply lines from Mosul to the self-declared capital of ISIS, Raqqa, through the border crossings, but namely via the Sinjar Mountain. Given these multilateral and key military achievements, which are expanded and explained in-depth in the video below this text, we have reached a crucial moment in the fight against ISIS.

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A Thin Line: Raqqa Offensive Endangered by Growing Turkish Attacks

The Turkish Armed Forces  have attacked the Kurdish militia YPG and the overall Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in northern Syria, between April 24 and 26. These attacks consisted in air strikes…

The Turkish Armed Forces  have attacked the Kurdish militia YPG and the overall Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in northern Syria, between April 24 and 26. These attacks consisted in air strikes and artillery fire and were conducted in response to the SDF’s offensive against Da’esh in Raqqa. Turkey fears the SDF’s increasing warfighting capabilities and territorial foothold. 


1. The YPG-led SDF supported by the United States’ Combined Joint Task Force Operation “Inherent Resolve” (CJTF-OIR) are close to isolating the Da’esh self-proclaimed capital, Raqqa, from all sides. The Raqqa offensive has been heavily contested by Turkey which sees Washington’s support for the SDF as a direct threat to its national security due to the YPG’s link with the PKK – a Kurdish Marxist terror group engaged against Turkey since 1984.  2. Turkey has thrown its own bid for a Raqqa offensive which involved the “Euphrates Shield” opposition groups with limited Turkish armored and special operations forces support. However, the United States has declined the offer and continued the partnership with the SDF.  3. Fearing SDF enhanced capabilities and growing territorial control on its borders, Turkey attacked seven YPG positions in Syria and several other PKK positions in Iraq. 


 

Universal Awareness Live Map – Syria screenshot with T-Intelligence notes pinpointing the Turkish attacks.

  1. Qerecox mountain, Hasakha. Turkish Air Force bombed an YPG command and control center, destroying a broadcast antenna and killing the press officer.   
  2. Rumeilan airbase. Turkish Air Force bombed YPG cargo, with U.S. forces in “danger close” proximity of the raid. 
  3. Ferferik, (Afrin) Aleppo. Turkish artillery shells hit YPG/ SDF positions. 
  4. Rajo district, (Afrin) Aleppo. Turkish artillery shells YPG positions.
  5. (Afrin) Aleppo. Turkey and YPG exchange mortar fire. 
  6. Tel Rifat, Aleppo. Turkey-backed O-ES forces and YPG exchange artillery fire.
  7. Dirbesiye, Hasakha. YPG fire at the Turkish tank deployment near the borderline.

4. The situation The Turkish General Staff justified its actions in a statement today, saying they were intended to prevent PKK members from funneling “terrorists, arms, ammunition and explosives to Turkey.” They have also hit targets in mount Sinjar, where the KRG’s Pashmerga is clashing with the PKK.


GEOLOCATION OF U.S. SOF INSPECTION 

5. At least two U.S. AH-64 Little Birds were filmed landing on Qerecox mount, Hasakha province to inspect the damage. Hundreds of Syrian Kurds rallied to protest the Turkish attacks and to plea the US to take measures against it.

 

Location of Turkish Air Force strike on YPG office near Qaratshuk (geolocation conduced by T-Intelligence based on openly available footage)


6. According to Al-Monitor, officials from the US-led Coalition familiar with the details of the strikes said Turkish officials had informed the United States of its plans before they were executed. Turkey had sought to coordinate the strikes with the Qatar-based Combined Air Operations Center (CAOC), which controls and commands the U.S. air campaigns in Syria and Iraq, among others, with Coalition partners. According to one of the officials, “CAOC turned them down.” Turkey went ahead with the strikes anyway.

7. The consequences of these Turkish raids could be devastating for the Raqqa Offensive. The YPG/SDF are now demoralized, and could shift their attention from the Battle of Tabqa, Raqqa operation, towards the Turkish attacks and the border cities, therefor lowering the pressure on Da’esh. Furthermore, this could affect the Kurdish-American cooperation, due to expected pressure from the YPG to the later, requesting to deter Turkey’s attacks.

8. The United States has limited leverage to stop Turkey’s attacks on YPG/SDF. Moreover, the U.S. air campaign against Da’esh is dependent on the strategic NATO Incirlik Airbase located on Turkish territory. While U.S. engineers have built tactical airfields in northeastern Syria to support the air campaign against Da’esh, none of them can substitute Incirlik in terms of size, logistics and security. The tactical airfields in Syria are mostly used by heavy lifters for supplying troops on the ground. 

9. The United States will maintain the fragile status quo between Turkey, its NATO ally, and the SDF, its counter-Da’esh partner at all costs. To appease Turkey, U.S. diplomatic efforts are vital to counter-balance the Department of Defense process of boosting arms transfers to the SDF given the impeding assault on Raqqa city. 


Bonus: Turkish air strike on PKK targets in northern Iraq

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Firm but Fair: Key questions of the limited US Tomahawk strikes against Assad in Syria

Yesterday, around 4:40 local time in Syria, the United States Navy has launched 59 Tomahawk strikes from the USS Ross and USS Porter, eastern Mediterranean, and hit the Shayrat Airfield….

Yesterday, around 4:40 local time in Syria, the United States Navy has launched 59 Tomahawk strikes from the USS Ross and USS Porter, eastern Mediterranean, and hit the Shayrat Airfield. This airfield was used by the Assad regime to launch the deadly chemical attack that killed up to 80 people, including women and children, and wounded hundred other.  The missile strike was a limited action with no further plans to extend or escalate the situation.

Red – Assad’s Regime / Green – Rebels / Dark Green – Turkey’s Euphrates Shield mission + Rebels / Yellow – (east of Euphrates) SDF and YPG (Afrin canton) / Dark – ISIS; S-300 and S-400 range of action slightly inconsistent (too small)

 

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Road to Raqqa: Are we there yet?

INTELLIGENCE ANALYSIS – The Euphrates corridor, as any waterway in the Middle East (and not only) has been a catalyst for urban settlement, agriculture industry and energy development. Crossing Syria…

INTELLIGENCE ANALYSIS – The Euphrates corridor, as any waterway in the Middle East (and not only) has been a catalyst for urban settlement, agriculture industry and energy development. Crossing Syria from its north-western corner in Aleppo governorate all the way down to Iraq’s Anbar region, the Euphrates River has been used by ISIS as a blood vein to spread as a tumor in a ravished body. Through its road to Iraq, the Euphrates also crosses the sparsely populated but oil-rich region of Deir-Ezzor; it’s importance being critical for trade, exploitation and transport optimization. Moreover, capitalizing on the strategic importance of the river and its surroundings, ISIS has made its self proclaimed-capital in Raqqa since 2014 – after it ousted the Free Syrian Army and Jabhat al-Nusra that initially liberated it in June 2013 from the Syrian Arab Army, following the escalation of the Revolution into the Civil War.

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American, Russian troops in Manbij: Preventing an all-out Turkish-Kurdish face-off?

URGENT BRIEF – The United States have deployed more forces near the northern Syrian city of Manbij, liberated in July 2016 from ISIS, by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF)-led by…

URGENT BRIEF – The United States have deployed more forces near the northern Syrian city of Manbij, liberated in July 2016 from ISIS, by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF)-led by the Kurdish militia, YPG. Territory already transferred to Russian-Syrian control in order to prevent a Turkish assault on it.

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Al-Bab Liberated: What’s next? (VIDEO)

VIDEO BRIEFING – The strategic city of Al-Bab has been liberated by the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) and the Free Syrian Army (FSA) local allies from the “islamic state” (ISIS)…

VIDEO BRIEFING – The strategic city of Al-Bab has been liberated by the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) and the Free Syrian Army (FSA) local allies from the “islamic state” (ISIS) occupation. The battle is in the context of Operation Euphrates Shield launched by Turkey in late-August 2016 in northern Syria, with the strategic purpose of clearing ISIS out of the border, preventing the Kurdish YPG and the SDF from uniting the cantons and to maintain a leverage against Bashar Assad’s regime. The operational objectives of the battle of al-Bab was the city itself. Taking into consideration Syria’s road infrastructure, al-Bab is a logistical crossroads between the Syrian Arab Army-held (SAA) Aleppo city (west), YPG/SDF-held Manbij (east), ISIS between the lakes corridor (south) and the Turkish border and the Syrian bordering city of Al-Rai (just 35 km north). It was imperative in order to seal the deal of a buffer zone in northern Aleppo governorate. The battle for al-Bab began in November 2016 and ended in February 7th 2017 – lasting 104 days.

Check out the video briefing for maps and battlefield footage + voice commentary of the battle. Moreover, it remains the question of where to next? The Kurdish-held Manbij? Or ISIS self-proclaimed “capital” of Raqqa?

Battle of al-Bab: a story through maps

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Objective Raqqa: Actors, Strategies and Black Swans

SITUATION REPORT – The following assessment outlines the Turkish proposals for a Raqqa offensive, made by Akar, the Turkish Joint Chief of Staff to Dunford, the American counter-part. This SitRep…

SITUATION REPORT – The following assessment outlines the Turkish proposals for a Raqqa offensive, made by Akar, the Turkish Joint Chief of Staff to Dunford, the American counter-part. This SitRep contextualizes the situation in Raqqa Governorate and also clarifies the already ongoing “Wrath of the Euphrates” Operation spearheaded by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and the Kurdish militia, YPG. In addition, this assessment preemptively estimates potential “black swan”-type of scenarios that could occur from the Syrian, Israeli or Kurdish camp.

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Life after the Turkish Liberation in Syria: State-Building, Safe-Zone or Annexation?

ANALYSIS – This assessment presents the situation in the areas liberated by the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) and its local allies (Free Syrian Army, Syrian Turkmen Brigades, Ahrar ash-Sham) as…

ANALYSIS – This assessment presents the situation in the areas liberated by the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) and its local allies (Free Syrian Army, Syrian Turkmen Brigades, Ahrar ash-Sham) as affected by the post-conflict Turkish-led reconstruction. The multi-ethnic character of the Aleppo Governorate, comprising of Arabs, Kurds, Turkmens, Assyrians, Circassians and Christians, is a magnet for land claims and geopolitical ambitions, energized by the dramatic changes in the Syrian Republic – ravaged by a perpetual multilateral civil war. You probably know this region for the infamous battle of Aleppo, the largest city of the province and the stronghold of the Rebellion; this region is far more than that. Let us not forget that this is the boiling point for Syria’s Kurdish self-determination and for reactive Turkish endeavors, it caused. The purpose of this analysis is to swiftly summarize the context of military intervention launched by the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) since late 2016, and overview how the Turkish administration there affected the lives of the local population and the overall dynamic: Did it improve? Did it worsen? In order to determine such a conclusion, this analysis also contains a case study of Jarabulus (Cerabulus in Turkish) – the first city liberated by Operation Euphrates Shield and under the longest Turkish-led administration.


In addition, this assessment, purposely provocative, draws prospective conclusions in regards to the future of the captured buffer zone, outlined in several hypothesizes: i. State Building ii. Safe-Zone (limited) or iii. Annexation (directly/ indirectly).

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