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A Possible Game Changer Ahead in the Syrian Revolution

The rebels in the Turkish Euphrates Shield Operation have completely captured the last stronghold of ISIS on the 24th of February 2017, after a string of losses for ISIS in the Northern Aleppo Governorate, most notably are Dabiq and Manbij. Especially Dabiq was of strategic importance as ISIS used the Islamic relevance of this town for years in their recruiting propaganda. The town has been used to legitimize their project, their English glossy was even named after the town. The propaganda machine of ISIS was therefore severely damaged when they lost the town within less than a day to the Turkish backed rebels without much of a fight. The loss of Dabiq made ISIS change the name of their English glossy, and their exclusive interpretations of the prophetically predicted conflict in Dabiq all together.

ISIS has been on a losing streak the last two years as they lost swathes of territory in both Iraq and Syria. They have lost many positions in Iraq, among them are Falujah, Tikrit, Ramadi, Diyala, Beji, Haditha, Sinjar, Kirkuk, Salahudinne, and they have already lost more than half of Mosul; their last remaining stronghold in Iraq. The list of cities, villages and towns goes on in Syria as they lost large swathes of territory the past two years against especially the US supported Kurdish separatists, and the Syrian rebels in Aleppo more recently under the Euphrates Shield Operation. The city of Raqqah is their last remaining stronghold in Syria.

Many of the positions they have lost in Syria were first liberated by the opposition rebels and factions at the outset of the Syrian revolution, before they were pushed out by ISIS who in turned lost many of these positions to the Kurdish separatists and the regime. This same scenario seemed to repeat itself in the Southwest of Daraa recently as the ISIS affiliate of Jaysh Khalid Ibn Waleed attacked rebel held positions, who were distracted by the ongoing campaign they have launched against the regime in the Manshiyah district in Daraa city.

After the loss of Al-Baab however we have seen a new and unique development in the Syrian revolution. Several towns and villages fell right after the fall of Al-Baab, positions like Qabaseen and Bazza’ah for example, this made ISIS retreat from more than 30 villages south of Al-Baab. The Assad regime grabbed this opportunity as they captured the ISIS held villages in rural Eastern Aleppo all the way to Kurdish held territory in Manbij. This push has completely cut of the Euphrates Shield Operation from any further advancements against ISIS. The rebels in the Northern Aleppo Governorate are now isolated between the Kurdish separatists from the West and the East and the regime from the South. This has already forced the rebels in minor clashes with the regime in Taduf south of Al-Baab. Any future developments of this scenario could have major implications for the Syrian revolution.

The Euphrates Shield has to choose between attacking the regime in the South to continue their march against ISIS, and this will put Turkey in a tough position with Russia, or they will have to push towards the East against the Kurdish separatists in Manbij to eventually continue their march against ISIS, and this will put Turkey in a tough position with the US. If they will choose to halt the campaign all together, then this will put Turkey in a tough position with the rebels and Syrians who are counting on their support. The regime or the Kurdish separatists could also agree in pulling back so as to make way for the Euphrates Shield, but this will also damage the credibility of the already weakened image of Turkey amongst many Syrians.

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