1. On February 7, the Americans destroyed a Syrian column moving in the direction of the Coneco oil fields with artillery, wiping up the rest with helicopters. There were at least 100 deaths in the SAA, versus one lightly injured SDF soldier. Although this could be viewed as a Syrian provocation, the fact remains that it was the Americans who fired first, aiming for – and achieving – total liquidation. What’s worse, at least a few of the deaths were incurred by members of Wagner, a Russian PMC staffed mainly by Donbass vets and overly “passionary” Russians (though rumors speak of a much larger catastrophe, with “Cargo 200″ running into the hundreds; I am skeptical about these claims, for the same reason that I am skeptical of Kremlin propaganda claims about RuAF destroying hundreds of jihadists in a day’s work, but a few dozen Russian casualties are credible). “They weren’t there,” Mattis as good as smirked, trolling the kremlins with their own propaganda.
2. Turkey and TFSA continue making incremental progress into Afrin, incurring casualties larger than they likely expected, but nothing they can’t handle. Enjoys an informal, if not overt, “understanding” with the US (rumors that the US is providing AWACS support). And designs on the region may well be permanent. Erdogan: “55 percent of Afrin is Arab, 35 percent are the Kurds who were later relocated, and about seven percent are Turkmen. We aim to give Afrin back to its rightful owners.” So, ethnic cleansing by any other name. Loosen social tensions, too, by enabling Turkey to rid itself of its Arab refugees. Erdogan also openly says he will move on Manbij after that. The Turks have also established observation outposts within the current borders of the area controlled by the Idlib rebels, well to the east of the M5 motorway that was supposed to delineate Russian/Turkish zones of influence as per the Astana accords.
3. Not exactly a secret that Israel supports the southern rebels, including medical care in Israeli hospitals, and artillery and air support that have forestalled any Syrian attempts to clean out this area. Launched large-scale airstrikes in response to a single Iranian drone that drifted into Israeli airspace.
So, no, Assad/Russia/Iran are NOT moving towards any sort of “victory” in Syria.
Islamic State might have been beaten, but there is a difference between Toyota-riding bearded yahoos and serious military Powers like the US, Turkey, and Israel. The latter cannot be dislodged, and they have now effectively partitioned Syria.
By the end of the year, if the military configuration looks something like on this map, they will hold Syria’s fate in their hands.
The Americans will find it trivial to cut off Iranian reinforcements. Aleppo is highly vulnerable, surrounded on almost all sides. And the Russian air presence in Khmeimim remains absolutely overawed by the resources at CENTCOM’s disposal.
Hopefully Syria doesn’t launch any more large-scale chemical weapons attacks, false flag or otherwise (admittedly, controlling for false flags is hard). Because while the kremlins might be forced to swallow the deaths of a few dozens “They’re Not There” mercenaries, explaining away RuAF hunkering down in Khmeimim as Turkish/Israeli/US-backed jihadists overrun Syria – or worse, getting themselves wiped off the face of the earth in a futile attempt to fight back – will be orders of magnitude harder.