Kurdish fighters in northern Syria say they have captured a key town from Islamic State, just 50km (30 miles) from the group’s headquarters at Raqqa.
A spokesman for the the Popular Protection Units (YPG) said Ain Issa and its surrounding villages were now under the militia’s “total control”.
The YPG captured the town of Tal Abyad on the Turkish border last week, cutting a major supply line for IS.
Via Michael Totten. Let’s go take a look at a map. Yellow is Syrian Kurds, slightly darker yellow is Iraqi Kurds, grey is Islamic State (IS), every other color is irrelevant for purposes of this conversation.
Erbil is the capital of the Kurdish Autonomous Zone. Kirkuk is the formerly-Kurdish city that the Kurds are quote-unquote ‘temporarily’ in charge of while the current situation is going on. Mosul is the formerly-Kurdish city that IS controls, and that the Kurds would quite like to ‘temporarily’ liberate. And Raqqa, of course, is the Syrian city that is the HQ for Islamic State. As you can see from the map, as usual in the region it’s all about who controls the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers: Raqqa is along the latter, and losing it would be a genuinely big deal for Islamic State. It’s not what territory you control in that region; it’s what useful territory you control that’s worthwhile. IS is concentrated along the rivers for a reason, in other words.
And the truth of the matter is, if IS gets pushed downstream in the west, Mosul starts looking a good deal more vulnerable in the east. And if the Kurds in Syria control more territory, and the Kurds in Iraq start pushing out to their traditional territories, all of a sudden you have something in the Middle East that looks just like an organic nation-state. Presumably one that ends up being a client of Turkey’s, but that’s another post.
…Mind you, I don’t speak any of the languages, don’t know the customs and the cultures very well, have never visited the region, have never taken even a formal course in military strategy, and very possibly have no idea what in God’s name I’m talking about. And, frankly: I’d like to have an independent Kurdistan show up there, at this point. So take all of this with as much salt as you like.