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The battles around the Syrian town of Raqqa still haven’t ended. The various forces taking part – particularly the Kurds, who have borne the brunt of the ground war – report each day on the new bits of territory they have liberated from the Islamic State. Prominently featured was the recent capture of Syria’s largest oil field, Al-Omar, which used to produce 9,000 barrels a day.
The Kurds, with massive assistance from the U.S. Air Force, have now regained control of 80 percent of Syria’s oil fields and of 15 percent of Syria’s population, now living in about one-quarter of the country’s territory. These figures are impressive not just as testimony to the Kurds’ military prowess – and the weakness of Islamic State, or ISIS – but also because the Syrian Kurds have become a significant political player as well as a military one in the war.
The capture of ISIS’ unofficial capital of Raqqa, much like the liberation of Mosul in Iraq, raises questions about earlier intelligence assessments of the jihadist militant organization’s capabilities, and especially, about whether these same results couldn’t have been achieved two years ago. But it’s premature to draw conclusions about the war’s conduct to date.
More important is the fact that there seems to be no real strategy that will determine where the war goes from here, and what the political arrangements in Syria will look like after the conclusion of the “war on terror.” The latter has become the principal reason for American involvement in Syria and Iraq, as well as an area of cooperation between Russia and America, and between both powers and Iran, Turkey, Syria and Jordan.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, left, shows the way to his Syrian counterpart Walid Moualem during their meeting in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Russia in mid-October. Maxim Shemetov/ via AP