U.S.-backed, Kurdish-led forces clashed with fighters from the self-proclaimed Islamic State in the suburbs of Raqqa (AP) on Monday. It comes a day after the Arab-Kurdish coalition, known as the Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF, announced the beginning of an operation backed by U.S. air strikes to retake the militant group’s de facto capital. An SDF spokesman said that their forces captured several villages (WSJ) north of the city on Sunday. The operation coincides with a U.S.-backed operation across the border in Iraq to push the Islamic State out of the city of Mosul (WaPo). An SDF spokesman called on international parties (ARA News) to provide logistical and political support for the operation and humanitarian aid to civilians in the city.
"The operation, called Euphrates Rage, adds yet another potentially combustible wrinkle to the five-year-old Syrian conflict. Already, Kurdish efforts to exploit the chaos and build an autonomous region in northern Syria have aggravated the country’s sectarian politics—with some U.S.-allied Syrian rebels opposed to the Kurdish moves—and inflamed regional tensions. Turkey, in particular, views with great suspicion the leadership role of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, or the YPG, in the Syrian Democratic Forces. Over the summer, Turkish forces intervened in northern Syria, targeting Islamic State militants but also acting as a curb to Kurdish territorial ambitions in the country," Hugh Naylor writes for the Washington Post.
"A U.S.-backed assault on Raqqa, Islamic State's de facto capital in Syria, is unlikely to pierce the city itself before President Barack Obama leaves office in January, denying him the chance to claim the end of the group's 'caliphate' as part of his legacy. Although a U.S.-backed alliance of Syrian armed groups announced the kickoff of the offensive on Sunday, U.S. officials caution the fighters will first try to seal off and isolate the Islamic State stronghold, a process that could take two months or longer," Jonathan Landay and Phil Stewart write for Reuters.
“Where Turks see potential support in their former territories and a revival of the glorious imperial past, Kurds and others in northern Syria embrace a decidedly negative view of the Ottoman period. The tendency of Turkish opinion-makers to underestimate or misconstrue local perceptions of the [Turkish] invasion [of northern Syria] may thus have dangerous consequences, increasing the likelihood of overreach and the perpetuation of violence and instability for the region as whole,” writes Ryan Gingeras in Foreign Affairs.
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