Last week, a second major rebel counterattack cut the road between Suqaylabiyah and Muhradah, two strongholds of paramilitaries supportive of President Bashar al-Assad. Rebels’ ability to take the initiative six weeks into the campaign dashed loyalist hopes of a swift victory.
- Russia will escalate punitive airstrikes, but this will not dramatically alter the military balance.
- Turkey will try leveraging logistical support to obtain further pragmatic moves by HTS, including reconciliation with other factions.
- A respectable outcome would provide HTS with legitimacy to curtail further the activities of more hardline factions.
- Another Russian-Turkish agreement would reinforce the Moscow-Tehran rivalry.