It is as if the Syrian Arab Army were involved in a giant game of whack-a-mole. Each time it carries out a successful operation on one of its numerous battlefields, it gets punished elsewhere.
On March 16th, a convoy of the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) elite 4th Division was ambushed in the countryside of Daraa. Despite heavy fire from the SAA, the gunmen were able to escape after killing 22 service members and injuring at least five others.
The situation in Daraa is quite complicated. In February, the SAA was preparing to launch a large-scale operation to arrest a group of wanted militants in western Daraa. However former rebel leaders expelled the group from the area and accepted a new reconciliation agreement. The operation was thus avoided, but there has been no cessation of hostilities.
The time may have come for another operation in Daraa, keeping in mind the recent progress in actions in the northeast against Turkish proxies, who had been smuggling oil.
Sure enough, Russian Military Police also completed their deployment to the vicinity of the ancient city of Busra in the southern Syrian governorate. Wherever a Syrian operation is about to happen, Russian support is always nearby.
Meanwhile, the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) resumed oil and wheat shipments to areas held by the Damascus government. This is an expected result of continuous pressure from Damascus and its Russian support. The Russians even regained control of an oil field and a gas field in nearby Raqqah.
This, of course, comes in addition to the heavy punishment meted out by the SAA to the Turkish proxies in the northeast, who have been exploiting the situation and trafficking resources for Ankara.
More than likely the SDF took the decision to resume shipments 35 days after halting them after considering the developments of the last several days and weeks.
In central Syria, a testament to the progress made in pushing back ISIS is likely the 140 km long trench being dug by the Iraqi Armed Forces. Being pounded by both the SAA and the Russian Armed Forces, ISIS cells are attempting to move into Iraq and carry out their activities there. The Iraqi Army is attempting to pincer them and to both stop their movement in that direction and entrap the terrorists.
The SAA is making progress on many fronts throughout Syria, and large-scale operations are expected in the northeast. Time will tell which issue is more pressing – the Turkish proxies in the northeast, the terrorists in the central region, the “moderate opposition” in Greater Idlib or the insurgency in Daraa.