FREE NEWSLETTER: Econintersect sends a nightly newsletter highlighting news events of the day, and providing a summary of new articles posted on the website. Econintersect will not sell or pass your email address to others per our privacy policy. You can cancel this subscription at any time by selecting the unsubscribing link in the footer of each email.

posted on 30 May 2016

Retaking Raqqa From The Islamic State


The battle for Raqqa, the Islamic State's self-declared capital in Syria, has begun. The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) are advancing toward the city, engaging the jihadist group in the villages of al-Hisha, Tal Samen and Mutamshirij along the way. Because of Raqqa's strategic importance, the Islamic State will do everything in its power to keep the city within its grasp. Driving the militants from their stronghold will not be easy or cheap, but if the SDF is successful, it will greatly accelerate the Islamic State's defeat in Syria.


For months, the SDF, backed by the United States, has been positioned on the front lines roughly 40 kilometers (25 miles) north of Raqqa. Videos have emerged showing large convoys, including tank transporters carrying armored vehicles, moving throughout the area as the group prepared to retake the city from the Islamic State fighters who captured it in 2013. Over the past week, the United States began dropping leaflets on Raqqa urging its citizens to leave, proclaiming, "The time you have awaited has arrived. It's time to leave Raqqa." Then on May 21-22, U.S. Gen. Joseph Votel - the top U.S. Central Command general and the highest-ranking U.S. official to travel to Syria during the conflict - visited SDF fighters in the country's north. As the signs of impending battle mounted, the Islamic State began making preparations of its own, ramping up its defenses throughout Raqqa. And on May 24, the SDF made its move, announcing the start of its long-awaited advance.

But just how close the group is able to get to the heart of the city will be determined by one thing: itsethnic composition. Raqqa is a city with an Arab majority. Because the SDF and its backers want to not only retake the city but also to hold and govern it, they will need a sizable Arab force if they hope to achieve their objectives with local support. However, the SDF is currently dominated by the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), which have been effective against the Islamic State in territory they are familiar with in the north and northeast but are less inclined to spearhead operations farther south toward Raqqa. Moreover, the deeper the Kurds push into overwhelmingly Arab territory, the more they risk cementing local populations' suspicions of the rebels and support for the Islamic State.

Still, Arab fighters have been joining the SDF's ranks in droves. In fact, training these Syrian Arab Coalition fighters is one of the core purposes of the 250 U.S. special operations forces deployed to Syria in April, and Votel was likely checking up on their progress during his visit to the country. (The general subsequently traveled to Turkey to reassure Turkish officials of U.S. support for the SDF.)

Once the Syrian Arab Coalition grows to the ideal size and strength, and final preparations are complete, the SDF will shift its offensive to a direct attack on Raqqa. Because the Islamic State will not give up the city without a fight, the ensuing battle will likely be expensive and lengthy, easily lasting weeks if not months.

Stretching Islamic State Resources

The first and simplest phase of the operation will be the SDF's advance from its current position on the front line south of Ayn Issa toward the outskirts of Raqqa. This part of the offensive has already begun, and on May 24, the group captured the town of Fatisa, around 35 kilometers (22 miles) from Raqqa.

Once the SDF closes the distance between itself and the Islamic State's dug-in posts in and around Raqqa, the pace of the battle will slow considerably. In what will become a grinding and methodical advance, the SDF will have to contend with improvised explosive devices, mines, booby traps, suicide bombers, local counterattacks and indirect fire from mortars and artillery in the city. It will also have to rely on U.S. air support to take out the Islamic State's strongest positions, and despite efforts to minimize civilian casualties, the Islamic State's tendency to use human shields will probably lead to a high death toll. The effort to seize Raqqa, much like Iraq's endeavor to retake Ramadi, will come at a terrible cost, all but guaranteeing the city's destruction.

For the Islamic State, the loss of Raqqa would be a devastating blow. The city not only has symbolic value as the capital of the group's so-called caliphate, but it is also an important hub for transporting people and supplies. Raqqa sits on the Euphrates River and is the key to controlling several critical highways in Syria. Without it, the Islamic State would have a much harder time moving fighters and goods from Aleppo province to eastern Syria and beyond. Instead it would be forced to rely on the Resafa-Ash Shola road, which is increasingly threatened by the Syrian government's advances toward Deir el-Zour.

Given the city's significance to Islamic State operations in Syria, the group can be expected to funnel substantial resources and reinforcements toward its defense. In addition to sending more fighters to Raqqa, the Islamic State will likely launch counterattacks along the SDF's other front lines, including al-Hasaka, in an effort to distract its foe. However, the Islamic State will be at a disadvantage: While the SDF is focusing most of its attention on attacking the jihadist group, the Islamic State has to contend with the Syrian rebels, Syrian government troops, Kurdish peshmerga and Iraqi forces. Devoting additional attention and resources to Raqqa when it is already overstretched will inevitably hurt the extremist group elsewhere on the battlefield.

"Retaking Raqqa From the Islamic State is republished with permission of Stratfor."

>>>>> Scroll down to view and make comments <<<<<<

Click here for Historical News Post Listing

Make a Comment

Econintersect wants your comments, data and opinion on the articles posted.  As the internet is a "war zone" of trolls, hackers and spammers - Econintersect must balance its defences against ease of commenting.  We have joined with Livefyre to manage our comment streams.

To comment, using Livefyre just click the "Sign In" button at the top-left corner of the comment box below. You can create a commenting account using your favorite social network such as Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn or Open ID - or open a Livefyre account using your email address.

You can also comment using Facebook directly using he comment block below.

Econintersect Contributors


Print this page or create a PDF file of this page
Print Friendly and PDF

The growing use of ad blocking software is creating a shortfall in covering our fixed expenses. Please consider a donation to Econintersect to allow continuing output of quality and balanced financial and economic news and analysis.

Take a look at what is going on inside of
Main Home
Analysis Blog
A Short Note on a Connection Between Marginalist Economics and Folk Medicine
Run A High Pressure Economy? Janet Yellen Does Not Understand the Problem
News Blog
Early Headlines: Asia Stocks Mixed, Huge Antarctic Marine Park, Can Trump Get To 270?, US Workers Gaining, UK Inflation, France GDP, India Savings Lag And More
Why Amazon Gives So Many Perks To Prime Members
Where Workplace Trust Is Strongest
How A Lack Of Sleep Affects Your Brain - And Personality
How Accurate Are Final US Election Polls
What We Read Today 27 October 2016
A Pony And His Beloved Teddy Bear Reunite After Being Apart For 3 Years
October 2016 Kansas City Fed Manufacturing Remains In Expansion
September 2016 Median Household Income Not Statistically Different Than The Previous Month
September 2016 Pending Home Sales Index Improves
22 October 2016 Initial Unemployment Claims: Rolling Averages Marginally Worsen
Durable Goods New Orders Marginally Declined in September 2016
Infographic Of The Day: 41 Interesting Facts About Tesla Motors
Investing Blog
Technical Thoughts: Looking For The Rebounds
Gold That Pays Dividends
Opinion Blog
Global Debt Investors: The Silence Of The Lambs
A Hard Brexit And Reduced Migration Won't Benefit UK Workers
Precious Metals Blog
Inflation Surging As Platinum Signals Stock Market Decline
Live Markets
27Oct2016 Market Close: Wall Street Closes Fractionally Lower, Interest-Rate Stocks Outweighed Gains In Healthcare, Market Indicators Bearish
Amazon Books & More

.... and keep up with economic news using our dynamic economic newspapers with the largest international coverage on the internet
Asia / Pacific
Middle East / Africa
USA Government

Crowdfunding ....



Analysis Blog
News Blog
Investing Blog
Opinion Blog
Precious Metals Blog
Markets Blog
Video of the Day


Asia / Pacific
Middle East / Africa
USA Government

RSS Feeds / Social Media

Combined Econintersect Feed

Free Newsletter

Marketplace - Books & More

Economic Forecast

Content Contribution



  Top Economics Site Contributor TalkMarkets Contributor Finance Blogs Free PageRank Checker Active Search Results Google+

This Web Page by Steven Hansen ---- Copyright 2010 - 2016 Econintersect LLC - all rights reserved