For the last two years, the war in Syria has focused on the country’s roads, leading some to coin the term the “Highway War”, referring to the M4 and M5 international highways that link the country east to west and north to south.
Having seized control over Islamic State’s last strongholds in Al-Baghuz in the eastern Euphrates in March 2019, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and the USA declared victory over Islamic State. Despite the US assassination of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, leader of Islamic State, in late October 2019, new warnings have been issued regarding the possible return of Islamic State to Syria, given the chaos and conflict on Syrian soil between various national, regional, and international forces.
Russian-Turkish relations are put to a hard test these days. The escalating tension between the two sides in Syria's Idlib province and the countryside of Aleppo threatens to undermine bilateral cooperation and coordination on more than one front in war-ravaged Syria. Recent military developments have brought about a dangerous shift in the rules of engagement between the two parties, and have opened the door for potential direct confrontation. This is particularly true as both countries embrace contradictory positions in justifying their actions. On the one hand, Turkey believes that the Russia-backed Syrian army onslaught on Idlib and the countryside of Aleppo will push about a million Syrians to Turkey's borders, threatening Turkish national security. In turn, Russia is sticking to the implementation of the Sochi Agreement, which obliges Turkey to dismantle extremist organizations, as well as Turkey's lack of commitment to handing over control over international roads to the Assad regime.
Tensions are escalating between U.S. and Russian forces in areas east of the Euphrates, particularly in the Hasaka governorate in eastern Syria. These tensions are translated into scuffles between the two countries’ forces, as the United States tries to set the boundaries of its spheres of influence, while Russia seeks to expand its influence in that region. This threatens a collision, especially in light of the divergence in the two countries’ view of the final solution in Syria.
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