The Al-Masdar news agency, which is known to have reliable contacts within the Syrian military, claims that up to 50,000 Syrian troops and allied militia have been concentrated in the territory of eastern Homs province in and around the recently liberated desert city of Palmyra.
By the standards of the Syrian war this is a huge force, which heavily outnumbers the ISIS fighters in the area. Apparently the objective is to use this force to advance towards Deir Ezzor, relieving this eastern city which has been undergoing a close siege by ISIS for several years, but which ISIS has recently been making a sustained attempt to overrun as it apparently plans to transfer its capital there from Raqqa.
The fact that the Syrian military has been able to concentrate such a huge force in this area is a sign of how the strategy of creating ‘de-escalation’ areas is working, making it possible for the previously severely over-stretched Syrian military to concentrate its forces in ways that it has not been able to do previously.
The result has been a series of rapid advances, as the Syrian military has fully driven ISIS out of Aleppo province, capturing all the previously ISIS held towns and villages there, whilst hugely extending the territory under the control of the Syrian military further south, where they have now for the first time in years reached the Iraqi border.
This map, published by the semi-official Syrian newspaper Al-Watan, gives a good idea of the territories currently under the control of the various parties in Syria, and shows the huge expansion in the area controlled by the Syrian government which has taken place in recent weeks.
As to the implications of the Syrian military’s success in reaching the Iraqi border, this is thoroughly discussed by the Moon of Alabama, referring to the same map published by Al-Watan, as follows
The most important change over the last days was the Syrian government forces move (red areas and arrows) in the south-east towards the Iraqi border. The original plan was to retrieve al-Tanf further south-west to secure the border crossing of the Damascus-Baghdad highway there. But al-Tanf was occupied by U.S., British and Norwegian invaders and some of their proxy forces (blue). Their airplanes attacked Syrian army convoys when they approached. The U.S. plan was to move from al-Tanf north towards the Euphrates river and to thereby capture and control the whole south-east of Syria. But Syria and its allies made an unexpected move and prevented that plan. The invaders are now cut off from the Euphrates by a Syrian west-to-east line that ends at the Iraqi border. On the Iraqi side elements of the Popular Military Unites under the command of the Iraqi government are moving to meet the Syrian forces at the border.
The U.S. invaders are now sitting in the mid of a piece of rather useless desert around al-Tanf where their only option is to die of boredom or to move back to Jordan from where they came. The Russian military has made it very clear that it would intervene forcefully should the U.S. attack the Syrian line and move further north. The U.S. and its allies have no mandate to be in Syria in the first place. There is no justification or legal ground for them to attack any Syrian units. Their only option now is to retreat.
The U.S. move into al-Tanf was covered by an attack of U.S. proxy forces in the south-west of Syria. A large group of “rebels”, which include al-Qaeda elements and is supplied from Jordan, moved to take the city of Deraa from Syrian government control. It was hoped that this attack would divert Syrian forces from their move east. But despite the use of suicide bombers the attack on Deraa failed to overwhelm the strong defenses of the Syrian forces. It did not provide the necessary diversion. The Syrian position in Deraa was reinforced by units from Damascus which are now attacking the U.S. proxy gangs. Significant progress was made today in the southern suburbs of Deraa and the Syrian army attack will likely continue the move until it has reached the Jordanian border.
The U.S. plans in south Syria, in the west as well as in the east, have failed for now. Unless the Trump administration is willing to invest significant more forces and to openly and against all laws wage war on the Syria government and its allies the situation there is contained. The Syrian forces will over time recapture all the (blue colored) land in the south that is currently held by the various U.S. proxies and other terrorist groups.
In the north-west the Takfiri “rebel” groups are concentrated around Idleb and further north. These groups are sponsored by Saudi, Qatari and Turkish money. The recent spat between Qatar and other Gulf states has throw the Idleb situation into further chaos. Saudi sponsored groups are now fighting Qatari and Turkish sponsored groups. These conflicts come on top of other animosities between al-Qaeda aligned forces and those of Ahrar al-Sham. The Syrian government forces keep the province surrounded and Turkey in the north has kept its border mostly closed. The Takfiri “rebels” in Idleb will cook in their own juices until they are well done and completely exhausted. Eventually government forces will move in and destroy whatever is left of them.
In the center of the map the Syrian army (red) arrows are pointing towards the central desert areas held by ISIS forces which are retreating towards the east (black arrows). Moving simultaneously from the north, west and south the Syrian government forces make fast progress with several kilometers of ground retaken each day. During the last month 4,000 square kilometers and over 100 settlements and towns have been recovered. Within a few weeks they will have recovered all the (brown) ISIS held areas up to the Euphrates river line and the Syrian-Iraqi border.
The Moon of Alabama speaks of the current situation in Syria as an end-game, with the Syrian government holding all the strongest pieces. Whilst this is probably correct, it seems that one final climactic battle is left, as Syrian government troops and ISIS fighters head for Deir Ezzor. If the Syrian army wins this battle it will have won the war.