By: Jennifer Cafarella & Christopher Kozak – Key Takeaways: ISIS Utilizes Hasaka as a Safe Haven and Staging Area for the Fight in Ninewa, Iraq

The report of an ISIS deployment of reinforcements to northern Hasaka province follows recent reports of ISIS fighters withdrawing into the area following a Peshmerga and Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) operation to clear the adjacent Sinjar district in Ninewa Province, Iraq.

If it continues, the recent increase in tensions between the Syrian regime and YPG forces in Hasaka City is likely to indicate an increasingly permissive environment for ISIS forces in the Hasaka countryside. As ISIS forces continue to come under pressure in western Ninewa Province, they are likely to utilize terrain in Hasaka province as a relative safe haven and staging ground for future attacks in the Sinjar area.

JN Pressures Last Regime Military Base in the Rebel-Held Countryside of Idlib

JN’s seizure of the town of Tel Salmu, south of the Abu al-Duhor military base, likely indicates JN intent to launch an offensive against the base itself after JN and rebel forces captured the nearby Wadi al-Deif and Hamadiya military bases on December 15, 2014. The Abu al-Duhor base is the last remaining regime-held base in eastern Idlib Province. While not historically a primary regime stronghold in the area, it is likely that regime forces reallocated resources to the base after the fall of Wadi al-Deif and Hamadiya to JN and rebel forces. An attack against the base would therefore cement a considerable blow to the regime in Idlib Province and garner further credibility for JN as an effective actor against Assad.