Over the past few days, rumors have been swirling about a potential Jordanian or even American intervention in the Yarmouk Valley against the Khalid ibn al-Walid Army (Jaysh Khalid ibn al-Walid in Arabic).
The group in question (hence referred to as JKW) fights with all other rebel factions in the area and maintains amicable relations with the Islamic State organization. It was formed in May 2016 as a merger of several IS-sympathetic factions in Dara’a. In February 2017, after many rebels left the front to join the “Death before Humiliation” offensive against the Syrian Army in Dara’a city, JKW launched an offensive and managed to capture Adwan, Jalin, Sahem al-Joulan, and Tasil, roughly doubling its territory. A series of small counteroffensives by the anti-JKW rebels have all resulted in failure.
Though JKW has not given bay’ah to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and is not part of IS proper, the two organizations have ties and are ideologically similar. This closeness provides the casus belli for an intervention. Such an intervention would allow for the formation of another foreign occupation zone (referred to by backers as a “safe zone”) in addition to the extant one in Northern Aleppo.
Such an intervention would almost certainly be encouraged by U.S. President Donald Trump, who has been advocating the idea of “safe zones” since 2015.
Right now, it remains to be seen whether such a plan will come to fruition, and if it does, whether it will come as part of a larger operation. Some speculation suggests Jordan’s interest may extend far beyond the Yarmouk Valley – all the way to the eastern Deir al-Zour town of al-Bukamal, the scene of a failed attack by the American proxy group “New Syrian Army” in mid-2016. A successful capture of the town by American and Jordanian-backed forces would give the U.S. and Jordan full control of the Iraqi-Syrian border, would hamper the Iranian-Syrian alliance, and would allow for the declaration of a large “safe zone”.
A full-size version of the map, which was made using data from Google Maps, can be found here.