For most people the Syrian Civil war looks something like this:

You can see why:

Most people are crap at geography, and when it's some shithole in the Middle East that you're never going to visit unless your plane gets hijacked, who can blame you?

But the fact is, under the chaos of a war which has at least four main sides, certain patterns are emerging. The main one is that the Russians and Iranians have supported the side that has the best potential to reunite and stabilize the country, namely the secular-leaning Arab socialist nationalist forces of the Baathist Assad government. 

Since Putin stepped up his support for Syria -- possibly after reading this article -- while skillfully downplaying American provocation, the Assad government has been getting a lid on things.
Assad and Putin.
Most of the big cities are now under Assad's control and the vast majority of the population now lives in Assad-controlled territory. Also, some people in the US administration, like Trump himself, seem to get it that Assad is not going away. While some of the people who don't get it now seem to be going away. 
All those cellphone calls to his ISIS buddies may have contributed to his brain cancer.

Since the Arab Spring of 2011, Syria has been smashed to pieces like a jigsaw puzzle. But Assad and his allies are carefully putting it together again. Now the next big piece of the Syrian Civil War jigsaw to watch out for is the relief of Deir-ez-Zor, the largest city in the far East of the country.

Since around April 2014, half the city has been under a close siege by ISIS forces, who also control the other half.

What made Deir-ez-Zor remarkable was how isolated it was from other territories held by Assad. At one point the nearest Assad forces were over 150 miles away. Now, in recent days, that distance has shrunk to around 30 miles.

Following the crushing of rebel forces in Aleppo early this year, Assad forces have been able to push down the Euphrates river, past the Battle of Raqqah, where ISIS forces are fighting a meatgrinder defensive battle against US-backed Kurds, to approach the long-besieged city.

Once the Syrian Arab Army reach Deir ez-Zor, they will be in a good position to reassert Assad's control over the East of the country as well as the Southern deserts up to the Iraqi and Jordanian borders. In short, Syria will start to resemble a country again instead of a multicoloured puddle of vomit. 

More importantly, for Europeans it will start to resemble the kind of place we can start sending the refugees back to. 

They have to go back.
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