Australia’s decision to temporarily halt military flights over Syria as part of the US "collective defence" of Iraq illustrates how Russia and its proxy ally Syria are becoming twitchy about how the Syrian civil war is playing out. The battle for Raqqa -- Islamic State’s headquarters -- is entering its final phase, with the Kurdish People’s Protection Forces (YPG) and Free Syrian Army (FSA) closing in on remaining IS fighters in the city.

Across the border in Mosul, a similar scene is playing out, as Iraqi Armed Forces and the Kurdish Peshmerga close in on some hundreds of increasingly beleaguered IS fighters holed up in an ever smaller section of the old city. The battle for Mosul is expected to be Iraq’s last major set-piece battle against IS and will further stamp the authority of the Peshmerga on Iraq’s Kurdish north.