The Daily Beast reports: Three weeks ago, a group of leaders from the opposition Free Syrian Army warned U.S. officials that a strategic city along the Iraqi border was about to fall to ISIS. It was the latest in a long series of increasingly anxious cries for help. The rebels never heard back from the Americans.
Five days ago, the predictions came true. Free Syrian Army units in the city of Der al Zour handed over their territory to the Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham, following weeks of desperate requests for help to international officials, including a direct appeal in a private meeting with U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power.
“[The U.S. officials] showed an understanding of the situation but there was no movement at all,” the commander of the FSA battalion near Der al Zour told The Daily Beast in an interview. “There’s no clear American position in that part of Syria. We told the Americans we are going to fight ISIS and ISIS is close to us, but they did nothing.”
Two leaders of the Free Syrian Army in eastern Syria told The Daily Beast that the moderate rebels in the area greatly outnumbered the ISIS fighters returning from Iraq in stolen American-made vehicles. But the FSA battalion, weakened from months of being under siege, did not have enough ammunition to engage ISIS in the fight. They retreated south, giving up what they controlled of Der al Zour to ISIS without ISIS having to fire a shot.
“Der al Zour was surrounded for several months by ISIS and the regime. The siege included no food and water. Our battalion was weakened,” the FSA commander said. “The FSA numbers are big, but we don’t have weapons, we don’t have ammunition, we don’t have anything.”
For several weeks prior, FSA leaders had tried to sound the alarm. If Der al Zour fell to ISIS, the extremist group would have control of the transportation routes from their stronghold in Raqqa, Syria to their new territories in northern Iraq. The area is also rich in oil and gas resources and was the last FSA stronghold along the rapidly disappearing Iraq-Syria border. [Continue reading…]