While Iraq burns, ISIS takes advantage in Syria

Michael Stephens and Sofia Barbarani write: The Islamic State (Isis) may be many things, but foolish is not one of them.

While international attention has been fixated on the disintegration of Iraq and the expansion of the so-called caliphate of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the Sunni insurgents have moved their offensive back into Syria with a newly acquired haul of US-made weapons and cash.

Cushioned by the impunity offered them by a largely unresponsive international community, and the inability of the Syrian and Iraqi armies to defeat them in battle, Isis’ latest advances in Syria have further destabilised the already frail dynamics in the region.

As Bashar al-Assad attended his de-facto self-coronation affording him another seven years in power, Isis was making a mockery of the president’s pledge to “not stop fighting terrorism and striking it wherever it is until we restore security to every spot of Syria”.

In addition to Isis, Syria’s Kurds have also been busy establishing their own cantons of self-governance, backed by their militia force, the People’s Protection Units (YPG). But as their control over Kurdish areas of Syria has strengthened, it has brought them into fierce conflict with Isis.

While in neighbouring Iraq the Kurdistan Region remains largely insulated from Isis’ violent land-grabbing operations, Syria’s approximately two million Kurds have borne the brunt of the expanding “caliphate” declared at the end of June. [Continue reading…]

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