Noah Bonsey writes: The world’s most feared jihadi group, the Islamic State (ISIS), is parlaying its dramatic gains in Iraq into Syria. Already flush with cash and weapons, ISIS stands to receive another, invaluable windfall in Aleppo, Syria’s largest city prior to the war. Regime forces there are on the verge of encircling opposition militants. Their success in doing so would benefit ISIS as much as it would Bashar al-Assad, throttling the more moderate rebel enemy both share.
ISIS’s recent victory in eastern Deir al-Zour province — where it defeated a rebel alliance including jihadi rival Jabhat al-Nusra, and where it now controls all major oil fields and most population centers — enables the group to turn its attention elsewhere. Having gained resources and freed up manpower, ISIS can move to retake ground lost to rebel factions in and around Aleppo in early 2014.
Rebels there, weakened by that battle and the regime’s simultaneous campaign that exploited it, lack the organization and resources to halt the regime’s progress in severing rebel supply lines. Should ISIS escalate against rebels in the northern countryside, as the regime attempts to besiege their allies inside the city, it could potentially deal a terminal blow to the rebellion in Aleppo. ISIS would likely regain valuable territory along the Turkish border, positioning itself to attack the pragmatic rebel factions that dominate Aleppo’s western countryside and much of Idlib province. [Continue reading…]