While nobody was looking, ISIS launched a new, deadly offensive

The Washington Post reports: Syrian rebels appealed for U.S. airstrikes to counter a new offensive by the Islamic State in the northern province of Aleppo that could reshape the battlefield in Syria.

The surprise assault, launched over the weekend, opened a new front in the multi-pronged war being waged by the extremist group across Iraq and Syria, and it underscored the Islamic State’s capacity to catch its enemies off guard.

The push — which came on the heels of the miltants’ capture of the Syrian city of Palmyra and the western Iraqi city of Ramadi late last month — took them within reach of the strategically vital town of Azaz on the Turkish border.

The offensive reinforces the impression that the Islamic State is regaining momentum despite more than eight months of U.S. led-airstrikes. [Continue reading…]

Shiraz Maher writes: It is almost impossible to see how the Islamic State can be undermined. So far, the West has shown itself to have little meaningful strategy and the coalition bombing campaign has been weak and ineffective.

Meanwhile, for all the talk of counternarratives and disruptive measures, thousands of young people from across the world continue to make the journey to Syria in support of jihadist causes. Of all the options currently being explored by Western governments, none are attractive. Jihadists will not abide diplomatic initiatives and there is no public or political support for a full military campaign.

The intractability of the Islamic State is borne of much more than just the Syrian uprising. At its core is the unraveling of the Sunni poor across the Levant, while Sunni elites are holding on to the power structures that have worked for them thus far. They are the greatest losers of the last decade and are unsure of their place in an increasingly Balkanized and atomized Middle East. [Continue reading…]

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