How Assad funds ISIS

Kyle Orton writes: Syria’s refineries and power-plants, most now in IS-held territory, are run by regime specialists and IS takes a majority cut either in kind (often electricity) or in cash from the regime. Indeed, paradoxically, it is these areas of most direct cooperation between Assad and IS where they engage in some of their very few clashes because, as a Syrian oil executive explained, “This is 1920s Chicago mafia-style negotiation. You kill and fight to influence the deal, but the deal doesn’t end.”

The evidence that the Assad regime was hell-bent on mobilizing its old terrorist assets to make Salafi-jihadists the face of the insurgency has been available to anyone willing to see for many years — this blog had an evidence compilation in March 2014, and an update in September 2014. Assad’s intention in strengthening Islamic extremists within the insurgency — assisted by Iran and Russia — is to frighten the population into rallying around the regime and warding off international assistance to the rebellion (and perhaps even gaining international support in putting the insurgency down). Put simply: the current interest of Assad is making the IS problem worse. The regime will look to suppress IS eventually but only once, as in Algeria, the dictatorship has destroyed all non-extremist antagonists and discredited the entire idea of opposition by associating it with extremism and bloodshed. Whatever this makes the Assad regime, it isn’t a counterterrorism partner. [Continue reading…]

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