Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Major ISIS attack in Deir Ez Zor cuts off supply lines to the Syrian city.

Tanks near Deir Ez Zor. AFP. 

A major ISIS offensive has been launched in the besieged city of Deir Ez Zor, held by the Syrian government. AFP. The city has been cut off from the rest of Syria's forces since 2015 but has been resupplied by the Syrian military and aid groups for the entire siege. That has now come to a stop due to ISIS advances in the city. The government held eastern and western parts of the city have been cut off from each other and the airport supply route has also been cut. Syrian and Russian airstrikes are blasting ISIS positions but the attacks haven't blunted the offensive. The ISIS assault involved multiple suicide bomber attacks and have been described as the worse the city has experienced in more than a year. The Syrian government has sent in reinforcements and called on civilians to join the battle on the front lines.

My Comment:
Very bad news out of Deir Ez Zor. The city has been besieged for quite some time and remains the only real outpost the Syrians have in Eastern Syria. They have some outposts in the northeast, such as Hasakah, but that is surrounded by Kurdish forces and quite far away from the front lines. If they were to lose Dier Ez Zor than ISIS will have complete control of the eastern part of Syria, with the northern areas controlled by the Kurds being the only exception. 

ISIS has actually had some major gains lately., despite their poor fortune in Iraq. They recaptured the city of Palmyra in central Syria and have been pushing the Syrian regime out of the surrounding area. Though they have lost ground in the border area with Turkey thanks to the Turkish intervention, ISIS has advanced against the Syrian regime. This is a major reversal of fortune for a group that was retreating on all fronts just a few months ago. 

If ISIS were to take Deir Ez Zor it would be the biggest victory they have had for quite some time. Taking back Palmyra was a victory but not a major one since they had taken the city once before and the city was essentially abandoned. Taking Deir Ez Zor would almost be the equivalent of the Syrian regime taking back Aleppo. Doing so would entirely change the course of the war. 

The AFP report talked about the fate of the 100,000 civilians trapped in the city. Already, many have died in the fighting, and more will probably do so in the future. The biggest concern right now is how is the Syrian regime going to continue to feed and supply these civilians with the airport cutoff and supply drops from aid organizations suspended. I am guessing that they won't be able to and if this situation continues many of those trapped in the city will die. And that pales in comparison to what will happen if ISIS captures the city... 

If ISIS does manage to capture Deir Ez Zor, expect a slaughter. If the Syrian soldiers trapped there are foolish enough to surrender, expect quite a few of them to be unwilling starts in ISIS execution videos. ISIS has a long history of executing enemy soldiers in both Iraq and Syria so if any large amount of soldiers are captured, expect the deaths to continue. And I doubt the civilians will be spared either. Some will live under the regime, taxed and patrolled. Others will be executed because they are the wrong religion or because they worked for the regime. 

So how likely is that ISIS will take Deir Ez Zor? More likely than I would like. The fact that the Syrian regime is drafting civilians to fight on the front line without any training is a huge sign that things are not going well. Normally sending untrained civilians is more trouble than it's worth, but it's pretty clear to me that the Syrian regime just needs bodies to throw at ISIS. 

It's pretty clear to me that the victory in Aleppo had a pretty huge price for the Syrian regime. Their military has been bled dry and it has cost them in the fight against ISIS. Not only did they have no troops to reinforce Palmyra, they are having trouble to hold onto Deri Ez Zor as well. I think, that even with the victory in Aleppo, the Syrian regime has pretty much exhausted their military. 

As for ISIS they are falling into the same pattern they have for the entire war. Whenever a major battle erupts where they are on the defensive, they open up a newer offensive front. Though the battle of Mosul is in another country, they are using Deir Ez Zor as a way to sustain some momentum. If ISIS is able to capture the city, then losing Mosul will not be as big of a blow. It will still be a major defeat for ISIS but taking another major city will take some of the sting out of it for ISIS. 

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