Thursday, March 2, 2017

Syrian government, with Russian assistance, has recaptured Palmyra from ISIS again...

A road sign in Palmyra. Reuters. 

Syrian regime forces, with Russian and Hezbollah backing, has taken back the ancient and critical city of Palmyra from ISIS. Reuters. Palmyra has been taken and retaken several times in the war. ISIS had recaptured the city in December. ISIS has withdrawn their forces from the city but remain in the area. In one of their most infamous crimes, ISIS destroyed several ancient ruins in both their original occupation and in the 2nd one starting in December. ISIS has been on the back foot in Syria and is under extreme pressure. Not only are they facing regime pressure in the Palmrya area, the Aleppo area and near the city of Dier Ez Zor, they are coming under extreme pressure from the Kurds and Turks in the north. 

My Comment:
More bad news for ISIS. Palmyra was the sole piece of good news for ISIS in the last couple of months. They have been under pressure and in general retreat everywhere else but in the Palmyra area, ISIS was advancing. The reversal of fortune near the city is devastating for ISIS and I don't know how they can recover. 

Of course ISIS's advance into Palmyra was never really a sign of strength for ISIS. The only reason they were able to advance there was because the Syrian regime was unable to defend it properly. Last December, the battle for Aleppo was winding down. The regime had thrown massive amounts of forces into the meatgrinder that was Aleppo and they paid a price. Though they won the battle, it allowed ISIS to advance in Palmyra and even threaten Dier Ez Zor for a bit. 

With the battle for Aleppo over, the Syrian regime was able to regroup and attack. Recapturing Aleppo not only removed a black hole that was sucking up Syrian troops and resources, it also devastated the Syrian rebels. Though those rebel groups still exist, they are nowhere near the threat they used to be. With the rebels under control, the regime can better fight ISIS.

It makes me wonder what ISIS will do next. They really don't have anywhere they can advance to in Syria or Iraq. In the past, when ISIS was attacked, they would strike in a new place where their enemy was weak. But where is the weakness now? In the north, the Kurds are well armed and on the advance and Turkey is backing up it's own rebel groups with armor and airstrikes. The Syrian regime has regrouped and rearmed and are pushing them as well. And in Iraq the Iraqi military has finally gotten back on track. There just isn't anywhere for ISIS to go. 

I'm starting to wonder if ISIS is even capable of offensive action in Syria and Iraq. They have lost so many men and their efforts to defend key areas, such as Mosul, al-Bab and Palmyra have failed completely. And they are almost completely cut off from reinforcements. 

I have said before that the turning point in the war against ISIS is likely to be the moment that Turkey entered the war. Before that point, Turkey was the main route for ISIS recruits and also served as a vital supply line for the terror group. Turkey finally decided to crack down and secure the border area after a series of devastating terror attacks conducted by ISIS. In the history books I am guessing that those terror attacks will be cited as ISIS's most critical error. 

It seems clear that if nothing changes, the Islamic State will cease to exist as an actual state in a year or two. At the rate they are losing territory it's possible that it will cease to exist this year. What could avert that fate for ISIS? Not a whole lot. I think the Mosul dam collapsing in Iraq could given them a major opening there, but that seems fairly unlikely and if it happens before Mosul is liberated, ISIS would lose quite a few troops as well. 

In Syria, there seems even less of a chance. I can't see ISIS expanding all that well due to the relative strength of the regime, Kurds and Turks. They only thing I could think that could help ISIS in Syria is a major coup or civil war in Turkey. Though last year's coup attempt proves that it is possible, I don't think it is likely that another attempt is going to happen anytime soon. 

In the end I think that ISIS is probably doomed. That won't mean that ISIS will cease to exist once they have lost all their territory in Iraq and Syria. Libya is a good test case for what will happen in the future. Though ISIS lost control of all the cities and towns they had captured there, the terror group still exists and has camps in the country. I am thinking that once ISIS is defeated they will revert to a more traditional terror group, like their al-Qaeda in Iraq forerunners... 

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