ISIS's Way Of War Favors Assad: All Marginal Areas In The Struggle
07 September 2014
By Abdulrahman Al-Rashed
Two months ago, fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq
and Syria (ISIS) were marching south towards the gates
of Baghdad following their capture of Mosul and Anbar
province. Despite that, they did not enter the
capital; against all expectations, they headed north
towards Kurdistan. In Syria, ISIS followed a similar
course, turning its back on Damascus and heading east
to Raqqa after it seized the eastern city of Deir
Ezzor. ISIS gained an easy victory over Division 17 of
the Syrian army's 93rd Brigade. This strengthened the
belief that the Syrian regime was intentionally giving
up outlying areas to ISIS control and was settling for
fighting the Free Syrian Army in Jobar, Rokneddin, and
the Damascus suburbs.
The confusing question is: why did ISIS transfer its
men to these faraway areas in Iraqi Kurdistan and
eastern Syria? Also, why hasn't ISIS attacked the
Syrian military's bases for almost a year now?
Based on what we see on the map, ISIS seeks to take
control of Sunni-populated areas and ignores others.
This makes one wonder. Maybe it wants to establish
itself as a state or caliphate instead of getting
involved in areas populated by other sects, which
would be difficult to control. Or, it could really be
working to thwart the revolution in Syria and serve
Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki's regime in Iraq. This
is a widely held theory of which some people seem to
be convinced, especially in Syria, where many think
ISIS is just another organization infiltrated and
controlled by the Syrian regime—just as Al-Qaeda in
Iraq was labeled as the resistance against US
For an organization that loves to attract attention
and trumpet its victories, it is illogical for it to
back down from attacking Baghdad or Damascus just
because it's looking for safe, faraway areas.
Authority, influence and global attention can be
garnered by fighting over capital cities. Kurdistan is
a mountainous area that will not provide any added
value to ISIS even if it achieves some victories in
it. The same goes for eastern areas in Syria. These
are all marginal areas in the struggle the two
countries are facing. At the same time, we see that
ISIS is threatening border areas with Turkey and Saudi
Arabia—two countries which strongly disagree with the
Syrian regime. This again reinforces the theory that
the group has been infiltrated by the Syrian regime.
Before that, all ISIS's battles were confined to
Iraq's Sunni provinces.
Perhaps Iraqi Kurdistan will become ISIS's graveyard,
especially since Peshmerga forces joined the fight and
the US became involved in the struggle for the first
time since the situation began to deteriorate three
years ago. Kurdistan is a rugged region and it will
repel foreign organizations such as ISIS; the group
will not be able to influence the political situation
even if it wins in some areas.
The political tug-of-war in Baghdad remains of grave
importance because if it succeeds in removing Maliki
and promoting a moderate Shi'ite figure as a prime
minister, everyone will unite to fight against ISIS,
especially amid the increased international support
centered on the call for a new government.
Al Rashed is
the general manager of Al -Arabiya television. He is
also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al- Awsat,
and the leading Arabic weekly magazine, Al Majalla. He
is also a senior Columnist in the daily newspapers of
Al Madina and Al Bilad. He is a US post-graduate
degree in mass communications. He has been a guest on
many TV current affairs programs. He is currently
based in Dubai.