06:23 GMT +316 December 2019
Listen Live
    A fighter from the Kurdish People Protection Unit (YPG) poses for a photo at sunset in the Syrian town of Ain Issi, some 50 kilometres north of Raqqa, the self-proclaimed capital of the Islamic State (IS) group during clashes between IS group jihadists and YPG fighters on July 10, 2015

    Doomed Caliphate: Why Daesh Will Lose Raqqa, Aleppo and Deir ez-Zor

    © AFP 2019 / DELIL SOULEIMAN
    Middle East
    Get short URL
    Violence Erupts as Islamic State Rises (1881)
    3294
    Subscribe

    Daesh remains a force to be reckoned with. Its terror caliphate once stretched from northern Iraq to eastern Syria, with major cities, large oil fields and key border regions still under militant control, but the group's power and its reach are significantly weaker than they seem on paper.

    "The unbroken expanses of territory under [Daesh] control are mostly empty desert," a team lead by analyst Omar Lamrani said in its latest report for Stratfor. "A look at the group's three core Syrian areas – northern Aleppo province, Raqqa and [Deir ez-Zor] – shows how the [terrorist groups] is steadily losing ground across its scattered, self-declared empire."

    Things are not going well for Daesh in these regions.

    Fighters of the Manbij military council take an overwatch position in the southern rural area of Manbij, in Aleppo Governorate, Syria June 1, 2016
    © REUTERS / Rodi Said
    Fighters of the Manbij military council take an overwatch position in the southern rural area of Manbij, in Aleppo Governorate, Syria June 1, 2016

    Northern Aleppo – a three-thronged siege

    The Syrian province of Aleppo is crucial for Daesh's survival since the terrorist group relies heavily on the steady flow of foreign fighters, weapons and supplies smuggled through Turkey.  The majority of these routes have already been cut off by the Kurds, the few that remain (like the city of Manbij) are expected to be freed soon.

    Furthermore, northern Aleppo is home to the village of Dabiq that, according to Daesh's beliefs, will see the final, apocalyptic battle take place.

    In northern Aleppo, Daesh has been pressed from three sides. Damascus-led forces, assisted by Russian warplanes and their local allies have advanced from the south. The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) are pushing west across the Euphrates River, while rebels from the city of Azaz are advancing to the east. In addition, Turkey has shelled border regions from the north.

    "But there is another loyalist offensive underway that, if it pans out, will pose an existential threat to the [Daesh's] northern Aleppo zone by completely cutting it off from the rest of the group's Syrian territory,"  the analysts said, referring to the offensive on the city of Tabqa, located on Lake Assad in the province of Raqqa.

    If successful, this operation will cut the road linking northern Aleppo and Raqqa, the capital of the terror caliphate.

    Soldiers from the Syrian army carry a rocket to fire at Daesh positions in the province of Raqqa, Syria
    © AP Photo / Alexander Kots/Komsomolskaya Pravda
    Soldiers from the Syrian army carry a rocket to fire at Daesh positions in the province of Raqqa, Syria

    Raqqa – Daesh capital's imminent fall

    The SDF and the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) are slowly advancing on Raqqa. The analysts described their progress as "methodical" but to an extent hampered by the need to train new SDF fighters. Yet they don't doubt that the city will be liberated.

    Raqqa's fall will mark a crushing defeat for the terrorist group.

    Not only is the city the capital of the Daesh empire, "it is also an important hub for people and supplies," they explained. "Raqqa sits on the Euphrates River and is key to controlling several critical highways in Syria. It is also one of the largest populated cities in the Islamic State's control and an important economic center surpassed only by Mosul, Iraq."

    People and Syrian Army members inspect a damaged site after a suicide and car bomb attack in south Damascus Shi'ite suburb of Sayeda Zeinab, Syria June 11, 2016
    © REUTERS / Omar Sanadiki
    People and Syrian Army members inspect a damaged site after a suicide and car bomb attack in south Damascus Shi'ite suburb of Sayeda Zeinab, Syria June 11, 2016

    Deir ez-Zor – oil-rich gateway province

    Unlike northern Aleppo and Raqqa, Daesh-controlled territories in Deir ez-Zor are not under immediate threat. "The city itself is contested by [Daesh] forces and loyalist troops, but the militant group fully controls the rest of the province," the analysts noted.

    But loosing Deir ez-Zor will deal a major blow to the terrorist group, because the province is the last remaining source of oil for Daesh. It also serves as a gateway to neighboring Iraq.

    For government forces and the SDF, liberating Deir ez-Zor is not an immediate priority, although the SAA could use its success in Palmyra to mount an offensive on the province, but Jordan, the US and the UK have created a new anti-Daesh force, known as the New Syrian Army, in the region.

    Despite these developments, Daesh, a resilient group capable of adapting to changing circumstances, will not go down without a fight. As the militants are increasingly losing their conventional capabilities, they will once again turn to terrorism to wreak havoc in the country and beyond.

    "Unable to effectively field and supply conventional fighting units, the Islamic State will turn to insurgent tactics and terrorist tradecraft to lash out at targets. Instead of focusing on controlling territory, the group will use insurgent methods to gain the flexibility and mobility needed to stage hit-and-run attacks on its enemies in an effort to gradually weaken them," the analysts observed.

    Topic:
    Violence Erupts as Islamic State Rises (1881)

    Related:

    Intra-Syrian Talks Should Not Suffer From Artificial Delays - Moscow
    Pivot to Russia: Israel Wants Closer Ties With 'New Sheriff' in Middle East
    German Intelligence Discovers Files of Daesh Militants
    Syrian Army Repels Daesh Suicide Attack in Raqqa Province
    Tags:
    Russian aerial campaign, Islamic extremism, radical Islam, Syrian conflict, terrorism, counterterrorism, caliphate, Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), Daesh, Syrian Arab Army, Deir Ez-Zor, Syria, Raqqa, Aleppo
    Community standardsDiscussion
    Comment via FacebookComment via Sputnik