The Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham (ISIS) has wrecked havoc in both Syria and Iraq with their merciless terrorist attacks, massacres against minority groups (ethnic and religious), depravation of social liberties, and unmitigated corruption; it is not a far cry to label them a plague that spread through the whirlwind of political upheaval in the Arab world.
However, this terrorist group was relatively unknown until they took the world by storm in the Summer of 2013, capturing the provincial capital of the Nineveh Governorate with very little resistance from the 10,000 Iraqi Army soldiers that were assigned to protect the city of Mosul.
Suddenly, ISIS became a household name that was synonymous with terrorism and radicalism; but, this was not the world’s problem, it was an issue for the Iraqis and Syrians.
Following a number of battlefield victories in 2014, ISIS was finally declared a threat to the world by the United States government (U.S.), who began a series of airstrikes above the terrorist group’s positions in the latter part of 2014.
With the rise of ISIS paranoia spreading around the world, the U.S. went on the public offensive; this meant the formation of an “Anti-ISIS Coalition” of countries that the Obama Regime could parade around as the legitimate force combatting the terrorist group in Syria and Iraq.
One problem: the Anti-ISIS Coalition did not forestall the terrorist group’s progress; instead, they forced the terrorist group to concentrate their fighters elsewhere in Syria.
ISIS Roams Free in Northern Syria:
The U.S. and their allies were bombing ISIS during the battle for Kobane in northern Aleppo; however, the terrorist group was traveling untouched around the vast desert highways in northern Syria.
ISIS could not attack any of the rebel or Kurdish forces without interference from the Anti-ISIS Coalition, but they could freely travel from Al-Raqqa to Deir Ezzor without fear of any airstrikes from the U.S. and their allies.
According to a military source from the Syrian Air Defense: on numerous occasions, ISIS would send reinforcements to Syrian Army controlled areas without a single Anti-ISIS Coalition aircraft attacking their convoys or notifying the Syrian Air Force of the looming ISIS threat.
Countries like Jordan – who still maintain some diplomatic relations with the Syrian Government – remained silent about the intelligence reports they received regarding ISIS’ movements around Syria; it became more and more evident that the Anti-ISIS Coalition was not concerned with the ISIS threat in Syria, but rather, the threat they posed to their allies in the country.
Rebels and ISIS Launch Simultaneous Offensives:
In April of 2015, a coalition of Al-Qaeda militias dubbed “Jaysh Al-Fateh” (Army of Conquest) launched a large-scale offensive at the provincial capital of the Idlib Governorate – within a week, the Islamist rebels captured Idlib City from the Syrian Armed Forces.
Tasked with protecting the provinces of Idlib, Hama, and east Homs, the 11th and 18th Tank Divisions were redeployed – alongside the Tiger Force, who were on the offensive in east Homs – to the Idlib City front to help safeguard the remaining territory under their control.
As soon as the Tiger Forces and the 11th Tank Division were redeployed Idlib, ISIS sent a large wave of reinforcements to east Homs and Deir Ezzor in order to prepare for a large-scale offensive.
The Syrian Armed Forces were initially successful in recapturing some territory in Idlib; however, the troubling reports from the east Homs front left the SAA’s Central Command flustered – they had to commit their troops that were designated for offensives (i.e. Tiger Forces) to these fronts.
ISIS would capture the large gas fields in east Homs before they took complete control of the ancient city of Palmyra; this prompted the SAA’s Central Command to redeploy the 18th Tank Division back to Homs.
In a matter of two months, the Syrian Armed Forces lost all but two towns in the Idlib Governorate; the city of Busra Al-Sham and Nassib border-crossing in the Dara’a Governorate; and most the Homs Governorate’s eastern countryside.
Then, just when things appeared to be slowing down, ISIS launched a large-scale offensive inside the provincial capital of Al-Hasakah; this was followed by Jaysh Al-Fateh’s large-scale offensive in the Al-Ghaab Plains of Hama.
The Anti-ISIS Coalition managed to miss the thousands of ISIS combatants heading to Hasakah City from Al-Raqqa and east Aleppo.
The Syrian Armed Forces committed many soldiers to protect their districts inside Hasakah City, while their men in the Al-Ghaab Plains surrendered the remaining villages under their control.
Finally, there were the recent offensives in the Dara’a, Al-Sweida, and Deir Ezzor Governorates; the FSA launched a large-scale assault on Dara’a City and the western countryside of Al-Sweida, while the terrorist group attempted to capture the Deir Ezzor Military Airport – both Islamist forces were unsuccessful.
Russia Enters the War:
With the U.S. led Anti-ISIS Coalition failing destroy the terrorist group in both Syria and Iraq, the Russians decided to intervene in this war and rectify where their predecessors went wrong.
Now, the Anti-ISIS Coalition cannot get away with their selective airstrikes; it is the Russians ruling the skies above Syria and if the coalition wants to attack ISIS outside of rebel and YPG controlled areas, they will have to consult the Russian Air Force.
Russia’s entrance in this war will be a game changer, but not likely enough to recapture the country.
The Syrian Arab Army will receive a major boost from the Russian Air Force patrolling the vast Syrian and Iraqi deserts – ISIS will no longer go untouched from Al-Raqqa to Deir Ezzor.