Below is our translation of an article from the Russian-language edition of EADaily preceded by our commentary.
“For the sake of energy, the Caliphate [ISIS] clings for dear life to a tiny enclave along the left bank of the Euphrates. Because it is located on the territory of the oil deposit Mayadin-Abu-Kemal, the richest Syrian oil field. That is, oil (fuel) can be either extracted there, or taken away from the enemy.”
This richest oil field is in Deir Ezzor Province where the above-mentioned place is located, though the author did not name the province. Syrian troops, assigned to fight ISIS, were first attacked by the USAF here in the Obama administration and then later under Trump. Just a few days ago, a rumour was circulated that Syrian troops in this oil-rich territory – who were there to fight ISIS – were again attacked by coalition jets.
Any sentient person must know that this ISIS enclave would not be here if the US, touting its “war on terror,” did not will it to be here. Clearly, the US has a use for these terrorists, and that is to protect the oil field from (not for) its rightful owner, the Syrian people. This is no doubt one of the main reasons for the US invasion of Syria – the oil.
Israel is also only too glad to be able to help the US protect ISIS. The Syrian war provides Israel with a pretext to attack Iranian boots on the ground fighting ISIS. Their excuse has always been that Iran is supposedly scheming to attack Israel. Unfortunately, most Americans are clueless about the Middle East and anything outside their borders for that matter. Therefore, it is child’s play to convince them that the US absolutely must invade countries. Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria… and next in line is Iran. After all, Israel must be protected. But the story about a planned attack by Iran is absolutely absurd and Middle East experts know it is a fairy tale. After all, Iran spent over a decade groaning under sanctions unable to trade with the West, desperately trying to convince the West that it did not have nukes and was not developing them. The Iranian government knew that if it attacked Israel, it would lose all rights to trade with anyone. Once the sanctions were lifted, Iran inked contracts – mostly for energy – with numerous European countries and even US allies in Asia and elsewhere. There is no way Iran would have thrown away this economic windfall just to attack Israel and bring down the world’s wrath on themselves. Of course, Rouhani’s government did warn that if Israel attacked Iran, it would retaliate. What else would you expect? The accusation that Iran was about to attack Israel was therefore a total lie. So why does Israel still insist on this old wives’ tale? Simply because Iran refuses to cow down and recognize Israel’s right to continue seizing territory in the West Bank and Gaza and slaughtering civilians there, in violation of UN resolutions supported by most countries – other than the US. Israel fears a well-deserved loss of prestige nothing else. Thus the rogue nation came up with the ingenious idea of blaming another country for being a rogue.
And the US goes along with the charade. Unfortunately then-president Ahmadinejad fell into the trap and foolishly said reckless things about Israel. Although the current moderate president, Rouhani, is expressing himself more diplomatically, the damage is done and now the US, Israel, and also Saudi Arabia can continue pretending that nothing has changed since Ahmadinejad left power, and Israel is therefore entitled to attack Iran. Hundreds of thousands of people would lose their lives, with the blessing of the US, of course.
The world is being set up for World War III and only Russia can defuse the situation – if anyone can, that is.
Don’t be too quick to write off the head choppers: the prospects of ISIS in Syria
Andrey Ganzha (Kiev)
Last weeks the world news feeds were again abuzz with the topic of military operations of the world-recognized terrorist organization Islamic State (ISIS, Daesh) in Syria:
ISIS continues to defend itself in southern Damascus, although the remaining opponents of Assad have long since fled ...
ISIS attacks pumping stations of gas-oil pipelines in the provinces of Homs and Deir Ezzor ...
ISIS attacks (on the Kurds, on government troops) on both banks of the Euphrates in the Mayadin-Abu-Kemal area ...
And so on.
What's going on, ladies and gentlemen? After all, recently the Iraqi, Russian and American presidents, as well as the British Prime Minister, declared the “final victory” over the Caliphate! And the Frenchman Macron even held a "Victory Parade" on this occasion, and observed it on the same balcony from which Charles de Gaulle announced victory over Nazi Germany.
Well what happened was that after "a kinda sorta victory" over ISIS, the "victorious countries" arranged a speculative get together, including a missile exchange and a cheap lie to the esteemed public about the results of this badminton. And they completely "forgot" that in the territory of Syria there are still four enclaves completely controlled by the "Caliphate":
- on the left bank of the Euphrates River, along the border with Iraq (the remainder of the ISIS- Province "Al-Furat");
- on the same left bank, along the river (the remainder of the Wilayat Al-Khair); [the Arabic word wilayat means “state” and is often used by ISIS to denote regions they control. Names with “wilayat” in them are not officially recognized—NSS]
- on the right bank, in the center of the Syrian desert (the remainder of the Wilayat "Homs");
- near Damascus, in the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp (the remainder of the Province of Damascus).
In addition, in the south of the country, on the border with Jordan, there is a small region controlled by the "Army of Al-Walid" (Jaysh Khalid ibn al-Walid), which has sworn allegiance to the Caliphate.
Obviously, in the near future ISIS will lose the "Damascus" enclave. Already too many Syrian troops have been siphoned off there during the operation in East Ghouta, and the Bashar Assad government simply does not have a "political right" to tolerate the existence of a radical group in the vicinity of the capital. Moreover, this group unceremoniously shells the centre of the capital with mortar fire.
The Syrians will not touch the “Jordanian" enclave. Why? ISIS militants there are busy fighting with the surrounding territories of the "opposition," destroying themselves and opponents of Bashar Assad. By the hundreds…
But the three eastern enclaves, plus the ISIS enclave in the Anbar desert on the territory of Iraq, may represent a more-serious danger. They are located side by side, and in case of a merger they could constitute a completely self-sufficient territory. After all, for autarchy (self-sufficiency), you need three components: weapons, energy and food.
ISIS has had sufficient weapons since 2014 when in June alone they seized "means of transportation, weapons and ammunition" sufficient to equip three high-grade divisions. This is stated in a UN report.
For the sake of energy, the Caliphate clings for dear life to a tiny enclave along the left bank of the Euphrates. Because it is located on the territory of the oil deposit Mayadin-Abu-Kemal, the richest Syrian oil field. That is, oil (fuel) can be either extracted there, or taken away from the enemy.
There is also food there, too, although it is the Badia, considered since ancient times as a "deadly" Syrian desert. But on the eve of the Civil War, a project to restore degraded lands in the Syrian Badia was completed. Only a natural forage shrub was planted there on a hundred thousand hectares. And in 2010, some shepherds reported a tenfold increase in the productivity of their livestock. So for a person, especially with weapons, food there is not a particular problem.
The support and the human resource of ISIS are far from exhausted. Igor Dimitriyev, my good friend who, by the will of Fate has spent more time in Syria in recent years than in his native land, came to a conclusion worthy of attention: "By rejecting the cannibalistic ideology, the "caliphate" is global, technological and has a huge volunteer resource. Any supporter of the Islamic state, after reading the sermons, can study the instructions and make a forceful impact. To do this, you don’t even need combat experience. I believe that from many standpoints, such an army is, on the one hand, the reincarnation of the medieval war, when states were weak, and informal unions, supported by ideology or commercial interest, waged war. Yet on the other hand, ISIS is an army of the 21st century, as in futuristic cinema."
However, much more dangerous for the future is the high motivation in ISIS. Those who learned will remember: the first defeats of the Caliphate fighter were inflicted by the Kurds. And they note the high qualities of ISIS fighters. Not so long ago Kurdish Minister of Agriculture Abdulsattar Majid told me: "They also have their own ideas, and they believe in them. They have their own Sharia world, and they want the rest of the world to do likewise. They also fight "from the heart," and those who fight "from the heart" are always good fighters ... Therefore, I will say that they are good, ideological and well-armed soldiers." And don’t think that Majid is a "rural minister." For many years he served in the "Peshmerga" (the Kurdish army).
And there are plenty of professional mercenary soldiers there. According to US data of 2017 (a joint study of The Soufan Center and The Global Strategy Network), the number of foreigners in the forces of the Caliphate was at least 29,000. In general, whatever defeats ISIS may have experienced in 2018, its Caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi remains among the top 75 "most powerful people of the planet" according to FORBES (74th place).
In the first ten days of May, opponents of ISIS, thank God, "woke up." The US-Kurdish coalition is fiercely attacking its Euphrates enclave. And, it seems, they have already broken through to the Euphrates, cutting off ISIS from the Syrian-Iraqi border. And this means that the remnants of the Caliphate are deprived of both access to oil and cross-border communication with like-minded people in the Iraqi Anbar.
The forces of Bashar Assad, with the support of the Russian Federation Military Aerospace Agency, launched a pre-emptive attack on the "western pocket" in the desert and "reported" on the establishment of control over the territory of 1,500 km2 (about 30% of the region controlled by ISIS). But we must face the truth: even if "control" is established over the entire territory, the war will not end.
Because something that today is called the "combat group ISIS" was born 15 years ago in the desert of the Iraqi province of Anbar. And from their earliest days, these insurgents learned to survive in a virtually faceless and barren landscapes. Even places where the most powerful and experienced "civilized" armies will most likely be powerless. I repeat, the military actions are taking place in the Badia, or as it is called, the "Syrian steppe." Although in fact it is rocky (known and sandstone) desert / semi-desert (serir). Low in moisture and sparsely populated. It is completely criss-crossed by canyons, caves created over thousands of years, and artificial tunnels. Several-kilometre long tunnels recently captured by Syrian government troops in Southern Damascus illustrate how ISIS is able to provide for refuge.
And this all means that even if the Syrians or Kurds capture some hilltop or an isolated town, this does not affect the ability of ISIS to mobilize in the area if necessary. Moreover, this makes government forces vulnerable in that they can be attacked from any direction: after all, a group of ISIS fighters can advance to determine the movement of government forces, attack them, and then simply slip away (most likely through tunnels) to another location.
The Syrians themselves believe that "the key to victory, or at least to a significant suppression of such a system of operations that is used by ISIS in the Syrian desert, is a wider presence of troops, regular patrols and constant observation." However, the Syrians do not propose how to do this under the conditions of the growing Iranian-Israeli-American-Russian conflict.
Therefore, do not rush to write off the head choppers and luxuriate in rays of glory on the balcony of Charles de Gaulle. ISIS is a headache that can turn into a migraine.
Andrey Ganzha (Kiev), specially for EADaily