As of this writing, separate military offensives by Syrian government forces and jihadist militants from Islamic State (IS) were advancing rapidly on the city of Aleppo, the key remaining urban stronghold of the secular rebel FSA, which was forced to relinquish control of the city of Homs earlier this year. The loss of Aleppo likely will prove to be the death knell of the FSA.

The FSA spearheaded the civil war against President Bashar al-Assad’s Baathist regime in 2011. But for the past several months, it has been losing what is effectively a two-front battle against the Syrian military and the ultraconservative IS.

Until July, Assad and his military commanders had been happy to let IS (previously known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria or ISIS) do pretty much as it pleased within Syria’s borders, as the group mainly focused its hostility against the FSA and more moderate Islamist fighters operating under the umbrella of the Islamic Front. However, with the government’s fight against the FSA and the Islamic Front approaching a possible endgame, both the Syrian military and the jihadists are redirecting their focus toward one another, and IS appears to have the upper hand.

It is difficult to imagine a more ironic scenario than the U.S. and NATO defending the Assad regime.

In late June, IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared the establishment of an independent caliphate or Islamic state (hence the group’s name change), made up of the territory captured by IS in Syria and in Iraq. The ultimate goal of the self-proclaimed caliph is eventual sovereignty over all of the majority Sunni areas of both Syria and Iraq.

In The Spotlight

Baghdadi is not about to surrender an inch of his caliphate without a fight. And his army’s capability has been greatly enhanced by the seizure of weapons and other supplies left unprotected as the Iraqi military dissolved in the face of the jihadists’ advance southward through Iraq in June.

It is difficult to imagine a more ironic scenario than that of the U.S. and its NATO allies in Europe coming to the defense of the Assad regime, which is inarguably guilty of committing crimes against humanity, but that would be the likely effect of western intervention against IS within Syria, which could become inevitable if the jihadists continue to gain in strength.

The western powers might consider intervening in the Syrian conflict only so far as to produce a stalemate in Syria. But even assuming that were possible — at the very least, such a plan would only be practical following a decisive defeat of IS forces in Iraq — the danger that intervention might instead help either side to win the battle would make such an endeavor very risky.


The PRS Group
About The Author The PRS Group
The PRS Group is a leading global provider of political and country risk analysis and forecasts, covering 140 countries. Based on proprietary, quantitative risk models, the firm's clientele includes financial institutions, multilateral agencies, and trans-national firms.

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