Implications of the Fall of Key Syrian and Iraqi Cities to ISIS

The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (May 27):

Ramadi, Iraq (Wikipedia)

Ramadi, Iraq (Wikipedia)

  • The fall of the major cities of Palmyra in Syria and Ramadi in Iraq to the Islamic State is part of the disintegration of the Middle East’s nation-states.
  • Assad-controlled Syria has shrunk to half its size and lost control of almost all of its borders. 
  • The Islamic State (IS) finds itself almost within shelling distance from Baghdad and bordering Saudi Arabia and Jordan, raising acute fears in both countries. On the Syrian front, IS has advanced to striking distance of Damascus.
  • The United States was surprised by the Islamic State’s victories, seeing the fall of Ramadi as a “set-back.”  A “sit and wait and see” policy may explain U.S. policy in Syria.
  • The battles have proven that the Shiite armies had no resolve or will to fight the Sunni jihadists. This leaves open the option of Iran and its proxies enlarging their involvement.
  • Hizbullah has been engaged in battle in Syria and has become an important pillar of the Syrian regime. Hizbullah has taken heavy casualties.

With the fall of Palmyra (Tadmur in Arabic) in Syria and Ramadi, east of Baghdad, to the Islamic State (IS), and the fall of the strategic town in the north of Syria – Jisr el Shughur – to the Jabhat el Nusra, the Middle East has entered a new phase in the disintegration of its nation-states.

The fall of Ramadi and Palmyra came as a stunning surprise to both analysts and intelligence agencies (including the United States) who only a few weeks ago claimed that IS had been contained. After the Iraqi forces’ recapture of Tikrit in April 2015, it seemed as if it was the beginning of the “reconquista” against the Sunni jihadist organization that had also suffered from the loss of several top commanders and the incapacitation of its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Reports claimed he was unable to lead and conduct the Islamic State’s affairs following a severe injury in March 2015.

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