Tuesday, 31 May 2016
Assad must – finally – turn his sights on Islamic State
Interesting article from an Assad foe indicating a change of heart
23 MAY 2016 • 6:49PM
The series of suicide bombs that have struck at the heart of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime demonstrates that the Syrian government still has a long way to go before it can declare victory in the country’s bitter civil war. So far in the five-year conflict, it has suited the president predominantly to target relatively moderate opposition groups that seek to unseat him. Neither he nor his Russian backer, Vladimir Putin, has focused military efforts on the fanatics of Islamic State (Isil).
This could prove to be a grave misjudgment. Moscow, in particular, will be deeply concerned that the targets of the attacks included the port city of Tartous, where the Russians have a naval base, and Jableh, a town further north, where they have an airbase. Isil, meanwhile, has its own reasons for wanting to carry out high-profile attacks such as these. While its fiefdom in Syria remains largely unchallenged, the same is not true in Iraq, where the government has recaptured territory from the terrorists. Afterretaking Ramadi, the capital of the Sunni-dominated Anbar province, at the turn of the year, Iraqi forces are now preparing to liberate the equally vital city of Fallujah. The even bigger prize of Mosul awaits.
If Iraq succeeds, Isil may have to concentrate its resources in Syria. There it profits by fomenting the conflict; sectarian tensions were running higher than ever after the latest bombs. But the same explosions have made the truth inescapable to Mr Assad. Like everyone, he is threatened by the warped ideology of Isil. He must now, finally, turn his sights on the group. Were he to do so, the future of the Islamists’ so called Caliphate really would be in doubt.
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