With ISIS continuing to hold the upper hand in Syria and Iraq, it appears that the terrorist network is planning what military strategists call a pincer movement to attack the Israeli homeland from the north and south. Three Syrian rebel groups switched loyalties to gain ISIS support for attacks on the Israeli occupied Golan Heights, according to a report by the Fiscal Times. ISIS is now able to coordinate with Egyptian ISIS-aligned terror group Ansar Bait al-Maqdis in Sinai to simultaneously pressure Israel’s northern and southern borders.
As of Dec. 11, 2014, the total cost of U.S. operations against ISIS since aerial bombing missions began on August 8, 2014 is about $2 billion and the current daily cost is $8.1 million, according to data released by a Pentagon spokesman Commander Bill Urban.
Although the U.S. led Coalition Joint Task Force named “Operation Inherent Resolve” claims to have impacted ISIS command and control, resupply and maneuvering in Iraq and Syria, the number of ISIS fighters is still growing rapidly. No one is claiming that the bombing has slowed down ISIS recruiting of foreign fighters.
As a testament on the difficulty of using planes to fight ISIS on the ground, after hundreds of aerial sorties in the strategic border town of Kobani, only 50 ISIS fighters have been killed. The PR value of being “at war” with the U.S. continues to swell ISIS regional and international ranks.
Despite huge amounts of CIA support to the U.S.-backed Free Syrian Army, large numbers of moderate rebels armed and trained by the United States in northern Syrian Idlib Province either surrendered or defected in November to the al-Qaeda Jabhat affiliated al-Nusra Front. ISIS and al-Nusra Front, al-Qaeda’s branch in Syria, are now the overwhelmingly dominant rebel groups in the country.
An Iraqi field commander said last week that U.S. military forces had their first ground combat clash with ISIS warriors on December 16, when they had to come to the aid of Iraqi Army unit. After what was trumpeted as six weeks of defeats in Iraq, ISIS is making gains across the western province of al-Anbar, threatening to defeat the Iraqi military forces and their Sunni tribal allies to take control of all of eastern Syria and western Iraq.
Al-Yarmuk Martyrs Brigade has controlled an area near the Jordan-Israel border for two years and has been regularly bombed by Israel Defense Forces and taken UN peace-keeping hostages several times. But fearing the loss of clout in southern Syria, Al-Nusra attacked the headquarters of their former allies, the al-Yarmuk Martyrs Brigade, in early December. Al-Yarmuk and two smaller groups with hundreds of fighters near the Golan Heights repelled the attacks, and then pledged allegiance last week to ISIS, which they say has replaced Al-Qaeda as the future of Islam.
ISIS has been criticized by many Arabs and Sunni extremists for fighting Muslims instead of making war on Israel. A coordinated attack on Israel would be a PR bonanza for ISIS’s popularity and undoubtedly would spur recruitment and funding efforts. Most of ISIS’s top military commanders are former senior officers in Saddam Hussein’s million man army. Facing the U.S. in the 1991 First Gulf War, Saddam hurled hundreds of Scud missiles at Israel in an effort to inflame the entire Middle East by goading the Jewish State into the Gulf War.
ISIS has proven that air power alone cannot defeat their network. Luring Israel to make a preemptive ground attack against ISIS and declare the Caliphate as Israel’s main adversary would quickly undermine the stated and unstated Arab support against ISIS from Egypt, Turkey, Syria, Qatar and Saudi Arabia for Operation Inherent Resolve.
Israel has used its highly capable air force to attack southern Syria many times since the beginning of Syrian Civil War in 2011. In June 2013, when Austria withdrew its 370 UN peacekeepers from the Golan Heights due to deteriorating security conditions, Israel was forced to move in tanks and heavy weapons to engage Syrian rebels.
A senior Israeli officer earlier this week said that in response to al-Yarmuk declaring loyalty to ISIS, the IDF has regrouped and reinforced its forces in the southern Golan Heights, according to A-Sharq Al-Awsat and Lebanese media. The action follows the Israeli Army’s Combat Intelligence Collection Corps “Vulture” battalion week-long Golan Heights maneuvers in late November.