Sky News reports on the results of an “exclusive investigation into leaked secret Islamic State files,” which reveals that ISIS has been actively colluding with the regime of Syrian dictator Bashar Assad.
According to Sky News, one major instance of such cooperation concerns the city of Palmyra, which was “handed back to government forces by Islamic State as part of a series of cooperation agreements going back years.”
Other deals included “trading oil for fertilizer” and “arrangements to evacuate some areas by Islamic State forces before the Syrian army attacked.”
These conclusions are partially based on the huge trove of documents an Islamic State defector gave Sky News in March and also on information provided by more recent defectors, smuggled from Syria into Turkey by a Free Syrian Army cell with whom Sky News has been in contact.
The new documents provided by defectors are described as “copies of handwritten orders sent from Islamic State headquarters.”
For example, one of these documents is a request for the safe passage of a drive through ISIS checkpoints to exchange oil for fertilizer with the Syrian regime. Another document gives an ISIS commander instructions to withdraw from an area that was about to be bombed.
Most significantly, such a withdrawal order was written for ISIS forces in Palmyra, instructing them to “withdraw all heavy artillery and anti-aircraft machine guns from in and around Palmyra to Raqqa province” before the Syrian Army recaptured the city.
ISIS defectors asserted that this clandestine cooperation between the Islamic State and Syria extended to the Syrian regime’s partners, the Russians, and the Iraqi government is involved as well.
Most disturbing is the reason given for this collusion by Sky News. It is more than just a matter of private deals cut behind the scenes to make a brutal war slightly less devastating for both sides, or Assad finding ISIS useful as a means of drawing attention from his hideous regime.
According to Sky News, it’s part of a master plan to train a terrorist army for deployment across Europe:
Our analysis of all the Islamic State files has revealed the organisation needs to maintain its caliphate in part to give it the room to train foreign jihadists to carry out attacks in Europe and further afield.
Al Qaeda needed first Sudan, and then Afghanistan, for exactly the same purpose. In doing so, it co-opted failed and ungoverned areas to use for its own training and development.
What the files reveal is that IS’s training programme and exporting of terror has not just been going on for months, but for years – for much longer than Western security services were aware of.
Indeed, they suggest that a programme of coordinated attacks on Western countries was one of the original building blocks of Islamic State.
Some of the documents employed by the news organization to back up this assertion are orders for terror cells to deploy in “infidel countries,” as part of a massive operation called “Break the Siege,” targeting Europe.
Business Insider notes there is precedent for Assad making deals with ISIS, as documents captured in a U.S. Special Forces raid on the Islamic State’s “oil minister,” Abu Sayyaf, revealed, “deals the Assad regime supposedly made with Sayyaf that, at one point, contributed up to 72% of ISIS’ profits from natural resources.”
While most reports on the Sky News documents focus on that alarming assertion that terror operatives with European target lists have been trained by the Islamic State for much longer than we suspected, Professor Anthony Glees of the Center for Security and Intelligence Studies at the University of Buckingham found a silver lining for the UK Express: Secret deals between ISIS and the Assad regime could be a sign that ISIS knows it’s losing the war.
“Deals between two mortal enemies invariably mean one side is winning – but not yet – and the other is losing but isn’t defeated and is hoping to stabilize its position,” said Professor Glees. “Certainly ISIS has no genuine interest in safeguarding our common cultural heritage. It’s about hanging on to weapons and territory. In this case it can only mean Assad and Putin think they are winning and ISIS knows it is losing. But not yet.”
Unfortunately, even this silver lining had a bonus dark cloud attached, as Glees warned a strengthened ISIS remains a deadly threat to the West, and would continue to drive a tidal wave of refugees from Syria into Europe.