Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) jihadists are expanding their territory in some parts of Syria, reports Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL).
The intense focus on eradicating other anti-Damascus rebel groups by the Russia- and Iran-backed Syrian regime forces has given the terrorist group breathing room in areas like Deir ez-Zour, the organization notes.
While the Islamic State, also known as IS, has been losing in Mosul, the terrorist group’s last major stronghold in Iraq, it has been achieving some successes in the Syrian city of Deir ez-Zour, points out Radio Liberty.
“Last week, new evidence emerged that Russia and Assad may have had a mutually beneficial relationship with IS rather than an adversarial one, though that relationship dynamic appears to be changing,” it adds.
ISIS has been recently attacking Syrian regime positions in Deir ez-Zour.
Radio Liberty explains:
The Syrian city of Deir ez-Zour has been largely controlled by IS since 2015, but an oddly shaped part of the city and its surrounding areas have remained under the control of the Syrian military. Most importantly, the military airport has never fallen to IS, allowing the Syrian regime to continue to move troops, ammunition, and supplies into and out of the city. In the last week or so, IS has launched a concerted effort to drive the Syrian military from those positions.
The Assad regime coalition is made up of the Russian military, Iran-allied fighters including commandos from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Hezbollah terrorists, and Shiite militiamen from Iraq, among others.
Although their stated purpose is to fight terrorists, they have allowed jihadist groups like ISIS to expand their territory while they concentrate on Syrian rebels, including some backed by the United States organized to combat ISIS.
Radio Liberty reports that ISIS easily recaptured the ancient city of Palmyra because it was not heavily guarded, adding that both al-Qaeda and ISIS have also capitalized on Russia’s particularly focus on Syrian rebel groups.
The United States’ primary focus on ISIS has also been blamed for a growing and stronger al-Qaeda.
Meanwhile, the Islamic State is losing territory to other U.S. and Turkey-backed coalitions fighting in Iraq and northern Syria.
On the eastern and western front, Iraqi government forces, Kurdish peshmerga troops, and militias primarily made up of Iran-allied Shiite fighters have reported various victories against ISIS in recent months, particularly in Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city.
In northern Syria, the U.S.-allied Syrian Defense Force (SDF), predominantly made up of Kurdish fighters, as well as the Turkish military in collaboration with Syrian rebels have dealt major blows to ISIS, capturing large parts of the its territory.
SDF fighters, backed by U.S.-led coalition airstrikes, are currently fighting to retake Raqqa, the jihadist group’s de-facto capital in Syria.