Experts: Russian Airstrikes May Strengthen ISIS

Russian Airstrikes on Syria AP

Western diplomats believe the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) could gather more land in Syria as a result of the latest Russian and Iranian offensive.

“We’re very concerned that Russian-supported offensives targeting the moderate opposition are weakening them across the board–and Isil will take advantage of that to seize more territory,” stated one source.

Russia began conducting airstrikes in Syria on September 30. Their officials insist the planes are targeting ISIS, and evidence indicates the Russian offensive is targeting anyone considered an enemy of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Iran has allegedly provided over 2,000 fighters to the battle, as well. Genevieve Casagrande at the Institute for the Study of War believes the attacks will benefit Assad and ISIS:

ISIS is benefiting from Russia’s strikes on the Syrian opposition. On October 9, ISIS advanced 10 kilometers against rebels in northeastern Aleppo, the largest advance by ISIS in the province since August 2015. ISIS continued to conduct probing attacks against rebels northeast of Aleppo City from October 10-14.

The Syrian regime and ISIS have historically leveraged one another’s offensives in order to advance against rebel forces in the northern Aleppo countryside. Both ISIS and the regime will likely capitalize on the effects of Russian airstrikes on rebels. Russian airstrikes have thus far failed to deter ISIS from launching new offensives and rather have facilitated ISIS’s seizure of new terrain.

On October 9, ISIS managed to expand out of Aleppo in northwestern Syria, where Russia bombed. The terrorist group captured six villages and cut off an important trade route to Turkey.

“Daesh has exploited the Russian airstrikes and the preoccupation of the Free Syrian Army in its battles in Hama, and advanced in Aleppo,” said one rebel commander.

Until this attack, ISIS did not have a noticeable presence in Aleppo.

Russia did not target ISIS the first six days of its airstrikes. The planes have yet to hit Raqqa, the “capital” of the ISIS Caliphate. Their strikes have killed at least “274 civilians and wounded more than 700.”

On Sunday, ISIS attacked the Kurdish town of Tel Aran in Aleppo province, killing civilians.

“ISIS-led ground offensive on Tel Aran was preceded by heavy shelling with artillery and mortars by the terror group, which led to the death of at least eight civilians, including a woman and two children from one family, and the injury of several others,” declared activist Nasser Tlajabini. “The extremist group tries to take revenge of the town’s residents–who had harbored Syrian rebels two years ago.”