Over the past few weeks, the media and organizations monitoring the West Asia developments have broadcasted a variety of news stories that all shared one thing in common: defeats and retreats of ISIS terrorist group in different fronts.
The provinces and cities that once fell easily to ISIS’ hands majorly due to weakness in the Iraqi and Syrian security structures during the past few days were liberated one after another and saw the Syrian and Iraqi flags flown once again over their buildings.
Ramadi, Tikrit, Sinjar, Mosul, Fallujah, Raqqa, Palmyra, Kobani, and Tell Abyad are the names of the most strategic cities and neighborhoods that over the past year were under control of the terrorist group. But now only Raqqa and Mosul remain occupied among others.
Cutting off ISIS’ supply lines and links with outside the Syrian borders on the one hand has pushed the terrorist group to face difficulty getting military and logistic aid that earlier were received mostly from the Turkish borders and on the other hand deprived the terrorist group of selling stolen oil as its major income source.
To shed light on the serial setbacks and failures of ISIS in Iraq and Syria, particularly over past year, four crucial reasons can be highlighted:
Decline of regional and transregional support for the terrorist group
Since its foundation, ISIS enjoyed financial, military, and intelligence support of some of countries from the region and beyond. This is not confined to only ISIS, however. Other active terrorist groups in the region also took share from these supports.
So far a plenty of considerable documents about the terrorist group’s use of the military and technical equipment of such countries as Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar, and the UAE have been gathered as pictures and images or even reports by the intelligence services and Western human rights organizations and published for the global public opinion.
These aids that can be branded as hard supports reached to their minimum levels over the past year as access roads of ISIS with Turkey and Jordan have been lost. Another part of some of regional countries’ supports for the terrorist group includes wide-ranging funding that is now facing serious limits due to international sensitivities and media focus. In past few weeks, for example, Hillary Clinton, the Democrat candidate for the US presidential race, in an unprecedented address has recited names of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Kuwait, asking them to prevent their citizens’ fund-raising for the terrorist groups.
These words by the former US Secretary of State are good reasons to argue that there are supports to the terrorist groups especially ISIS by the Persian Gulf Arab states.
The Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir just a day after Clinton’s remarks has called her words as election propaganda that aimed at winning votes by the candidates.
Although al-Jubeir’s reaction is fairly right but we cannot ignore the sensitivity that has grown up in the eyes of the public opinion about international-level support for ISIS terrorists. In fact, it is this sensitivity that pushed an American presidential election candidate, who by the way holds close relations with the Saudi lobby in the US, to take such standing.
Cross-region military supports for anti-ISIS fight
The US-led anti-ISIS military coalition contains over 40 countries that reportedly target ISIS positions in Iraq and Syria by airstrikes or sometimes by limited ground operations. Additionally, a 34-Islamic-nation military bloc led by Saudi Arabia has started separate air raids against ISIS targets since December 14, 2015.
But we should make no mistake. For sure, the transregional sides have played a serious role in dealing a blow to ISIS’ structure and positions in Syria and Iraq, but by the term transregional sides doesn’t refer to the mentioned coalitions. It refers to Russia and Axis of Resistance’s large-scale military presence in Syria.
The US and Saudi-led coalitions, according to the majority of monitors of the regional developments, made no sensible achievement in destroying ISIS capabilities. Even there are evidences that the so-called anti-ISIS coalitions have made moves just against the goals they were formed for.
The incompetence of the Washington and Riyadh-led military alliances became further clear for the public opinion when just a couple of weeks after September 2015 and anti-terror Russian intervention in Syria the terrorist group made serious retreats in different Syrian fronts.
Ongoing air and missile strikes, artillery support for the Syrian army’s forces and its allies from Resistance Axis, intelligence domination, and eliminating several top commanders of the terrorist group in Syria by airstrikes are among the tangible triumphs made by Russia in its campaign against ISIS and other terror groups.
Strengthening national unity and filling the political gaps
In June 2014, the time that the terrorist group in a short time seized large parts of Iraq’s territories from Al Anbar to Mosul, the Iraqi political scene witnessed one of its most complicated crises at least after the US invasion of the country in 2003.
The intensity of the party quarrels reached a degree that even following ISIS’ sweeping assaults they didn’t wind down. The engaged sides insisted on their party demands while being inattentive to the perilous security conditions that brewed following ISIS offensives. While the terrorist group was advancing and capturing provinces and cities one after another, the Iraqi political forces in different camps like parliament and street rallies were busy conflicting and settling scores.
The chaotic conditions in Iraq were contained to a large extent after Nouri al-Maliki stepped down and tried to manage the country’s political scene. As gradually ISIS’ threats considerably rose, a kind of unity began to appear in the country’s influential and deep-rooted political parties.
Therefore, by pushing aside the severe rifts between the parties and influential groups in the Iraqi politics on the one hand the camp that favored sinking the government and opening the way for further ISIS advances into the country turned into a minority and was largely exposed to the public and on the other hand the military and security forces developed the necessary concentration to better confront the terror threats.
This factor was developed in even a better way in Syria than Iraq due to concentration of power. In other words, the mobilization of the political and state forces for a comprehensive confrontation of ISIS and other terrorist groups did not require continuous settlement of the political tensions between different groups and parties. Rather, only cleansing the infiltrators naturally led to unity and coordination among the country’s active sides.
Axis of Resistance
With a realistic look at what happened to the region during the recent 5 years, it is clear that one cannot simply touch upon the presence and moves of Axis of Resistance in anti-ISIS and terrorism front beside other mentioned factors.
Although the other three factors certainly played role in defeats and retreats of ISIS in Syria and Iraq, a look at the battlefield facts makes it daringly clear that without serious measure taken by the Resistance Axis, the other factors alone could not cope with such a terrorist organization as ISIS.
To put it another way, factors like political and military supports of foreign parties and national and political unity provide the prerequisite for containing the terrorist group but the sufficient condition for obliteration of ISIS definitely is the role of Resistance Axis.
Certainly, ISIS as largest security threat in West Asia has formed a regional front against the nations. It cannot be faced using the established nation-state platforms, rather, its confrontation urges forming a regional front to contain and beat it at the end of the road. This is something granted to the regional nations thanks to presence of Resistance Axis.
Today ISIS is not seeing itself in front of two classic and conventional Arab armies but is finding itself dealing with a dynamic popular front across the region that is formed by Iraqi, Iranian, Syrian, and Lebanese fighters. The ISIS project designers and implementers certainly failed to predict and so expect such a front because now they have no solution to face it.
The Resistance, on the one hand by its unmatched and massive potentials for mobilization of forces– the best example is the great public positive response to fatwa of top Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah al-Sistani for anti-ISIS jihad– and on the other side extraordinary political and military management of the mobilized forces by Iran as the heart of the Axis of Resistance, has managed in several fronts to make progress in battle against ISIS and other terrorist groups in Iraq and Syria and so retake major areas.