Syrian regime reaps rewards of IS advances

Syrian regime reaps rewards of IS advances
Analysis: Regime is benefiting from IS attacks on other rebel forces - attacks which also deflect attention from its own atrocities. But how long will that last?
3 min read
17 April, 2015
The regime's forces benefit as opposition groups are drained by the IS [Anadolu]

The Islamic State group is making a clear bid to expand its control around the Syrian capital Damascus. But it is the regime that is gaining the most from the IS advance. 

Only a few months after advancing to the area of Beir al-Qassab in the Damascus countryside, IS tried to seize control of the Yarmouk refugee camp, less than 10km away from the capital's city centre.

They also advanced into the nearby area of Qaboun, where Syrian opposition forces put up a fight, leading IS to retreat into the northern area of Teshrin. Opposition forces attacked them there on Wednesday night.

Small but growing presence

IS does not have a strong presence there. Activist Omar Abdul Salam told al-Araby al-Jadeed that two months ago, there were barely 50 IS fighters in the area, before new fighters started joining them, taking the number up to around 200.

Abdul Salam said IS lures young recruits into their training camp by offering a monthly salary of $200-300 and food rations.

But it was regime forces who achieved major military gains after fighting started in Yarmouk, especially when they pushed through the frontlines in Tadamon and the camp.

The regime seems to be benefitting long-term as IS drains the resources of opposition forces. In PR terms, media reports of the IS advance on Damascus have also played into the regime's hands.

These reports overshadow the regime's defeat in Idlib as well as its daily air raids on the city’s residential areas, and on northern, eastern and southern areas of Aleppo.

Most strikingly, all the areas into which IS has advanced by attacking opposition forces are, in fact, besieged by the regime.

     This raises many questions on how IS has received logistical, financial and military support.

Opposition forces even agreed on a truce with the regime following its blockades in most of the areas IS is attempting to expand to, such as Yalda, Babila and Bayt Sahem, south of Damascus, as well as Qaboun, Barza and Teshrin, north of Damascus.

This raises many questions on how IS has received logistical, financial and military support.

IS had provoked Qaboun's opposition forces by posting videos on the Twitter account an affiliated group showing masked young men in training. The video was called "Mujahideen training camp in Qaboun".

The fight between opposition forces and IS in Qaboun may be compared to the battle in Damascus' southern suburbs, where Army of Islam (Jaish al-Islam) forces continue attempts to advance from the area of al-Zayn - which they took over in the past two days - towards al-Hajar al-Aswad, while Ajnad al-Sham forces continue to fight the IS outside the town of Yalda.


At the same time, the Palestinian Aknaf Bayt al-Maqdis brigades are continuing to fight IS in the northern parts of Yarmouk, supported by the opposition-affiliated brigades of Sham al-Rasoul and Ababil.

Members of the executive committee of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) told al-Araby al-Jadeed that the issue of Yarmouk would be at the top of the agenda in their meeting next Saturday, adding that the meeting would confirm the PLO’s decision not to intervene militarily in the camp in any way.

"The PLO's position has not changed. We will not intervene in armed conflicts on foreign territories anywhere", committee member Hanan Ashrawy said.

This comes as part of recent conflicting statements about Yarmouk, as PLO representative Ahmed al-Majdalani said there would be no political solution with the IS, referring to the need for a military solution to end the IS’s presence in the camp.

This article is an edited translation from our Arabic edition