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Syria and Iraq could see Daesh revival

Daesh has increased its pace of operations with deadly tactics such as ambushes, assassinations and explosions.

By Christiane Waked

Published: Mon 25 Jan 2021, 11:24 PM

The administration of former US President Donald Trump had announced its intention to withdraw 500 troops in mid-January, leaving only 2,500 in Iraq. Almost all troops from other member-states of the anti-Daesh coalition had left the country at the start of the novel Covid-19 pandemic.

It is true that the chances of Daesh controlling a territory in Syria or Iraq like the one it had before are minimal but that doesn’t mean that they cannot mobilise the estimated 18,000 remaining fighters in the aforementioned countries.

In recent weeks, Daesh stepped up attacks on Syrian territory, raising fears of a substantial increase in its nuisance capacity. In fact, hardly a day passes in Syria without Daesh announcing new attacks in different areas of the five governorates, in a campaign that escalated nearly three months ago, and its targets are the ‘Syrian Democratic Forces’ in the east to the Assad forces and the opposition factions in the north and west.

Last month, 39 Syrian soldiers going on leave were shot dead by Daesh members in their bus that was taking them to Deir Ez Zor. The attack was one of the deadliest since the fall of the caliphate in March 2019.

Daesh has increased its pace of operations with deadly tactics such as ambushes, assassinations and explosions, and in the absence of political openness in Syria, the group is likely to intensify its attacks. After losing Al Baghouz area, Daesh announced a direct shift in its strategy from “classic wars” to “wars of attrition” and guerrilla wars, which it is pursuing in the Syrian Badia region against local forces.

And as long as these attacks will continue, Syrian President Bashar Al Assad will take advantage of the situation to send a message to the international community that Daesh is still strong and, therefore, support must be provided to him and his regime to confront the threat.

Florence Parly, French Minister for the Armed Forces, expressed last week his concerns about the “resurgence” of Daesh in Iraq and Syria. “France considers that Daesh is still present. We can even speak of a form of resurgence of Daesh in Syria and Iraq,” Parly underlined during a programme on France Inter and France Info TV.

The situation in Iraq is also not reassuring, and after an increase in violations and infiltration by Daesh elements, Major-General Yahya Rasul, spokesman for the Commander-in-Chief of the Iraqi Armed Forces, Prime Minister Mustafa Al Kazemi, announced the latter had issued a directive requiring that maximum measures be taken to guard the 600km border with Syria. As long as Iran fields influence both in Syria and Iraq, the population will suffer from terrorism. The danger is expanding now to countries like Lebanon. Iran’s constant interference is giving justification for groups like Daesh to exist as they thrive in places where there is an economic collapse which is the case in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon etc.

These countries face severe financial crisis that cast a shadow on all facets of life. Daesh is also benefiting from the Covid-19 pandemic by presenting the disease as a “divine punishment”. In such a situation, they find it easier to charge the aforementioned governments with poor handling of the pandemic.

After the fall of Baghouz, the final holdout of Daesh in Syria, the world thought the terrorist group that once controlled and proclaimed a caliphate over a territory which was the size of Britain is finally finished, but unfortunately that is not the case.

For Syria and Iraq to get rid of terrorism, regional and international players must throw their weight behind them and the new US President Joe Biden must think wisely about his political strategies for the Middle East which deserves a chance to live in peace.

Christiane Waked is a Political analyst
 based in Beirut.

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