In Northern Syria, American-backed Syrian rebels are pushing towards the ISIS capital of Al-Raqqa. 230 miles away in the Iraqi city of Mosul, the American-backed Iraqi government and Kurdish militias are pushing towards the only other major city held by ISIS. All this is happening after American-backed forces have taken back major cities from ISIS like Fallujah, Ramadi, and Kobani along with the entire Syrian-Turkish border. Meanwhile, ISIS has retaken Palmyra from the Syrian regime. In Aleppo, Syrian regime forces and the Russian Air Force are slaughtering thousands upon thousands of civilians to take back the remaining rebel-held the portion of the city.
In case you have not noticed this by now, this is the opposite of what regime apologists say. If their story was correct, we would see ISIS advancing out of Raqqa and Mosul, holding Fallujah, Ramadi, and the Syrian-Turkish border, being pushed back from Palmyra and the Syrian regime and Russia would be only killing terrorists in Aleppo.
Of course, this narrative is baseless. Every major city taken back from ISIS has been taken back by American-backed Syrian rebels, American-backed Kurds in Iraq or the American-backed Iraqi government. The only city which could be the exception to this rule is Palmyra but the regime only took back this city after losing it in the first place and they lost it to ISIS days before this article was published. All this brings into question the biggest argument of regime supporters (this argument comes in two forms); Assad fights terror/Assad fights ISIS.
Given that this argument has two variants, they should be addressed individually. The broader argument that he fights terror is partially true. He does fight radical Islam inside which fall under the umbrella of the Syrian rebels, but this ignores four key facts.
- He does not actively fight the biggest Islamic terror group in the conflict—ISIS.
- He is actively supported by the radical Islamic regime in Iran, which also happens to be the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism, and by the Islamic terror group, Hezbollah.
- His slaughter of millions of civilians throughout the conflict is far worse than what any of these Islamic groups will ever do.
- Secular, Christian and moderate Islamic groups are active on the rebel side and have proven themselves in combat. The biggest of these groups are the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), Kurdish YPG and the Syrian Military Council, a Syrian-Christian group.
Now flipping over to the argument localized against ISIS.
Quick note, the last three maps were created before ISIS recaptured Palmyra. Remember that when looking at them.
Here is the conflict map on September 15, 2014, or one week before the American intervention in Syria began.
For all the maps red is the government of the country, gray is ISIS. Dark green is Syrian rebels and the light green is the SDF (it forms later in the conflict so it does not appear in the first map). Yellow towards the top is the YPG and yellow towards the bottom is Hezbollah.
In Iraq, all green are Kurds. Red and gray are the same.
Here is the map of Syria on September 16, 2015, 16 days before Russia began its intervention
Lastly here is the most recent maps of Syria and Iraq.
Let’s start with the Iraqi map. Notice anything? ISIS is being pushed back.
What about the Syrian maps? Between the first and second it is clear ISIS is losing control of the Turkish-Syrian border and lost complete control of it a year later. It was not to Assad, but to Syrian rebels. Between the first and second map you would also notice that the Syrian government loses a lot of southern territory to ISIS and by the third map the rebels take a lot of it back. The only take away from these we can take is that it is the Syrian rebels who are taking the fight to ISIS. This is not a surprise once you learn only 6% of Assad’s attacks are against ISIS.
Lastly, here is a picture of Russian airstrike’s in Russia from November 8 to December 6. Notice where they are and where they are not?
The facts on the ground are obvious. Assad does not fight ISIS, in fact, he created them.
No one should be suppressed by any of this. ISIS brought radical Islamists out of the Chechen region of Russia into Syria and keeps them there. If ISIS is defeated they will go back into Russia. Assad claims legitimacy and both get propaganda wins from claiming to fight ISIS. At a certain point, you have to judge the accuracy of each sides claims by their results. The American coalition has a litany of cities and massive swaths of territory taken from ISIS to show its results and it is looking to add the last two major ISIS-held cities to its list. On the other hand, Assad and Russia have nothing to show for. As I write this, they are too busy slaughtering civilians in Aleppo to stop ISIS in Palmyra. Both Russia and Assad are obstacles in the fight against ISIS and that is why they need to go.