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Syrian, Iraqi government troops seen weakening in face of Islamic State armed group

Iraqi soldiers fighting the Islamic State militant group
Iraqi soldiers fighting the Islamic State militant group Reuters/Stringer

The US Pentagon says Iraqi forces lacked the will to defend Ramadi which fell to Islamic militants last week, as the Islamic State armed group seized the Iraqi side of a key border crossing with Syria after isolated government forces pulled out. In Syria, the official Al-Watan newspaper expresses ‘understanding’ for the government army withdrawing from Palmyra. And a de-classified document of the US military sheds new light on the current crisis in Syria and Iraq.


Analysts say that the moves by the Syrian army may show that Damascus is accepting a possible partition, handing over power to the forces of the Islamic State group.

Professor Abdullah Abdulkhaleq, a political scientist with the United Arab Emirates University in Al Ain, says Syria as we knew it does not exist anymore.

“The partition of Syria is already more or less a fact of life,” he told RFI. “The regime has lost 50 per cent of the country and there are pockets here and there, governed by different people and ethnicities with no government control over them, so the partition of Syria has taken a life of its own.”

Earlier this week, the NGO Judicial Watch published a de-classified document of the Defence Intelligence Agency, DIA, that in 2012 predicted the possibility of a Salafist principality in eastern Syria, and that of an Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

“The idea of the US supporting terrorist organisations to overthrow the Assad government is nothing new,” says Foad Izadi of the University of Tehran.

“We don’t need a de-classified document to realise what the US was doing. The US governments’ strategy is, you have good terrorists and bad terrorists. Good terrorists are terrorists that are fighting causes that the US likes. You can see it as a confirmation that the US and its allies are behind the successes of the Islamic State armed group.”

Observers in countries supporting the US in its efforts to fight the militant group don’t agree.

“I don’t believe in conspiracy theory,” says Abdulkhaleq. “I don’t believe the US was to create a headache for itself like ISIL and like Al-Qaeda and like terrorist organisations, and non-state actors that will wreak havoc to the region and to stability and consume America in a fruitless war.”

Over the past few weeks, the Islamic State armed group has announced victories in Ramadi and Palmyra. “I don’t think the US government is serious in terms of fighting ISIL or Al-Qaeda,” says Izadi. “Their purpose is not to limit these organisations, because these organisations still serve a purpose.

"If there was no ISIS, Syria and Iraq would be under Iranian influence. The goal of that attack is to limit the militia, but not to eliminate them. And you see the result, that these organisations, terrorist organisations, continue their operations without major problems.”

Commentators quoted by the independent website Zero Hedge have suggested that US ally Qatar may play a role in the civil war that is engulfing Iraq and Syria, and that it supports the destabilisation of the region, hoping to replace the government of President Bashar al-Assad who is against Qatar building a pipeline through the country to connect it to Europe. 

“A pipeline would make the gas considerably cheaper,” says Max Pyziur, a senior adviser with the Energy Policy Research Foundation in Washington DC. “With pipeline gas, there’s no process of conversion to liquid natural gas (LNG) and once you put it in the pipeline you just move it."

But he says that even if Qatar disposes of 24,7 trillion cubic meters of proven natural gas reserves, the third largest amount after Russia and Iran, it would be unwise for anyone to undertake major construction projects in the region under the current circomstances. “The biggest hurdle is political risk. And if you have that much political risk, sending a pipeline from Qatar into Turkey, it is really unfeasible,” he says.


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