On September 2018, when the Assad regime was preparing to launch its (now on-hold) offensive against rebel-held Idlib in northern Syria, a rather surprising report emerged in TheTimes. The report alleged that the regime had transported 400 Isis fighters from the province of Deir Al-Zor, where the group has been under siege by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces and the regime, to the vicinity of Idlib.
Idlib had been Isis-free since 2014, when opposition fighters managed to expel the fighters that had briefly held territory. In early 2018, the group staged a brief comeback, but were once again repelled.
The Assad regime has long claimed its aim is to “fight and crush terrorism”, so the idea that it aided and abetted Isis fighters may seem shocking. But in fact, the claim of a regime-Isis deal was not the first of its kind. Over the past two years, a pattern has emerged, where the Assad regime and Isis have co-existed on the battlefield while attacking rebel forces. The two so-called enemies have struck evacuation deals, and the Assad regime has been accused of smuggling Isis fighters into rebel-held areas.
The flow of Isis fighters into rebel-held areas begins with the evacuation deals. [Continue reading…]