News / Middle East

US Airstrikes May Push Islamic State Back into Fight Against Assad

US Airstrikes May Push Islamic State Back into Fight Against Assadi
August 19, 2014 10:19 PM
Syria and the United States are both attacking Islamic State militants who have displaced thousands of civilians in Syria and northern Iraq. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, U.S. airstrikes in Iraq could push those forces back across the border and again into the fight against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Syria and the United States are both attacking Islamic State militants who have displaced thousands of civilians in Syria and northern Iraq.   But, U.S. airstrikes in Iraq could push those forces back across the border and again into the fight against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

While the fighters of the Islamic State have been sweeping through Iraq in recent weeks, Syrian troops have kept up their fight against both it and the opposition rebels - regaining ground near the Damascus airport while bombing militant positions near the border. And civilians continue to flee the fighting, says Human Rights Watch's Sarah Margon.

"We are looking at a very scaled-up, brutal situation not only in Syria, but also in Iraq where certainly the borders are increasingly blurred," she said.

But facing a counter-attack by the Kurdish Peshmerga, and unable to counter U.S. airstrikes in Iraq, U.S. Institute of Peace analyst Steve Heydemann says Islamic State fighters may also be more apt to refocus on Syria,

"It would be even more likely to become their next phase of activity if, in fact, the American operations in Iraq do slow their advances there and give them incentives to turn their attentions away from their more-difficult front to a front in which the Americans are not present," he said.

And he says with weapons and territory captured in Iraq, the Islamic State militants may now also be in a stronger position to confront Syrian government forces.

"It may be that they have reached a point where they can make a bit of a tactical pivot," Heydemann said. "Having secured a solid base, they can perhaps turn their attention more fully to the regime."

Even though the U.S. is launching air strikes against the same group that Syrian government forces are fighting - that does not give Washington common cause with Damascus, says Deputy U.S. State Department Spokeswoman Marie Harf.

"While we may be looking at some of the same targets, I think the fact that, or targets from the same group, the fact that the Assad regime has allowed ISIS to flourish and grow in the way it has is really one of the main reasons they have grown so strong," she said.

That early alliance of convenience with ISIS against more moderate opponents is something Heydemann says Assad may find to have been a miscalculation.

"One of the big questions is whether in creating the conditions that permitted the rise of ISIS, including some direct measures like the release of militants from Syrian prisons who then joined ISIS, the regime will find that the backlash creates a much bigger problem than it anticipated," he said.

A problem that, at least for now, Syrian forces are getting help with - in the international drive against the Islamic State.

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Comment Sorting
by: Lawrence Bush from: Houston, USA
August 24, 2014 2:09 PM
The very phenomenon of ISIL is the outcome of the Syrian civil war to fight the the Assad regime out of the Syrian dictatorship. The ISIL chief Baghdadi and his fancied a statehood out of the Syrian embroil is another dictatorship. What our air strikes upon the ISIL militia...... its complete objectives that our govt. has not fully revealed yet. Of course, the very objective of our govt. now is to keep the ISIL militia out of the Iraqi territory . And, that's to keep the militia inside the Syrian territory only for a ' do or die' policy in the Syrian civil war. The primus and princep drawback of the rebel groups that are fighting against the Syrian regime forces and the Lebanese Hezbolla militia is the lack of a resultant unity. There do remain many rebel groups as the Free Syrian Army, al Nusra front of the al Queda, the ISIL - an off-shoot of the al Queda, etc. If all the rebel units to fight under a unified command; then, to crushing the regime forces and to ousting the Syrian dictator wouldn't be difficile. So, for defending the very freedom, unity and territorial integrity of Iraq; and, the defense adjuvances of our friendly states and ours would be useful for the Iraqi govt. and people along with our precision air-strikes upon the ISIL. positions inside the Iraqi territory entirely, that's to go on. Besides, along with our air force jets, the use of non-lethal and lethal drones would be in the Iraqi air-space not for strikes at the sites of strategic importance of the ISIL only but to gathering strategic informations too.

by: Anonymous
August 20, 2014 10:12 AM
The rise of Isil is a direct consequence of the policy of fuelling the insurgency in Syria. No matter what the US state department claims, it is the lawlessness created by an externally supported insurgency that lead to this.

August 19, 2014 10:33 PM
ISIL has a backing of Saudi Arabia. These human killers got training in Saudi Arabia how to behead man and woman. If USA wants peace in Middle East, then USA must ask sponsor of these terrorist groups to stop funding and training. If USA do not know who are sponsors of these terrorist groups I inform you now. Saudi Arabia, Israel, Turkey, Jordon and Kuwait.
In Response

by: Tom Murphy from: Heartland America
August 20, 2014 10:53 AM
Since there is no logic in what you say, I have to assume that you are a supporter of ISIS and are trying to turn the USA against its allies in the middle east.

by: Mr A from: new york
August 19, 2014 9:48 PM
If ISIS want retreat and fight back Bashar El Assad, we have to use air strike to attack them in Syria. Even we do not like Bashar El Assad. we have to put our different view aside and work together to get these criminal killed .

by: meanbill from: USA
August 19, 2014 7:48 PM
CRAZY isn't it?... The US fought the Sunni Muslims in the "Sunni Triangle" and in the "Triangle of Death" in Iraq for (6) years without defeating them, (and now), the US makes a few airstrikes with fighter planes and US killer drone bombs, (and the US spreads the propaganda), that the very small military actions they take, are helping defeat the (USIL) al-Baghdadi Sunni Muslim army?...... IF the US had given Iraq the warplanes they bought from the US in 2012, (they'd been of more use to the Iraqis), than the few bombs the US dropped on disabled (ISIL) pickup trucks.... (a spit in the ocean, is as much as the US bombs are accomplishing in Iraq).

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