ISIS’s Second Front in Syria
Jun 18, 2014 - Jenny Cafarella , Valerie Szybala
ISIS has sustained its campaign in the countryside of Deir ez-Zour province throughout its escalation in Iraq, indicating its continued prioritization of this military effort inside of Syria despite increased pressure from the regime. Although it is possible that ISIS will take an operational pause in Syria to solidify its control and absorb its gains in Iraq, it is likely to move swiftly in a renewed offensive fully to rout JN and rebel forces from the Deir ez-Zour countryside and firmly to establish the lines of control and oil reserves within its state.
After the fall of Mosul, widespread celebrations were held throughout ISIS-held territory within Syria in the Aleppo strongholds of Jarablus, al Bab, Manbij, Deir Heifer, and Maskana, with a full parade held in ar-Raqqa. ISIS social media outlets reported wildly on the ongoing advances in Iraq, using the hashtag #SykesPicotOver to celebrate the game-changing successes achieved in Iraq. In addition to the outpouring of support on social media and in the streets of ISIS’s Syrian territory, ISIS commander in northern Syria Omar al-Shishani issued a “general communication” urging support for our “brothers in Mosul.” These celebrations indicate the cross-border resonance of ISIS operations in Iraq and Syria.
Raqqa & Aleppo
ISIS firmly solidified its control over the de-facto capital of its emirate in ar-Raqqa city in early 2014. While local resistance to ISIS rule has continued, it has been limited to low-level clashes and civilian protests that have fallen short of posing a threat to ISIS’s control in the area. In northern ar-Raqqa province Kurdish YPG forces regularly target ISIS positions in the countryside surrounding the Tel Abyad border crossing with Turkey, but ISIS has been able to maintain control of the crossing and has engaged in a number of vicious reprisal attacks including executions and kidnapping of Kurdish civilians in an attempt to deter future offensive raids. Tel Abyad is a key strategic location for ISIS, likely serving as a transit point for foreign fighters and supplies into ISIS’s ar-Raqqa stronghold.