The assassination of Hassan Aboud, the leader of hardline Salafist Ahrar al-Sham and a former associate of al-Qaeda representative Abu Khalid al-Suri, is likely to have major repercussions for the capacity of rebels to coordinate their efforts across fronts.
Control of the urban terrain in Syria is parceled among a number of armed groups, including the Syrian regime, opposition groups including Jabhat al-Nusra (JN), and the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS).
Rebel groups including Jabhat al-Nusra have remained on the offensive after their August 27 seizure of the Quneitra Border Crossing.
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel told reporters that U.S. airstrikes “have stalled ISIL's momentum” after two weeks of bombarding ISIS positions in Northern Iraq. The Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham has not stalled under U.S. pressure. Rather, since the fall of Mosul and despite U.S. airstrikes, the insurgent army has continued a successful and spectacular offensive in Syria. Their gains nearly equal in scale the seizure of northern Iraq in June. The insurgent army’s latest triumph is the capture of Assad’s Tabqa air base in Eastern Syria.
ISIS continued a multi-front offensive in Syria.
By Charles C. Caris & Samuel Reynolds
The Islamic State’s June 2014 announcement of a “caliphate” is not empty rhetoric. In fact, the idea of the caliphate that rests within a controlled territory is a core part of ISIS’s political vision. The ISIS grand strategy to realize this vision involves first establishing control of terrain through military conquest and then reinforcing this control through governance. This grand strategy proceeds in phases that have been laid out by ISIS itself in its publications, and elaborates a vision that it hopes will attract both fighters and citizens to its nascent state. The declaration of a caliphate in Iraq and Syria, however, raises the question: can ISIS govern?
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.
The Syrian regime’s decisive victory over rebel forces in the Qalamoun stronghold of Yabroud, bolstered by support from Lebanese Hezbollah and Syrian National Defense Forces, has significant implications in the overall context of the three-year conflict.
Following the January 2014 uprising by rebel groups in Syria against the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), ISIS contracted its footprint in Syria.