As the Islamic State seems to be dealing with an increasing amount of offensives from foreign powers and regime forces, one of their key cities in Syria has fallen. The desert city of Palmyra, claimed by ISIS during their impressive offensive through Syria and Iraq, was taken over by regime forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad. This could be the biggest blow to the Islamic State since they began their brutal campaign in 2014, claiming large territories in Syria and Iraq in the process. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported the offensive into Palmyra resulted in the death of 400 jihadis, the largest casualty total from a single battle in the group’s history.
The liberation of Palmyra not only marks a major moral victory for the Assad regime, whose army was embarrassed 10 months ago when defending Palmyra, but this is a major strategic victory as well. The road connecting Palmyra and the Islamic State’s proclaimed capital Raqqa is now under army control, resulting in them only being able to retreat toward the Iraqi border. ISIS is becoming increasingly more restricted on the battlefield, since they have not succeeded in a major offensive in almost a year along with losing substantial territory within the past few months.
The Assad regime will be a big beneficiary from this victory; Assad has regularly suggested he is the only thing keeping Syria from breaking out into complete chaos. The US government does not want Assad to be part of the solution in Syria and believes Assad is more of an antagonist in the Syrian civil war. Remember, Assad was accused of using chemical weapons on his own people. Russia, another main player in the Syrian conflict, and ally of President Assad, is more ambivalent towards the issue of what to do with Assad. As peace talks continue, it will be interesting to see what the US and Russia decide to do with Assad, but he is making more of a case to keep him in power. The unpredictability of removing him from power may be too much of a risk with such a fragile and complex situation.
–Contributed by R.A.
Syrian Regime Forces Have Ended the Islamic State’s Reign of Terror in Palmyra | VICE News. (n.d.). Retrieved March 28, 2016, from https://news.vice.com/article/syrian-regime-forces-have-ended-the-islamic-states-reign-of-terror-in-palmyra