The defeat of the Daesh in Syria and Iraq

27 Nov 2017

America’s lack of cooperation regarding extradition of Fethullah Gulan widened the gulf between USA and Turkey; pushing the latter closer to Iran and Russia.

In 2014, with a rather lightning speed, Daesh was able to capture large swathes of land in Syria and Iraq. Initially, a significant number of the Daesh leaders consisted of the former army officers from Saddam Hussain’s regime. Post-Saddam Hussain’s defeat, they had a hard time adapting to the new reality of living as ordinary civilians.

They felt marginalised by Nooriul Maliki’s government. It was the time when Arab countries and the West were hell-bent on dislodging Bashar-ul-Asad. Moreover, Sunnis in Iraq, frustrated with Nooriul Maliki’s non-inclusive policies, created a favorable environment for Daesh to take root. Under the pretense of re-instituting the Islamic Caliphate, Daesh firmly established its hold on both the Syria and Iraq; and people from all over the world began pouring in to the organisation.

The USA bankrolled Syrian rebels in order to oust Bashar-ul-Asad. However, a large portion of the weaponry supplied to moderate Syrian rebel forces repeatedly ended up in the hands of the Islamic extremist organisations like Jabhat-ul-Nusra and Daesh.

Consequently, the CIA run program to train and equip free Syria Army turned out to be an utter failure; and on September 16, 2015 during the Congress hearing, a top US general Lloyd Austin admitted to having squandered more than 500 million dollars only to put ‘4 or 5’ trained Syrian rebels on the battlefield. This is when the West started cutting its funds towards the anti-Bashar-ul-Asad effort.

During the same month, on the 15th of September 2015, Russia joined the Syrian war; and decisively helped in attenuating the resistance against Bashar-ul-Asad and his government.

On the other hand, Daesh began its brutalities, and soon the world including the West began to realise the gravity of danger this terror organisation had posed to the world peace. One after another, Daesh linked terror attacks around the world started to wreak havoc. The situation reached to the point where the West had to choose between Daesh and Bashar-ul-Asad.

They chose the lesser evil — the Syrian regime.

Daesh atrocities on Yazidi community, which qualify as genocide by every definition, proved to be the last nail in the coffin, and re-defined the Western priorities in Syria from dethroning Bashar-ul-Asad towards countering the Daesh menace. However, to date, the official US and European foreign policy, contrary to the ground reality, have not changed much; as Rex Tillerson’s reiterated in his recent statement, “No role for Assad in Syria’s future.” Because of their ally-Israel, America and the West are reluctant to accept, at least in terms of rhetoric, that Bashar-ul-Assad’s regime is here to stay.

One after another, Daesh linked terror attacks around the world started to wreak havoc. The situation reached the point where the West had to choose between Daesh and Bashar-ul-Assad. They chose the lesser evil — the Syrian regime

Lebanese Hezbollah and Iran, the key allies of the Syrian regime, are the arch-enemies of Israel. However, recently United States, Russia and Jordan reached an agreement on a ceasefire deal in southern Syria that would include the expulsion of Iranian-backed militias from the border with Israel in the Golan Heights. This agreement is an attempt to address Israel’s security concerns.

On the Iraqi front, Daesh faces annihilation. In 2014, a renowned Shia scholar Ayatollah Sistani issued a fatwa in favor of starting an armed civilian movement against Daesh. This Fatwa turned the tide of war in Iraq. Thereafter, the Popular Mobilisation Units (Hashd Al-Sha’abi), consisting of mainly Shias, but also including Sunni, Christians and Yazidis, began to eliminate the Daesh right, left, and center of Iraq while the Kurds began to destroy them in Northern Iraq and in Syria. In 2017, the Syrian military has nearly eradicated the Daesh from all the important areas; thereby ending their reign of terror. If we analyse closely, the key role played in their eradication was by the Kurd fighters for several reasons.

Kurdish forces fighting Daesh comprise mainly Syrian and Iraqi Sunni Muslims. They are considered to be secular and progressive, which makes them an ideal party to be supported by the West. In egalitarian Kurdish forces, such as YPG, both men and women fight side by side.

Moreover, Kurd’s Sunni identity rendered Daesh’s sectarian card ineffective.

Therefore, Daesh ideologically failed to convince people to elicit effective support against the Kurds. Kurdish forces played a crucial part in capturing Raqqa in Syria, and Mosul in Iraq. Kurds have positively contributed to bringing some peace to the war-torn region. However, the rise of Kurds has triggered major changes in the form of shifting alliances in the region. The unrelenting support of USA for Kurds has infuriated Turkey and has pushed it towards the Russian and Iranian camp.

In September 2017, Kurds held a referendum for the establishment of a separate Kurd state in Iraq. Apart from Israel, they faced immense opposition from all the other countries including Iran, Syria and Turkey. The Israelis only supported the decision because they wanted to stop the wide spreading influence of Iran in Iraq. Otherwise, they don’t possess any soft corner for the Kurds.


Other factors that attenuated foreign support for Syrian rebels were the major internal developments that took place in some of the anti-Assad alliance countries. After Turkey’s failed military coup, Tayyip Erdogan focused his attention towards his country’s internal matters. Moreover, America’s lack of cooperation regarding extradition of Fethullah Gulan widened the gulf between USA and Turkey; pushing it even closer to Iran and Russia. This proximity led to the success of Astana talk, and eventual agreements on de-escalation zones in Syria. Similarly, Saudi Arabia got into a conflict with Yemen and diverted its resources there. Funding Syrian opposition and Yemen war, amongst many other internal reasons, has taken its toll on Saudi economy. The selling of Aramco shares and imposition of plethora of proposed new taxes is a testament that Saudi Arabia is facing unprecedented economic challenges. Moreover, After Shah Salman’s son Muhammad Bin Suleiman was given the hold of the reign, replacing Muhammad bin Naif as crown prince, he needed to address economic issues and at the same time solidify his place in power. In a recent bold move, under the pretense of anti-corruption drive, a number of princes, including Waleed Bin Talal, have been arrested on corruption charges and their assets have been ceased; the gambit seems to be an attempt by young crown prince to achieve both his objectives.

In the regional arena, the rift between Qatar and the rest of Gulf Cooperation countries, meant loss of unified support for Syrian rebels.

Russia being a key backer of the ever strengthening Syrian regime is now investing heavily in Iraq and Syria, primarily in the petroleum sector. Russia’s giant state-owned Rosneft is investing in Iraq including Kurdish controlled areas. Iran has developed very strong ties with Syrian, Iraqi and Lebanese governments, which extends its influence from its Iraqi frontier to the Mediterranean. Russia and Iran seem to have outmaneuvered America and its allies in the Middle East.

Published in Daily Times, November 27th 2017۔


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