Russia takes on ISIS

The Russian Defence Ministry has announced that its Air Force had killed 200 ISIS operatives that were heading to Syrian city of Deir ez-Zor. The city is considered a strategic base by..

The Russian Defence Ministry has announced that its Air Force had killed 200 ISIS operatives that were heading to Syrian city of Deir ez-Zor.

The city is considered a strategic base by both militants and the army.

Background

Russia’s military intervention in the Syrian Civil War began in 2015 upon the request of the Syrian government. Russia has targeted not only ISIS strongholds but also other groups waging a war against the Syrian government. The intervention initially began with air strikes engineered by the Russian Defence.

In 2016, observers and human rights groups noted that in the span of six months, 2,000 civilians were killed a result of air raids. Moscow has insisted that its raids were only carried out in territories occupied by militants.

Reports emerged in 2017 that the Syrian government had used Sarin gas against its own citizens. Moscow has been criticized for being complicit in the matter.

In July 2017, US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed to a ceasefire in Syria.

Analysis

According to a statement by the Russian Defence Ministry, the nation’s Air Force killed over 200 militants and destroyed their supplies as well. The statement read, “The Russian Air Force destroyed another large column of ISIS fighters that was heading to the area of the city of Deir ez-Zor, where international terrorists are trying to regroup and equip their last base in Syria. The defeat of ISIS in the Deir ez-Zor region will be a strategic defeat for the international terrorist group in the Syrian Arab Republic.”

ISIS has been steadily losing much of the territory it had occupied in Iraq and Syria. According to Russia, ISIS leadership had planned on making Deir ez-Zor their strategic base to mount a final attack.  The Air Force has also destroyed vehicles carrying ammunition. Russia often uses parachute bombs in Syria.

There are currently about 125,000 civilians living in the city. Tens of thousands have fled Syrian in a bid to escape the violence of the civil war. In June 2017, Russia claimed that it may have killed Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the head of ISIS.

In a televised announcement, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has said that the insurgency is far from being rooted out. He noted that despite advances being made the “battle continues, and where we go later and it becomes possible to talk about victory…that’s a different matter.” He added, “Our army is achieving one gain after another every day to eliminate terrorists…We will continue to attack terrorists until the last terrorist on Syrian land.”

Assessment

Our assessment is that with the latest strikes, ISIS may have further suffered setbacks in the region. It is quite evident that the Russians have both the intelligence and capability to ruthlessly counter the threat from ISIS. The Russians have the advantage that their soldiers have not been involved in protracted conflicts since the end of the Afghan war in the 80s. It is definitely the military support that Assad received from both the Russian Air Force and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards that has turned the odds against the battle-hardened ISIS in Syria.  

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