Islamic State tries to restore presence with attacks in eastern Syria, analists say

SYRIA – Observers in eastern and central Syria say that attacks carried out by Islamic State (ISIS) in these areas during recent months constitute an attempt by the terror organization to reestablish its presence. Some warned of the possibility of a repeat of 2014, when ISIS invaded and conquered large swathes of land in Iraq and Syria.

ISIS cells are active in areas controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces as well as the desert where Syrian Ba’ath regime forces and affiliated militias are deployed. Regime forces have recently sustained heavy losses and casualties as a result of ISIS attacks.

Military analyst Brigadier General Abdul Hadi Sari says that the ISIS cells deployed in the Syrian desert (Badia) have carried out some small combat operations and attacked some sites, but they do not seem to have a clear military strategy. Sari accused the Syrian Ba’ath regime of mobilizing these cells to put pressure on the international community under the pretext of counter-terrorism concerns whenever any attempt is made to reach an agreement regarding the crisis in Syria.

Abbas Sharifa, a researcher at Jusoor Center, pointed out that after the battle of al-Baghouz, ISIS switched to working with smaller groups, sleeper cells and tactics of guerrilla warfare. He noted that they have been striking diverse targets, including oil tanks and military convoys to obtain ammunition. According to Sharifa, ISIS has lost many of its leaders but has retained most of its foot soldiers.

Mazloum Abdi, the Commander-in-Chief of the Syrian Democratic Forces, stated that ISIS may return again to threaten the world order, adding that his forces fought ISIS for a long time and is now striving to prevent their resurgence. Abdi explained that the organization’s presence in Dayro Zcuro (Deir ez-Zor) and Iraq’s Anbar Governorate is well-organized and cannot be ignored.

The organization’s activities are considered limited in the Dayro Zcuro countryside and the Badia; they focus on motorcycle drive-by assassinations of local people who collaborate with American forces stationed in the area. According to statements made by analysts, their numbers range from 70 to 200 fighters who are not yet able to launch a large-scale attack or coordinate actions across multiple fronts.