US Air Force Absent as Daesh/ ISIL advances on North Aleppo against Sunni Rebels

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | –

Daesh (ISIL, ISIS), the murderous terrorist organization that has taken over the eastern desert of Syria and the western desert of Iraq, along with perhaps 3 million townspeople, is now making a move on Syria’s largest city, Aleppo. For the past five days, Daesh has been fighting fiercely with other Syrian rebels in the hinterlands of north of Aleppo. During the past two days in particular, Daesh has launched an all-out effort to take the villages northeast of Aleppo. The other rebels, based in Mari there, have been reduced to attempting to defend themselves.

The rebels are complaining that the US and its air coalition have been contacted several times about flying bombing raids against Daesh convoys, but that they have received no response from the US military command.

The opposition organizations in the area include Syrian Revolutionaries, the Free Ones of Syria, the Levant Front, and the “Stand steadfast as you were Commanded” Group A major commander of the Free Ones of Syria until his death last winter had substantial al-Qaeda ties, and while many fighters in northern Syria are moderate Sunnis, they typically are fighting alongside extremists. The Syrian Human Rights Observatory estimates that in the past two days, 45 rebels have died in the fighting, and about 30 Daesh commandos.

On Tuesday morning, the rebels were claiming to have advanced on the Daesh-held village of Suran.

The rebel forces say that the al-Assad regime is bombing them with barrel bombs (just barrels filled with petroleum). This move de facto aids Daesh and hurts the rebels. For the past two years, Daesh and the regime have largely avoiding fighting each other.

One of Daesh’s strategic objectives appears to be to take the area north of Aleppo, stretching to the Turkish border, including the major checkpoint there. This conquest would cut Daesh’s rebel rivals off from resupply via Turkey in that area, allowing Daesh to finish them off. It would thus avoid having to launch a frontal assault on rebel-held villages Mari and Tel Rifat in the northern hinterlands of Aleppo, starving them of key military supplies instead.

On Monday morning Daesh advanced from Suran, which it had taken a couple of days before, toward the villages of Ghazal and Sheikh Rih. But the local rebels fought it off, inflicting human and military casualties, and forced Daesh to halt this attempted expansion for the moment.

The rebels have sent large numbers of reinforcements to the Aleppo hinterland, but they haven’t been able to force Daesh out. They did take back a couple of villages.

The Daily Beast reports that that the al-Izz Front, which had joined the US-backed moderate force, is threatening to withdraw. One of its leaders, Mustafa Sijari, maintains that he was told by the Pentagon to concentrate on fighting Daesh and not to bother the al-Assad regime.

I’ve heard it speculated that the Obama administration thinks it needs Iran’s help to defeat Daesh in Iraq, and therefore doesn’t want to alienate Tehran by attacking Iran’s ally, the al-Assad regime. That is, the Iraq and Syria campaigns against Daesh require different strategic and tactical alliances. In order not to have the one blow back on the other, Washington has decided to leave al-Assad alone until Daesh is defeated. Thus, Sijari’s complaint is perfectly plausible. He is trying to point out, however that you can’t get Syrian Sunni groups to fight Daesh for the US and forbid them to fight al-Assad’s forces, since they would come to be seen as traitors.

Not to mention that the US isn’t intervening to prevent Daesh taking the Aleppo hinterland to the north. In other words, the US Syrian policy is a victim of the US Iraq policy.


Related video:

Reuters: “Syria rebels move to reverse IS gains in Aleppo”

15 Responses

  1. This seems like the perfect war for America. The U.S. can support each and every faction. Truly an American dream!

  2. ‘the US-backed moderate force’

    Moderate? What’s their position on the status of women?

    • The US Congress only knows what Israel tells it. So it wants our military to carry out Operation Passover: kill everyone in the Middle East who’s not Jewish. Thank God that only He has that technology and He’s not getting involved this time.

  3. Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran is the elephant in the room. Attacking Assad or backing forces that do would be risky, to say the least. I’m sure Bibi Netanyahu and his Republican friends in Congress want Obama to bomb the shiite out of Assad ASAP. Damascus today, Tehran tomorrow.

  4. IMO, this is quite consistent with US (Obama) strategy of isolating Hezbollah in support of Israel. This also happens to suit our long time friends the GCC to essentially have a Sunni dominated ‘state’ that blocks Iraq’s (ie the shia majority) and Iran’s access to the Mediterranean Sea and any chance of a gas/oil pipelines to the ME, forcing Iran to use the Nabucco (US supported) pipeline; hence degrading Russia’s monopoly as a gas supplier to Europe.

    The weak link and hence the risk of this strategy is that ISIL is not going to be satisfied to leaving GCC alone and this will result in the breakup of Saudi Arabia, with the oil regions of SA (which are Shia dominated if not having absolute shia majority) forming their own entity with the support of Iran.

    Needless to say, Palestine will become a wet dream and Israel would have accomplished its goal of having a greater Israel (losing its nebulous democratic credentials in the process) with the support of USA. Palestinians over time will be ‘expelled’ or forced to leave from the occupied territories for lack of sustenance.

    BTW, this is not happening over the next 18 months but over a longer period.

  5. mental.oloudy

    didn’t mention Syrian ‘Rebels’ are mainly made up of the Al Qaida aligned Nusra Front. Maybe that’s the reason why US isn’t helping

  6. what ISIL is doing is terrible.
    and US foreign policy unleased this Nakba.
    this is not our fight.

  7. ISIL and the regime did avoid fighting earlier but with the recent loses of Palmyra and one of the border crossings, ISIL is now confronting the regime.

  8. Barrel bombs a filled with explosive and bits of steel and maybe chlorine.

  9. how many times has the extremist organization currently opposing Daesh chanted ‘death to america’ I wonder…
    The US doesn’t have good options here, and it has no obligation to serve as the air force of this rebel group.
    We did that in Libya, and what have we got for our troubles?
    Although I do sympathize with them.

  10. I can see several very cynical but perhaps realistic short-term strategies being pursued here: 1) the US allows ISIL to overrun Syria and do its work for the Americans in driving out Assad (A US objective), then using ISIL’s dominance of Syria as an excuse to intervene to take out an even “worse threat” than Assad; and 2) Assad’s forces let ISIL take out the other anti-government groups, thinking they can beat ISIL on its own or that the US will intervene to prop up Assad rather than allow ISIL to overrun the entire country.
    The two strategies aren’t necessarily complementary, but they would be consistent with how policymakers think.

  11. Alastair Crooke writes in the Huffington Post “The images of long columns of ISIS Toyota Land Cruisers, black pennants waving in the wind, making their way from Syria all the way — along empty desert main roads — to Ramadi with not an American aircraft in evidence, certainly needs some explaining. There cannot be an easier target imagined than an identified column of vehicles, driving an arterial road, in the middle of a desert”. link to

  12. “For the past two years, Daesh and the regime have largely avoiding fighting each other.”
    huh? what about tabqa, deir ezzor etc? tabqa was possibly ISIS’ biggest battle, losses in fighters and ultimate success. many hundreds killed on both side.
    see link to

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