General-purpose machine guns used by the Syrian Army. Credit:Vitaly V. Kuzmin/CC BY-SA 3.0

By The Business Globalist

A new report by Conflict Armament Research (CAR) claims nearly a quarter of arms recovered from Islamic State (also known as ISIS or ISIL) in Iraq and Syria were made in Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary.

The Islamist militants took the weapons from Syrian rebels and other groups who oppose them, whom bought the weapons from United States and Saudi Arabia (both The United States and Saudi Arabia supplied most of this materiel without authorisation, the report claims).

“CAR has traced numerous items deployed by IS forces to initial exports from Bulgaria to Saudi Arabia. These transfers were uniformly subject to non-retransfer clauses concluded between Saudi Arabia and the Government of Bulgaria prior to export. In this respect onward re-transfers by Saudi Arabia of these weapons contravene its commitments to the Government of Bulgaria not to re-export the material in question without Bulgaria’s prior consent”, it wrote on the report.

The 222 pages report shows 33 percent of ISIS’ weapons come from the EU-bloc, following Russia and China, which combined together provided over 50 percent of ISIS’ weapons.

The United States manufactured only 2 per cent of weapons used from IS forces and documented by CAR in the region.

Furthermore, China, Russia and Eastern European states provided around 90 percent of ammunition used by ISIS militants during their fight.

Foreign volunteers of the anarchist IRPGF, a unit of the International Freedom Battalion, in Raqqa - CC BY 4.0

By Raffaele Del Gatto

On 9 December, the Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared victory over the Islamic State (also known as ISIS and ISIL), after three years of intense fighting. “Our forces fully control the Iraqi-Syrian border, and thus we can announce the end of the war against Daesh,” said Mr. Abadi.

Two days later was Vladimir Putin to declare victory against both ISIS and Western-backed rebels. “In just over two years, Russia’s armed forces and the Syrian Army have defeated the most battle-hardened group of international terrorists”, said Putin during his visit to Russia’s Hmeymim air base in Syria.

In October a U.S.-backed Syrian force declared victory over ISIS in Raqqa, former capital of the Islamist group, declaring the city free of any extremist presence.

ISIS territory reached its height in 2014, when the group controlled several major cities in Iraq, 9 provinces in Syria and between 100,000 km and 110,000 km of territory in total. By 2017, ISIS has lost control in Iraq and of its major strongholds, and now the Islamist group occupies only a strip of land in Syria, while Islamist fighters try to resist in Libya, Yemen, Algeria, Nigeria, Philippines, North Caucasus, Gaza and in the Sinai province.

ISIS has proved to be incapable to maintain a degree of operational capability in its territory and with the defeat of Raqqa and other major cities, the militants have no longer a stable home to stay. The victory over the self-declared caliphate, however, leaves many open questions on ISIS militants and on hundreds foreign fighters and sympathisers, who abandoned the Islamic State months before it started to crumble.

Around 40,000 people travelled from around the world to take up arms for the ISIS group as it occupied territory in Syria, and it’s unclear how many survived the battles and how many are still fighting. Analysts and experts around the world are trying to estimate how many have survived, but the numbers are uncertain.

“The issue is: how many have died? How many are still there and willing to fight? How many have gone elsewhere to fight?” said Seth Jones, director of the International Security and Defense Policy Center at the Rand Corporation.

Escape routers are still open and during the last battles many Islamist fighters were able to blend in with civilian refugees or bribe their way to sneak into Turkey.

Jean-Yves Le Drian, France’s Minister of Europe and Foreign Affairs, said that about 500 are still in the Iraq-Syria theatre, while France officials affirmed that 250 already returned to France. 

Many fighter have no other choice but to still fight for the caliphate in Iraq and Syria, while other militants may join other extremist groups and/or relocate in other war zones. The only thing sure is that those militants have gained battle experience, have nothing to lose and it’s unknown where, when and how they will attack.

Russia and Iraq may have declared victory over Islamic State, but ISIS ideology and franchises are still alive and, as  and  write on Foreign Affair, there’s a possibility that ISIS could rise again.

 

Vladimir Putin during a conference - www.kremlin.ru/ Creative Commons Attribution 4.0

By Raffaele Del Gatto

On 11 December, Russian president Vladimir Putin ordered the withdrawal of Russian troops from Syria and declared victory, as the Russian military accomplished its goal of saving President Bashar al-Assad from ouster. Few hours later the White House decided to let Assad hold on to the presidency until elections in Syria are held again, contradicting a previous statements that called for Syrian President Bashar Assad to step down from his position as a precondition to a peace process.

However, some analysts show scepticism on Putin move. Bessma Momani, a professor at the Balsillie School of International Affairs and the University of Waterloo, reminds us “Putin has made similar announcements twice before, and at one point was forced to renege and redeploy Russian forces after Syria’s Bashar al-Assad lost control of territory they had helped win over”. He also added “Mr. Putin’s showboating in Syria serves to create more hollow nationalism for the Russian public’s consumption”.

Furthermore, for those soldiers who are leaving, it appears that they are being replaced by private contractors, as Associeted Press reports.  The Russian campaign in Syria draws to a close but the private contractors will probably stay.

Two destroyed tanks in front of a mosque in Azaz, Syria. From March 6 to July 23, a battle between the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and the Syrian government was fought for control over the city of Azaz, north of Aleppo, during the Syrian civil war. The FSA won the 2012 Battle of Azaz, saying the destroyed 17 government tanks. During my visit, I counted 7. In 1030 and 1125, Azaz was also the scene of historic battles between respectively the Mirdasids of Aleppo versus the Byzantines, and a century later between the Crusaders and the Seljuk Turks and other Muslims. - Flickr: Azaz, Syria

By The Business Globalist

The mess in Syria is going to increase quite soon. The Chinese government decided to sent its troops in Syria to fight along with Al-Assad’s forces. The move comes as China becomes more concerned about the presence of Islamic militants in the East Turkestan region. The Uyghurs, an ethnic group also known as Chinese Muslim fighters,  are frequently blamed for terrorist activity in their own country.

The Chinese government will send on the territory two special units: the “Tigers of Siberia” and the “Night Tigers”. Those troops will be responsible of killing the Uyghur fighters.

The Chinese militias will also support the Assad regime in the fight against the Islamic terrorist group known as ISIL/ISIS (Islamic State).

This is not the first time that Beijing decided to send its troops on the Syrian front. In 2015 5.000 soldiers entered the Syrian territory and stationed in the Western region of Latakia.

The move has been seen by some analysts as part of an agenda to increase China’s authority on the international scene. In early November, China tested the Dongfeng-41,  Beijing’s next-gen Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM).