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ISIS’ Defeat in Syria Could Denote Qaeda’s Return | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Iraqi Soldiers raise ISIS’ flag, indicating the terrorist organization’s defeat in Fallujah, A.F.P

Paris- Many analysts believe that ISIS’ potentially close defeat in Syria could translate into al Qaeda’s offshoot, al-Nusra Front, taking the battlefield lead once again.

Jean-Pierre Filiu, Professor of Middle Eastern Studies at Sciences Po in Paris, warned of the relative and partial advances against ISIS in the last weeks, saying that having no Arab or Sunni alternative on the field, may help ISIS maintain its most prominent territory and possibly restore some of the lost land. Filiu cited ISIS regaining foothold in Palmyra, Syria.

A Syrian expert, who spoke under the condition of anonymity, said that despite expectations for ISIS’ abatement in Syria being a far reach, it still remains a more likely accomplishment than in Iraq, Baghdadi’s self-declared caliphate hub.

The Syrian analyst added that a grave defeat, especially against ISIS’ de facto capital in Syria, Raqqa, will not lead to the end of extremists in Syria. He went on saying that within the last four bloodied years of conflict, over 280 thousand were killed hence al-Nusra Front was forced to revolt against the organization and become ISIS’ threatening equal and opponent. Not to mention that al-Nusra Front had exploited other Islamist movements, especially Salafis affiliated to the Ahrar al-Sham nationalist movement.

The analyst explained that after the defeat, many ISIS recruits will come to join al-Nusra Front ranks, and the latter will later manipulate the feeling of abandonment northwestern Sunni Syrians experience.

In light of absent reliable peace talks, residents in each of Idlib, western Aleppo and Lattakia do not see any possibility of a political settlement for the five-year total war. The residents are subject to daily Russian and Assad air force bombardment, not to mention, the recurring genocides targeting children and civilians amid utter international disregard.

Feeling abandoned, residents are driven towards extremism, with none but Ahrar al-Sham to play the sole role of local nationalist military force in the area, the Syria expert added.