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Assad and ISIS More ‘Intimately Interwound’ Than Ever

Administration officials consider getting into bed with the dictator even as former ambassador warns they don't understand the alliance.

by
Bridget Johnson

Bio

July 11, 2014 - 4:00 pm

As some at the White House have reportedly been mulling a marriage of convenience to Bashar al-Assad, chilling news out of Syria adds even more weight to deep suspicions that one relationship has already been going strong — between Assad and ISIS.

International attention has been focused on Iraq since the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS) claimed a large swath of territory stretching from the Turkish border almost to Baghdad as their caliphate, the Islamic State.

Next door in Syria, where the successor to al-Qaeda in Iraq found safe haven and a chance to grow and lure foreign fighters, opposition officials and observers have pointed out that Assad and ISIS are quietly working together, with the Islamic militants functioning as “Assad’s proxy,” in the words of the Syrian Coalition.

Louay Safi, spokesman for the Syrian Coalition, said the connection between ISIS and Assad “has never been so intimately interwound as it is today” as regime forces close in on Aleppo and ISIS targets rebel forces trying to hold out in Deir Ezzor.

“These advancements have not been interrupted by a single clash between regime forces and ISIS, which proves the existence of full coordination between them,” Safi said, noting that opposition forces are struggling without the aid they need while Assad continues to be buoyed by his Russian and Iranian benefactors.

Jalaluddin Khandji, representative of the local councils in the Syrian Coalition, called on the “democratic countries and international organizations to stand with the Syrians who have been left alone in their battle against the terrorism of Assad and ISIS, who threaten not only Syria and the region but the whole world.”

In fact, in the regime’s drive to retake Aleppo, Assad’s air forces are raining brutal barrel bombs on the populace while ISIS forces have been pushing toward the beleaguered Free Syrian Army on the ground.

PJ Media reported in September on the signs of the alliance between Assad and al-Qaeda forces, including convenient assassinations of key Assad opponents, coordinating attacks, not targeting each other’s positions and helping push a War on Terror narrative to keep Assad in power.

ISIS forces are also selling oil to the regime from fields under its control, proving to be business partners as well as fighters against a common enemy.

And now, ISIS enjoys a safe haven while Assad has been pulled back from the precipice and his reign looks fairly secure again. Assad is in an even better position now that officials in the West feel they must choose between Assad and ISIS, rather than considering the two joined at the hip.

“The irony is ISIS is on the side of Assad. It is serving Assad’s +Iran’s agendas,” tweeted London-based Middle Eastern affairs expert Nehad Ismail. “ISIS is Assad’s best ally and best friend.”

The Daily Beast reported last week that administration officials have been debating whether to keep calling for the ouster of Assad or accept that the dictator should stay.

“Anyone calling for regime change in Syria is frankly blind to the past decade; and the collapse of eastern Syria, and growth of Jihadistan, leading to 30 to 50 suicide attacks a month in Iraq,” one senior Obama administration official who works on Iraq policy told The Daily Beast.

Former U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford, though, told The Daily Beast that “the people who think Bashar al Assad’s regime is the answer to containing and eventually eliminating the Islamic-based threat do not understand the historic relationship between the regime and ISIS.”

“[They] don’t understand the current relationship between Assad and ISIS and how they are working on the ground together directly and indirectly inside Syria,” Ford said. “The people who think Assad’s regime survival is essential have not explained how his survival would solve the problem of extremism in Syria.”

“Sickening. Some in Obama Admn want to work w/#Assad, against ISIS #Iraq, forgetting Assad helped #ISIS become monstrous,” Al-Arabiya Washington bureau chief Hisham Melhem tweeted this week.

Emile Hokayem, senior fellow for Middle East security at the International Institute for International Studies, noted that “the pressure on Damascus is at its lowest in two years.”

“And the debate in the west over what to do about ISIS is a source of delight for a number of Assad associates,” Hokayem added.

Frederic C. Hof at the Atlantic Council argued in a Thursday piece that if the Obama administration had a sense of urgency about confronting the problem, resupplying nationalist opposition forces could be too little, too late.

“As the administration struggles in Iraq with the chicken-and-egg dilemma of hitting ISIS first or waiting for an inclusive Government of Iraq to emerge, it might consider hammering ISIS unmercifully in Syria,” Hof wrote. “Yes, the Assad regime, Iran, and Russia all need ISIS alive and well in Syria to help crush Assad’s opposition. Yes, they would all be quietly appalled by such a step. Yet how could they possibly object publicly or even privately to the United States obliterating key pieces of the terrorist entity they all publicly decry?”

Bridget Johnson is a veteran journalist whose news articles and opinion columns have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe. Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor at The Hill, where she wrote The World from The Hill column on foreign policy. Previously she was an opinion writer and editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. She is an NPR contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, Politico and more, and has myriad television and radio credits as a commentator. Bridget is Washington Editor for PJ Media.

Comments are closed.

Top Rated Comments   
Yes, they would be the opposition. But each side thinks they will be in a better position. So they are cooperating while sharpening their knives to kill each other.

So why would Washingotn get involved?

Oh yeah, a bucket of shite was put in front of them,
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
We are so screwed...
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
"Assad and ISIS More ‘Intimately Interwound’ Than Ever"

Not nearly as much as Obama/McCain and ISIS are ‘Intimately Interwound’. Obama sends them arms and McCain has his picture taken with them, his friends.
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (32)
All Comments   (32)
Sort: Newest Oldest Top Rated
Any port for a floundering ship. This admin may even end up as the Flying Dutchman.
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
A lot of disinformation is being spread by different parties with different agendas, some of which are long term agendas, and some of which are short term agendas mixed in with marriages of convenience.

It may be true that Assad is not going hard after ISIS because he may believe that, for now at least, it is better to let ISIS crush his non-Islamist opposition in a pincer movement with his forces advancing from the west, and wth ISIS coming from the east.

But anyone can also see that ISIS, having occupied most of his nation's area to the east, is hardly his long term ally. After Assad and ISIS take out Assad's "legitimate opposition" (in the eyes of the west), he will certainly then focus on ISIS.

ISIS is no long term ally of the Iranians being Sunnis, although they did temporarily serve the mullah's purposes in destoying the state formerly known as Iraq. The mullahs have a long history of supporting Sunni Islamists when it serves their purpose of general destabilization. Soon enough the Anbar Sunnis will go after the ISIS fighters from the east, likey after the non-Islamist Syrian rebels are destroyed, thus enabling Assad to move on ISIS' western flank. Iran cares little about Syria other than they'd like Israel's enemy - Assad - to remain in power and continue threatenng Israel to its north.

It all looks confusing to anyone who does not understand the typical tribal mindset of the Middle East and its constantly shifting temporary alliances. However, the one party that stands to gain the most from this era of instability is Iran. Never ignore the hand of Iran in stirring up trouble throughout the Middle East.
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
This is simpler than that: Iraqi refugees, including former Iraqi military, fled to Syria when America was in Iraq. When the chaos in Syria came, they splintered into military criminal syndicates with different aims. There is nothing for ISIS in Syria but the prospect of facing a more professional army than Iraq has. Anyway, home is Iraq for these folks, not Syria. And now they've come home. They are not Al-Queda. ISIS has moved into a power vacuum in central Iraq. And there they'll stay until some outside force roots them out. ISIS does not have the capacity to do much more than they have. They certainly cannot move against the Kurds in the northeast mountains or Shia in southern Iraq. Without a population to support them ISIS itself would become the target of a city's populace.
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
Yes, there are other interests involved too, as you point out, including former Iraqi Baathsts whose tribal home base was Tikrit which was also "taken" by the combined forces led by ISIS. But of course the Tikrit Baathists are not religious fanatics - indeed they are blood enemies with the Jahadists. But marriages of convenience are the rule in an unstable environment such as exists now in the former State of Iraq. Soon enough there will be an Anbar-Tikrit pushback. The only question is, will the USA support them, or do nothing ... if the latter, it will be all to the benefit of Iran.
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
Well, the regnant theory in these parts is that the various Sunni tribal militias that made temporary alliance with ISIS in order to kick Maliki's army off their turf will quickly tire of ISIS' nihilistic brutality and oppression and drive them out soon enough. Hardcore ISIS forces are estimated at around only 16,000. Not nearly enough to secure their vast conquered territory.
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
If they couldn't kick out Malicki how are they going to kick out ISIS? And most of that territory is empty desert, so they're not occupying more than a few places.
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
It's not an issue of who controls the empty sands of the middle of nowhere in western Sunni Iraq and eastern Syria. The issue is who controls the oil fields and refineries, which are the sole source of cash income in the country. The Anbar-Tikriti bunch are never going to cede that to less than 20,000 religious radicals. They only put up with ISIS as long as the tribal chieftains believe it is in their interest to let them linger.

The Anbar-Tikriti chieftains' interest at the moment is to prevent a re-formation of the state formerly known as Iraq under Shia control. Until the Iraqi Shia and the USA formally recognize the partition of Iraq into its three constituent states (Kurdistan, SunniStan, and ShiaStan), they will allow ISIS to play around some more in their sandbox

The instant the chieftains turn on ISIS it will be all over in a heartbeat. After all, the same chieftains, once they allied themselves with US troops in 2007, cleared all of Iraq of several hundred thousand foreign Jihadists in months ... that was an enemy more than fifteen times as large as ISIS is today, albeiit the American troop surge was also a necessary ingredient. This time around, the Chieftains won't need 175,000 US Army troops to take care of business with ISIS.
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
This is an extension of Michael Ledeen's somewhat questionable theory that all mischief in the region and the world is masterminded by Iran. Michael has claimed that Iran ran the al Qaeda in Iraq operation featuring the Jordanian Jihadi (whose name I forget) that was killed several years ago. According to Ledeen, Iran is running ISIS operations as well, and pitting Sunni against Shiite in Iraq so it can come in and pick up the pieces. Of course there is logic to the theory. I always wonder where the proof is. Ledeen and others have suggested that Iran sheltered bin Laden's sons (apparently so), and therefore it was involved in planning 911. There has never been any proof of this. At the same time, nobody has ever really explained how the Naudet brothers and their friend James Hanlon happened to be in the right place at the right time for the terrible 911 crash video. They knew each other for years previously, since Hanlon, an actor-director-firefighter, produced the Naudet's prizewinning video about an amateur boxer several years earlier. It's certainly a strange, dark world we live in.

I don't doubt that Assad and Iran would use ISIS for their purposes, but where is the evidence that Iran seeks the destruction of the Shiite power base in Iraq. That's what would happen if ISIS wins, with its Saddam-era military officers help. Are we to believe that Iran and Syria do not understand that such a defeat would impact both Hizbollah and the Syrian regime itself?
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
Iran won't allow ISIS to "win" - they are simply using them for the moment because it suits their purposes. ISIS does not have anywhere near the manpower or weapons sufficient to conquer Baghdad, which is the base of the Shia army and of course the Shia militias. But ISIS did enable the Iranians to finally cause the breakup of their longtime state enemy, Iraq, and now they are busy subverting, or at least attempting to subvert, the rump Shia state in the southern half of the former Iraq. That effort in turn - if successful - would put the IRG right on the border with both Jordan and Saudi Arabia - the next two targets for the mullah's campaign of destabiliztion. Dominoes on the road to Israel itself. The Saudis, having already recognized the plan, but not fearing ISIS itself, has moved forces to its northern border to forestall an invasion by the IRG.

If people think things are dicey now, just wait a little bit. If Obama continues his negligent ways and ignores the real threat while he continues to coddle the Iranians on their nuke program "negotiations", the entire Middle East could soon be a war zone.
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
Michael Ledeen is far more right than wrong about the root of all instability being Iran's mullahs. It has been their declared policy ever since the mullahs took over Iran in 1979 to destroy Israel, boot the US out of the region, and bring about eventual Shia dominance of the entire ME. They only say that in public speeches every chance they get, so why should we disbelieve that? No other nation on earth has such a national policy of regional subversion.

Please see my comment above for a somewhat superficial (necessarily so) explanation of the various shifting opportunistic alliances in the region. All of the subversion and disruption we see today is clearly in the interests of Iran, which has been engaged in such mischief ever since the US invaded Iraq.

Iran was the "home base" of most of the foreign fighters that infiltrated to kill our American soldiers in Iraq, and they developed most of the "high tech" remotely-detonated IEDs that killed or maimed most of our casualties during the "insurgency" of 2005-2007. Iranian Revolutionary Guards (IRG) troops have already entered eastern Iraq and haveestablished their own boots on the ground (the same fighters invaded Iraq during the recent Iraq war and killed many American soldiers directly). They are aiding ISIS and Assad in order to wipe out the non-Islamist rebels, and then will be happy to aid Assad in wiping out ISIS once the secular rebels are wiped out. And of course, they are developing nuke weapons with which they intend to wipe out the State of Israel - the destruction of which they loudly proclaim at every opportunity.
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
Some of those quotes show the ignorance America's have of the middle east. Assad is at once dependent on its ally Shia Iran but then working with ISIS which is the enemy of Shia Iraqis. That's a pretty diabolical plan alright. How is supporting ISIS, which would kill every Shia Iraqi if it could, helping Iran's "agenda?

More likely a core of former Iraqi officers once hiding in Syria have come home at the head of a ragtag army and defeated a superior Iraqi force of Shia which lacks officer experience because Hussein didn't allow a Shia officer core. In the middle east, leadership is the dealbreaker, because we're not talking about a culture of individual eccentrics encouraged to think on their own.
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
"...in the words of the Syrian Coalition."

Okay.
What flavor-of-the-month kind of primitive internecine tribal warfare Arab-Islamic insanity is THIS bunch pushing, and just why the hell should I believe anything THEYhave to say?
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
Yes, the Assad regime, Iran, and Russia all need ISIS alive and well in Syria to help crush Assad’s opposition.

Wouldn't ISIS then become the opposition?
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
Yes, they would be the opposition. But each side thinks they will be in a better position. So they are cooperating while sharpening their knives to kill each other.

So why would Washingotn get involved?

Oh yeah, a bucket of shite was put in front of them,
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
We are so screwed...
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
Let 'em work it out. Whoever wins will bring calm. Interfere and you'll protract this whole mess indefinitely. Plus they aren't in America.
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
I'd like to believe that, but just wait till Obama and the Gang start beating their chests and wailing about all those poor Syrian and Iraqi women and children...

You didn't get the memo? We are now the official Free Clinic and orphanage to the World.
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
We need to be involved - not by having our soldiers drawing fire on the ground ... but there is much we can and ought to be doing to defeat the Iranian plan:

1) Support the non-Iranian allied Shia in Baghdad (by far the majority of Arab Shia there) to resist the the effort by Iran to subvert the Shia south .. including a demand that the IRG immediately evacuate Shia Iraq at pain of death (US airstrikes, which would quickly wipe them out to a man).

2) Likewise, assist the Anbar Sunni with weapons and air support to destroy ISIS, allowing the Sunnis to establish their own independent Sunni state with long time support from the USA.

3) Likewise, recognize and support the new state of Kurdistan - they have plenty of oil so don't need money, but they do need military aid and weapons to mount a border threat to Iran.

If we don't do these things, sooner or later there will be a massive Middle Eastern War - triggered either by an invasion of Jordan and Saudi Arabia by the IRG operating out of Shia Iraq, or the Israelis will finally be forced to bomb the Iranian nuke facilities AND bomb the IRG in Shia Iraq in order to defend (as ironic as that may seem) Jordan and Saudi Arabia as well as Israel itself.

A general conflagration in the Middle East could easily turn into World War Three - an outcome that is hardly in the interests of the United States or our allies.
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
When you interfere, you have to prop up the side that is losing only just enough to maintain the status quo.

That operation itself will lead to calls for impeachment. What do we do about fellow Americans who are indignant?
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
"Interference", or "engagement" (my preferred term) can take many forms- see my response to Fail above ... none of the actions I recommend require American boots on the ground, or ocupation, or "nationbuilding" exercises.

Iran must be defeated. They cannot be ignored, or they will win. If the Iranians win, the rest of the world loses, big time. This is, actually, in many ways similar to Europe in 1938 when the western powers had an opportunity to resist Hitler's expansion and threats to his neighbors, and chose to hide their heads in the sand.
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
We have to interfere like we did in the Iran-Iraq War.

I do not think our politicians are up to the task.

I am not sure that 90% of the CIA is up to the task.

We will also have the Occupy type, Paulistas and others on th Left Right& Middle saying this is unsportsman like, wrong and everything else.

Those people will EFF is up. So if we interfere we will here about for the next 200 years from people who criticize but never did anything.
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
Yup - our actions in the Iran-Iraq War were correct, as were GWHB's Operation Desert Storm, where we did just enough to boot SH out of Kuwait and restore balance in the Middle East ... without going on as did GWB to invade and occupy Iraq and create the mess we are still dealing with today. It is necessary that our leaders exercise good judgment, knowing when and how to intervene without "owning" some hellhole in the Middle East - unfortunately we haven't had much of that going on since the 90s.
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
"Plus they aren't in America."

Not now.

Not yet.
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
Yes they are. They can multi-task. If the Chinese, MS13, and children are here, ISIS or other terrorists are here and

Obama, the Democrats and the Chamber of Commerce do not care!
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
Check Charlotte Co. Virginia. I won't say more.
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
Check our southern border!
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
ISIS is in VA and Mexico. Check.
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
Greetings:

So, how come the media keep leaving the "w" out of the Syrian President's last name ???
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
Say what?
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
This regime knows exactly what they're doing by cozying up to Assad (and ISIS)....it is no mistake at all. Dear Leader would love nothing more than another media cover story that the regime is either incompetent or naive while not explaining why they are so inept.....NEWS FLASH: Obama WANTS the connection to ISIS and EACH AND EVERY Mooslim Bruthahood terrorist group, with the continued support of the 5th column fellow travelers of the media to hide his true intentions from the American people in this most un-American, corrupt, contemptible, Godless, racist administration (organized crime syndicate) in our nation's history. God please, keep us safe in the days to come....Amen.

Remember BENGHAZI!
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
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