ISIS Pushes Further into Syria

In the Damascus area, meanwhile, the Islamic State is battling against a coalition of Palestinian forces supported by the Assad regime.  The most significant element among the Palestinians seeking to challenge IS in Yarmouk is Hamas.  The Hamas fighters in Yarmouk go under the name of "Aknaf Beit al-Maqdis." They are cooperating with the rebel Jaysh al-Islam  in pro-regime forces and of course there will be no western help in that battle either.

What all this means is that while it is suffering real setbacks in Iraq, the Islamic State is at the present time not being seriously degraded, nor it is anywhere close to being destroyed (the two goals of the west with regard to the jihadis).

Rather, it is continuing to push forward in areas where western air power will not be brought to bear.  It is not clear what, if any, will be the western response to this.  But it shows the extent to which the western campaign in Iraq remains poorly defined and lacking in clear goals.

The various other protagonists in the single war now raging in Iraq and Syria all have clear objectives.

The Iranians want to preserve their clients in Baghdad and Damascus, and if possible to reunite these countries under their rule.  Islamic State and al-Qaeda want to preserve and expand their domains.  The Kurds want to hold what they have and maintain their de facto autonomous enclaves in both countries.

All of these are judiciously using the forces available to them to achieve these objectives.  Only the western coalition, in a microcosm of more general western Mid-East policy, appears to be flailing, lacking clear goals and beset by confusion.  The Islamic State is far from destroyed.   And as it is degraded in one area, it is expanding in others.