Sky News dropped a bombshell about cooperation between Islamic State and the Assad regime in Syria that spans military and economic issues.
ISIS occupies about 1/3 of Syria, but leaked documents show that President Assad considers the rebel opposition to be his primary enemies.
New letters obtained by Sky News, in addition to the massive haul of 22,000 files handed over last month, appear to confirm this.
:: An agreement with the Syrian regime to withdraw IS weapons from Palmyra.
:: A deal between IS and Syria to trade oil for fertiliser and;
:: Arrangements to evacuate some areas by Islamic State forces BEFORE the Syrian army attacked.
All appear to be pre-agreed deals and suggest direct evidence of collusion between the Syrian regime and Islamic State chiefs.
For the past 18 months Sky News has maintained contacts with a Free Syrian Army group originally from Islamic State’s headquarters in Raqqa, but now living across the border in Turkey.
The group operates a network to smuggle defectors away from IS.
Some of the defectors openly admit their prior allegiance to the terror group and acknowledge that they only left because of internal disagreements with some of the IS leadership.
In reality they remain wedded to the basic tenets of Islamic State: strict Sharia law, a caliphate and on-going war against anyone deemed to be an enemy.
The authenticity of the latest documents is impossible to verify, but all previous leaks of material funnelled through this group have proved to be genuine.
The new documents are copies of handwritten orders sent from Islamic State’s headquarters.
One document requests safe passage for a driver through IS checkpoints “until he reaches the border with the Syrian regime to exchange oil for fertiliser”.
The defectors claim that this is a trade agreement between the two sides that has been going on for years.
Another letter contains instructions for a commander to “transfer all equipment and weapons to the agreed evacuation point. We have received intelligence that al Qasr and its surroundings will be bombed on 24th November, 2013”.
The defectors claim this was a withdrawal agreed between Syria and Islamic State.
The most interesting document was written shortly before the Syrian army recaptured the ancient city of Palmyra, after months of occupation by IS.
“Withdraw all heavy artillery and anti-aircraft machine guns from in and around Palmyra to Raqqa province,” the document says.
I asked one of the defectors if Islamic State was coordinating movement of its fighters and leaving areas they previously controlled, in direct coordination with the Syrian army and even the Russian airforce.
His answer was simple. “Of course,” he said.
It’s no accident that about 90% of Russian air strikes in Syria were directed against US backed rebels and not Islamic State. Moscow didn’t want to upset the delicate relationship Assad had with Islamic State.
Another strange turn in a brutal, savage war. While cooperation between enemies on a limited basis is not unheard of (prisoner exchanges, humanitarian aid), the collusion that would allow ISIS to remove its heavy weapons from Palmyra is shocking. It suggests that Assad is taking a “one enemy at a time” approach to the conflict, looking to defeat the US backed rebels first and then turn his attention to ISIS who occupy about 1/3 of Syria.
Meanwhile, Russia is sitting next to the US at the peace table, trying to save what’s left of the cease fire. When do you suppose Putin was going to let John Kerry in on the secret that President Assad was secretly colluding with the enemy of the United States?