An influential piece of propaganda has been to claim that the Syrian government is either complicit with Isis or not doing anything to fight them. But this is contradicted by a new analysis by the monitoring group IHS Markit, revealing that over the last year Isis has fought the Syrian government forces more than any other opponent. Between 1 April 2016 and 31 March 2017, 43 per cent of Isis fighting in Syria was directed against Assad forces, 17 per cent against the US backed but Kurdish dominated Syrian Democratic Forces and 40 per cent against other groups, most notably Turkish proxies reinforced by the Turkish army north of Aleppo.
“It is an inconvenient reality that any US action taken to weaken the Syrian government will inadvertently benefit the Islamic State and other Jihadi groups,” says Columb Strack, senior Middle East analyst at IHS Markit. “The Syrian government is essentially the anvil to the US-led coalition’s hammer. While the US-backed forces surround Raqqa, the Islamic State is engaged in intense fighting with the Syrian Government around Palmyra and in other parts of Homs and Deir al-Zour provinces.” If Isis was to capture Deir al-Zour, the largest city in eastern Syria, this would rejuvenate the group even if it loses Raqqa and Mosul.