The United States has launched at least five raids into Syria to date, all of them against the Islamic State (IS). The second such raid, on 15 May 2015, killed Fathi al-Tunisi (Abu Sayyaf al-Iraqi), who oversaw critical revenue-generating criminal schemes for the group. Al-Tunisi was primarily responsible for the oil industry in eastern Syria, in which capacity he collaborated with Bashar al-Asad’s regime, and he worked as head of the Antiquities Division of IS Diwan al-Rikaz, which translates literally as the “Department of Precious Things That Come Out of the Ground”, usually given as the “Department of Natural Resources”. Al-Tunisi was what is sometimes termed a “middle manager”: the connective tissue between the most senior levels of the leadership and local administrators, ensuring smooth coordination between the two by inter alia keeping the books. In short, the kind of terrorist operative that keeps an organisation going. Continue reading
The U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned four individuals and five entities connected to the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Asad on 6 September 2018. The most interesting was Muhammad al-Katerji, who has been involved in trade with the Islamic State (IS). A relative of his, Hussam al-Katerji, has previously been revealed as funding the jihadists on behalf of the regime, and the U.S. has previously sanctioned another Kremlin-linked Asad regime oligarch, George Haswani, for financing IS. “The United States will continue to target those who facilitate transactions with the murderous Asad regime and support ISIS”, said U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. Continue reading
The 130th edition of Al-Naba, the Islamic State’s (IS) newsletter, was published on 4 May 2018. The main story on the first page was, “For the Second Week, Soldiers of the Caliphate in Southern Damascus Inflict Heavy Losses on the Nusayri Army”, and this continued on page 4.
Nusayri refers to the Alawi sect from which Syrian ruler Bashar al-Asad hails and is part of IS’s sectarian framing of its war. The story covers the fighting between the pro-Asad forces and IS in the southern areas of the Syrian capital around al-Qadam, al-Hajar al-Aswad, Tadamun, and the Yarmuk Camp for Palestinian refugees.
For the Asad regime, this battle is the culmination of its consistent strategy, which it has on several occasions spelled out, to eliminate all opposition that is acceptable to local populations and the international community so that it can draw on their support, passive and active, in its war against the insurgency. Continue reading
Since the uprising in Syria began in 2011, Bashar al-Asad’s regime has followed a tried and trusted script to destroy the opposition by eliminating all engageable elements, creating a binary choice for the population and the world—the despotism or a terrorist takeover.
Asad bolstered extremists within the insurgency: letting Islamists out of prison while imprisoning secular activists, pushing a peaceful protest movement into violence, heightening sectarian tensions, and financial schemes of various kinds. Asad then then left IS alone for a year to build its caliphate, while obliterating rebel-held areas that could provide an attractive alternative to the dictatorship. Continue reading
The U.S.-led Coalition against the Islamic State (IS) has killed several more leaders of the terrorist group, but continues to find that the campaign is hindered by the incompetence and/or complicity of the regime of Bashar al-Asad and his supporters in Iran and Russia. Continue reading
Reuters reported on 11 October that Hussam al-Katerji, a member of Bashar al-Asad’s Syrian regime, has been engaged in trading wheat with the Islamic State (IS), helping supply the terrorists with resources to run their statelet and threaten the security of Syria’s neighbours and the wider world. This pattern of behaviour from the Asad regime—holding itself out as a counterterrorism partner, while it bolsters terrorist organizations—is well-established, and has its origins in the regime’s survival strategy: to destroy all acceptable opposition forces and make the Syrian war a binary contest between the dictatorship and terrorists. Continue reading