Update on ISIS
Earlier in the week the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and the U.S.-led Coalition began their second offensive in the Deir A’zzour province against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). In the province, ISIS controls territory from Hajin to Abu Kamal and along the Syrian-Iraqi border. The group also controls territory between Palmyra and the Euphrates river in Homs province. On June 6th, 2018 there were reports of heavy clashes between SDF and ISIS near Dashishah. SDF and U.S.-led Coalition captured the Al-Fakka village in northern Deir A’zzour on the same day.
Since 2015, ISIS has lost significant territory not only in Iraq but also in Syria. At the beginning of the organization of forces against the extremist group in 2015, ISIS controlled approximately 100,000 square kilometers across Iraq and Syria. As of October 2017, the group controlled approximately 10,000 square kilometers of territory. In 2017 alone, 65,000 square kilometers of territory was liberated by the U.S.-led Coalition. The territory ISIS does control in Al-Hasakah and Deir A’zzour remains crucial to its function, as several major oil fields are located in this area. Syria’s largest oil field, al-Omar was captured from ISIS control by the U.S.-led Coalition in 2017. In addition to tax revenue, oil remains the group’s largest source of income; it is its lifeline to implement its desire for an Islamic caliphate. However, in 2017, IHS Markit reported that ISIS’ revenues fell from 81 million USD to 16 million USD in the second quarters of 2015 and 2017, respectively.
The second offensive marks an important strategic decision on behalf of the SDF and U.S.-led Coalition. In a press release from the U.S.-led Coalition, officials stated that “the terrorist group is still attempting to establish regional networks and remains a regional and global threat through its ability to organize or inspire acts of violence against innocent people around the world.” With oil prices fluctuating and territory under ISIS control declining, there is vast uncertainty about not only what will happen with this offensive but also what the future of the Deir A’zzour province entails.