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According to reports ISIS (Daesh) terror gangs have retaken control of the ancient city of Palmyra citadel. This comes hours after reports suggested Russian airstrikes forced the militants out.  However, it does appear that the Syrian regime NI2forces withdrew.

Meanwhile Russia says that its air force launched more than 60 airstrikes killing more than 300 ISIS militants and halting their offensive on the famed desert city in central Syria.This is doubtful as no footage has emerged of the wreckage of 4×4 Toyota truck columns which suggest a pre-planned operation.

There is a plethora of conflicting reports circulating at the moment about Palmyra. What should we make of this Sputnik News latest update?

 12:47 12.12.2016(updated 13:05 12.12.2016)

“Daesh terrorists captured several villages and an oil field in the vicinity of Palmyra, but their offensive has been stopped, a source familiar with the situation told RIA Novosti on Monday. “The Syrian Army left the settlements of Bayarat and nearby villages. The terrorists also captured the Hiyan oil field. The T4 military airbase can now be regarded as the stronghold of the Syrian Army and militia in the region,” the source said”.

So, what’s behind this deadly game of  musical chairs?

In 2014 the Assad regime refrained from attacking ISIS bases. A Syrian government adviser told the New York Times “this was indeed a deliberate policy designed to “tar” the broader opposition and “frame [the] choice” as either Assad or the extremists.

In February 2015  the US Embassy in Syria accused the regime of supporting the ISIS advance on Syria’s largest city, Aleppo and tweeted – “Reports indicate that the regime is making air-strikes in support of ISIL’s advance on Aleppo, aiding extremists against Syrian population.” talking

In March 2015 the FT reported “A Syrian businessman responsible for orchestrating millions of dollars’ worth of secret oil and gas trades between the Assad government and its supposed sworn enemy, ISIS is among 13 individuals and organizations hit with sweeping new economic sanctions by the EU.

Colonel Ahmad Hamadi of the FSA, claimed that “in 2015 the Syrian army withdrew from Palmyra without a fight opening the way for ISIS to occupy the ancient city. Assad wanted to show the world that ISIS poses a great threat and only his regime can defeat it.”

In 2015 according to media reports “Assad regime forces abandoned the city of Palmyra and allowed ISIS to take it over unopposed. Then, in March ISIS was driven out from Palmyra by regime forces backed by Russia. There was no real battle, rather an agreed withdrawal. The recapture  was hailed as a major victory,. Russian celebrities travelled there staging concerts and making public appearances.

A pro regime website (Syrian Perspective) quoted General Ali Abdullah Ayyoob, Chief of the Syrian General Staff as saying after ISIS withdrew from Palmyra: “the rats (ISIS men) inside were finally given the go-ahead to withdraw to Al-Sukhna, Al-Raqqa and Deir Ezzor. This morning at 5:00 a.m., the SAA had confirmation from sources inside the city that the piece-meal escape was taking place. The Syrian high command ordered troops to stand down until the last rodent had left”.

Now some Arab media are calling the new battle for Palmyra a choreographed theatrical play aimed at Western audiences with the simple message: the regime is standing up to ISIS. The gullible ex-London mayor Boris Johnson was one of those who had fallen victim to Assad’s flagrant deception. In an article in the Daily Telegraph he praised both Assad and Putin.

It does appear that neither Russia nor the Assad regime are interested in fighting ISIS or eliminating the terror group. They are more interested in destroying Aleppo and its inhabitants. Their real target is the moderate opposition.

Many Western observers consider the loss of Palmyra a blow to President Assad, who has been hailing the imminent recapture of Aleppo city as a step towards “total victory” in Syria’s 6 year conflict, but Social Media is awash with different comments about what is happening – I quote just a few examples taken from Twitter;

“The gangs that love Toyota, travel in open deserts and the whole world can’t stop or defeat them”.

“Where are the Russian aircraft for Palmyra? Sorry… our specialty is bombing Hospitals only”.

Russia and Assad will liberate Palmyra from ISIS once again soon and they will hold a new concert. Pre-orchestrated theatricals.

“Really? The Latest: Russia blames US for loss of Syria’s Palmyra (from @AP)”

“Is it possible that Daesh have the capability to use 4000 thugs in a single operation undetected? Seems fishy.

“How come Assad wins in Aleppo but loses in Palmyra. It doesn’t make sense?

Some commentators believe the whole thing was a pre-arranged deal to divert attention from the atrocities in Aleppo, and to have a ready-made pretext to keep on fighting so-called terrorists.

Nehad Ismail is a UK based writer and a Senior Analyst at Wikistrat. Twitter: @nehadismai




8 Comments on "A Deadly Game Of Musical Chairs in Palmyra"

  1. Thanks Dominic for expressing your thoughts on Syria. I don’t necessarily agree with the sentiments expressed here. All I can say is this. The world had failed the Syrian people since the regime used poisonous gases against the people in 2013. The West has been out-maneuvered by Moscow which now calls the shots. Net result Obama and his hapless Sec of State Kerry have been rendered irrelevant and no one takes them seriously anymore.

    • Nehad, I thought Sir Antony Brenton (the UK’s former ambassador to Russia) gave a very good summing up of why intervention didn’t happen on Monday’s newsnight. Very difficult to justify a military action that would hand a country over to extreme islamists (unless your David Cameron that is), that too would be failing the Syrian people.

  2. I have to agree with Nehad here that the World has indeed let down Syria and should have acted when Obama’s red line was crossed in 2013 when Chemical weapons were used. What happens in Syria or Iraq or anywhere impacts the UK and the whole of the West. Britain may not be the world policeman but we have over the years intervened in many conflicts sometimes with positive results and sometimes not. The murder of innocent men women and children is a stain on all humanity. The resulting influx of refugees to Europe and the UK shows it has become our problem. There is always a potential for a crises like this to escalate from a Civil War into a regional or global war. Iran and Russia are both pulling the strings so for me it is our and the rest of the worlds problem and one we cannot ignore. I do agree that the removal of Assad cannot come quick enough but who would fill the vacuum and would things get better. Worrying times

    • ‘Britain may not be the world policeman but we have over the years intervened in many conflicts sometimes with positive results and sometimes not. The murder of innocent men women and children is a stain on all humanity.’

      Not many recent successes though are there Paul?. Libya and Iraq are both a shambles, with plenty of innocents murdered over the years following intervention, more it is believed than if the status quo had been observed. What would the result of backing the Islamist rebels have been?. We can’t know for sure but I very much doubt they would have proved generous in victory, they have carried out atrocities and shelling of civilians too, they have steadfastly refused to surrender in Aleppo even when that has brought death and misery to civilians there. Theres a saying that it takes two to tango, the rebels couldn’t have continued a war for five years without outside support, if that support hadn’t been forthcoming the war would be over by now, those backers are every bit as responsible as Russia and Iran for the carnage.

      • Agree Rob not many successes for sure and Libya and Iraq are a shambles. I spoke to a work colleague this morning who is from Iraq and his relatives still live there .He said his view and the view of many in Iraq was that they welcomed the over throw of Saddam Hussein but that they should not have used the weapons of mass destruction as an excuse and they did not need to destroy Iraq in the process. He said to me even with all the chaos he would still want the removal of Saddam as you cannot put a price on freedom. So for him and other Iraqis they did not want the status quo to continue. Of course this is one view and other Iraqis may disagree but it’s never black and white .

  3. I must agree with Paul 100%. As for Rob’s point, the Syrian people never asked for direct military intervention or boots on the ground. They needed weapons to resist the regime and Iran. They wanted a level playing field. In 2014 President Obama warned Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar not to provide quality weapons to the rebels. (quality weapons: anti aircraft weapons such as manpads). The three countries listened to Obama, complied and they lost. Assad, Iran and Moscow ignored Obama, Kerry and the UN and they won. So now we have an emboldened Iran and Russia doing what they like in Syria and the Levant meanwhile the USA and the West are looking like impotent spectators.

    • Thanks for replying Nehad. There were of course well founded reasons for the US not wishing to see those arms make their way to the rebels, namely that they would end up being used against western interests. The two NY Times stories in the links below give a flavour of what was underpinning this. To quote from one of them.

      “But the Afghan-Soviet war was also seen as a cautionary tale. Some of the battle-hardened mujahedeen fighters later formed the core of Al Qaeda and used Afghanistan as a base to plan the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. This only fed concerns that no matter how much care was taken to give arms only to so-called moderate rebels in Syria, the weapons could ultimately end up with groups linked to Al Qaeda, like the Nusra Front.
      “What came afterwards was impossible to eliminate from anyone’s imagination,” said the former senior official, recalling the administration debate about whether to arm the Syrian rebels.
      Mr. Obama made a veiled reference to the C.I.A. study in an interview with The New Yorker published this year. Speaking about the dispute over whether he should have armed the rebels earlier, Mr. Obama told the magazine: “Very early in this process, I actually asked the C.I.A. to analyze examples of America financing and supplying arms to an insurgency in a country that actually worked out well. And they couldn’t come up with much.””

      Where Obama went wrong was talking tough when he had no intention of following through.

  4. Thanks Rob for coming back and for the links and appreciate the concerns expressed.W

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