The Invisible War with ISIS – Fallout in S. Syria from Palmyra’s Capture
Three fresh hazards raised their heads March 27-28, immediately after the Syrian army captured Palmyra from the Islamic State with massive Russian help.
All three are momentous for the fortunes of the Syrian war and the security of its neighbors, as DEBKA Weekly reports:
1. Pushed out of Palmyra, the ISIS defenders split into two forces, one heading north toward operations command center in Raqqa; the other, south towards Jebel Druze and Suwayda, 327 kilometers away. The Russians tried loosing air strikes on the roads leading east from Raqqa to Deir ez-Zour, but found no targets: The jihadists had other plans.
It is worth noting that both ISIS forces retreated in orderly fashion from Palmyra as would a professional army.
2. DEBKA Weekly’s military and intelligence sources report that this southward withdrawal took all of the military intelligence circles monitoring the war, including the Russians, by surprise.
It also set off alarm bells in Washington, at the IDF high command in Tel Aviv, and at the royal palace in Amman.
The ISIS element driving south was apparently on its way to link up with its Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade arm, which is battling for control of southern Syria. (DEBKA Weekly 703 of March 25: “Russia Lets ISIS into South Syria”).
Once they link up, the two Islamist forces are expected to make tracks for the Jordanian and Israeli borders and go for the strategic Yarmouk River crossings, the main smuggling route between Syria and Jordan ever since biblical times.
3. The day after losing Palmyra, ISIS tossed into the fray a new upgraded improvised explosive device (IED) on three Middle East fronts – against the Iraqi army; against the rebels supported by the US, Israel and Jordan fighting in southern Syria; and against the Egyptian army fighting jihadist terror in Sinai.
The simultaneous emergence of the new IED on three separate fronts bespoke the high level of coordination between the various ISIS branches in the region.
Israel and Jordan, with Washington’s okay, thereupon laid on abundant supplies of heavy mortars and various rockets for the rebel forces in the south, including even the Nusra Front, to reinforce their efforts to keep ISIS back from the two borders.
DEBKA Weekly’s intelligence sources disclose these and other steps were charted at a secret meeting in Amman last week attended by Jordan’s King Abdullah, Israeli Mossad chief Yossi Cohen, senior officers from the US Central Command (CENTCOM), and top Jordanian military intelligence officers.
The meeting was updated on happenings in southern Syria and offered a prognosis, drawn up by Jordanian military intelligence, which, according to DEBKA Weekly, is the only undercover agency in the region with reliable sources of information in that part of Syria.
The Arab tribes in southern Syria have organized themselves into small towns or clusters of villages, a structure that has enabled Jordanian military intelligence to embed one or two agents in each of those tribal hubs.