A new study from IHS Jane’s is cautioning that moves to undermine and ultimately oust the Assad government in Syria would greatly benefit ISIS, since a large portion of ISIS’ fighting in Syria is against the Syrian government and its allies.
Though Western officials have long downplayed the amount of fighting between ISIS and Assad, and Western-backed rebels have even claimed at time the two are in league with one another, Jane’s study showed that 42% of all ISIS fighting in Syria was against Assad-backing forces, with just 17% against the Kurdish YPG, and the rest against rival rebel factions, including the Turkish-backed rebels and al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front.
The US has been keen to oust Assad for years, with CIA officials arguing that the war against ISIS would be enhanced by imposing regime change first and hoping a more “stable” government assumes control. The Jane’s study seems to indicate that a shift in the US war to imposing regime change would free up a lot more ISIS forces, who have been fighting the Assad government, to recover lost ground.
Jane’s termed it an “inconvenient reality” that any US actions against the Assad government would necessarily benefit ISIS as well. The big question remains whether or not this will be sufficient to deter the US from carrying out more attacks against Assad, as the Trump Administration has been keen to threaten more action against them in recent weeks.