The Islamic State is showing signs of strain as it comes under new pressure from U.S.-backed Syrian rebels from the north and east in Syria, and Russian-backed Assad regime forces from the south and west. Defectors from the group are reportedly contacting foreign embassies to try to arrange safe passage from the group, including 150 Western fighters, though they face detention, interrogation, and likely criminal charges. Those that remain behind are subject to the increasing paranoia of the terrorist group’s leadership. The group recently executed 38 of its own members in a purge of suspected moles.
The U.S.-supported push by the mostly-Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces has drawn Islamic State forces away from fronts in western Syria, allowing Russian-backed Assad regime forces to press their advantage and make gains in Raqqa province. The United States exchanges information with Russia to deconflict its operations in Syria, but U.S. officials deny coordinating directly on the offensive. “In terms of direct coordination of activities on the ground, that is not happening,” Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook told reporters. “I know there have been discussions about changing that, but at this point, our position is the same.”