MESOP Syria Daily: Regime & Russia Try to Regroup After Deadly ISIS Bombings

WEST KURDISTAN (SYRIA) – May 24 – By Scott Lucas – eaworldview – The Assad regime and its ally Russia are trying to regroup after Monday’s Islamic State bombings that killed about 150 people in western Syria. ISIS detonated seven to nine suicide and car bombs in the coastal cities of Jableh and Tartous, in the regime’a heartland of Latakia and Tartous Provinces. Targets included bus stations, electricity stations, and a national hospital.

The coordinated attacks were the first of their kind in the provinces on the Mediterranean, and they were far away from ISIS’s battlefronts with the regime and its allies in central and eastern Syria. The patterns of the bombings pointed to Islamic State “sleeper cells” or even infiltration of local agencies.

The anger of residents spilled over into attacks on displaced Syrians. Vigilantes attacked a refugee camp, burning tents and causing casualties.

The Assad regime, which has been trying to regain the military initiative after ISIS offensives in both Homs and Deir ez-Zor Province, responded by pretending that the Islamic State was not responsible. Instead, both Prime Minister Wael al-Halqi and the Foreign Ministry claimed that the leading rebel faction Ahrar al-Sham had carried out the bombings, adding that “the extremist and malicious regimes” of Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Qatar were behind the attacks.

Russia was more cautious about the bombings, which were carried out near its main airbase in Latakia and its naval base in Tartous.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that the Jableh and Tartous bombings “once again demonstrate how fragile the situation in Syria is” and that they showed “the need to continue vigorous steps to continue the negotiation process”.

Asked if Russia would reconsider President Vladimir Putin’s order in March to withdraw some of its forces, Peskov said the Russian bases in Syria allow for “a very flexible approach”.

The Russian Foreign Ministry tried to turn ISIS’s display of force into pressure on the opposition-rebel bloc:

Another bloody act of atrocity by terrorists on the Syrian soil…was committed with an uncovered goal — to disrupt the regime of ceasefire maintained in Syria since February 27 and in general to undermine the efforts on political settlement of the Syrian crisis.

ISIS Turns “Weakness” Onto the Regime

The bombings were an unexpected show of force by the Islamic State, as it is under pressure in neighboring Iraq.

After losing Palmyra in central Syria to pro-Assad forces in late March, ISIS has fought back with attacks near the Roman-era city, capturing two of the country’s largest gas fields. It challenged the regime in Deir ez-Zor city earlier this month, briefly seizing key positions amid heavy casualties for both sides.

However, ISIS appeared to be in trouble with the launch of a major offensive by Iraqi forces last week in Anbar Province, which borders eastern Syria. The Islamic State soon lost the strategic town of Rutbah, and the Iraqi forces and allied militia began their assault on the city of Fallujah on Monday.