The ISIS terrorist attack on al-Sina’a prison in Hasakah, northeast Syria, where about five thousand of ISIS detainees are kept in, can’t be placed within the context of theories about the return of the organization after its historical defeat in Baghouz about three years ago, and then the killing of its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
What is happening seems like a planned security move related to regional agendas to strike the security situation and create chaos in the areas of northeast Syria run by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
Hence, attention is directed to the parties concerned with destabilizing the security and political situation there and pushing it to collapse. Similarly, attention is also directed to the parties that bear responsibility for the survival of ISIS members and groups as timing bombs that threaten the security and stability of Syria and the entire region.
The new role of ISIS emerges thus; the functional role that serves the agenda of specific countries for specific goals, after they had failed to achieve this militarily for many reasons. Accordingly, the main question here is related to the parties and responsibilities. Now, in the context of what is happening, one should consider:
- Following ISIS attack on al-Sina’a prison in Hasakah, using explosive cars first and before it began trying to storm the prison to control it and free the detainees secondly, immediately Turkey moved coincidently. This was clearly demonstrated in the great Turkish escalation against a number of areas in northeast Syria, in particular Ain Issa, Tel Tamr and other areas. Suspiciously, the Turkish escalation was accompanied by an unusual movement of mercenaries and the media affiliated with Turkey, the summary of which is to show the situation in northeast Syria as if it is heading towards collapse and to suggest ground military intervention, which in turn suggests a planned relationship of Turkey with the attack in order to exploit it for its agenda, after it had previously failed to carry out a military operation to occupy new areas in northeast Syria as the US and Russia refused to do so.
- The outcomes of the last Astana Peace Talk which was hold a month ago, viewed everything that is happening in northeast Syria as terrorism, extremism and separatism, without referring to the importance of dialogue to launch a political process there in order to find a solution to the Syrian crisis. This drew attention to the military and security approach adopted by the countries participating in this meeting (Turkey – Russia – Iran) in dealing with this region, even by using proxy armed and terrorist organizations and groups, including ISIS. Perhaps the latter found approach in all of the above an opportunity of hope to prove itself on the ground again. Remarkably, everything happened was accompanied by the imposition of a stifling siege on the areas of northeast Syria.
- The danger of ISIS presence in the west of the Euphrates to the east of the Euphrates and the whole of Syria. The continued presence of ISIS in large areas of the Syrian desert all along the Iraqi border, reveals the extent of the limited fight against ISIS in these areas under the control of the Syrian government and the forces supporting it, namely; Russia and Iran. On one hand, the continuation of this ISIS presence threatens the Syrian army itself, and on the other hand, it keeps the ISIS project alive and capable of returning at any time motivated by the security conditions that Syria is experiencing. No party can claim that it can contain the threat of ISIS or use it as a card against other parties until the end, especially since the organization, after losing centralization and working as local cells in wilayats (provinces), has worked for the agenda of the countries involved in the Syrian crisis, where there is conflict and contradiction in interests, strategies and projects.
- The country members in the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, primarily the United States and the European Union countries, largely bear the responsibility for the continuation of ISIS gatherings in this dangerous way, whether in prisons or camps (Hawl) under the control of the SDF. These countries seemed to evade the issue of bringing these ISIS militants to the international courts, and refuse to repatriate them to their countries of origin. They also seemed lax in realizing their danger, which to face requires technical, financial, logistical and intelligence support for the SDF forces in order to deal with this imminent danger, which many described as time bombs that could dramatically blow up at any time. Strangely, what caught my attention in this regard was what was published by one of the leaders of the so-called the Free Army, when he wrote on his Facebook page: “Five thousands ISIS militants moved in Hasakah prison, what if ten thousand of them moved in Hawl Camp?” It is as if he is waiting for the Hasakah attack to turn into a comprehensive attack on all areas of the governorate and east of the Euphrates.
- What happened in al-Sina’a prison, preceding by a number of other prisons, reveals the ineffectiveness or adequacy of the methods adopted by the SDF in dealing with this growing danger. Hence, there are many questions about cases of corruption and the involvement of security members in smuggling networks in exchange for money. Otherwise, how can one explain the ISIS detainees having phones in prisons? Wouldn’t such a matter constitute a major breakthrough, especially since it secures communication between ISIS members outside and inside prisons? Here’s another inquiry, what about the efficacy of the adopted methods in releasing ISIS members for reasons related to social reconciliation and the role of tribal notables?
In search of a new strategy
Without a doubt, the aftermath of the attack on Hasakah prison must be different from the previous ones, otherwise the danger will increase. What has happened suggested to the organization and its operators the possibility of turning the situation in favor of the agenda of the countries involved in the Syrian crisis. Therefore, what is required first and foremost is a new strategy to deal with the survival of ISIS hideouts in Syria, Iraq and the region in general. A strategy based on intensifying the war on ISIS and combating the spread of its influence, and this of course requires executive programs, so that the next steps are effective and achieve their goals.
Such steps require the continuation of the US-led Global Coalition in the war against ISIS first, and an increase in military and security support for the forces on the ground, especially the SDF, which has proven a superior ability to fight the organization during the past years. Establishing what looks like a global information bank on ISIS and the danger of its mobile and live sleeper cells, not just dormant, as it is said, especially in light of reports confirming the joining of dozens of these militants to the factions of the so-called National Army, under the auspices of Turkish intelligence.
Most importantly, initiating judicial and legal procedures and steps to deal with the remnants of ISIS. Without all of the above, the social and intellectual incubators of ISIS will remain active in a number of regions and camps, especially in the absence of a peaceful solution to the Syrian crisis. Once again, without all of the above, the threat of ISIS will remain in the next stage, and an entry point for regional countries to invest in it, until they achieve their agendas at the end.