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Don’t expect IS fighters to flee en masse to Syria

The logistics of the battle for Mosul and beyond don’t point conclusively to the Islamic State taking the fight into Syria next.
Iraqi soldiers celebrate as they pose with the Islamic State flag along a street of the town of al-Shura, which was recaptured from Islamic State (IS) on Saturday, south of Mosul, Iraq October 30, 2016. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra - RTX2R34S

Since the multinational anti-terrorist coalition led by the United States launched an offensive on Iraq’s Mosul in mid-October, there has been no shortage of criticism from Moscow and Damascus. Russian diplomats and the military tend to downplay the coalition’s successes and emphasize its failures, claiming it’s frequently hitting civilian targets — something for which the West itself bitterly criticizes Russia and Syria.

But the most worrisome thing for Moscow — as Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov made clear after an Oct. 28 meeting with his Syrian counterpart, Walid Moallem — is the prospect of a large-scale movement of Islamic State (IS) fighters from Iraq into Syria. Russia Today, an English-language news site funded by the Russian government, cited undisclosed sources as saying American and Saudi intelligence services have an agreement to allow thousands of militants passage to Syria to prepare a further offensive on Palmyra and Deir ez-Zor, which are partly controlled by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and allied Shia forces.

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