Islamic State in Syria and Iraq (ISIS): Dead But Not Buried?

Since November 2023, Islamic State (IS) terror incidents have dramatically increased in Syria and Iraq. In March, 84 Syrian soldiers and 44 civilians were killed in IS attacks making it the deadliest month of the IS insurgency since 2017. In January, the UN assessed that IS had established a “logistics and operations hub” in the Badai Desert, Central Syria. IS has used the desert safehaven to launch tactical assaults on Syrian Government Forces and Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). In August 2023, IS temporarily took control of Ma’din Atiq, a town near the Syrian city of Raqqa.

Meanwhile in Iraq, Iraqi counter-terror operations have largely contained IS by eliminating key militants and disrupting sleeper cells. Although IS’ presence in Iraq is limited, an attack in May demonstrated that the terror group remains capable of executing periodic attacks. While the IS threat is currently more pronounced in Syria, Iraq’s remaining IS presence makes the country vulnerable to over-spill.

Key Judgement 1. It is highly unlikely that the Islamic State is capable of capturing strategic-level objectives in Syria or Iraq in the next 12 months.

Key Judgement 2. It is likely Islamic State’s safe haven in the Syrian Badia desert will be contained by Syrian and Russian military operations over the next 12 months.

Key Judgement 3. It is highly likely Iraqi counter-terrorism operations will continue to drive a significant decrease in Islamic State terror attacks in Iraq over the next 12 months.

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