The Telegraph quotes Rafik Hariri Center Resident Fellow Faysal Itani on how the Kurds’ rapid advance into Raqqa province has defied expectations of a protracted battle between Kurdish and ISIS fighters:
“A push into Raqqa and toward Raqqa city threatens ISIS’s center of gravity, in addition to its potent symbolism,” said Faysal Itani, a Fellow with the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East.
The militants exercise strict control over the area, sending their feared religious police on regular street patrols, and turning the city’s central plaza into a site for public executions. Many residents now call it Hell Square.
The Kurdish push towards ISIS’s stronghold compels the jihadists to “either divert resources from other fronts and thereby weaken itself there, or redeploy its efforts toward other areas and goals,” said Mr Itani, adding that the militants’ choice will have important implications for the strength of Mr Assad’s regime and that of the rebel forces it is fighting.