News Release

Study Shows Islamic State’s Primary Opponent in Syria Is Government Forces, IHS Markit Says

Study Shows Islamic State’s Primary Opponent in Syria Is Government Forces, IHS Markit Says

Weakening Syrian government would extend life of the Islamic State’s caliphate

April 19, 2017

The Islamic State fought Syrian government forces more than any other opponent over the past 12 months, according to new analysis from Conflict Monitor by IHS Markit (Nasdaq: INFO), a world leader in critical information, analytics and solutions.

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Islamic State Territorial Losses Between January 2015 and 3 April 2017 (Graphic: Business Wire)

Islamic State Territorial Losses Between January 2015 and 3 April 2017 (Graphic: Business Wire)

Between 1 April 2016 and 31 March 2017, 43 percent of all Islamic State fighting in Syria was directed against President Assad’s forces, 17 against the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and the remaining 40 percent involved fighting rival Sunni opposition groups -- in particular, those who formed part of the Turkey-backed Euphrates Shield coalition.

“It is an inconvenient reality that any US action taken to weaken the Syrian government will inadvertently benefit the Islamic State and other jihadist groups,” said Columb Strack, senior Middle East analyst at IHS Markit. “The Syrian government is essentially the anvil to the US-led Coalition’s hammer. While US-backed forces surround Raqqa, the Islamic State is engaged in intense fighting with the Syrian government around Palmyra and in other parts of Homs and Deir al-Zour provinces.”

Any further reduction in the capability of Syria’s already overstretched forces would reduce their ability to prevent the Islamic State from pushing out of the desert into the more heavily populated western Syria, threatening cities like Homs and Damascus, the analysis said.

“If the Islamic State succeeds in capturing the Syrian government’s isolated and heavily contested garrison in Deir al-Zour, the group would have a new major population centre from which to run the Caliphate,” Strack said. “The capture of Deir al-Zour, the largest city in eastern Syria, could be a life-line for the group’s governance project beyond the loss of Mosul and Raqqa.”

Almost half of original territory lost

Between 1 January 2015 and 3 April 2017, the Islamic State lost almost 50 percent of its territory. On 1 January 2015, Conflict Monitor estimated the Islamic State controlled 90,800 km2 in Iraq and Syria. Now, the Islamic State controls 48,500 km2.

“We have seen Islamic State territorial losses accelerate significantly in 2017,” Strack said. “Their losses were largely driven by a greater commitment from the US to back the Syrian Democratic Forces, but also by major Syrian government advances east of Aleppo and around Palmyra.”

Between 1 January 2017 and 3 April 2017, the caliphate’s territory shrank by a further 20 percent to 48,500 km2. The area they control now is roughly the same size as the Dominican Republic.

Intelligence cut-off date: 10 April 2017.

Meet Jane’s at the AFCEA 2017 Conference

Jane’s will be exhibiting jointly with Luciad at AFCEA 2017 in Bonn, Germany from 27 to 28 April. The team will be showing wider analysis on Iraq through the Luciad platform and how Luciad's geospatial visualization combined with defense and security data from Jane's can deliver superior critical information and insight.

Appointments to view the wider analysis can be made at or

About Conflict Monitor

Conflict Monitor by IHS Markit is an open-source intelligence collection and analysis service, which includes unrivalled data coverage of the conflict in Iraq and Syria, weekly control maps, as well as in-depth quantitative and qualitative analysis by Jane’s security experts.

Visit our site to learn more about the service and a free trial: or get in touch here.

About IHS Markit (

IHS Markit (Nasdaq: INFO) is a world leader in critical information, analytics and solutions for the major industries and markets that drive economies worldwide. The company delivers next-generation information, analytics and solutions to customers in business, finance and government, improving their operational efficiency and providing deep insights that lead to well-informed, confident decisions. IHS Markit has more than 50,000 key business and government customers, including 85 percent of the Fortune Global 500 and the world’s leading financial institutions. Headquartered in London, IHS Markit is committed to sustainable, profitable growth.

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