CATF Reports Apr. 15, 2016, 2:33pm

A new report by Bellingcat confirms that pragmatism prevails over presumed ideological and political differences in Syria. In August of 2015, news of a long-term business cooperation between the Assad regime and ISIS for oil extraction and trade surfaced, and involved a private oil company owned by George Hoswani, a U.S. Treasury sanctioned Russian-Syrian dual national and close friend of Bashar al-Assad. The new Bellingcat study offers evidence of further cooperation efforts in Raqqa, ISIS’ de facto capital, where Islamic State is allegedly collecting taxes and taking credit for managing water facilities “staffed and paid” for by the Syrian government.

Raqqa fell under ISIS control in January 2014 when the terrorist group launched “state-building efforts on a large scale” and took over administrative functions in order to provide basic services, including water supply. However, Syrian government employees are responsible for sustaining the facilities for water distribution because ISIS “does not have the required knowledge” or personnel. Supposedly, this arrangement allows the Assad regime to “retain leverage” over ISIS.

From Bellingcat:

Zein al-Rifai/AFP/Getty Images

“Documents uploaded on Facebook by the Foundation [the General Foundation for Drinking Water and Sewage] and its director […] show that since Islamic State took control of Raqqa, the Assad government has continued paying salaries. At least, this is the case if employees come to pick up their salaries. Since the city fell to Islamic state, employees of Raqqa’s water facilities must travel around 260 kilometers from Islamic State held territory to Hama. Earlier, in August 2013, it was also possible to pick up salaries and pensions in Hasakah.

After arriving at the Hama office, employees have to identify themselves with a signature and a stamp. Pay-day is every few months, so it seems. The Foundation first has to wait for money from the government before it can pay salaries and pensions to its employees – when that money is there, the general director of the Foundation posts a photo of the bank note showing a transfer of 35 million Syrian pounds from the Ministry to the Foundation in Deir el-Zour, which might suggest Raqqa and Deir el-Zour are currently managed by the same person(s). […]

Open source evidence proves that it is not the Islamic State, but actually the Syrian government that is providing Raqqa with drinking water. […] The Iraqi government had a similar approach and paid salaries to civil servants in IS-held Mosul up to July or August of 2015. In 2014, an activist from Deir el-Zour told the Washington Post that Islamic State “is not this invincible monster that can control everything and defeat everyone” as it fails to provide basic services like drinking water. This failure of providing a basic service like water seriously questions the Islamic State’s ability to govern in the territories it controls.

What is perhaps most interesting is that these water facilities — staffed and paid for by the Syrian government — were at least twice allegedly bombed by the Russian Air Force. Though the first one might have been a mistake, one can only speculate as to why the second facility was bombed.”

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