Smuggling Away the Future in Syria’s Northeast

Recent reporting on northeast Syria has highlighted the reduction in ISIS attacks and boasted of a “return to normalcy” thanks to these security efforts. However, such reporting is misleading and relies on cherry-picked data that assesses ISIS’s strength purely through the number of reported attacks and uncritically sharing media statements from Kurdish leaders.

The recent capture of ISIS’s head of finance by Turkish forces in northwest Syria has brought renewed attention to ISIS financial networks. But security analyst Alex Almeida warns that, “His capture is likely not a big deal.

The kidnapping of 60 civilians in eastern Hama on April 6, 2021, while shocking in its brazenness, underscored the growing reality of ISIS operations in this under-studied region of central Syria.

Based on local reporting and interviews conducted by this author, it appears that ISIS has used its presence in eastern Hama and the area bordering southern Raqqa and southern Aleppo to conduct widespread smuggling and fundraising operations.

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