Damn, There Are a Lot of Bombs Falling on Raqqa
Civilians are trapped between air strikes and Islamic State
The Syrian city of Raqqa was home to at least 220,000 people before the beginning of the Syrian Civil War in 2011. Today, it is Islamic State’s de facto headquarters, where the group has imposed its repressive rule on the remaining residents.
And the city has been subjected to over a year of air raids by many different states. It’s really remarkable just how many nations have sent warplanes to strike that small city — America, France, Jordan, Syria and Russia.
Some of the heaviest bombing in recent weeks came on Nov. 15 as French warplanes launched 30 air strikes on Islamic State targets in and near the city. But Russian strikes have caused the worst damage, according to anti-Islamic State activists in Raqqa who corresponded with Al Jazeera.
“People are horrified and everyone here lives in fear,” one anonymous activist told the network. “What the world needs to know is that we live under ISIL control on the ground, and constant air strikes from the sky. We are trapped.”
Among other details — Russian air strikes have destroyed most of Raqqa’s hospitals. The French air strikes, meanwhile, struck abandoned bases in the suburbs.
While the French air strikes were politically significant, they certainly were not unprecedented in scale. The United States launched that many air strikes on that same area in late November of last year. And in early July, America struck dozens of targets believed to be related to the group in Raqqa.
The air war is also expanding to Islamic State’s economy. Mere days before the Paris attacks, French jets destroyed parts of Islamic State’s oil infrastructure in the Deir Ezzour region. American A-10 Warthog attack planes and AC-130 gunships recently destroyed an estimated 116 trucks in the same area believed to be connected to the black market oil trade.
This is indicative of a shift in policy aimed at hindering the group’s ability to generate revenue with which to finance terrorist attacks.
French Pres. Francois Hollande’s recent comments about destroying Islamic State echo those made by U.S. Pres. Barack Obama more than a year ago. Hollande recently declared that his country is committed to “not just containing, but destroying” the terror group. But there are no indications France is making plans for any ground deployments to Iraq or Syria.
The increased targeting of oil-related targets, however, is notable. Events in Paris showed that, far from being contained, Islamic State still represents a threat to Western powers. The U.S.-led coalition, of which France is a member, has given support to Iraqi and Kurdish ground forces — but they have made slow advances, at best. It’s unlikely any of them will march into the major occupied cities of Mosul and Raqqa anytime soon.
So for now, it seems the region’s warring parties will simply expand their air campaigns with the aim of crippling Islamic State. There’s a precedent for this. In the aftermath of the first Persian Gulf War, a UNICEF official remarked that American bombs turned Baghdad into “a body with its skin basically intact, with every main bone broken and with its joints and tendons cut.”
In other words, a state no longer able to function — and reduced to a state of disarray and paralysis.