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‘IS has capability to shoot down planes’

‘IS has capability to shoot down planes’
IS may have had the ability to down a Jordanian jet flying over Syria as they have looted large supplies of ammunition and weaponry, most of which was left by the US for the Iraqi government in Mosul, Firat Demir, Middle East expert, told RT.

RT:It is not yet clear whether the jet was gunned down or had a malfunction. Does Islamic State have the weapons to down a sophisticated military jet?

Chris Bambery, political analyst: “The Americans have been desperately trying to find out what this sophisticated missile was: if it was some leftover from the Syrian air force or whether it was a weapon that they had supplied to the Free Syrian Army and ISIS has been able to pick this weaponry up.”

Firat Demir: I’m afraid, yes, they may have the capability. Remember that they have looted large supplies of ammunition and weapons systems from the Iraqi army when they overran Mosul. Most of it was left from the US to the Iraqi government. And then they took over Mosul and all around the country in Syria as well as in Iraq, and they have captured those military bases. They have gained the ability and the capability to shoot down planes, which is the reason probably that most of the airline companies have changed their routes, they are not flying over the ISIS zone anymore.

Given that these fighters have an extensive supply of very modern weaponry which is something that Kurdish fighters in Syria and Iraq have been complaining about, that there is uneven playing field given the gap between the weaponry systems used by the Kurdish fighters versus the ISIS fighters.

A picture taken on December 24, 2014 reportedly shows Islamic State group fighters collecting pieces from the remains of a Jordanian warplane from the US led coalition after it was shot down in Syria's Raqa region (AFP Photo / STR)

Chris Bambery, political analyst: “ISIS must be aware that they have had to change their tactics. If you are dealing with airstrikes you very quickly change your tactics: you move closer to the civilian population, you’ll be very careful about driving around in the desert, you are very careful about your movements… and the airstrike by the West are going to increase civilian casualties.”

RT:The Jordanian pilot flying the jet was captured by Islamic State. His family has asked for the group to show mercy. How might he be used by the extremist group?

FD: There is big propaganda warfare. ISIS has been using everything it can, its abilities, using the social media, so on to use this as an advantage to show that it’s a legitimate underground force, and they can shoot down planes and so on, and so forth. I really feel bad for the pilot because God only knows what are waiting for him in the hands of these barbaric captors.

The real question is whether the airstrikes themselves will be sufficient to halt the advance of ISIS because they are just miles outside the capital of Iraq, Baghdad, and they still control huge areas of Syria and Iraq, bigger than the United Kingdom, bigger than Britain itself. I don’t think that they will be able to stop their advance or make it retreat.

RT:How has the bombing by the coalition there been affecting the group? How effective has the coalition campaign been at eradicating ISIS as we are heading to a new year?

Chris Bambery, political analyst: “I think it made little progress:... it has stopped the advance of ISIS in Iraq. But they haven’t lost much territory, and it doesn’t look like they are going to lose much territory either in Syria, or in Iraq. And I think it will also be able to gather support.”

FD: I don’t think anybody was expecting the airstrikes to stop ISIS in advance, but to be able to coordinate them with the ground forces. Unfortunately, so far the Kurds appear to be only ground force that is capable of stopping or making advances against ISIS. The Iraqi army is completely out of touch with realities, they don’t have any ability and they still face losses. The Syrian side coalition forces refuses to start any talks with the Bashar Assad regime in Syria, that thing is out of the question. And they don’t have any other partners, Kurds are the only ones. If you look at the realities Kurds only control a very small segment of the Iraqi border space, the Iraqi Kurdistan. Increasingly they are making claims for independence which may or may not come in the near future, but they are the only ground forces that the airstrikes can help make some gains. The Iraqi army doesn’t not appear to have any ability to do so.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.