The US-led coalition has begun a new “mess-with-them” campaign that involves dropping leaflets on ISIS’ de facto capital of Raqqa, Syria, urging residents to leave the city, The Daily Beast’s Nancy Youssef reported on Friday.
“The time … has arrived. It’s time to leave Raqqa,” read one of the leaflets, which was posted on Twitter by a Raqqa resident on Thursday.
— الرقة تذبح بصمت (@Raqqa_SL) May 19, 2016
The leaflets initially raised speculation that the US-led anti-ISIS coalition was planning an assault on Raqqa, which has served as the Islamic State’s de facto capital in Syria since June 2014.
But Pentagon officials confirmed to The Daily Beast that there was no imminent, US-led offensive being planned: “It’s part of our mess-with-them campaign,” a Pentagon official told The Beast.
As the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) march toward Raqqa from northeastern Syria with the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, the US is trying to exploit ISIS’ paranoia about losing the city to Kurdish-dominated forces.
“Is the much-vaunted YPG/SDF offensive on ISIS’ de facto capital of Raqqa approaching? Force deployments this morning suggest: Yes,” Charles Lister, a Senior Fellow at the Middle East Institute, said on Twitter.
Adding to ISIS’ paranoia is the amount of territory the grou[ has apparently already lost. At a Pentagon briefing last Wednesday, Operation Inherent Resolve spokesmanCol. Steve Warrensaid the group has lost 45% of the territory it once controlled in Iraq and 30% to 35% of the populated areas it once held across its self-proclaimed “caliphate” in Iraq and Syria.
“This enemy has really suffered a string of defeats on the battlefield,” Warren said. “Nothing they have done in the past few months has really been effective.”
The Sunni extremist group has consequently begun using suicide bombings in predominantly Shiite areas – such as Shiite enclaves in Baghdad and Sayyidah Zaynab outside Damascus – with more frequency to project an image of strength and power.