BEIRUT, Lebanon -- After the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, scored a stunning land grab victory in Iraq last week, fast changes have been unfolding in Syria that could change the balance of power in the country’s uprising-turned-civil war, now in its fourth year.
Tens of thousands of Shiite Muslim mercenaries from Iraq, who have been fighting alongside Syrian troops against the mostly-Sunni rebels, are leaving the Syrian war and going home to fight ISIS. Making up for the vacuum, the Lebanese Shiite militia group Hezbollah is already bolstering its presence in Syria to support regime troops.
That shift of forces following the ISIS rout in Iraq is also making for some unexpected regional alliances.
The Assad regime along with the Iraqi government, the Iranian regime, and Hezbollah, all Shia or a Shia offshoot, suddenly find themselves fighting on the same side as the Sunni rebels who oppose ISIS, with whom they are locked in a turf war for control of Syrian areas taken from government troops.
The U.S. and the West also are on the same side, as is al Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al Nusra, which also has been fighting ISIS for months over territorial control.