The Islamic State [IS]'s "Euphrates Province" (Wilayat al-Furat) is the group's newest administrative division, most notably encompassing the localities of al-Qa'im in Anbar province on the border with Syria and Albukamal in Deir az-Zor province on the border with Iraq, together with some neighboring contiguous territory. With the creation of this new entity, IS is partly intending to reinforce its narrative that it has 'broken the Sykes-Picot borders'.
To recall, 'Sykes-Picot'- commonly used to refer to the creation of the borders between modern Iraq and Syria- was deridingly invoked as far back as June 2013 by the spokesman of what was then ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and ash-Sham) and now IS- Abu Muhammad al-Adnani- to rebuke Zawahiri's insistence that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi dissolve ISIS and withdraw from Syria. Over the course of this summer, IS has acquired contiguous territory spanning Anbar, Ninawa, Deir az-Zor and Hasakah provinces, thereby accomplishing kasr al-hudud ('breaking of the borders'- the title of a release from one of IS' media wings: al-Itisam media).
However, it should be noted that the IS narrative of 'breaking Sykes-Picot', often echoed in Western media, is not quite accurate in this case of the creation of Wilayat al-Furat, because the provincial boundaries in question between al-Qa'im and Albukamal actually go back to the Ottoman period.
Further, on the basis of the creation of IS' Wilayat al-Furat official online provincial news feed on 31 August, some commentators on Twitter were quick to announce that this date marked the beginning of Wilayat al-Furat. On the contrary, it had already been in existence for some time at least during the month of August. Indeed, one of the other reasons for the creation of Wilayat al-Furat is economic and transit convenience: for example, Hassan Hassan noted in July that Iraqis have been heading over the border into Albukamal on a daily basis to buy livestock: in such circumstances, considering also the historic ties between Albukamal and al-Qa'im, why bother having a provincial border between them at all?
"Euphrates Province: Town of Albukamal": Photo predating provincial news feed announcement.
IS inspection point for vehicles in Euphrates Province, via official provincial news feed.
On armpatch: "Islamic Police: Euphrates Province."
IS claiming to provide electricity repair services in Euphrates Province. This project is supposedly being implemented in light of IS' bringing 'security stability' to the area. To be sure, that is not entirely divorced from reality: in Albukamal for example there were before the IS takeover several different armed factions of various affiliations in the town and countryside, which would naturally create problems for at least some residents.
The monument of Aircraft Square in Albukamal partly painted over with the banner of IS.
Below is a translation of a statement issued by the media office of Wilayat al-Furat, which emerged in the public domain on 28 August.
IS Wilayat al-Furat Statement
1. To the Muslim general populace: all who have dug holes must dig and restore them as they were. Whoever violates that will be liable to a fine with a prison sentence and this statement begins from this date for a maximum period of three days and after that we won't accept any excuse.
2. Motorcycle owners:
- Skid-drifting for sport is forbidden.
- No entering [residential] quarters except for the one whose house is inside the quarter.
- Stick to the furthest right [on a road].
- No use of Xenon lighting.
- No exceeding a speed of 60 km
- No playing of songs.
Whosoever violates that will have his motorcycle confiscated.
Motorcycles are hardly an uncommon sight: note in comparison this image from what was then ISIS' domain of the "Emirate of al-Bab" (in eastern Aleppo province).