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With Islamic militants at the vanguard of what appears to be a general Sunni uprising against Baghdad’s Shiite-dominated government, the conflicts in Syria and Iraq are beginning to merge under the strains of sectarian and ethnic competition.Related StoriesThe shockwaves are already reverberating in Syria’s civil war and changing the calculus of both the regime of President Bashar al-Assad and the Syrian armed opposition. One element of that opposition is the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, also known as ISIL or ISIS. Last week it seized Mosul and it has advanced on Baghdad, raising alarm bells in Washington – and in Damascus, which had previously shown tacit tolerance for a group that controls a swath of northeast Syria. Over the weekend, the Syrian Air Force staged its first major attacks on ISIS strongholds in the provinces of Raqqa and Hasakeh. These strongholds were the launching pad for the group's recent gains in Iraq. The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that Syrian jets had targeted ISIS headquarters in Raqqa and the group's religious courts. There was no word on casualties. “ISIL was useful to the [Assad] regime and [Assad’s ally] Iran for the pressure it put on the Syrian opposition,” says Frederic Hof, senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East. “But given what's happened in Iraq, ISIL's shelf life in Syria has expired.”