Showing posts with label Syria. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Syria. Show all posts

3 September 2019

The Campaign between Wars: Faster, Higher, Fiercer?

Amos Yadlin, Assaf Orion

Strikes reportedly carried out by Israel over the past month in Iraq, and in recent days in Syria and Lebanon, are part of the "campaign between wars" (CBW) that Israel has waged against Iran's regional campaign of proxy warfare. These incidents mark a deviation from the routine and from the principles that had guided the campaign in recent years. The recent sequence of events has three salient characteristics: the theaters of operations, the operational tempo and their public profile. These events have possible explanations in three spheres - strategic, operational, and political - and three possible consequences: escalation in Lebanon, tensions in relations with the United States, and narrower latitude for CBW operations. Furthermore, contending with the precision-guided missile project in the Iraqi and Lebanese theaters requires adaptation of the campaign waged so far within the Syrian theater.

1 September 2019

The Future of Northeast Syria

Author Aaron Stein
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Given eight years of civil war, the divergent interests of local and powerful external actors and the international intervention against the Islamic State, what may the future hold for Syria’s northeast? Is a permanent ceasefire possible? In April, the Atlantic Council, the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung and the Foreign Policy Research Institute held a conference to address these questions. Aaron Stein and Emily Burchfield here provide an overview of the conference and build upon its findings, suggesting that any solution will require greater clarity on a direction for Syria from Russia and the US.

13 August 2019

Hard Truths in Syria

By Brett McGurk 

Over the last four years, I helped lead the global response to the rise of the Islamic State (ISIS)—an effort that succeeded in destroying an ISIS “caliphate” in the heart of the Middle East that had served as a magnet for foreign jihadists and a base for launching terrorist attacks around the world. Working as a special envoy for U.S. Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump, I helped establish a coalition that was the largest of its kind in history: 75 countries and four international organizations, their cooperation built on a foundation of U.S. leadership and consistency across U.S. administrations. Indeed, the strategy to destroy the ISIS caliphate was developed under Obama and then carried forward, with minor modifications, under Trump; throughout, it focused on enabling local fighters to reclaim their cities from ISIS and then establish the conditions for displaced people to return.

10 August 2019

Five Conundrums: The United States and the Conflict in Syria

By Michael A. Ratney

For the past 8 years, two U.S. administrations, the United Nations (UN), and numerous foreign governments have sought to end the catastrophic war in Syria and reach a negotiated political settlement to the conflict. Their efforts have repeatedly been complicated, even thwarted, by the highly contested and violent politics underlying the conflict, the sheer number of conflict actors inside and outside of Syria, and those actors’ diverse and often irreconcilable objectives.

Many of the complications for U.S. policy have stemmed from the need for policymakers to focus on three separate but intertwined dimensions of the Syrian conflict, even while policy options to deal with one dimension of the conflict had significant but often unpredictable effects on the others. The first dimension has been the campaign to deal an enduring territorial defeat upon the so-called Islamic State (IS), an element of U.S. policy that enjoyed near unanimous international consensus and adequate means to accomplish the task. The second is the central conflict between the Bashar al-Asad regime and its opponents, an existential power struggle that drew in multiple foreign powers and yielded nearly unimaginable destruction of Syrian property, infrastructure, and lives. And the third is the strategic challenge of Iran and its drive to eliminate U.S. influence in the Middle East.

5 August 2019

Iran Across the Border:Israel's Pushback in Syria

Michael Herzog
Of all the threats in Israel’s strategic landscape, none have loomed larger in recent years than Iran’s ambitions and developing military capabilities in neighboring Syria and Lebanon. Exploiting regional turmoil as well as the 2015 nuclear agreement, the IRGC’s elite Qods Force has embarked on an ambitious plan to build in Syria a formidable military front facing Israel, joining Hezbollah’s huge arsenal of rockets in Lebanon. In response, Israel launched a military campaign that has succeeded in thwarting large portions of Tehran’s plans. While the direct Iran-Israel showdown definitely carries the potential for a major military collision, Israel believes its campaign has thus far enhanced its deterrence, thereby distancing war.

In this groundbreaking Policy Note, Brig. Gen. Michael Herzog (Ret.), IDF, evaluates Israeli achievements against Iran in Syria while outlining the spectrum of risks and challenges confronting Israel. Infusing the discussion are U.S.-Iran tensions, which have surged following the application of punishing American sanctions and a series of corresponding Iranian provocations in the Gulf and elsewhere. As the United States weighs its options for blocking and deterring Iran, Israel’s experience could well offer valid lessons.

28 July 2019

Dangerous Liaisons: Russian Cooperation with Iran in Syria

The Issue

As tensions escalate between the United States and Iran in the Middle East, Russia is engaged in covert and overt cooperation with Iran in ways that undermine U.S. national security interests. This analysis of commercial satellite imagery at Tiyas Airbase in Syria indicates the scope and proximity of Russian and Iranian military ties. If Washington wants to contain Tehran and prevent further Iranian expansion, U.S. policymakers will need to increase pressure on Moscow to curb Tehran’s activities in countries like Syria.

Following a June 2019 meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Kyrgyzstan, Russian President Vladimir Putin remarked that “relations between Russia and Iran are multifaceted, multilateral.” In characterizing the primary areas of cooperation, Putin noted: “this concerns the economy, this concerns the issues of stability in the region, our joint efforts to combat terrorism, including in Syria.”1 One example of Russian-Iranian cooperation is in Syria.

27 July 2019

Russia’s Military Leaders Exploit Lessons From Experiments in Syria

By Roger McDermott

The leadership of the Russian Armed Forces at the defense ministry and General Staff levels is exploiting lessons learned from the country’s recent involvement in foreign conflicts as part of a process to enhance military capability. This forms part of a much wider “lessons learned” approach to military force development and planning for future warfare that includes assessing the annual operational-strategic military exercises, studying the results of the snap inspections of military units, gleaning insights from foreign militaries, and refining planning based on Russian combat experience. This complex practical and scientific process is also influencing how Russian defense planners think about future warfare (see EDM, June 5, 2019), though most of the direct operational lessons appear focused on Syria (see EDM, December 12, 2017).

In a recent article for Nezavisimoye Voyennoye Obozreniye, military expert Anatoly Tsyganokanalyzed many of the features and lessons of foreign conflicts and those involving Russia; the latter concentrated on Georgia, Ukraine and, especially, the operational lessons drawn from Syria. Of course, many of these lessons at the highest levels of the defense leadership remain classified; yet, some of the public discussion sheds light on the context and the nature of the importance of these operations in Russian military development. The operations that began in Syria in the fall of 2015 largely involved the Aerospace Forces (Vozdushno-Kosmicheskiye Sily—VKS) as the key element, but have also included other branches and arms of service as Moscow used the intervention as a massive combat training opportunity for its military (NezavisimoyeVoyennoye Obozreniye, July 19).

25 July 2019



Israel expects to encounter urban warfare and terror tunnels in a future conflict in Syria, a senior IDF officer said Monday. “We are looking toward future challenges in the next war – tunnels and urban combat – which could be in Gaza, Lebanon or Syria,” the officer said at the Lotar Counterterrorism School base at Adam Facility, 5 km. west of Modi’in.

While the military is still perfecting underground warfare techniques, the Lotar school is “a wealth of knowledge in all aspects of tunnel warfare,” the senior officer said, explaining that after Operation Protective Edge in 2014, the IDF understood the need for troops trained to fight in tunnels.
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21 July 2019

Getting Iran Out of Syria Is No Easy Task

by Jonathan Spyer

Israel has undertaken at least 200 air raids against Iranian targets in Syria since 2017. Mossad head Yossi Cohen said at a security conference in Herzliya recently that Israel's objective is to make Iran "reach the conclusion that it is just not worth it" to continue its project in Syria.

Israel's evident intelligence domination in Syria is impressive, as is the prowess of its pilots. But while air power is a mighty instrument, it's applicable only to certain tasks. The Iranian project in Syria is broad, deep and multifaceted. Some of its elements are acutely vulnerable to air power—research facilities, missile sites, convoys. But others are not.

Jonathan Spyer is director of the Middle East Center for Reporting and Analysis, and is a research fellow at the Middle East Forum and at the Jerusalem Institute for Security and Strategy.

20 July 2019

The Syrian Civil War Might Be Ending, but the Crisis Will Live On

The civil war that has decimated Syria for eight years now, provoking a regional humanitarian crisis and drawing in actors ranging from the United States to Russia, appears to be drawing inexorably to a conclusion. What happens next? Find out more when you subscribe to World Politics Review (WPR).

President Bashar al-Assad, with the backing of Iran and Russia, seems to have emerged militarily victorious from the Syrian civil war, which began after his government violently repressed civilian protests in 2011. The armed insurgency that followed soon morphed into a regional and global proxy war that, at the height of the fighting, saw radical Islamist groups seize control over vast swathes of the country, only to lose it in the face of sustained counteroffensives by pro-government forces as well as a U.S.-led coalition of Western militaries.

Assad now faces the challenge of rebuilding the country, including areas where he allegedly deployed chemical weapons against his own citizens. The question of who will foot the bill is still an open one. U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration has been eager to distance itself from the situation in Syria, and Assad’s allies in Moscow are unlikely to take on the costs of reconstruction, which the United Nations has estimated at $250 billion.

A poster of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad with Arabic that reads “Welcome to victorious Syria,” is displayed on the border between Lebanon and Syria, July 20, 2018 (AP photo by Hassan Ammar).

12 July 2019

Britain, France Agree to Send Additional Troops to Syria


In a major victory for U.S. President Donald Trump’s national security team, the United Kingdom and France have agreed to send additional forces to Syria to pick up the slack as U.S. troops withdraw, sources familiar with the discussions told Foreign Policy.

Britain and France, the only other U.S. partners that still have ground forces in Syria, will commit to a marginal 10 to 15 percent troop increase, a U.S. administration official confirmed. Other countries may send small numbers of troops as well, but in exchange the United States would have to pay, the official said.

Neither the timeframe for the deployment nor the exact number of additional troops is clear, the official said, adding that “overall we have been disappointed” in efforts to persuade U.S. allies to commit additional resources to the ongoing fight against the Islamic State terrorist group in Syria.

10 July 2019

What Has Become of Abdul-Salaam Ojeili's Syria

by Samuel Sweeney

Following a stalemate that had lasted, imperfectly, from September 2018, the Syrian government and their Russian allies launched a campaign in early May against opposition-held territory in Syria’s northwest. If a larger campaign against Idlib province is coming, then it could be the death knell for the Syrian opposition as a force within the country’s borders. Aside from the significant territory east of the Euphrates controlled by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), and pockets of Turkish-occupied territory in the north, the Syrian government will have reclaimed the country following eight years of war. While this may still be some time away from becoming a reality, it is a fitting time to assess how the Syrian opposition failed in its objective to overthrow Bashar al-Assad and end the regime his father began in 1970.

Over the course of eight years, the Syrian conflict went from complex to more complex, but its origins, of course, were in the idea that the Syrian government, and its president Bashar al-Assad, had lost the legitimacy to govern the country. The conflict evolved from peaceful protesters standing off against a dictatorial government, to a roughly two-sided war of rebels versus government, then to a total breakdown of the state into at least four distinct areas of control: the Syrian government, ISIS, the SDF and the opposition.

9 July 2019

What Is the Endgame in Syria?

After more than seven years of civil war that gutted Syria, the endgame is here. But there are more questions than ever. Download your FREE copy of What Is the Endgame in Syria? to learn more today.

What does victory on President Bashar al-Assad’s brutal terms look like? How has the rise and fall of the Islamic State changed Syria’s political map? And what about reconstruction, let alone reconciliation? This WPR report provides a comprehensive look at those questions and several others that will determine what’s to come in Syria, with impacts far beyond the Middle East.

Download What is the Endgame in Syria? today to take a deeper look at these conflicts and get a glimpse at what the future may hold. 

In this report, you will learn about a variety of issues, including:

What a post-ISIS order in Syria will actually look like.

America's incoherent Syria policy.

How the country will recover from the war.

Whether there will be justice in Assad's "Victorious Syria."

How the wider Jihadi movement could take over where the Islamic State left off.

29 June 2019

Russia and Iran in Syria—A Random Partnership or an Enduring Alliance?


Russia and Iran are allies in Syria not out of mutual sympathy, but for pragmatic reasons. Iranian leaders were instrumental in convincing Vladimir Putin to send his air force to Syria to support Bashar al-Assad in September 2015, and the two countries cooperate within Syria to this day. However, their various differences highlight the limits of what looks like an alliance of convenience. A new report by Atlantic Council Nonresident Senior Fellow, Ambassador Michel Duclos, "Russia and Iran in Syria—a Random Partnership or an Enduring Alliance?," analyzes these points of contention and the potential for Western diplomacy with Russia to deter Iran and bring about a negotiated settlement to the conflict.

In the short term, Russia and Iran appear to disagree on how to handle the current challenges the regime faces in Idlib and the Kurdish-dominated northeast. There is a degree of competition between the Iranians and the Russians in trying to get access to Syria’s rare economic resources, such as port access and hydrocarbons. Both countries are also jockeying for influence with the Assad regime, trying to put people close to them in key positions in the Syrian military and security forces.

27 June 2019

Three months on, landless IS still a threat in Syria

The Islamic State group has claimed several arson attacks on wheat fields in Syria, including in the Kurdish-run breadbasket province of Hasakeh

The Islamic State group has claimed several arson attacks on wheat fields in Syria, including in the Kurdish-run breadbasket province of Hasakeh (AFP Photo/Delil souleiman)

Beirut (AFP) - The Islamic State group may have lost its "caliphate", but three months later, experts have warned the jihadists are still attacking fighters and fields in Syria to show they remain relevant.

The Syrian Democratic Forces announced they had expelled the extremists from their last patch of land in eastern Syria on March 23, after a months-long campaign backed by air strikes of a US-led coalition.

The Kurdish-Arab alliance taking control of the riverside village of Baghouz spelt the end of the jihadist proto-state declared in 2014 in large parts of Syria and neighbouring Iraq.

But even as the Kurdish-led force fights to quash sleeper cells in northeast Syria, IS continues to claim regular attacks there and in other parts of the war-torn country.

"ISIS has never stopped being a threat in northern and eastern Syria," says Syria expert Nicholas Heras, using an alternative acronym for IS.

Over the past three months, they have claimed regular attacks in SDF-held areas, including targeted killings and setting fire to vital wheat crops.

25 June 2019

In Syria, An Opportunity for US-Russian Cooperation

Xander Snyder

The U.S. and Russia may be at odds from Ukraine to North Korea, but they appear to be much more aligned in Syria, where neither wants to see Iran gain a substantial foothold. As the Syrian civil war winds down, Moscow wants to make sure that it – not Tehran – remains the primary benefactor of President Bashar Assad; that it retains its bases at Tartus and Hmeimim; and that Iran’s presence in the Middle East is curbed. These interests may account for the reports of increasing competition between Russia and Iran in Syria, including skirmishes between groups supported by each.

16 June 2019

A Hot Spot Is Getting Hotter


Turkish, U.S., and European maneuvers continue around northern Syria, where the fighting has escalated.

The unconventional diplomatic and military choreography over northeastern Syria continues unabated between Ankara and Washington, and it involves European states as well, albeit more discretely. Meanwhile, Russia and Iran have kept supporting the approach of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. As always, different players have different stakes in the game.

Looking at the realities in the field, the prominent development during the past few weeks has been Russia’s massive delivery to Syria of military supplies, including different missile types, through an air bridge to its Hmeimin airbase near Latakia. This has been carried out by large transport planes flying directly over Turkish territory. Ironically, these flight plans imply Ankara’s acquiescence.

The Russian objective embodied in the deal with Turkey over Idlib Governorate was always explicit: that remaining jihadis should not be allowed to return to Russia or anywhere else inside Syrian or Iraqi territory. Turkey’s position in the deal was delicate from the beginning, to say the least. By now it seems that Moscow wants a quick “solution” by way of an all-out offensive on the jihadis, irrespective of the humanitarian crisis that this is triggering. Civilian populations displaced by the current bombing campaign are probably around 200,000, if not higher, and many have gathered along the border with Turkey’s Hatay Province in makeshift camps, which offer little in terms of humanitarian supplies. In addition, the level of security for the internally displaced Syrians is low, all the more so as Turkey doesn’t intend to open its border to would-be refugees.

12 June 2019

Are The Insurgencies Truly Over? The End Of The Syrian Civil War – Analysis

By Thomas R. McCabe

While the so-called Islamic State (ISIS) has lost control of its statelet in Iraq and Syria, the war against the remnants of the organization is not over, despite President Trump’s claim to the contrary.[1] Anti-Assad rebels still control various parts of Syria with non-ISIS jihadis controlling Idlib in the northwest and the Kurds commanding the northeast. Fighting over these enclaves will likely occupy the immediate future. In addition, any “deescalation” agreements remain subject to collapse or cancellation at the convenience of Assad and his backers.[2] But the longer-term question is what happens next? Will the wars in Syria and Iraq finally end, or will there be another round of insurgencies? And will ISIS again go underground to rebuild as it has before?[3]

The Situation on the Ground

While ISIS and other groups have made preparations for going underground to resume an insurgency,[4] the success of such efforts depends on at least two factors: how well the Syrian and Iraqi governments reestablish effective governance and security and are able to identify and root out the rebel infrastructures;[5] and whether these governments can manage reconstruction and reconciliation, especially reintegration of Sunni Arabs.

Syria. After war ends, what comes next?

An indispensable guide to help you understand the complex elements of this tragedy. Read What Is the Endgame in Syria? 

After nearly eight years of brutal civil war, the end appears to be in sight. And for most people, understanding the war, let alone grasping the significance of its outcome, has seemed impossible.

Who are the winners … if any? What will the new Syria look like, and can its cities and infrastructure ever be rebuilt? What are the political ramifications of the numerous potential alliances and outcomes?

If you think there’s simply no understanding such a quagmire, you’re partly right. But you can get as close to understanding it as the world’s leading observers and Middle East experts do.

What’s more, our writers are all experts in their fields, with boots on the ground around the world. 

And World Politics Review reports on politics, economics, war, immigration, justice, social change and more from every region in the world. Our experts know how to spot trends, report essential facts, and boil it all down for you in relevant, clear, actionable language.

8 June 2019

The American Cult of Bombing and Endless War

By William J. Astore

From Syria to Yemen in the Middle East, Libya to Somalia in Africa, Afghanistan to Pakistan in South Asia, an American aerial curtain has descended across a huge swath of the planet. Its stated purpose: combatting terrorism. Its primary method: constant surveillance and bombing -- and yet more bombing. Its political benefit: minimizing the number of U.S. “boots on the ground” and so American casualties in the never-ending war on terror, as well as any public outcry about Washington’s many conflicts. Its economic benefit: plenty of high-profit business for weapons makers for whom the president can now declare a national security emergency whenever he likes and so sell their warplanes and munitions to preferred dictatorships in the Middle East (no congressional approval required). Its reality for various foreign peoples: a steady diet of “Made in USA” bombs and missiles bursting here, there, and everywhere.

Think of all this as a cult of bombing on a global scale. America’s wars are increasingly waged from the air, not on the ground, a reality that makes the prospect of ending them ever more daunting. The question is: What’s driving this process?