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

5 December 2018

The Next Phase of the Syrian Conflict Could Be the Most Damaging

The battle between the government and rebels is winding down as Damascus gains the upper hand and the Islamic State collapses, but there will be a greater risk of clashes among intervening states in 2019.

The United States, Russia, Turkey, Iran and Israel could all become embroiled in a clash with one of the other countries involved in Syria. 

While all these countries will work to minimize the chances of escalating the conflict due to the inherent dangers of a greater war, they cannot eliminate the risks entirely.

Editor's Note: This assessment is part of a series of analyses supporting Stratfor's upcoming 2019 Annual Forecast. These assessments are designed to provide more context and in-depth analysis on key developments in the coming year.

1 December 2018

U.S. Setting Up Observation Posts in Syria to Keep ISIS From Entering Turkey

Terri Moon Cronk

U.S. forces are establishing observation posts in Northeast Syria to further deny escape routes to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, the spokesman for Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve told Pentagon reporters today.

Army Col. Sean Ryan, speaking via teleconference from Baghdad, updated reporters on ongoing operations in Iraq and Syria to defeat ISIS.

The spokesman said the observation posts will be set up to deter ISIS fighters that try to flee the middle Euphrates River valley into Turkey to the north.

“These observation posts will provide additional transparency and will better enable Turkey's protection from ISIS elements,” Ryan said.

Defense Secretary James N. Mattis announced the observation posts last week in a press briefing with Pentagon reporters.

America’s Forgotten War in Syria Isn’t Stopping

by Adam Taylor 

The United States is fighting a war in Syria. It’s a quiet war with debatable legal standing, but it is a real war nonetheless. Estimates of the number of U.S. troops there over the past year run anywhere from about 500into the thousands.

In theory, at least, the U.S. presence in Syria is about defeating the Islamic State, the extremist group that controlled major chunks of Syria and Iraq in recent years and later orchestrated or inspired terrorist attacks in Europe and North America. Today, the U.S. government claims the Islamic State is near total defeat.

Yet the Trump administration has declared it will be in Syria indefinitely. Does that mean that the enemy is not, in fact, as defeated as it seems? Or does it mean that the mission has crept beyond the Islamic State? In this case, the answer may be both.

The Islamic State has lost almost all of the territory it held at the peak of its power in 2014 and 2015. This is largely thanks to a U.S.-led military intervention — particularly the use of American air power — that began under the Obama administration and continued under the Trump administration. It is also a success that came at a high cost to Syrian civilians, according to groups such as Amnesty International.

But if the Islamic State is down, it is not yet out…

28 November 2018

The Case for Leaving Syria

by Douglas Macgregor

With the military and various domestic programs facing budget cuts, the United States shouldn't be throwing more money at the Middle East. 

Professor Michael Howard, the eminent British historian, frequently stated , “Wars are not tactical exercises writ large… They are conflicts of societies, and they can be fully understood only if one understands the nature of the society fighting them.” The professor must have anticipated the Syrian Civil War.

In Syria, the civil war that killed as many as 400,000 people is over. Moscow’s ally in Damascus, President Bashar al-Assad, is the victor.

The Case for Leaving Syria

by Douglas Macgregor

With the military and various domestic programs facing budget cuts, the United States shouldn't be throwing more money at the Middle East.

Professor Michael Howard, the eminent British historian, frequently stated , “Wars are not tactical exercises writ large… They are conflicts of societies, and they can be fully understood only if one understands the nature of the society fighting them.” The professor must have anticipated the Syrian Civil War.

In Syria, the civil war that killed as many as 400,000 people is over. Moscow’s ally in Damascus, President Bashar al-Assad, is the victor.

It’s true that the predominantly Sunni Arab opposition— virtually indistinguishablefrom a broad range of Sunni Islamist terrorist groups—to Assad clings to life inside Syria’s Idlib enclave , but its days are numbered. Thanks to an agreement reached between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Sunni jihadist forces will eventually leave the demilitarized zone, patrolled by Russian and Turkish forces.

17 November 2018

There’s a Right Way to End Syria’s War

By Janine di Giovanni

Earlier this month, Geir Pedersen, Norway’s ambassador to China and a former permanent representative to the United Nations, was appointed special envoy on the Syria conflict. He replaces the veteran Italian-Swedish negotiator Staffan de Mistura, who for four years tried but failed to end the bloody civil war.

Syria has been brutalized for nearly eight years now. Eight years is the lifetime of a third-grade child. It is also two years longer than the total duration of World War II. And in those last two years, instead of winding down as all of its actors have grown exhausted, Syria’s crisis has actually escalated.

7 November 2018

Turkey, Russia Resurrect a ‘Concert of Europe’ to Resolve Syrian Crisis

By: Orhan Gafarli

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan hosted a summit in Istanbul, on October 27, which brought together President Vladimir Putin of Russia, President Emmanuel Macron of France and Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel. The four European leader gathered to try to formulate a solution to the Syrian crisis. Although the participating delegations broadly discussed the current and future problems, risks and threats inherent in finally bringing peace to Syria, the summit’s final Joint Statement mainly emphasized the preservation of the territorial integrity, sovereignty, and unity of the war-torn country. The four leaders committed to act in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations and noted that the UN Security Council should continue to act in accordance with Resolution 2254 (2015) and agreements struck as part of the Geneva conflict resolution process (Anatolian Agency, October 27).

The Turkish side planned to hold such a summit (with the participation of leaders of France, Germany and Russia) in Istanbul about two months ago (September 7). But these initial plans were suspended because of Ankara and Moscow’s bilateral negotiations on the hostile situation in the Syrian province of Idlib. The two sides ultimately reached an agreement on September 17, in Sochi, to create a “deconfliction zone” in Idlib province (Sputnik TR, September 17).

4 November 2018

Putin's Game: Did Russia Win in Syria?

By Tabitha Sanders

Putin is leveraging his country’s strengthening position to gain credibility within the international community and challenge America’s role as the regional hegemon in the Middle East.

As the end of the military phase of the Syrian conflict appears to be in sight, American policymakers would do well to reflect on how much has changed within the war and on the international stage since 2011. The conflict has pulled Iranian-backed troops within miles of Israel’s borders and has seen a direct clash between Russians and Americans. A look at the current situation in Syria confirms that the United States failed to meet a key objective in its initial involvement: removing ruler Bashar al Assad from power. Facing a military and political loss in Syria, the United States should now do what it can to salvage a humanitarian win. To accomplish this, the Washington must work with Moscow, the only actor with a strong influence on the Assad regime that may be willing to listen. To do so, America must be willing to recognize Russia’s strengthening role in the international community and deal with it as an equal partner in certain cases.

3 November 2018

Russia’s Network-Centric Warfare Capability: Tried and Tested in Syria

By: Roger McDermott

Since initiating the reform of the Russian Armed Forces in 2008, Moscow has paid close attention to the development of its own network-centric warfare capability. Elements of this version of network-centric approaches to combat operations have involved strengthening electronic warfare (EW) capacity, modernizing infrastructure, reforming structures, as well as boosting and streamlining command and control, among other features. A related emphasis has been placed upon force enablers and force multipliers. As the integration of command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR) has advanced, Moscow has also experimented with network-centric operations during its involvement in the complex conflict in Syria (, October 1). Facilitating its network-centric operations in Syria involves unifying reconnaissance and intelligence along with command-and-control (C2) structures in the central hub of the National Defense Management Center (Natsionalnomu Tsentru Upravleniya Oboronoy—NTsUO), in Moscow. The NTsUO was created in December 2014 and lies at the heart of Russia’s burgeoning network-centric capability (see EDM, April 19, 2016; November 4, 2014).

28 October 2018

Iran in Syria: Securing Regional Deterrence

Hassan Ahmadian 

Iran is primarily concerned with preserving Syria’s prominent role in the Axis of Resistance and its overarching goal of securing its regional deterrence. Accordingly, the collapse of Damascus was intolerable because it would have negatively affected Iran and its allies in the region. This includes securing supply routes to Lebanon; enhancing the deterrence capabilities and operational experience of the Axis of Resistance against Israel and the United States, especially with Trump’s renewed hostility; and balancing Turkey in northern Syria. In addition, preserving Syria’s significant position within the Axis of Resistance serves to showcase Iran’s effectiveness in supporting allies and in its leadership role in the axis.


25 October 2018

A Strategy for Syria: Redefining Success

Four years ago, the United States started committing troops to Syria. Four years into operations, the troops are clear what they have to do every day. What they are unclear about is why.

At a recent gathering in Washington, a U.S. general lamented that the United States has multiple policy goals in Syria, but it has not been able either to prioritize or deconflict them. That is a problem. A collection of aspirations does not provide a path toward success. While it is encouraging that the United States has taken a more active approach to Syria in recent months, the new approach cannot succeed absent a much more serious discussion about U.S. strategy in the country. U.S. goals and U.S. means need to be adjusted.

20 October 2018

Pentagon looks to thwart Russian tech attacks in Syria

Jack Detsch 

The Pentagon’s in-house tech incubator is trying to stop Russia from scrambling US battlefield signals in Syria, federal contract documents show. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency — or DARPA — has awarded at least $9.6 million worth of contracts over the past couple of months for radio systems designed to protect US signals used to call in air and artillery strikes. The agreements with US defense contractors Northrop Grumman and L3 Technologies come amid rising concerns that Russia could intercept and manipulate US targeting data.

15 October 2018

America Must Realize It Has No Say in Syria's Future

The reality on the ground is that there is no good reason for a continued U.S. military presence.
Damascus is large and busy, as befits Syria’s capital. The city hosts the nation’s elite and is filled with government buildings and security forces. President Bashar al-Assad’s image adorns virtually every street. There is no doubt who is in charge.
But drive just a few minutes, and you enter a neighborhood only recently recovered after bitter fighting. Wrecked buildings stand as silent sentinels amid a sea of rubble. The carnage of seven years of horrid civil war reached even Damascus.

At long last, the conflict is winding down. Assad has won, and Washington has lost. However, the war’s impact will linger for years, perhaps decades. I just spent a week in the war-ravaged state (at my organization’s expense). America’s approach has been a disastrous failure.
Like Lebanon decades ago, the Syria conflict was an unusually complicated civil war. The fighting was brutal all around, with multiple warring forces to blame for an estimated half-million deaths. Indeed, past casualty breakdowns, admittedly of unknown accuracy, reported more combat than civilian deaths and more government than insurgent deaths.
Assad survived because he had—and still has—serious, even fervent support. He receives strong backing from his fellow Alawites, a minority sect and Shia offshoot. They commonly display pictures of him and speak of his humanitarian virtues. Other religious minorities, such as Christians, also tend to support his government. They saw the U.S.-inspired revolution in Iraq and didn’t like the ending. After all, even an American occupation didn’t prevent sectarian cleansing and slaughter, and many of the survivors fled to Syria.

10 October 2018

Syria Is the Epicenter of Great Power Competition

The United States is engaged in a renewed great power competition with Russia, a country that maintains an impressive assortment of nuclear weapons and antiaccess military tools. What makes the Kremlin’s behavior so alarming, however, is not the lethality and reach of its weaponry, but its disaffection with the U.S.-led international order that has organized global affairs for the past 70 years. This dynamic is front and center in the Syria conflict, where Russia’s strategic intent is concerning.

9 October 2018


by Matthew RJ Brodsky and Bassam Barabandi 

As the civil-war aspect of the Syrian conflict winds down, the great power struggle among states is intensifying. It appears the Trump team has discovered that its ability to help solve the former will determine how it fares in the latter.

To that end, the president’s team is fine-tuning an approach to Syria to ensure the enduring defeat of ISIS, freeze the conflict elsewhere in the country, and reinvigorate the peace process according to UN Security Council Resolution 2254.

To achieve these objectives, the administration is relying on a combination of public messaging and behind-the-scenes diplomacy, but perhaps most important, they are backing it up with a forward-leaning military posture. If recent developments are an indication of future results, the U.S. may finally have a foundation it can build upon. And that’s not just bad news for Russia but for Iran as well.

6 October 2018

In Iraq and Syria, Imagery of Nighttime Electricity Use Illuminates the Impacts of War

The outbreak of conflict in Syria in 2011, which quickly escalated to a full-blown civil war, has done tremendous damage to the country. One compelling way to visualize the devastation is using satellite night-light imagery.

Imagery that depicts electricity use at night is an illuminating tool that can be used to track population trends, economic developments and geopolitical shifts. One of the most widely known examples of this approach is the set of images that highlight the stark difference in nighttime electricity use between South Korea and the less-developed North Korea.

The image below represents electricity use in the Levant area of the Middle East by depicting the evolving intensity of night lights between 2012 and 2016. As millions of refugees fled Syria and warfare destroyed the country's electricity network, the night-light intensity in Syria dropped precipitously between 2012 and 2016.

2 October 2018

How Assad Won the Syrian Civil War Before it Began

By Eric Mosinger

In recent months, many observers of the still-smoldering civil war in Syria have concluded that Bashar al-Assad’s triumph, once unthinkable, now appears inevitable. How did the Syrian regime accomplish such a come-from-behind victory?

Most analysts emphasize how Assad benefited from extensive international support from Russia and Iran, as well as non-state militias like Hezbollah. They also credit Assad’s deft deployment of a divide-and-rule strategy, in which he sought modus vivendis with some opponents—ISIS and Kurdish rebel groups carving out autonomous spaces far from Damascus—while unleashing the full weight of his military strength on moderate Western-backed rebel factions. Yet the most important factor in Assad’s victory was neither his international support nor his wartime strategies; rather, Assad triumphed because Syria’s armed domestic opposition was hopelessly fragmented from the beginning to the closing stages of the conflict.

Re-Emergence: A Study of Russian Strategy in Syria, the Middle East and Its Implications

By Harrison Manlove

Earlier this year, The Strategy Bridge asked university and professional military education students to participate in our first annual writing contest by sending us their thoughts on strategy.

Now, we are pleased to present a third-place essay from Harrison Manlove at the University of Kansas.

Russian strategy in Syria and the broader Middle East consists of supporting what it considers legitimate institutions through extensive foreign aid programs, including economic and security assistance, political support and, as seen in Syria, direct military intervention. However, there are caveats to this strategy that include history, policy goals, and the ability to exploit lack of foreign attention to Russian activities and capabilities.

30 September 2018

Syria’s Three Wars

With the Islamic State largely eliminated militarily and the Bashar al-Assad regime in control of Syria’s densely populated western reaches and pausing prior to a major campaign to retake Idlib, a major rebel stronghold, the Syrian civil war is entering a new phase. Iran, Israel, Russia, Turkey, and the United States are still engaged in the conflict, while Qatar and Saudi Arabia seem to be out. Three separate regional battles among the remaining players—in Idlib, in the territory near the Golan Heights, and in Syria’s eastern reaches—will determine the country’s future.

President Donald Trump has been explicit about his desire to wind down U.S. involvement as quickly as possible. In March, he told political supporters that “we’re knocking the hell out of ISIS. We’ll be coming out of Syria like very soon. Let the other people take care of it now. … We are going to get back to our country, where we belong, where we want to be.” The government he presides over, though, takes a different view. The United States now has a “new policy,” James Jeffrey, the U.S. secretary of state’s new special representative for Syria engagement, told the Washington Post in September. “We’re no longer pulling out by the end of the year.” Jeffrey said the administration aims for a more “active approach” to ensure the “enduring defeat” of the Islamic State and to push Iran out of Syria. “That means we are not in a hurry,” he said, adding, perhaps to convince himself, “I am confident the president is on board with this.”

The Syrian War Is Over, and America Lost

Steven A. Cook

Earlier this month, Syrian regime forces hoisted their flag above the southern town of Daraa and celebrated. Although there is more bloodletting to come, the symbolism was hard to miss. The uprising that began in that town on March 6, 2011, has finally been crushed, and the civil war that has engulfed the country and destabilized parts of the Middle East as well as Europe will be over sooner rather than later. Bashar al-Assad, the man who was supposed to fall in “a matter of time,” has prevailed with the help of Russia, Iran, and Hezbollah over his own people.

Washington is too busy over the furor of the day to reflect on the fact that there are approximately 500,000 fewer Syrians today than there were when a group of boys spray-painted “The people demand the fall of the regime” on buildings in Daraa more than seven years ago. But now that the Syria conflict has been decided, it’s worth thinking about the purpose and place of the United States in the new Middle East. The first order of business is to dispose of the shibboleths that have long been at the core of U.S. foreign policy in the region and have contributed to its confusion and paralysis in Syria and beyond.