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

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.

29 September 2018

The White House has revealed massive mission creep in Syria. Here’s why.

By: Kyle Rempfer and Todd South

The Islamic State is on the brink of total military defeat ― but don’t expect U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria to be coming home anytime soon.

The Islamic State’s caliphate has collapsed. They have almost no territory remaining except for a small piece of eastern Syria and the militants appear to have very little combat power left.

At the same time, ISIS is losing its international influence as terrorist attacks in the West are declining. And the latest intelligence reports suggest the group has very little ― if any ― operational control over its affiliate groups in other countries in Africa and beyond.

Yet top U.S. officials at the Pentagon and the White House are avoiding anything that sounds like a declaration of victory.

28 September 2018

Strategic Implications Of Syrian Offensive In Idlib – Analysis

By Dr. Christopher J. Bolan*

(FPRI) — Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces appear poised to launch an offensive operation to retake all or portions of Syria’s last major remaining oppositionist stronghold in the Idlib province. All major players in this looming battle are posturing to shape the nature and extent of this upcoming campaign in ways that advance their particular interests. Idlib is a province located in northwestern Syria. Since the outbreak of civil war in 2011, Idlib has been the site of frequent confrontation between the Syrian Armed Forces and any number of opposition forces—whether “moderate” such as the Free Syrian Army or others linked in varying degrees to radical jihadi terrorist groups including al-Qaeda. In the summer of 2017, Idlib was one of four so-called de-escalation zones established jointly by Russia, Turkey, and Iran aimed at reducing the violence between rebel and Syrian government forces. 

27 September 2018

Strategic Implications Of Syrian Offensive In Idlib – Analysis

By Dr. Christopher J. Bolan*

(FPRI) — Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces appear poised to launch an offensive operation to retake all or portions of Syria’s last major remaining oppositionist stronghold in the Idlib province. All major players in this looming battle are posturing to shape the nature and extent of this upcoming campaign in ways that advance their particular interests. Idlib is a province located in northwestern Syria. Since the outbreak of civil war in 2011, Idlib has been the site of frequent confrontation between the Syrian Armed Forces and any number of opposition forces—whether “moderate” such as the Free Syrian Army or others linked in varying degrees to radical jihadi terrorist groups including al-Qaeda. In the summer of 2017, Idlib was one of four so-called de-escalation zones established jointly by Russia, Turkey, and Iran aimed at reducing the violence between rebel and Syrian government forces. 

25 September 2018

Idlib Province and the Future of Instability in Syria

While some claim that an end to the conflict in Idlib marks the final stage of the Syrian war, there are three major factors that will shape the future of instability in Syria:

An estimated 70,000 opposition militants with legitimate grievances against the Assad regime are positioned for a low-level insurgency that could last for years to come. Moreover, an estimated 12 million displaced Syrians offer a potential pool of recruits for this insurgency.

Humanitarian and economic costs totaling an estimated $200-350 billion will require serious outside investment. A failure to address these conditions will almost certainly result in continued instability and a future relapse into civil war.

The presence of outside and non-state military forces —including Russia, Turkey, Iran, the United States, Hezbollah, Syrian Kurds, and others—will continue to pose an obstacle to stability in Syria and exacerbate ethnic and sectarian tensions.

19 September 2018

China’s Increasing Engagement in Syrian Conflict

By: Annie Kowalewski, Columnist

While China has long touted its commitment to “noninterference” and largely stayed out of the ongoing conflicts in the Middle East, recent developments such as the Belt and Road Initiative and China’s diplomatic support of one side in ongoing conflicts suggest that China may be rethinking this position. In Syria, not only is China offering financial support to Assad and looking to play a role in post-conflict reconstruction, but reports suggest China is looking to actively support or even engage in certain operations on the ground.[i]This shift has several implications. First, that China is looking to work closely with other world powers such as Russia and Iran. Second, that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has assessed its own capabilities as powerful enough to act as a world authority that intervenes in key international conflicts. And lastly, that the United States needs to be prepared to engage with China in regions outside of the Indo-Pacific.

18 September 2018

To Thwart Iran, Save Idlib

By Bret Stephens

The Trump administration has made clear that its top priority in the Middle East is to thwart Iran’s nuclear and regional ambitions. So why is it so reluctant to lift a finger against Tehran’s most audacious gambit in Syria? That gambit is the reconquest, by Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad and his Iranian and Russian allies, of Idlib Province, the last major rebel holdout in western Syria and home to about three million people. A humanitarian catastrophe is expected to follow, entailing mass casualties and another tidal wave of refugees. By now, the strategic consequences should also be obvious. Iran will have succeeded in consolidating a Shiite crescent stretching from Bandar Abbas on the Persian Gulf to the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon. Russia will have succeeded in reasserting itself as a Mideast military victor and diplomatic power broker. Hezbollah, already the dominant political player in Lebanon, will further extend its influence in Syria.

15 September 2018

Here's What the New U.S. Strategy in Syria Means For Russia

The United States is expanding its goal in Syria to include the full withdrawal of Iranian forces from Syria and the replacement of the current government in Damascus. A more assertive U.S. approach to the Syrian government and the Iranian presence in Syria is bound to lead to more friction between Moscow and Washington. Concerns about possible chemical weapons and refugees involved in an offensive in Idlib further limit the potential for the United States and Russia to reach an understanding.

A 10-degree shift in Syria strategy

Ranj Alaaldin, Jason Fritz, Steven Heydemann, Bruce Jones, and Michael E. O’Hanlon

With an all-out fight for Syria’s northwest province of Idlib looming, if not already beginning, the potential is growing for yet another round of immense human tragedy within the country. The consequences for regional stability, and for the possible future emergence or re-emergence of various extremist groups and associated sanctuaries, could be severe. Future events may soon require an updating of our analysis and ideas, but nonetheless, we offer the following as a realistic “10-degree shift” to U.S. policy in Syria at this crucial inflection point in the war.

8 September 2018

The sinister Kremlin organisation that BURNS traitors in a furnace: How the GRU has its own 25,000 strong special forces army, helped bring down MH17 and is secretly on the ground in Ukraine and Syria

The GRU may have been founded during the Russian Civil War a century ago, but today it has found favour with Vladimir Putin as the perfect organisation to carry out his 21st century military tactics. As we have seen in Ukraine, the US and in Salisbury, Russia is turning away from conventional displays of force and towards what has been dubbed ‘non-linear warfare’. This uses a combination of covert special-forces operations, spying, cyber attacks and internet trolls to destabilise enemy nations. Because Russia always stops short of outright aggression, the West has struggled to come up with an effective response to this provocation.

6 September 2018

Idlib, the Latest Frontline in the Syrian Civil War

Deep Dive

After seven years of conflict, the future of the Syrian civil war may come down to the battle for Idlib. Syrian leader Bashar Assad has already taken back control of much of the country, and this northwestern province is the last remaining rebel stronghold. But taking back Idlib won’t be easy. In fact, it’ll be harder and more complicated than many of the other recent campaigns in the south for two reasons. First, it is a much larger region than the areas in the south, such as Daraa, Eastern Ghouta and Quneitra, that the Syrian army seized in recent months. It is, therefore, also more heavily populated with rebels, in part because many of the cease-fires brokered by Russia in the south allowed rebels safe passage out of these areas and into Idlib. Second, Turkey has a military presence in Idlib. This complicates the situation for all parties involved because Turkey and the Syrian regime have conflicting interests in this region. Russia supports the regime but doesn’t want to go to war with Turkey, a country with which it needs to maintain good relations. For this reason, the Syrians are afraid the Russians may abandon them. Meanwhile, Turkey wants room to maneuver in relation to the U.S., and having hostile relations with Russia would limit its options.

4 September 2018

Facing Syria and Russia, UN prepares to prove the impotence of its "soft power"

by Tom Rogan

The only real utility of the United Nations lies in its facilitation of dialogue and its ideal location in New York City, which makes it a central gathering house for U.S. intelligence operations.

I note this in light of new U.N. warnings against a looming Russian, Syrian, and Iranian offensive in Idlib province, Syria. Were the U.N. that which it asserts to be — a respected international institution that protects humanitarian interests — it would be able to prevent what is about to happen in Idlib. Which is to say, prevent a slaughter. But it will fail.

The U.N. is trying its best. Warning against the looming offensive's impact on civilians, on Friday, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said the situation was "going to be very difficult." Grandi added that other refugees "will be watching very closely what is happening in Idlib in the next few months." This is a clear warning from a senior U.N. official in the exigent interest of preventing a near-term humanitarian catastrophe.