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

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

BY LARA SELIGMAN 

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?

BY AMBASSADOR MICHEL DUCLOS

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

MARC PIERINI

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? 

31 May 2019

U.S. calls Russian, Syrian air strikes 'reckless escalation' in Syria


WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States continues to be alarmed by Syrian government and Russian air strikes in northwest Syria and believes they are a “reckless escalation” of violence, the State Department said on Tuesday.

Government air strikes, backed by Russia, have focused on the south of Idlib province and nearby parts of Hama, uprooting nearly 250,000 people. The bombing has killed 229 civilians and injured 727 others, according to the UOSSM medical charity.

“Indiscriminate attacks on civilians and public infrastructure such as schools, markets and hospitals is a reckless escalation of the conflict and is unacceptable,” said State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus.

“The violence must end,” Ortagus said.

Hundreds of members of the U.S. Congress signed a letter to President Donald Trump last week arguing that the United States should remain engaged with the conflict in Syria, saying they were “deeply concerned” about extremist groups in the country.

27 May 2019

How the Return of Iranian-Backed Militias From Syria Complicates U.S. Strategy

Candace Rondeaux

In the high-stakes game between Tehran and Washington, it is often hard to tell who is really bluffing. This week, President Donald Trump threatened that a war would be “the official end of Iran,” responding in part to reports that Qassem Soleimani, the head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ elite Quds Force, had urged leaders of Iranian-backed militias across the Middle East to “prepare for proxy war.” For those counting cards, however, Iran may already have tipped its hand. 

The recent return to Iran of a wave of fighters from Liwa Fatemiyoun, an Iranian-backed militia made up of ethnic Afghan Hazaras that has been fighting in Syria since the civil war’s early days, suggests Tehran may be anticipating a different kind of proxy war altogether. With deep roots in Afghanistan’s small minority Shiite community, the Afghan Hazaras that make up the bulk of Liwa Fatemiyoun’s forces have historically punched well above their weight. While much of the focus on the fallout from Syria’s war has been on the risks posed by fighters from the Islamic State returning home, the implications of thousands of Iranian proxies leaving the Syrian front for their home turf has been overlooked.

13 May 2019

How the U.S. Miscounted the Dead in Syria

BY ELIAS GROLL, ROBBIE GRAMER 

The United States dramatically underestimated the number of civilians killed in the U.S.-led coalition’s assault on the self-proclaimed capital of the Islamic State two years ago, according to the research of two leading human rights groups.

During the four-month campaign to oust the Islamic State from the Syrian city of Raqqa in 2017, some 1,600 civilians died as a result of coalition airstrikes and bombing, Amnesty International and Airwars wrote in a new report.

The United States put the civilian death toll in Raqqa at 318, according to a spokesman for the U.S. campaign to defeat the Islamic State.

The report, drawing on nearly two years of research, also concluded that the U.S.-led coalition was responsible for a significantly higher number of civilian casualties throughout its four-year campaign to destroy the Islamic State caliphate in Syria and Iraq than it had reported.

11 May 2019

After the Caliphate: Factors Shaping Continuing Violent Extremism and Conflicts in the MENA Region

By Anthony H. Cordesman

This is the third report in a three-part survey of metrics that address the fighting in Iraq and Syria, the ongoing challenge of extremism, and the trends in key causes of that extremism and regional instability. This series is titled After the “Caliphate”: The Metrics of Daesh and the Ongoing Challenge of Extremism.
Part One - Daesh, Syria and Iraq – contained some 60 different metrics covering the trends in war on Daesh in Syria and Iraq, the outcome of the fighting, and the remaining threats to stability in Syria and Iraq. It is available on the CSIS web site athttps://www.csis.org/analysis/after-caliphate-metrics-daesh-and-ongoing-challenge-extremism.

Part Two - The Changing Threat – surveyed the broader trends in Islam, and in Islamic extremism. It then focuses on these trends in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), and the scale of the continuing threat they pose to the stability of the MENA region. Part Two is now available on the CSIS web site athttps://www.csis.org/analysis/metrics-daesh-and-ongoing-challenge-extremism.

10 May 2019

Al Qaeda-linked operations room counterattacks as bombs fall northern Syria

BY THOMAS JOSCELYN 

Bashar al-Assad’s air force and Russia have stepped up their bombing campaign in northern Syria in recent weeks. Sunni jihadists have responded with a series of operations targeting the Assad regime’s forces and its allies across four provinces.

The attacks are being carried out by Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), the “Incite the Believers” operations room, and other parties. HTS has been preparing for the possibility of larger assault on Idlib, the northwest Syrian province it largely controls.

“Incite the Believers” was formed in Oct. 2018 by several jihadi groups that operate somewhat independently from HTS. Its founding groups included Hurras al-Din (“Guardians of the Religion”), Ansar al-Din Front and Ansar al-Islam. Others have likely joined or cooperate with the joint venture as well.

5 May 2019

The Metrics of Daesh and the Ongoing Challenge of Extremism


The Burke Chair at CSIS is issuing the second report in a three-part survey of metrics that address the fighting in Iraq and Syria, and the ongoing challenge of extremism. This series is titled After the “Caliphate”: The Metrics of Daesh and the Ongoing Challenge of Extremism.

Part One - Daesh, Syria and Iraq – contained some 60 different metrics covering the trends in war on Daesh in Syria and Iraq, the outcome of the fighting, and the remaining threats to stability in Syria and Iraq. Part One was issued on April 20, 2019 is available on the CSIS web site at https://www.csis.org/analysis/after-caliphate-metrics-daesh-and-ongoing-challenge-extremism .

Part Two - The Changing Threat – is now being circulated. It surveys the broader trends in Islam, and in Islamic extremism. It then focuses on these trends in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), and the scale of the continuing threat they pose to the stability of the MENA region. Part Two is now available on the CSIS web site at https://csis-prod.s3.amazonaws.com/s3fs-public/publication/190429_After_the_Caliphate_part_two.pdf.
Part Three - Key Factors that Seem Likely to Lead to Continuing Violent Extremism, and Conflicts in the MENA Region – will be issued on May 6, 2019. It surveys metrics that portray the broader causes of instability and possible future conflict in the region.
Part Two: A Survey of the Changing Threat

27 April 2019

After the “Caliphate” The Metrics of Daesh and the Ongoing Challenge of Extremism


The two additional parts that follow will include:

Part Two - The Changing Threat – will survey the broader trends in Islam, and in Islamic extremism. It then focuses on these trends in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), and the scale of the continuing threat they pose to the stability of the MENA region.

Part Three – Key Factors that Seem Likely to Lead to Continuing Violent Extremism, and Conflicts in the MENA Region – will explore metrics that portray the broader causes of instability and possible future conflict in the region.

The Metrics of Daesh and the Ongoing Challenge of Extremism

Part One contains some 60 different metrics that cover the trends in war on Daesh in Syria and Iraq, the outcome of the fighting, and the remaining threat.

These metrics show that the Assad regime’s state terrorism has caused more casualties than the fight against Daesh, and that the breakup of the Daesh “state” left major areas where Daesh and other extremist fighters are still present. Other metrics show that Iraq was dependent on U.S. air power, and train and assist effort in defeating Daesh, and that Iraq will need substantial U.S. support in creating forces that can ensure that Daesh or some similar threat does not reemerge.

25 April 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.

From the outset, the strategy also presumed that the United States would remain active in the region for a period after the caliphate’s destruction, including on the ground in northeastern Syria, where today approximately 2,000 U.S. Special Forces hold together a coalition of 60,000 Syrian fighters known as the Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF. But in late December 2018, Trump upended this strategy. Following a phone call with his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Trump gave a surprise order to withdraw all U.S. troops from Syria, apparently without considering the consequences. Trump has since modified that order—his plan, as of the writing of this essay, is for approximately 200 U.S. troops to stay in northeastern Syria and for another 200 to remain at al-Tanf, an isolated base in the country’s southeast. (The administration also hopes, likely in vain, that other members of the coalition will replace the withdrawn U.S. forces with forces of their own.) But if anything, this new plan is even riskier: it tasks a small cohort of troops with the same mission as the current U.S. deployment in northeastern Syria, which is ten times as large.