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

11 July 2020

Can the U.S. Stop Syria’s Kurds From Selling Oil to Assad?

by Matthew Petti 
Source Link

The United States should provide the U.S.-backed Syrian Kurds a waiver to sell their oil on the international market, the head of a Syrian Kurdish news agency argued.

The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces currently control the largest oil fields in Syria, which President Donald Trump has sent U.S. troops to protect. But the Kurdish-led opposition is unable to sell the oil legally, forcing them to deal with Syrian ruler Bashar al-Assad, whom the United States has condemned as a dictator.

Thomas McClure, head of the Rojava Information Center, said that the Kurdish-led administration has repeatedly asked the U.S. government for exemptions to the U.S. economic sanctions blocking Syrian oil exports.

“Why is it that here in the Northeast the administration can provide bread, can provide basic shelter? It’s because of the oil,” he said at a Tuesday videoconference hosted by the Los Angeles World Affairs Council. “If the administration here doesn’t want to let its people starve, it has to sell its oil to the regime.”

U.S. sanctions dating back to 2011 make it illegal to invest in or import Syrian oil. The sanctions include an exemption for older, mostly-defunct Syrian rebel groups, but make no mention of the Syrian Democratic Forces currently in control of northeastern Syria.

7 July 2020

Trump’s Syria Policy Is Working

BY JONATHAN SPYER
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Two years after celebrating victory in the Syrian civil war, the regime of Bashar Assad is facing renewed unrest. A mini-insurgency is under way in Daraa province, the birthplace of the 2011 revolt. Stormy demonstrations are under way in adjacent Suwayda. The economy is hurtling toward the abyss.

What has changed, in two short years? How has Assad’s triumph turned to disaster? The answer is the Trump administration’s Syria policy. The application of quiet but unrelenting pressure is transforming the Syrian president’s victory into ashes. What it has yet to do is persuade Russia to cease backing the Assad regime, which means the strategy remains at a stalemate.

When James Jeffrey, U.S. special envoy for Syria, said on May 12 that his job was to make Syria “a quagmire for the Russians,” the remark went largely unnoticed. Jeffrey’s words were not merely, it turns out, intended to convey a general sense of opposition to Russian designs in Syria. They headlined a series of measures intended to prevent the return of normality to regime-controlled Syria, to foment renewed crisis, and thus to turn Syria from an asset to a burden for both Moscow and Tehran.

6 July 2020

Trump’s Syria Policy Is Working

BY JONATHAN SPYER
Source Link

Two years after celebrating victory in the Syrian civil war, the regime of Bashar Assad is facing renewed unrest. A mini-insurgency is under way in Daraa province, the birthplace of the 2011 revolt. Stormy demonstrations are under way in adjacent Suwayda. The economy is hurtling toward the abyss.

What has changed, in two short years? How has Assad’s triumph turned to disaster? The answer is the Trump administration’s Syria policy. The application of quiet but unrelenting pressure is transforming the Syrian president’s victory into ashes. What it has yet to do is persuade Russia to cease backing the Assad regime, which means the strategy remains at a stalemate.

When James Jeffrey, U.S. special envoy for Syria, said on May 12 that his job was to make Syria “a quagmire for the Russians,” the remark went largely unnoticed. Jeffrey’s words were not merely, it turns out, intended to convey a general sense of opposition to Russian designs in Syria. They headlined a series of measures intended to prevent the return of normality to regime-controlled Syria, to foment renewed crisis, and thus to turn Syria from an asset to a burden for both Moscow and Tehran.

19 June 2020

Contentious Politics in the Syrian Conflict: Opposition, Representation, and Resistance

MAHA YAHYA

This compilation brings together scholars from various backgrounds to reflect on the opportunities to push for political change within Syria, the reaction by the Syrian regime this prospect of change was met with, as well as the possibilities for change in the foreseeable future. The volume covers the challenges faced by Syria’s opposition, beginning in its formative years and leading up to 2020. It discusses the obstacles this opposition faced as it grew more reliant on regional and international funding. It looks at the question of civil society and its potential role in Syrian-led priorities today. The compilation also sheds light on how local organization can block attempts by regime and nonregime groups (like Hayat Tahrir al-Sham) to control society. In addition to these topics, it examines the methods that the regime employs to consolidate its authoritarian rule, with a focus on how today's reconstruction process is instrumentalized to crush dissent. The idea of normalization under regime control is called into question as conflicting loyalties and sectarian divisions in cities like Homs demonstrate that durable peace and stability is not possible without a credible form of transitional justice. Overall, the compilation highlights how thousands of Syrians have worked and continue to work for a future that is more just, despite the obstacles they continue to face.

13 June 2020

The Syrian Civil War’s Never-Ending Endgame


The Syrian civil war that has decimated the country for nine 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. President Bashar al-Assad, with the backing of Iran and Russia, seems to have emerged militarily victorious from the conflict, 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.

The fighting is not yet fully over, though, with the northwestern Idlib region remaining outside of government control. Earlier this year, the Syrian army’s Russian-backed campaign to retake Idlib from the last remaining armed opposition groups concentrated there resulted in clashes with Turkish forces deployed to protect Ankara’s client militias. The skirmishes were a reminder that the conflict, though seemingly in its final stages, could still escalate into a regional conflagration. The situation in the northeast also remains volatile following the removal of U.S. forces from the border with Turkey, with Turkish, Syrian and Russian forces all now deployed in the region, alongside proxies and Syrian Kurdish militias.

22 May 2020

Syria Redux: Preventing the Spread of Violent Extremism Through Weaponized Populations and Mobile Safehavens

Robert Broadbent 

In the early Fall of 2020, Turkey unleashes millions of refugees into Europe and Syria making good on threats made since its invasion of northern Syria in October 2019. President Erdogan has also forcibly repatriated hundreds of foreign terrorist fighters and their families to European nations previously unwilling to accept the return of their nationals. Finally, Erdogan has requested North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Article 5 assistance in defending Turkey from armed attacks from Syria. NATO is facing its worst threat since the cold war but is unable to act as NATO member-states begin taking individual steps to secure their borders against the onslaught of refugees and foreign terrorist fighters. Violent extremist organizations present in the refugee populations take advantage of the chaos created by the mass movements of Syrian refugees and regain physical control of territory within Syria and Iraq. President Putin begins exerting pressure on former eastern bloc and Middle Eastern nations to reform a regional security and economic alliance with Russia.* The upcoming American election has paralyzed Washington and the United Nations (UN) continues to be hamstrung by Russia and China. Can NATO survive this threat? Will NATO assist Turkey? Will the United States defend its vital national security interests in NATO? Will Russia and Iran reassert themselves as the dominant regional players in the Middle East? Will there be a resurgence of yet another violent extremist organization in the region? This fictional scenario is not only plausible, but components of this scenario continue to play out in the news headlines week by week.

* Jim Mattis, “Summary of the 2018 National Defense Strategy,” page 8, available at https://dod.defense.gov/Portals/1/Documents/pubs/2018-National-Defense-…, accessed November 19, 2019. (“A strong and free Europe and a shared commitment to NATO is a vital national security interest of the United States.”).

1. Introduction

The United States will soon be faced with new national security threats arising from conflict zones in and around Syria. These conflicts have created large displaced populations capable of being weaponized along with mobile safe havens. It is within these populations and havens that the next violent extremist national security threat will be conceived and grow unimpeded if not systematically addressed.

17 May 2020

Moscow’s War in Syria


This report examines Russia’s military and diplomatic campaign in Syria, the largest and most significant Russian out-of-area operation since the end of the Cold War. Russia’s experience in Syria will shape its military thinking, influence promotion and personnel decisions, impact research and development for its arms industry, and expand its influence in the Middle East and beyond for the foreseeable future. Yet despite the importance of Russia’s involvement in Syria—especially as the United States competes with countries such as Russia and China—there has been little systematic analysis of Russia’s campaign in Syria. This research aims to help fill the gap and provides some new analysis and data. It conducts a broad assessment of the Russian campaign—including political objectives, diplomatic initiatives, and civilian targeting—which places the military campaign in a wider context. In addition, it compiles a data set of Russia’s civilian targeting and analyzes satellite imagery of Russian activity.

Overall, this report concludes that Russia was relatively successful in achieving its main near-term political and military objectives in Syria, including preventing the collapse of the Assad regime (an important regional partner) and thwarting a possible U.S. attempt to overthrow Assad. Still, Russia used a systematic punishment campaign that involved attacks against civilian and humanitarian infrastructure in an attempt to deny resources—including food, fuel, and medical aid—to the opposition while simultaneously eroding the will of civilians to support opposition groups.

This report is made possible by support from the Diana Davis Spencer Foundation and the Sarah Scaife Foundation.

15 May 2020

COVID-19 AND CONFLICT IN THE MIDDLE EAST


The Middle East was already plagued by war, famine and death in the form of the Syrian and Yemeni civil wars, the Israeli occupation of Palestine, the conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia as well as the US, radical extremism, the Kurdish question and Iraq’s many travails – in large part a result of decades of autocracy, corruption and repression. The outbreak of Covid-19 added pestilence to this trio and makes for a harmful long-term mix. With this in mind, the purpose of the brief is twofold: first, to examine the longer-term impact of the virus on political tensions and conflict in the region; and second, to explore opportunities for innovative conflict resolution that might be seized in the wake of Covid-19. In this way, we hope to stimulate something good coming out of this trying period yet.


6 May 2020

Israel Has Russia To Thank For Its Successful Air War On Syria

by Petri Mäkelä 

Here's What You Need To Remember: It’s also interesting to see how the Russian-Iranian relations develop as Russia doesn’t seem to be willing to protect Iran or Syria from Israeli strikes. As an open conflict against a high tech nation like Israel could tax the limited number of advanced Russian weapon systems available for expeditionary ops, it's not surprising that the Kremlin seems to avoid that scenario.

On May 9th the Iranian Quds force that belongs into the Revolutionary Guards Corps launched a rocket salvo against the Israeli forces in the Golan heights. The IDF had anticipated the move and placed several Iron Dome batteries to protect the region, so the attack did very little damage and several rockets were shot down.

There have been conflicting reports on whether the weapon used to attack Israel was a Russian built BM-27 Uragan or an indigenous Iranian Fajr-5.

The Fajr-5 system is an indigenous Iranian 333 mm artillery rocket that is mounted on Mercedes-Benz 2624 trucks in 4-tube launchers. System has a maximum range of 75 km and rather abysmal accuracy with a 3 km CEP. Combination of a 900 kg class conventional warhead and the low accuracy makes the FAJR-5 more of a terror weapon than any kind of precision battlefield instrument.

24 April 2020

America’s Abandonment of Syria

By Luke Mogelson

By the time Turkey invaded northern Syria, in October, the Ain Issa refugee camp—twenty miles south of the Turkish border—resembled a small city. In recent years, some fourteen thousand people had moved there, displaced by isis, Russian and American air strikes, or the repressive regime of President Bashar al-Assad. The camp had evolved from a few tents in a muddy field into a sprawling grid complete with shops, cafeterias, falafel stands, schools, clinics, mosques, a full-time administration, and offices of more than two dozen local and international N.G.O.s. As news spread of the Turkish offensive, Nashat Khairi, a camp mukhtar, or selected representative, urged the roughly thirty families in his section to remain calm. A fruit vender before the war, Khairi had fled his village, in the eastern province of Deir Ezzour, with his wife and seven children, after isis captured it, in 2014. They reached Ain Issa three years later. Since then, the camp had come to feel like home. Khairi knew everyone in his section, oversaw the distribution of food rations, registered every birth, and seldom missed a wedding or a funeral. His children received an education and had access to health care. His wife earned a salary as a cleaner. They never went hungry. In cold weather, the camp provided kerosene for their stove, and during the summer they kept their tent cool with a fan powered by a generator. Outside their entryway, Khairi tended a small garden, with neat rows of radishes and bell peppers.

This piece was supported by the Pulitzer Center.

1 April 2020

Syria’s Kurds Brace For Coronavirus Amidst Tensions With Turkey

by Matthew Petti 
Source Link

Turkish-backed rebels reopened a pumping station in Northeast Syria on Thursday, restoring clean water to hundreds of thousands of Syrians in a region unprepared for the coronavirus pandemic.

Northeast Syria has been split between Turkish-backed and Kurdish-led forces since a Turkish invasion in October. A combination of Russian, Turkish, and U.S. forces is now keeping the peace. But the fractured region may be unprepared for the type of novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak that has ravaged the rest of the world.

Turkish-backed forces had shut down the Allouk water pump on Sunday, cutting off four hundred thousand people in Kurdish-held areas from access to clean water. The four-day shutdown was a preview of the cascading crisis that a combination of coronavirus and civil war could bring to the region.

“The interruption of water supply during the current efforts to curb the spread of coronavirus disease puts children and families at unacceptable risk,” warned Fran Equiza, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) representative for Syria, on Monday. “Handwashing with soap is critical in the fight against COVID-19.”

23 March 2020

After Nine Years, Syria’s Conflict Has Only Become More Complicated

Mona Yacoubian

The engagement of external actors has protracted the conflict and Syrians civilians continue to bear the brunt.

In March 2011, as the Arab world was roiled by demonstrations, protests broke out in Syria to demand political reform after four decades of Assad rule. Nine years later, the Assad regime is on the offensive against the last rebel stronghold of Idlib, with Russia, Turkey and Iran all heavily invested in the conflict. The humanitarian consequences for Syrians cannot be overstated and a political solution to conflict seems as distant as ever. USIP’s Mona Yacoubian discusses the dreadful toll on the Syrian population and what the battle for Idlib means for the trajectory of the conflict.

Nine years since the Syrian uprisings first began, what has the toll been on the country and its population?

This week marks the ninth anniversary of the war in Syria, which has evolved from peaceful protests in 2011 as part of the "Arab Spring" to a multi-level conflict involving both regional and major power players. It is the most complex conflict to have emerged from the Arab uprisings. (For a timeline of events since the Syrian uprising began, see below.) Today, no fewer than six interlocking conflicts are being waged inside Syria:

18 March 2020

After Nine Years, Syria’s Conflict Has Only Become More Complicated

Mona Yacoubian

The engagement of external actors has protracted the conflict and Syrians civilians continue to bear the brunt.

In March 2011, as the Arab world was roiled by demonstrations, protests broke out in Syria to demand political reform after four decades of Assad rule. Nine years later, the Assad regime is on the offensive against the last rebel stronghold of Idlib, with Russia, Turkey and Iran all heavily invested in the conflict. The humanitarian consequences for Syrians cannot be overstated and a political solution to conflict seems as distant as ever. USIP’s Mona Yacoubian discusses the dreadful toll on the Syrian population and what the battle for Idlib means for the trajectory of the conflict.

Nine years since the Syrian uprisings first began, what has the toll been on the country and its population?

This week marks the ninth anniversary of the war in Syria, which has evolved from peaceful protests in 2011 as part of the "Arab Spring" to a multi-level conflict involving both regional and major power players. It is the most complex conflict to have emerged from the Arab uprisings. (For a timeline of events since the Syrian uprising began, see below.) Today, no fewer than six interlocking conflicts are being waged inside Syria:

The Syrian Civil War's Never-Ending Endgame


The Syrian civil war that has decimated the country for nine 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. President Bashar al-Assad, with the backing of Iran and Russia, seems to have emerged militarily victorious from the conflict, 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.

The fighting is not yet fully over, though, with the northwestern Idlib region remaining outside of government control. In the past few weeks, the Syrian army’s Russian-backed campaign to retake Idlib from the last remaining armed opposition groups concentrated there resulted in clashes with Turkish forces deployed to protect Ankara’s client militias. The skirmishes were a reminder that the conflict, though seemingly in its final stages, could still escalate into a regional conflagration. The situation in the northeast also remains volatile following the removal of U.S. forces from the border with Turkey, with Turkish, Syrian and Russian forces all now deployed in the region, alongside proxies and Syrian Kurdish militias.

16 March 2020

The Use of Mercenaries: A New Recourse to an Old Practice for Waging War in the Middle East

Yoel Guzansky, Daniel Rakov, Gallia Lindenstrauss
Source Link

A phenomenon that has intensified over the past decade in the Middle East is the use of mercenaries to project power and to realize interests. It seems that the Gulf states, Turkey, and Russia are leaders in this trend, using numerous mercenaries for combat missions beyond their borders. Mercenaries give those who deploy them a tool for managing warfare beyond their own borders, and another means of power projection while reducing their official losses. Israel, which is currently engaged in the struggle against Iranian entrenchment in Syria, has so far no direct military contact with mercenaries. However, the recourse to mercenary forces figures increasingly in its strategic environment, demonstrated both by its rivals and by its partners. It is therefore important to consider the challenges and opportunities posed by this tool.

Upheavals in the Middle East have created significant areas wracked by violence, involving regional and global players struggling to reshape the region according to their interests. A trend that has intensified over the past decade is the use of mercenaries to project power in the region. The Gulf states, Turkey, and Russia are leaders in this trend, using numerous mercenaries for combat missions beyond their borders. In this they differ from the United States, European countries, and China, who use mercenaries for support tasks, and from Iran, the regional leader in the use of proxies from the Shiite population. However, the rationale underlying the use of proxies and mercenaries is the same: limit military and political costs, reduce the number of casualties for the intervening country, and reduce the potential for escalation. Today, considerable numbers of mercenaries, who unlike proxies are driven by their financial interests, are employed in Iraq, Libya, Yemen, and Syria. Thus, it is important to assess the factors that accelerate this trend and to examine the impact on the regional picture and the potential impact on Israeli considerations.

The Gulf States 

14 March 2020

Syria Is Turkey’s Problem, Not America’s

BY STEVEN A. COOK
Source Link

Last week, Turkey went to war with Russia—sort of. Ankara’s present military operations are in response to a Feb. 27 attack in Syria that killed 36 Turkish soldiers and wounded another 30. (Turkish authorities in Hatay province, which is closest to the area where the attack occurred, initially blamed Russia, but in Ankara officials placed responsibility with Syrian regime forces.) Since then, the Turks have deployed the firepower of an advanced NATO military machine against Syrian targets, while the Russians have been forced to stand aside. Both Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin have said they want to de-escalate, which is precisely what they did in Moscow on Thursday when they agreed to a cease-fire.

With all the talk in Washington these days about “great-power competition,” events in Syria have taken place without much in the way of U.S. involvement. And, guess what? The sun rose over the Potomac River in Washington anyway. Throughout the post-World War II era, American officials and commentators have created the expectation—mostly among themselves—that the United States was a necessary presence in places near and far, because everything was important to the strategic interests of a global power. Yet this new Turkish phase of the conflict in Syria is just the latest example that undermines this idea. At least in the Syrian case, Turkey seems to be doing just fine on its own.

13 March 2020

Erdogan’s Failed Gamble In Syria – OpEd

By Conn Hallinan*
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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s latest gamble in Syria’s civil war appears to have come up snake eyes.

Instead of halting the Damascus government’s siege of the last rebel held province, Idlib, Turkey has backed off, and Erdogan’s newest Syrian misadventure is fueling growing domestic resistance to the powerful autocrat.

The crisis began on February 25, when anti-government rebels, openly backed by Turkish troops, artillery, and armor, attacked the Syrian army at the strategic town of Saraqeb, the junction of Highways 4 and 5 linking Aleppo to Damascus and the Mediterranean. The same day, Russian warplanes in southern Idlib were fired upon by MANPADS (man portable air-defense systems), anti-aircraft weapons from Turkish military outposts. The Russian air base at Khmeimim was also attacked by MANPADS and armed Turkish drones.

What happened next is still murky. According to Ankara, a column of Turkish troops on its way to bring supplies to Turkish observer outposts in Idlib were attacked by Syrian war planes and artillery, killing some 34 soldiers and wounding more than 70. Some sources report much higher causalities.

11 March 2020

Syria’s Civil War: The Descent Into Horror

By Zachary Laub
Source Link

In the nine years since protesters in Syria first demonstrated against the four-decade rule of the Assad family, hundreds of thousands of Syrians have been killed and some twelve million people—more than half the country’s prewar population—have been displaced. The country has descended into an ever more complex civil war: jihadis promoting a Sunni theocracy have eclipsed opposition forces fighting for a democratic and pluralistic Syria, and regional powers have backed various local forces to advance their geopolitical interests on Syrian battlefields. The United States had been at the forefront of a coalition conducting air strikes on the self-proclaimed Islamic State, then abruptly pulled back its forces in October 2019 ahead of the second invasion of northern Syria by Turkey, a North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) ally. The Turks seek to push Kurdish forces, the United States’ main local partner in the fight against the Islamic State, from border areas. Russia too has carried out air strikes in Syria, coming to the Assad regime’s defense, while Iranian forces and their Hezbollah allies have done the same on the ground.

Syria likely faces years of instability to come. Assad has never been willing to negotiate his way out of power, but his continued rule is unacceptable to millions of Syrians, particularly given the barbarity civilians have faced. Meanwhile, the foreign forces on which he relies will continue to wield power. Fighting in the northern part of the country entered a new chaotic phase in late 2019, leading to the war’s highest civilian displacement yet as multiple international forces jockeyed for power and the Islamic State mounted a comeback.

9 March 2020

Pompeo’s Turkish Gambit Fails in Syria

by Matthew Petti 
Source Link

Russia and Turkey announced a ceasefire agreement for Syria on Thursday afternoon that directly rebukes U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s demands earlier in the day—dashing U.S. hopes that Turkey could help roll back Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad’s control of the country.

Pompeo told reporters on Thursday morning that it was a U.S. “requirement” for Assad to return to 2018 ceasefire lines in northwest Syria after weeks of fighting between Turkish and pro-Assad forces. Only a few hours later, Turkey agreed to a Russian-brokered ceasefire along the existing front lines in northwest Syria, which cements Assad’s post-2018 military gains.

The agreement ended Pompeo’s latest attempt to forge a U.S.-Turkish alliance against Assad, who is backed by Iran and Russia.

The Trump administration has sought to expel all Iranian forces from Syria since former National Security Advisor John Bolton declared it a U.S. policy goal in September 2018. In recent months, the State Department has stepped up its attempts to force Iran out by bringing down Assad through both diplomatic and military pressure.

8 March 2020

An Isolated Erdogan Learns the Cost of Hubris in Idlib

Frida Ghitis 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan traveled to Russia on Thursday, seeking to persuade President Vladimir Putin to help stem disaster in Syria’s Idlib province. Turkish forces are locked in fierce combat there with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s army in what has become the last bastion of the armed rebels fighting the regime.

Before the trip, Erdogan made two other related moves to strengthen his hand. First, he pleaded with NATO to come to his aid. Then, to increase his leverage with his European allies, he opened Turkey’s borders for Syrian refugees to cross into Greece, raising the specter of another mass refugee crisis like the one that roiled Europe in 2015. That previous wave of refugees and asylum-seekers boosted far-right parties across the continent, with consequences that are still visible today