July 2, 2015

About Jonathan Spyer

Dr. Jonathan Spyer is Director of the Rubin Center (formerly the GLORIA Center), IDC Herzliya, and a fellow at the Middle East Forum. He is the author of The Transforming Fire: The Rise of the Israel-Islamist Conflict (Continuum, 2010) and a columnist at the Jerusalem Post newspaper. Spyer holds a Ph.D. in International Relations from the London School of Economics and a Master’s Degree in Middle East Politics from the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. His reporting on the war in Syria and Iraq has been published in a number of major news outlets, including the Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, The Times, Weekly Standard and many others. His blog can be followed at: http://jonathanspyer.com/.

RIP Keith Broomfield, Killed in a Firefight with ISIS

The late Keith Broomfield in Syria (Photo courtesy of Jonathan Spyer).

Keith Broomfield, of Westminster, Massachusetts, was born in 1979 and buried this week. He was 36. Keith was killed in a firefight on June 3rd with the Islamic State organization near the town of Kobani in northern Syria. He had been serving as a volunteer with the Kurdish YPG militia since February. Keith was a brave man, and a good friend. And his death wasn’t for nothing. The Syrian Kurds, with the help of the U.S. Air Force, are pushing the jihadis back across north east Syria now. Their … [Read more...]

Dutch OpinieZtv Interview with Jonathan Spyer


Voorafgaand aan de DAM-lezing in De Rode Hoed op 4 juni j.l. sprak OpinieZtv met Jonathan Spyer over de oorlog in Irak en Syrië en de positie van Israël. Spyer is bekend vanwege zijn verschillende bezoeken aan de Syrische gebieden in handen van de opstandelingen. Bepaald geen ongevaarlijke onderneming, zeker niet voor een Israëliër!   In het interview vertelt hij waarom Israël haar aanvankelijk neutrale positie ten aanzien van de Syrische burgeroorlog heeft laten varen, waarom … [Read more...]

Fall of Eagles: The Eclipse of the Arab Nationalist State

Houthi Declaration

The most significant dynamic in the Middle East over the last decade has been the collapse of strong, centralized regimes in a series of Arab states and their replacement by chaos, civil war, and the proliferation of non-state militias. This collapse has taken place in five states: Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen, and—in a very different way—Lebanon. The Palestinian national movement has also fragmented. This phenomenon is particularly relevant given that the chaos resulting from the collapse of … [Read more...]

Born in Lebanon, Dying in Syria?

Hizballah flag

Hizballah shoulders new responsibilities in the Syrian war The latest reports from the Qalamun mountain range in western Syria suggest that Hizballah is pushing back the jihadis of Jabhat al-Nusra and Islamic State.  The movement claims to have taken 300 square kilometers from the Sunni rebels. The broader picture for the Shia Islamists that dominate Lebanon, however,  is less rosy. The Iran-led alliance of which Hizballah is a part is better-organized and more effectively commanded than … [Read more...]

The March of Folly in Iraq

The Ramadi Mosque in Ramadi, Iraq in 2004.

The fall of Ramadi to the fighters of the Islamic State is a disaster for the Iraqi government of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. The taking of the city brings IS to just over 60 miles from Baghdad. In addition to showcasing the low caliber of the Iraqi security forces, the events surrounding the fall of the city lay bare the contradictions at the heart of Western policy in Iraq. Prime Minister Abadi had ordered the garrison in Ramadi to stand firm. He hoped to see a successful stand in the … [Read more...]

A Tremor in Iranian Kurdistan

The Kurdish town of Mahabad, Iran.

Iranian Kurds break their silence   The events this week in the Mahabad area of Iran’s Western Azerbaijan province cast light on the difficult situation faced by one of the region’s least-noticed minorities – the Kurds of Iran. The apparent attempt by an intelligence officer in Mahabad to rape an Iranian-Kurdish hotel worker, 25-year-old Farinaz Khosrawani, and the latter’s subsequent suicide by jumping from a fourth-floor window, led to furious protests by Kurds in both … [Read more...]

The Saudi-Iranian Proxy War in Yemen


A briefing for the Middle East Forum on April 30, 2015. Click here to hear the audio file The current Houthi uprising is but the latest phase in a prolonged internecine strife. Having long suffered discrimination and marginalization by the central government, this Zaidi Shiite group, about forty percent of Yemen's population, capitalized on the massive upheavals sweeping across the region since 2011 to help topple President Ali Abdullah Saleh. In subsequent years the Houthis steadily … [Read more...]

Assad Not Finished Yet


A number of reports have been published in recent days suggesting the tide of the war in Syria may finally have turned decisively against the Assad regime. The reports cite a series of successes the Syrian rebels have achieved in recent weeks, and suggest the dictator and his allies will have difficulty reversing these setbacks. So is the game really finally up for the bloodstained regime of the Assads? A close examination of the evidence suggests that President Bashar Assad’s eulogizers have … [Read more...]

The Islamic State Comes to Damascus

The Jupiter temple in Damascus (by Ai@ce - http://www.flickr.com/photos/aiace/2177466137/. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_Jupiter_temple_in_Damascus.jpg#/media/File:The_Jupiter_temple_in_Damascus.jpg)

The latest reports suggest that Islamic State fighters have largely withdrawn from the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmuk, on the outskirts of Damascus.The jihadis have returned to the district of Hajar al-Aswad, from where they launched their assault into the camp on April 1; the strongest element in the camp now is Jabhat al-Nusra, the Syrian franchise of al-Qaida.Islamic State does not seem to have suffered a major defeat in Yarmuk. Rather, their intention was to strike a blow against the … [Read more...]

The Middle East Battle Lines Are Drawn

Rebel fighters prepare to launch an anti-tank missile towards forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in Maaret al-Naaman village, in Idlib April 30, 2014.

In the last decade, the Middle East has been living through a political convulsion of historic proportions.  Regimes that once appeared immovable have been destroyed or have receded.  New forces have risen up and are making war over the ruins. The result of the effective eclipse in recent years of the states of Iraq, Syria and Lebanon has been the emergence of a large and chaotic conflict in the contiguous area once covered by those states.  The failure to develop coherent state-loyal … [Read more...]