February 10, 2016

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/.

Syria Diplomacy Suspended as Russian-Backed Assad Forces Advance

Two Sukhoi Su-25s at Bassel al-Assad International Airport in Latakia during the intervention. (By Mil.ru, CC BY 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=43968135)

UN Special Envoy on Syria Staffan de Mistura this week announced the suspension of just-convened peace talks in Geneva intended to resolve the Syrian civil war. The failure of the talks was predictable, and foreseen by most serious analysts on Syria. Diplomacy requires compromise. But the forces of President Bashar Assad, Russia, Iran and Hezbollah are advancing in both northern and southern Syria. The dictator and his allies, as a consequence, see no reason to abandon their core aims or … [Read more...]

SDF Plays Central Role in War Against IS

jonathan-spyer

A more detailed report on the SDF, deriving from information obtained during my visit to Syria in December 2015, appeared in Jane's Intelligence Review in January 2016. Following is a link to the report, which is behind a paywall and can be accessed only by subscribing to JIR: http://more.ihs.com/IHSJanesDefense?retURL=http%3A%2F%2Fwww%2Ejanes360%2Ecom%2Fimages%2Fassets%2F333%2F57333%2FSDF_plays_central_role_in_Syrian_civil_war__1_%2Epdf&a=1. … [Read more...]

Taking the Fight Back to Islamic State

jonathan-spyer

The Australian, 23/1   In northern Syria, a new military alliance is making headway against IS   Kobani is a good place to start.  This once anonymous Kurdish town on the Syrian-Turkish border was the subject last year of the predatory intentions of the Islamic State.  The  jihadis wanted to remove the logistical irritation of a Kurdish enclave poking into their domain.  Abu Omar al-Shishani, most feared of the IS commanders, declared that he would ‘drink tea in Ayn al-Islam’ … [Read more...]

Taking the Fight Back to Islamic State

YPG Kurds returning fire against ISIS

In northern Syria, a new military alliance is making headway against IS Kobani is a good place to start.  This once anonymous Kurdish town on the Syrian-Turkish border was the subject last year of the predatory intentions of the Islamic State.  The  jihadis wanted to remove the logistical irritation of a Kurdish enclave poking into their domain.  Abu Omar al-Shishani, most feared of the IS commanders, declared that he would ‘drink tea in Ayn al-Islam’ (the name that IS gave the town).  … [Read more...]

Eclipse of the Caliphate

Kamal Kirkuki and Jonathan Spyer with a captured Islamic State (IS) flag. Kirkuk area, December 2015.

Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, in the last days of 2015 is a place that appears to have risen from a near-death experience. In the summer of 2014, the fighters of the Islamic State (IS) got to within 45 kilometers of this city. Around 30 percent of the inhabitants left. The foreign companies that had turned Erbil into a boom town hurriedly pulled out. In their place, throngs of refugees filled all the available empty spaces. US air power stopped the advance of the jihadis, but the … [Read more...]

ISIS Is Retreating – but ISIS Isn’t the Main Problem

Flag of Jabhat al-Nusra

On a recent reporting trip to Iraq and northern Syria, two things were made apparent to me — one of them relatively encouraging, the other far less so. The encouraging news is that ISIS is currently in a state of retreat. Not headlong rout, but contraction. The bad news? Our single-minded focus on ISIS as if it were the main or sole source of regional dysfunction is the result of faulty analysis, which in turn is producing flawed policy. Regarding the first issue, 2015 was not a … [Read more...]

Teheran vs. Riyadh

Left:  Saudi King Salman bin Abd al-Aziz Al Saud; right: Supreme Leader of Iran Ali Khamene'i

Saudi-Iranian confrontation reflects key Mideast trend lines The decision by Saudi Arabia to sever diplomatic relations with Iran following the burning of the Saudi Embassy in Tehran is an escalation in an enmity of long standing between these two countries. The dynamics underlying it cast light on a number of key trend lines in the Middle East. The first, apparent for a half decade now, is the ongoing decline of confidence on the part of Saudi Arabia and to a lesser extent other Gulf … [Read more...]

Rubin Center end of year appeal

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  http://www.rubincenter.org/2015/12/the-rubin-center-needs-your-support-to-continue-its-groundbreaking-research-make-your-tax-deductible-donation-before-the-end-of-the-year/ … [Read more...]

Putin Vs. Erdogan

Meeting between Prime Minister of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan and President of Russia Vladimir Putin in Moscow , July 18, 2012 (Courtesy: The Presidential Press and Information Office).

Australian, 28/11 The downing of the Russian Suk­hoi SU-24 bomber over Turkish airspace this week is a dramatic escalation in an already existing situation of tacit conflict between Moscow and Ankara in and over the ravaged landscape of northern Syria. The Turkish action is unlikely to pass without retribution of some kind. This will not necessarily come immediately. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s record in international ­affairs suggests that revenge is a dish he prefers to serve cold. … [Read more...]

‘Remaining and expanding’?

An F-16 Falcon being refueled after an airstrike on Islamic State (IS or ISIS) targets in Syria

Jerusalem Post, 20/11 Will the Paris bombing galvanize a new strategy to destroy the ‘Islamic State’? The Islamic State (IS) is a murderous enterprise, based on an insane ideology.  It nevertheless desires its own survival and expansion. In October , 2015, prior to the downing of the Russian jet over Sinai and the attacks this week in Paris, no serious threat to its continued existence was apparent.  The US-led coalition bombing campaign was half hearted, and western support for Kurdish … [Read more...]