February 28, 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/.

All is not quiet on the northern Front between Israel and Syria/Lebanon.


PJmedia, 27/2. Co-authored with Benjamin Weinthal The recent Hezbollah attack on an Israel Defense Forces convoy in the Har Dov area close to Israel’s border with Lebanon, in which two Israeli soldiers were killed, was the latest move in a dangerous and high stakes game that is now underway on Israel’s northern frontier. Israel and Hezbollah are not the only players. The Islamic Republic of Iran, which the U.S. defines as the leading state-sponsor of terrorism, is also a key … [Read more...]


YPG Kurds returning fire against ISIS

Following is an excerpt from an account of a reporting trip undertaken by the author to the Kobani enclave in northern Syria and to the Syria-Turkey border area in May 2014.  During the course of this trip, the author interviewed both YPG and IS fighters and visited frontline areas in which the two forces faced each other. The excerpt is part of a book project on the sectarian war in the northern Levant and in Iraq. ISIS was already by this stage acquiring a reputation that set it apart from … [Read more...]

Hizballah, Iran, Assad Offensive Against Southern “Buffer Zone” near the Golan Heights

Syrian army checkpoint in Douma, Syria, January 2012 (Credit: Elizabeth Arrott/VOA)

A force consisting of Hizballah fighters, Iranian Revolutionary Guards and Syrian regime soldiers launched an offensive this week  southwest  of Damascus, in the direction of Quneitra province and the Golan Heights.   Their aim is to regain territory lost to Syrian rebels and jihadis over the past year, and to establish a strong defensive line before the capital. In Quneitra and  Dera’a  provinces, close to  the borders with Israel and Jordan, the Syrian war is characterized by … [Read more...]

Victory in Kobani: A Major Achievement –  but Hard to Replicate

Coalition airstrike in Kobani on Islamic State (IS) position, October 2014

The near-complete liberation of the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani this week from the forces of the Islamic State is a remarkable testimony to the tenacity and courage of the Kurdish resistance on the ground.  It also showcases the awesome efficacy of U.S. air power, when given a clear mission and properly directed. It is nevertheless necessary to qualify some of the more hyperbolic  reactions to the announcement of the IS retreat.  The relief of Kobani in no way constitutes a general rout … [Read more...]

Yemen Joins List of Collapsed Mideast States

Map of Shi'a insurgency in Yemen. ("Yemen war detailed map" by 0ali1 - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Yemen_war_detailed_map.png#mediaviewer/File:Yemen_war_detailed_map.png)

This week in Yemen, an Iran-backed Shia militia captured the presidential palace. The president has since resigned. It was the latest stage in the slow advance of the Houthis, who entered the capital Sana’a in September of last year. The latest Houthi victories do not bring the Shia rebels undisputed control of the country. They do, however, ensure the undisputed presence of the Iranian clients in the central government. The situation in Yemen exemplifies in acute form most of the phenomena … [Read more...]

Game Not Over: The Quneitra Attack in Context

Entrance to the town of Quneitra, Syria, on the border of the Golan Heights. ("Quneitra" by Ed Brambley - originally posted to Flickr as Quneitra. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Quneitra.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Quneitra.jpg)

In analyzing the significance and hence likely fallout from the  Israeli killing of a number of senior Hizballah and IRGC personnel close to the Golan border this week, a number of things should be borne in mind: Firstly, the killings were a response to a clear attempt by the Iranians/Hizballah to violate the very fragile status quo that pertains between these elements and Israel in Lebanon and Syria. Hizballah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah in his interview to the al-Mayadeen network … [Read more...]

Four Jews Killed in Paris Attack Buried in Israel

The Hyper Cacher kosher supermarket in Porte de Vincennes, Paris, where four Jews were murdered by an Islamist terrorist on January 9, 2015.

Under a cloudless Jerusalem sky, a crowd of thousands gathered at the cemetery at Givat Shaul on Tuesday, to bury the four Jews murdered at the Hyper Cacher in Paris. Yoav Hattab, Yohan Cohen, Philippe Braham, and Francois-Michel Saada were laid to rest in Har Hamenuhot, on the approach to Jerusalem from the west. The families chose to make their funerals an act of defiance, firmly remembering that these lives were robbed by an Islamist murderer, because the four men were Jewish. The form this … [Read more...]

Reflections on the Murders in Paris

Turkish pianist Fazıl Say sentenced to 10 months in prison by the 19th Istanbul Peace Court for “insulting religious beliefs held by a section of the society,” (DHA photo).

The Islamic world is currently in the midst of a great historic convulsion. This process is giving birth to political trends and movements of a murderously violent nature. These movements offer a supposed escape route from the humiliation felt at the profound societal failure of the Arab and to a slightly lesser extent the broader Muslim world. The escape is by way of the most violent and intolerant historic trends of Islam, into a mythologized and imagined past. The route to this old-new … [Read more...]

Doha Descending

Doha skyline

Amid rumors of Mashaal’s expulsion, Doha trying to regain alliance with Egypt, Saudi Arabia It is still not clear whether reports in Turkish newspaper Aydinlik concerning the expulsion by Qatar of Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal are accurate. Hamas officials have indignantly denied that their leader is shortly set to quit his Doha home. But certainly, Mashaal’s expulsion would fit with the broader pattern of recent events. Recent months have witnessed a number of acts by Qatar … [Read more...]

How are Things in Kobani?

Kurdish refugees from Kobani in a refugee camp on the Turkish side of the Syria-Turkey border.

The battle for the Syrian Kurdish city of Kobani just entered its fourth month. It is now a fight for a heap of ruins. Four months of intense ground combat, involving tanks, mortars and RPGs as well as small arms, has reduced the city to rubble. Nevertheless, Kobani matters. It is where the Syrian Kurds showed that with the right support, local fighters are capable of turning back the forces of the Islamic State. Kobani also matters because as a result of the stand of the Kurdish YPG … [Read more...]