December 1, 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:

Putin Vs. Erdogan


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. But it will … [Read more...]

“Remaining and Expanding?”

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

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 and Arab elements … [Read more...]

A Murder in October

View from the Armon Hanatziv promenade in Jerusalem.

On October 13, 2015, two young Palestinian men affiliated with the Hamas movement, Baha Alian and Bilal Ranem, boarded the 78 bus in Jerusalem’s Armon Hanatziv neighborhood. The two were residents of Jabel Mukaber, an adjoining Arab village. Alian was armed with a concealed firearm, Ranem with a knife. The two intended to carry out a terror attack within the framework of the spate of murders of Israeli Jews by Palestinian Arab Muslims, inspired by false claims that Israel was planning to … [Read more...]

Is It Iran’s Middle East Now?

Iran's Middle East for Fathom

The Middle East is currently in the midst of widespread instability, civil strife and the collapse or contraction of state authority. Syria, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Turkey, the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Tunisia and Egypt have all experienced major instability over the last half decade. The first four of these areas have effectively ceased to exist as unitary states, and are now partitioned de facto between warring entities, organised according to ethnic, sectarian or tribal loyalty. The Palestinian … [Read more...]

Syrian Bluff

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry sits with Defense Secretary-Designate Ashton Carter before the two Massachusetts residents hold a one-on-one meeting on January 7, 2015, in the Secretary's Outer Office at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

The West has conceded the continued existence of both Assad and Islamic State, despite attempts to create a different impression. Talks in Vienna last Friday intended to relaunch the diplomatic process on Syria produced predictably little.  Meanwhile, the latest announcement from the US of its intention to send a small number of special forces operators to north east Syria represents an undoubted improvement on the previous disastrous and now abandoned ‘train and equip’ program. But … [Read more...]

Israel Avoids the Abyss – For Now

A view of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount

First indications that the violence in Israel and the West Bank is Being Contained For the past four weeks, Israel and the West Bank have been hit by a wave of stabbing attacks by Palestinian Muslims on Israeli Jews, and by demonstrations and protests in the West Bank.  Palestinian fury derives from claims that Israel planned to change the ‘status quo’ banning Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif area. The 37-acre area of the Temple Mount constitutes in many ways the … [Read more...]

Russian Intervention in Syria: Significant, but Not a “Game Changer”

Russian President Vladimir Putin

On September 30th, Russian aircraft began the bombardment of rebel and Islamic State targets in Syria, heralding a new phase in Syria’s long and bloody civil war.  The Russian attacks were accompanied by an assembling of pro-regime ground forces for a renewed offensive to reverse recent rebel gains in the north west of the country. The Russian air intervention and the ground offensive by Syrian, Iranian, and Iraqi and Lebanese Shia forces has removed any immediate threat to the regime … [Read more...]

IS Video Declares War on Jews

Islamic State (IS) Video Declares War on Jews

My colleague, Rubin research fellow Aymenn Jawad al-Tamimi points out that the clip of the Islamic State (IS) man speaking in fluent, Palestinian-accented Hebrew is part of a larger video put out by the Damascus "Wilaya" (Province) of the Islamic State. The whole video can be seen here. It is entitled "Smash the borders and slaughter the Jews." Aymenn considers it to be the genuine work of IS. As such, it represents something important, namely a clear statement by IS of its desire, against the … [Read more...]

Assad’s Autumn Offensive

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (Photo: FABIO POZZEBOM/ABR)

With a little help from his friends – Russia, Iran, Hezbollah – the Syrian dictator looks set to end the immediate threat to the regime enclave in Latakia. Something major is brewing in northwest Syria. The Assad regime has been back on the attack in recent days. The fighting is focused on the area of Aleppo, Syria’s second-largest city. Russian air strikes and regime artillery are backing up the troops of President Bashar Assad’s army as they push back the rebels in northeastern … [Read more...]

Houthi Retreat in Yemen Indicates Iranian Limitations

Protest in Sanaa, Yemen, February 3, 2011.
(Photo: Sallam

While regional news remains dominated by the dramatic events under way in Syria, further south and east important developments are taking place in one of the more neglected arenas of the regional struggle – Yemen. Events in Yemen are noteworthy because they counter the notion that as a result of the Obama Administration’s exit from the region and in the wake of the nuclear agreement, an unstoppable Iranian advance across the Middle East is inevitable.  In Yemen, what is taking place is … [Read more...]