February 28, 2015

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

jonathan-spyer

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...]

Naqshbandi Army Statement: Condemnation of the Burning of Muadh al-Kasasbeh: Translation & Analysis

Jordanian F-16s, similar to those operated by al-Kasasbeh, in October 2009 (Credit: Caycee Cook, U.S. Air Force - http://www.defenseimagery.mil; VIRIN: 091019-F-9119C-102)

Intro and Analysis This latest statement from the Ba'athist-Sufi Naqshbandi Army [Jaysh Rijal al-Tariqat al-Naqshbandia: JRTN] condemning the burning alive of the Jordanian pilot Muadh al-Kasasbeh follows the usual pattern of condemning Islamic State [IS] excesses without mentioning IS by name: compare with the destruction of religious sites in Mosul and attacks on minorities in Ninawa province like the Yezidis and Christians, also condemned by the Naqshbandi Army without explicit mention of … [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...]

Barry Rubin’s Improbable Journey

Prof. Barry Rubin (1950-2014)

This article originally appeared on Commentary, February 3, 2015 Today, February 3, marks one year since Barry Rubin, scholar and friend, lost his bout with an aggressive cancer. He was sixty-four. The many tributes published upon his passing celebrated him as a prolific and passionate advocate for his adopted country, Israel, and as a tireless scholar who generated a steady flow of writings and an astonishing array of initiatives: a think tank, several journals, and many conferences. His … [Read more...]

ISIS and Syria’s Southern Front

Pair of armed anti-American insurgents from northern Iraq.

Analysis of Syrian civil war dynamics tends to draw a sharp contrast between the southern front, referring to the southernmost provinces of Deraa, Quneitra, and Suwayda, and the north. Analysis of Syrian civil war dynamics tends to draw a sharp contrast between the southern front, referring to the southernmost provinces of Deraa, Quneitra, and Suwayda, and the north. Most observers point to the south, in contrast to the north, as lacking a significant Islamic State (ISIS) presence. How true … [Read more...]

Islamic State Justification for Burning Alive the Jordanian Pilot: Translation and Analysis

Islamic State (IS) billboard in Raqqa, Syria, "Traitors to Islam are collaborators of the West against Muslims."

Below I have translated the document circulated by the Islamic State's al-Eftaa wa al-Buhuth committee on the subject of the burning alive of the Jordanian pilot. This committee is responsible for providing Islamic textual justifications for various decrees on the acceptability of certain acts. This latest example is perhaps the most notorious. It is important that these documents be brought to light because as the corpus of Islamic texts- whether verses of Qur'an, the ahadith and acts from … [Read more...]

Review of ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror

The ISIS-run Osama bin Laden Mosque in Tel Abyad, Raqqa Province. ISIS also runs at least one school and training camp each named after OBL.

ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror by Michael Weiss and Hassan Hassan £5.99; 1169p. (I-Phone Reading)   The rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS, subsequently calling itself just "The Islamic State" since the Caliphate declaration of 29 Jun 2014) across Iraq and Syria will naturally provoke much questioning as to how this phenomenon came to such prominence. Overall, this book ably accomplishes the task in a concise manner, and is a valuable, compelling read for … [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...]

Archive of Islamic State Administrative Documents

Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi

My recent series on IS administration in Ninawa province focused on education, public services and religious life using numerous specimen IS administrative documents from that province. This post aims to provide an archive of similar translated IS documents in other provinces, and will be continually updated. Specimen A: Childbirth Operations in Deir az-Zor Province Islamic State State of the Caliphate Wilayat al-Kheir Medical Administration In view of what the land is going through … [Read more...]

Jabhat al-Nusra and the Druze of Idlib Province

1926 of a meeting of Druze leaders in a ceremonial tent in the Jabal al-Druze (The Druze Mountain) region in southern Syria. The settlement of the Druze in the Lega region of Hauran (Bashan) followed the battle of Ain-Dara, east of The village of Sofar in the Mount of Lebanon in 1711. The battle was the culmination of the struggle for power between the Qaisyyoun faction (The Maan and The Shihab Clan) and the Yemenite faction (Imad al-Din Clan). The defeated Yemenites migrated to the sparsely inhabited Al-Lega region, known today as the Druze Mountain. (Source: http://mideastimage.com/result.aspx; Author: Luigi Stironi)

While most analysis of the Druze in Syria focuses on their positions in Suwayda province- where they constitute the majority of the population- as well as Jabal al-Sheikh in Damascus/Quneitra provinces, it should be remembered that there is also a Druze community in the Jabal al-Samaq area of Idlib province, more widely known as Jabal al-Zawiya. This community consists of numerous villages, whose names can be found here. Unlike their co-religionists in the south, these Druze have no capacity … [Read more...]