February 14, 2016

Syria diplomacy suspended as Russian-backed Assad forces advance

jonathan-spyer

Jerusalem Post, 6/2 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 … [Read more...]

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...]

Is ISIS Good at Governing?

Islamic State services department

Will McCants: ISIS-claimed attacks in Paris, Beirut, and Egypt indicate the organization wants to take the fight to its enemies abroad. One reason might be that all is not well in ISIS-land. The nascent state in Syria and Iraq has lost around 25 percent of its territory and tens of thousands of fighters in the year since America and its allies began to their campaign to defeat it. While the state still endures for now, it's under tremendous pressure because of the costs of ceaseless war. To … [Read more...]

New Mobilization Call from Azaz: Translation & Analysis

Jaysh al-Fatah mobilization call

Introduction and Analysis Though the regime offensives backed by Russian airpower and Iranian-backed militias to supplement the manpower on the ground initially seemed to make little headway territorially, it is apparent that they have triggered manpower problems within the ranks of the rebels, most notably as several prominent leaders in a number of formations have been taken out. Combined with gradual regime advances in Aleppo and Latakia, these developments have prompted a number of … [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

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...]

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...]

Invitation: Symposium in Honor of the Late Prof. Barry Rubin: “Israel in a Changing Middle East”

barry-rubin

  The Rubin Center for Research in International Affairs cordially invites you to   A Symposium in Honor of the Late Prof. Barry Rubin: “Israel in a Changed Middle East”   Sunday, February 7th, 2016, at 8:30am Carol and Joey Low Lecture Halls Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliya   8:30 | Reception   8:45 | Opening remarks   Prof. Uriel Reichman, President and Founder, IDC Herzliya.   Judith Colp Rubin, Honorary President, Rubin Center for Research in … [Read more...]

An Account of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi & Islamic State Succession Lines

Portrait of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (Courtesy of: Thierry Ehrmann via Flickr Creative Commons)

Abu al-Waleed al-Salafi, whose complete history of Jamaat Ansar al-Islam I have previously translated, has also written Twitter essays on Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and compiled lists of names of individuals who came to hold key positions within the ranks of the Islamic State and its leaders. I have also translated these essays. I do not necessarily vouch for all the information presented here and working out exact datings can be difficult. Nonetheless I have tried to summarize … [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...]