May 24, 2015

THE ISLAMIC STATE VS. THE KURDISH YPG IN NORTHERN-CENTRAL SYRIA: AN EYEWITNESS ACCOUNT

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...]

THE PKK AND THE GUERRILLA TRADITION OF TURKEY’S KURDS

Protesters in Taksim Square, Turkey, hold Abdullah Ocalan posters, June 7, 2013.

Since 1984, the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) has been waging an insurgency against the Turkish authorities intermittently and with varying success. This article studies how this rural-type insurgency was staged, placing it within the context of a tradition of resistance to Turkish rule among Turkey’s Kurds. It highlights the development of a consistent guerrilla tradition among Turkey’s Kurds in the early twentieth century as well as how and why the party deviated from this … [Read more...]

ISIS CALIPHATE MEETS CHINA’S SILK ROAD ECONOMIC BELT

Map 1: ISIS Caliphate in Five Years’ Time

This report examines the clashing ambitions between ISIS and China. With ISIS’s declaration of a caliphate that encompasses China's Muslim Xinjiang, Chinese strategists will now consider how ISIS’s Eastward pivot will impact China’s own Westward march to create a Silk Road Economic Belt across Eurasia. While the Western U.S.-led coalition continues to be hamstrung by a lack of ground forces, the coveted "boots on the ground" could eventually come from the East--as China asserts its … [Read more...]

THE PARTICIPATION OF NORTH CAUCASIAN JIHADISTS IN THE SYRIAN CIVIL WAR AND ITS SECURITY IMPLICATIONS

Scene of trolleybus bombing in Volgograd, Russia, December 30, 2013, just weeks before the commencement of the 2014 Winter Olympics.

 This article examines the participation of North Caucasian fighters in the Syrian Civil War, including their motivations for joining the conflict, activities and recruitment, and their ties with jihadi networks. It also discusses the international and security implications, for Russia in particular, and the role of certain Gulf states as financers. It concludes that North Caucasians not only participate in combat but also contribute to recruitment efforts by drawing in volunteers from … [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...]

MERIA SPECIAL REPORT: NORTHERN STORM AND THE SITUATION IN AZAZ

The Mus’ab ibn Umair Mosque in Azaz

EDITOR’S NOTE This MERIA special report is the product of a reporting trip undertaken by its author to the town of Azaz between December 18-22, 2014.  Visits by researchers and journalists to northwest Syria have become rare in the past year because of the accompanying risks.  As a result, it has become difficult to gain a clear picture of the situation on the ground in the rebel-controlled areas.  This, in turn, has impoverished discussion among policymakers, specialists, and the public … [Read more...]

MERIA SPECIAL REPORT: DID ISIS USE CHEMICAL WEAPONS AGAINST THE KURDS IN KOBANI?

nowarning

PDF version available here *** WARNING:  This article contains images which some readers may find disturbing.  Caution is advised.   The fate of Kobani city now hangs in the balance, as around 9000 fighters of the Islamic State organization close in on the Kurdish held area.  The current IS assault on the Kobani enclave was not the first attempt by the jihadis to destroy the Kurdish-controlled area.  The Kobani enclave, most of which is now in the hands of the IS, at one time … [Read more...]

SUNNI OPPOSITION TO THE ISLAMIC STATE

Kata’ib al-Hamza fighters reported to be in Haditha.

PDF version available here Spearheaded by the Islamic State (IS), a renewed Sunni Arab insurgency in Iraq has wrestled control of most localities in the Anbar, Ninawa, Salah ad-Din and Kirkuk governorates away from the central government over the course of 2014. While the question of exactly who controls what is still a matter of debate, it has become clear that IS has asserted its own authority at the expense of other factions in the main cities and towns, including Mosul, Tikrit and … [Read more...]

TEN YEARS LATER: WHO WON THE IRAQ WAR, THE US OR CHINA?

Burning oilfield during Operation Desert Storm, Kuwait.

PDF version available here Many news sources have announced that the answer to the question of who won the Iraq war is simple:  the People’s Republic of China. Was China the real winner? If so, in what ways? This study analyzes the question of who won the Iraq War in broader terms, both in retrospect and looking forward. It separates myth from reality and takes a long, hard look at the war’s impact, both short- and long-term, on the economic and strategic interests of China and the … [Read more...]

THE SOUTH CAUCASUS: OBAMA’S FAILED RUSSIA “RESET” AND THE PUTIN DOCTRINE IN PRACTICE

"Restart Button" offered by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Geneva, Switzerland March 6, 2009. [U.S. State Department photo]

PDF version available here Since 2009, under President Barack Obama, the U.S. has pursued a “Russian reset” policy, promising a fresh start to previously tense relations. Yet this policy has failed to improve American interests, particularly in the South Caucasus region, which is strategically important for both Israeli and U.S. policy towards the greater Middle East and the post-Soviet space. This article examines the priorities of both the Obama administration and President Vladimir … [Read more...]