July 1, 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...]

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...]

GROWING ANTISEMITISM AND ANTI-JEWISH HATRED IN THE NETHERLANDS

The synagogue in the town of Veghel, Netherlands. The community in Veghel was a small mediene community, which reached its height around 1900. In the years following the community shrank to some 30 members, and was eventually completely destroyed during the Holocaust.

PDF version available here This article discusses increasing anti-Jewish hatred in the Netherlands, in particular due to the growing Muslim immigrant population there. Though the Dutch government has been traditionally friendly to Israel and there has been proportionately less antisemitism there compared to in other European countries, shocking slanders appear about Israel in the mainstream Dutch media and there has also been an academic boycott of Israel. In addition, Dutch politicians … [Read more...]

THE ISLAMIC STATE OF IRAQ AND AL-SHAM

Photo of a Jama’at Jund al-Sham fighter holding a flag of the group

PDF version available here This article examines the rise of the al-Qa’ida-aligned group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) since its announcement in April 2013 until September 2013. It focuses in particular on its military operations and its relations with other rebel groups. The article concludes by examining what the future holds for ISIS on the whole.   INTRODUCTION: THE IDEOLOGY   The group under consideration in this paper--like al-Qa’ida … [Read more...]

THE POPULAR FRONT FOR THE LIBERATION OF PALESTINE-GENERAL COMMAND (PFLP-GC) AND THE SYRIAN CIVIL WAR

PFLP-GC Jihad Jibril Brigade

As the Asad regime’s most loyal Palestinian proxy, the PFLP-GC’s role in the conflict in Syria is of great importance. Currently, the group’s interests center on countering Syrian rebel forces in Syria and their allies in Lebanon. In this role, the PFLP-GC has suffered a number of significant losses, and for the first time in its existence is being pressed in all areas it operates. This article will focus on the Syrian Civil War’s effects on the PFLP-GC and what the future may hold for … [Read more...]

REVOLUTIONARY SALAFI ISLAMISTS IN EGYPT: AN ANALYSIS AND GUIDE

A microbus sponsored by the al-Nour Party offers voters free rides to polling stations during 2011/2012 Egyptian parliamentary elections.

While the ruling Muslim Brotherhood has received a great deal of attention in Egypt, the varied Salafi groups have been far less studied. At times allies and at times rivals of the Brotherhood, the Salafists are widely varied. Whether the two groups can cooperate will determine the future of Islamist rule in Egypt. The Salafists pull the Brotherhood to take stronger action more immediately and may have faith in the larger organization or consider it to have betrayed the revolution. Moreover, the … [Read more...]

BLIND TO TERROR: THE U.S. GOVERNMENT’S DISASTROUS MUSLIM OUTREACH EFFORTS AND THE IMPACT ON U.S. MIDDLE EAST POLICY

Obama meets with members of his national security team to discuss developments in the Boston Marathon bombings investigation, in the Situation Room of the White House on April 19, 2013. Pictured, from left, are: FBI Director Robert Mueller; Lisa Monaco, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism; Attorney General Eric Holder; Deputy National Security Advisor Tony Blinken; and Vice President Joe Biden.

    Why has the U.S. government called certain Islamic groups supporters of terror in federal court, and then turned around and called these same organizations “moderates” and embraced them as outreach partners? In a number of cases from the Clinton, Bush, and Obama administrations, the leaders of these organizations (some of whom are now in federal prison) were under active investigation at the same time they were meeting with senior U.S. leaders at the White House and the … [Read more...]