Turkey’s Syria Policy and the Elections

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 7 June 2018

Turkish soldiers and their rebel dependencies in Efrin, 18 March 2018 // AFP

On June 24, for the first time in 15 years, there seems a possibility, however faint, that elections in Turkey will end in defeat for President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

It is an uphill battle, not least because of the ongoing state of emergency after the 2016 attempted coup, which has exacerbated the systemic biases against Erdoğan’s political opponents. But the Turkish opposition has managed to overcome its own fractiousness and has a strategic game-plan that makes sense. One card Erdoğan still has to play is foreign policy, and there are signs in Syria and Iraq of advantageous news to come. Continue reading

The Use of Sieges and Deportations in Syria

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 2 June 2018

The green buses that have become a symbol of the Syrian regime’s siege and deportation policy (picture source)

The Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, set up by the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in 2011, released a report on 29 May 2018, “Sieges as a Weapon of War: Encircle, Starve, Surrender, Evacuate”. The report examined the effects of the sieges and “evacuation agreements”—deportations—between November 2012 and April 2018.

The Commission notes that the report is based on “over 400 interviews”, though the Commission continues to struggle in gathering information because it is banned from Syria by Bashar al-Asad’s regime and because of the threat the regime poses to potential interviewees. Continue reading

Don’t Bet on Russia to Restrain Iran in Syria

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 30 May 2018

Russian president Vladimir Putin and Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamene’i meeting in Tehran, Iran, 1 Nov. 2017 // Picture via Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader

There have been renewed claims that Russia and Iran, while both supporting Bashar Assad’s regime, have such differences in vision and interest in Syria that there is a schism Western policymakers can take advantage of.

The basic notion is to work with Moscow, which has a less maximalist position, to limit the influence of Iran, a more disruptive power that could draw in worried regional countries to a wider war. This idea is not new and remains illusory. Russia is powerless—even if it were willing—to restrain Iran, the dominant force driving the regime coalition’s war. Continue reading

Islamic State Mourns a Saudi Jihadist in Yemen

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 26 May 2018

Ahmad bin Sa’id al-Amudi (Abu Karam al-Hadrami) // Picture from page 9 of Al-Naba 133 (25 May 2018)

The 133rd edition of the Islamic State’s (IS) weekly newsletter, Al-Naba, was released on 25 May 2018. In Al-Naba, on page nine, there was a profile of Ahmad bin Sa’id al-Amudi (Abu Karam al-Hadrami), a Saudi jihadist who fought for IS and was killed in Yemen. Al-Naba has run obituaries for prominent IS operatives like Mohammed Emwazi (Abu Muharib al-Muhajir), often known as “Jihadi John”, very senior IS officials whose biographies were shrouded in mystery like Abdurrahman al-Qaduli (Abu Ali al-Anbari) and Ali Aswad al-Jiburi (Abu Ayman al-Iraqi), as well as completely unknown figures like Abu Sulayman al-Libi. Al-Amudi is in this final category. Continue reading

Islamic State Focuses on the Rival “Religion of Democracy” as its Insurgency Escalates

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 25 May 2018

Al-Naba 132

The Islamic State released the 132nd edition of Al-Naba, its newsletter, on 18 May. Continue reading

Islamic State Claims Attacks Against the Police and a Sufi Shrine in Russia

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 23 May 2018

Said Afandi al-Chirkawi (image source)

The Islamic State (IS) laid claim, in two recent issues of its newsletter, Al-Naba, to three recent attacks in Russia. Continue reading

The Scandinavian Fascists Fighting for the Syrian Regime

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 16 May 2018

Skandinaviska Förbundet (Scandinavian League) fighters in Syria, where they fought under Russian command // Picture via Skandinavisk Frihet

The Norwegian news portal AldriMer reported on 11 May about a group of far-Right Scandinavians who fought under Russian command for the pro-regime coalition in Syria.

AldriMer was relaying an interview published last month by Skandinavisk Frihet (Scandinavian Freedom), a website that describes itself as attached to the Skandinaviska Förbundet (Scandinavian League), a far-Right group based primarily in Sweden. The interview is with a member of Skandinaviska Förbundet who fought in Syria. Continue reading