America’s Policy in Eastern Syria Falters

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 15 June 2019

The Arab inhabitants of eastern Syria have once again turned out in protest against the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the Western partner force in the campaign against the Islamic State (IS). The rejection of the SDF’s rule in the area has its roots in political dynamics that were entirely foreseeable. Continue reading

The West and its Foreign Terrorist Fighters

Published at The Arab Weekly

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 9 June 2019

An Islamic State being led into the Iraqi Criminal Court in Baghdad, 5 May 2019 (AP)

From May 26 to June 3, Iraq’s government sentenced to death 11 Islamic State operatives who had been captured in Syria. The novelty in the cases was that the Iraqis said the militants were French and ten of them were. The other was Tunisian.

The French government has made a pro forma protest against the death sentences but did nothing to impede the process. This is of a piece with the general approach European countries, including Britain, have taken to their citizens who joined jihadi groups in the Levant. Continue reading

America Isn’t Going To War With Iran

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 10 May 2019

President Donald Trump speaks as John Bolton stands by in the Oval Office, 22 May 2018. OLIVER CONTRERAS-POOL/GETTY IMAGES

As tensions flared between the United States and Iran over the last ten days, a number of Washington’s Western allies have signalled their distance from the U.S. view, most dramatically in the case of Major-General Chris Ghika, Britain’s top commander in the coalition against the Islamic State (ISIS), who dismissed the U.S. intelligence assessment of an increased threat from Iran. This has since been walked back, but the fissures in the Western alliance over how to deal with Iran are real, and this has been compounded by differences within the U.S. government and the highly irregular nature of the Donald Trump administration, particularly its decision-making processes and public messaging. Continue reading

The Reappearance of the Caliph

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 10 May 2019

The leader of the Islamic State, Ibrahim al-Badri (Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi) appearing in an Islamic State propaganda video, “In the Hospitality of Amir al-Mu’mineen, 29 April 2019

The leader of the Islamic State (IS), Ibrahim al-Badri (Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi), appeared in an eighteen-minute video on 29 April, the first time Al-Ibrahim has appeared since 4 July 2014 when he gave the Friday prayer at the Nuri Mosque in Mosul, days after IS had announced the restoration of the caliphate. Al-Ibrahim has given semi-regular speeches over the years, but with these two exceptions they have been audio addresses. The video was released by IS’s premier media outlet, Al-Furqan Media Foundation, which is also the group’s oldest media platform. An English translation was released by IS’s Halummu outlet and is republished below with some interesting and/or important sections, plus names of IS operatives, highlighted in bold. Continue reading

Yusuf al-Qaradawi and Terrorism

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 29 April 2019

In the wake of the horrific bombings by the Islamic State (ISIS) in Sri Lanka on Eastern Sunday, which killed 250 people, an image has circulated purporting to show a terrorist connected to the attack in the company of the Qatar-based cleric of the Muslim Brotherhood, Yusuf al-Qaradawi. In fact, the image shows no such thing. But Al-Qaradawi’s influence in creating the ideology that motivates Islamist terrorists cannot be doubted. Continue reading

Renewed Rebellion in Southern Syria and Western Failure

Published at The Arab Weekly

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 28 April 2019

A young boy rides his bicycle in Deraa // AFP

In military terms, the fall of Daraa, in south-western Syria, to Iranian and regime forces last July eliminated the last insurgent-held pocket not dominated by jihadists. Politically, it had profound effects, demonstrating American disengagement and Israel’s misperceptions of the Syrian landscape, particularly Russia’s role in it.

Recent signs of renewed insurgency in Daraa, however, underline how far from over Syria’s war is and how badly the West has mishandled the crisis. Continue reading

Israel is Losing Ground to the Iran-Russia Axis

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 18 April 2019

Israeli opinion generally regards the country’s efforts to contain Iran, especially in Syria, as having been successful. In fact, the trendline runs the other way: Iran is constraining Israel, entrenching all around the Jewish state. Continue reading