Monthly Archives: October 2014

The Nuclear Negotiations Are Only Part Of Iran’s Regional Ambitions—And Obama’s

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on October 27, 2014

Ali Khamenei

Ali Khamenei

When the next—and supposedly final—round of negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program end next month, there are three possible outcomes:

  1. The “interim” deal, the Joint Plan of Action (JPA), will be rolled over for another six months after it was rolled over in July, and will, like so much else in the Middle East billed as temporary, begin to look permanent.
  2. A final deal is signed that is an Iranian victory in all-but name, putting them on the threshold of a nuclear weapon with only the regime’s goodwill stopping them crossing the finishing line to a bomb.
  3. Iran’s dictator, Ali Khamenei, refuses President Obama both of the above fig leaves and breaks off negotiations.

How did we get here? Continue reading

Religion’s Moral Guidance: The Islamic State, the Yazidis, and Mass-Rape

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on October 24, 2014

Yazidis fleeing from the Islamic State to Mount Sinjar, carrying their children

Yazidis fleeing from the Islamic State to Mount Sinjar, carrying their children

When the United States finally intervened against the Islamic State (I.S.) in early August the timing, if not exactly the strategic imperative, was determined at least in part by the scenes of Yazidis being starved to death on the side of Mount Sinjar. The Yazidis were forced to choose between descending the mountain and being murdered by the takfiris or remaining and dying of dehydration. As it turns out they were the lucky ones. Continue reading

Russian Intelligence and the War In Syria

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on October 21, 2014

Abu Omar a-Shishani, while in Georgian military, now as I.S. leader in Syria/Iraq

Abu Omar a-Shishani, while in Georgian military, now as I.S. leader in Syria/Iraq

The Syrian rebellion, on Oct. 5, took over areas of Tel al-Hara, near Nawa, a major town twenty miles north of Deraa City, which is a strategic gateway to the road networks that keep the Assad regime alive in Deraa Province. The videos (1/2/3) showed FSA-branded rebels like Liwa al-Furqan and Jabhat Thuwar as-Suriya (the Syrian Revolutionaries’ Front) in control. Jabhat an-Nusra, the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda, had an important presence, but it was not dominant. So this seemed like good news on its own terms.

Two days later the plot thickened when a further video was uploaded to YouTube, showing the rebels touring a captured regime intelligence station in Tel al-Hara: Continue reading

Al-Qaeda in Syria Condemns Al-Qaeda in Yemen’s Softness on the Islamic State

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on October 20, 2014

Maysar al-Jiburi (Abu Mariya al-Qahtani) [source]

Al-Qaeda broke relations with the then-Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in February. In June, ISIS declared that it had restored the caliphate and changed its name to simply the Islamic State (IS). Since then, some jihadist groups, including some affiliated with al-Qaeda, have declared their allegiance to IS. With the beginning of American airstrikes against IS, in Iraq on 7 August and extended to Syria on 23 September, the question of where jihadi-salafists stand with regard to IS has become more acute. It was in this predicament that a statement was released today from a leader of al-Qaeda in Syria condemning al-Qaeda’s branch in Yemen for its statement of solidarity with IS in the face of these U.S.-led attacks. By the lights of al-Qaeda in Syria, the Yemeni branch’s statement was too lenient toward IS and will be misinterpreted as support for an organization that has struck down senior officials of al-Qaeda in Syria and remains actively at war with al-Qaeda in that theatre to this hour. Continue reading

About Those Chemical WMDs Saddam Never Had …

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on October 17, 2014

A Kurd allegedly hit with chemical weapons by the Islamic State in Kobani

A Kurd allegedly hit with chemical weapons by the Islamic State in Kobani

Since the main point of this post is “I Told You So,” I should get it over early. Some of us have maintained that—whatever the political view one takes of the invasion of Iraq—the factual question, “Where are the weapons of mass destruction?”, remains a live one. Now the New York Times agrees.
Continue reading

The Balkan Front of the Jihad in the Fertile Crescent

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on October 14, 2014

Bilal Bosnić, I.S.'s recruiter in Bosnia

Bilal Bosnić, the Islamic State’s lead recruiter in Bosnia

A week after the American-led airstrikes inside Syria began, it was reported that two women from the Balkans, Dora Bilic and Fatima Mahmutović, had been hit in ar-Raqqa, and that Ms. Mahmutović had been killed. Ms. Bilic, born in Croatia, converted to Islam two years ago and moved to Gornja Maoca, north-east Bosnia, which is in effect a Wahhabi commune, where she met her husband with whom she travelled to Syria for jihad. Ms. Mahmutović is from a village in Bosnia not far from the infamous Srebrenica, and she moved herself and her young son to Syria late last year. As is so often the case, it seems that the Croatian intelligence services were aware of Ms. Bilic but had done little about it. Even less surprising was the follow-up report that Ms. Bilic had been radicalised in London. Continue reading

Will The Alawis Break With Assad?

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on October 12, 2014

A grisly brood: The Assad family

A grisly brood: The Assad family

Last Thursday, in Akrama, an Alawi section of Homs City, there was the most extraordinary scene: Alawite anti-Assad protests. A twin bombing at a local school—reported as a suicide bombing by the regime, though there is no evidence for this—had massacred fifty Alawi civilians, most of them pupils. Annexing the slogans of the revolution, the Alawis took to the streets to demand the removal of Homs Governor Talal al-Barazi. “The people want to topple the governor,” people shouted, a conscious echo of the “Arab Spring” chant, a-shab yurid izkat an-nizam (the people want to topple the regime). Continue reading