Monthly Archives: December 2016

Insurgent Leader Explains Why Aleppo Fell to Assad

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on December 31, 2016

Abu al-Abed Ashidaa

Abu al-Abed Ashidaa

Abu al-Abed Ashidaa was, on 1 December 2016, appointed to lead all insurgent forces, under the banner of al-Jaysh al-Halab (The Army of Aleppo), in the besieged enclave of eastern Aleppo City. The city’s defences collapsed to the coalition of forces—namely Russia and Iran—supporting the regime of Bashar al-Assad on 12 December, and on 22 December the deportation of 40,000 people from the enclave to Idlib was completed. On 29 December, Abu al-Abed gave a speech explaining the reasons as he saw them for the fall of Aleppo City. Today, insurgent channels in Syria circulated an English summary, which is reproduced below with some editions in transliterations and some interesting sections highlighted in bold. Continue reading

Ahrar al-Sham Political Leader Opposes Unification With Al-Qaeda

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on December 29, 2016

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In the past few days, news has circulated of an impending merger between the rebranded al-Qaeda branch in Syria Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (JFS) and several rebel groups, Ahrar al-Sham and Harakat Nooradeen al-Zengi among them. Labib al-Nahhas (Abu Ezzeddine al-Ansari) is the leader of the Political and External Affairs bureau within Ahrar al-Sham. In mid-to-late 2015, al-Nahhas led an effort to recast Ahrar as a mainstream actor in the insurgency that was in any case too large to avoid engaging, a characterization of the organization that is, to say the least, open to challenge. Al-Nahhas is sincerely opposed to Ahrar merging with JFS, however, for the simple reason that he can see it is political suicide: it is the end of any degree (and there hasn’t been much as it is) of Western support for the Syrian armed opposition; once the insurgency is formally attached to al-Qaeda, the only question will be the extent of the Western support for efforts to put it down. Continue reading

The Islamic State’s Official Biography of the Caliph’s Deputy

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on December 18, 2016

Obituary for Abdurrahman al-Qaduli in the German version of Rumiya, 11 November 2016

Obituary for Abdurrahman al-Qaduli in the German version of Rumiya, 11 November 2016

The forty-first edition of the Islamic State’s newsletter, al-Naba, was released within the territory of the caliphate on 30 July 2016 and released online on 2 August; it and the forty-third edition (released 13 and 16 August) contained an obituary for Abdurrahman al-Qaduli (Abu Ali al-Anbari), the caliph’s deputy, who was killed on 25 March. The obituaries were entitled, “The Worshipping Scholar and the Mujahid Preacher: Shaykh Abu Ali al-Anbari”. The German version of the third issue of the Islamic State’s Rumiyah magazine on 11 November contained this obituary. Below is a very rough translation. Some interesting or important sections have been highlighted in bold. The subheadings are mine.
Continue reading

President Obama Defends His Syria Policy to the Last

Originally published at The Henry Jackson Society

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on December 17, 2016

At a rally in Pennsylvania as part of his “Thank You Tour” on Thursday, President-elect Donald Trump said:

We’ll build safe zones in Syria. When I look at what’s going on in Syria it’s so sad. It’s so sad, and we’ve got to help people. And we have the Gulf states; they have nothing but money. We don’t have money. We owe twenty trillion dollars. I will get the Gulf states to give us lots of money, and we’ll build and help build safe zones in Syria so people can have a chance.

Trump’s previous statements on Syria have actually demonstrated some consistency, and Trump has expressed support for safe zones before.

Taking Trump’s statement as a jumping-off point, the next day, at this final press conference of 2016, President Barack Obama was asked about the idea of safe zones in Syria and if he felt responsible for the horrors now unfolding in Aleppo. Obama responded: Continue reading

The Islamic State’s Media Apparatus and its New Spokesman

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on December 16, 2016

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The Islamic State (IS) has named a new official spokesman, Abu Hassan al-Muhajir. Abu Hassan is the fourth man to hold the position of spokesman within the IS movement, and the third since it declared statehood in 2006. Very little is known about Abu Hassan but assessing the history of IS’s media enterprise offers some hints about his profile. In this regard, a new paper by Dr. Craig Whiteside of the International Centre for Counter Terrorism Terrorism is instructive. Looking forward, examining Abu Hassan’s inaugural speech offers some clues about the direction IS’s messaging and behaviour will take now as its statelet shrinks under pressure from the U.S.-led Coalition. Continue reading

Syria Is Only Going to Get Worse After the Fall of Aleppo

Published at The New Arab

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on December 14, 2016

Syrian pro-government forces recapture the old city of Aleppo, December 13, 2016 [Getty]

In May 2016, the Roman Theatre in Palmyra was the site of a Russian orchestra performance, led by Valery Gergiev, a supporter of Russian ruler Vladimir Putin. The event was broadcast widely on RT (formerly Russia Today), the state-run English-language propaganda channel, and images and clips of the event were disseminated worldwide. The concert crowned Putin’s eight-month intervention in Syria, reinforcing the Kremlin’s messaging: Moscow and its blood-drenched client, Bashar al-Assad, were staffing the front line for civilisation against the barbarous hordes of the Islamic State group—and they were winning. What a difference seven months has made. Continue reading

Assad and Russia Losing Palmyra is No Surprise: They Cannot Defeat Jihadism in Syria

Published at The International Business Times

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on December 12, 2016

Syrian regime army soldiers stands on the ruins of the Temple of Bel in Palmyra, 1 April 2016 (REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki)

The Islamic State (IS) is supposed to be on its way to defeat. IS is under assault in Mosul and the operation to evict it from Raqqa began a month ago. Just this morning, Turkish-backed rebel forces in Syria have reportedly pierced IS’s defences in al-Bab, IS’s most important city outside of its twin capitals. But on Sunday, after a four-day offensive, IS seized Palmyra. How to explain this? Continue reading