We are now on the eve of the operation to evict the Islamic State (IS) from its Syrian capital, Raqqa, and, as expected, the United States will partner with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the front-group for the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its armed wing, the People’s Protection Units (YPG), which President Donald Trump’s administration has committed to directly arming.
Many of the doubts voiced about this course relate to Turkey, since the PYD/YPG is—despite continued efforts to obfuscate the fact—the Syrian department of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the premier internal security threat to Turkey for many decades. The discussion then tends to fall into one of two grooves. Continue reading →
Patrick Ryan Kasprik was arrested in Lee County, Florida, in September 2015 for battery of a police officer and resisting arrest. By the time of Kasprik’s scheduled court appearance in February 2016, he was in Syria, having joined the People’s Protection Units (YPG)—without any training—as a combat medic. The YPG is the military wing of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), the name under which the terrorist-designated Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) operates while on Syrian soil. There has been a flow of Westerners joining the YPG/PKK for several years. Kasprik left Rojava in November 2016. On 24 May 2017, Kasprik wrote a public Facebook status that spoke of YPG/PKK commanders having an alarming racial disdain for Arabs and buttressed prior reports by American YPG volunteers that the YPG was providing insufficient care to its wounded. Indeed, Kasprik suggested that the YPG was content for fatalities because it made for good propaganda. Kasprik’s full post is reproduced below with some explanatory notes added in square brackets. Continue reading →
Article about Manchester Arena suicide-killer Salman Abedi, page 2 of Al-Naba 82
The Islamic State (IS) released the eighty-second edition of its newsletter, Al-Naba, on 25 May 2017. The first article in Al-Naba 82 was about the suicide attack on the Manchester Arena on 22 May, which IS claimed the next day. The article in Al-Naba provided very few details about the murderer, Salman Abedi, or IS’s role in the attack, mostly gloating over the allegedly panicky reaction of the British state. Continue reading →
A ruling in the name of the Islamic State’s Delegated Committee, prepared it seems by one of its senior members, Abu Zayd al-Iraqi, was issued on 17 May, expanding the scope of who, within the Muslim community, IS considers a heretic. The memo was addressed to “All Wilayat, Dawawin, and Committees,” and entitled, “That Those Who Perish Would Perish Upon Proof and Those Who Live Would Live Upon Proof”. The wide use of takfir (excommunication) has been one of IS’s most defining and controversial features—even within the jihadist world. This judgment, which comes in the context of a broader centralization of authority—on 14 May a decree banned individual IS fighters from using social media—takes IS into territory akin to the Armed Islamic Group (GIA), which hereticized whole sections of Algeria’s population and began slaughtering them. The text of the ruling was released in English and is reproduced below.Continue reading →
Within the next month, the Islamic State (IS) will likely lose its grip on its Iraqi capital, Mosul, and the operation to drive it from its Syrian capital, Raqqa, will begin. The destruction of IS’s caliphate, however, is not even close to the end of the road for the movement, not least because of the manner in which it is being accomplished.
At its core the IS movement is waging a revolutionary war, and as Craig Whiteside, a fellow with The International Centre for Counter-Terrorism has explained, this means that the focus is on legitimacy. Military victories come and go but if IS is, over the long-term, gaining acceptance—whether from support, resignation, or fear—among the population it hopes to govern (the Sunni Arabs), then it is winning. It is for this reason that IS tries to embed political victories within its military defeats. Continue reading →
The son of al-Qaeda’s founder, Hamza Usama bin Ladin, released a speech on 13 May 2017, “Advice for Martyrdom-Seekers in the West”. The speech took the form of a ten-minute video released by As-Sahab, which was noticeably better in quality than al-Qaeda’s recent produce. The video opened by praising Sayyid Nusayr, and then included picture tributes in the background as Hamza spoke to some past jihadist attackers: Nidal Malik Hasan, Ramzi Yusef, Arid Uka, Ayman Hasan, Sulayman Khater, Mohammed Bouyeri. Michael Adebolajo, Michael Adebowale, and Mevlut Mert Altintas. An English translation of the speech is posted below, with some explanatory notes added and key sections highlighted in bold. Continue reading →
TheNew York Times on 11 May carried an op-ed entitled, “Once We Beat ISIS, Don’t Abandon Us,” by Sinam Mohamad, the effective foreign minister of the governance structure in northern Syria administered by the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its armed wing, the People’s Protection Units (YPG), the Syrian departments of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). This comes just over two weeks after another senior PYD/PKK official, Ilham Ahmed, was given space to disseminate the group’s messaging in The Washington Post, and the problems remain the same. Continue reading →
The Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) controls areas of northern Syria, operating under the name of the Democratic Union Party or PYD (its political wing) and the People’s Protection Units or YPG (its military wing). On Tuesday, President Donald Trump approved plans to arm the YPG directly, abandoning a fiction that the U.S. was only arming the Arab parts of an ostensible coalition, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which is in fact controlled by the YPG/PKK. This is in preparation for the U.S. backing the “SDF” to liberate Raqqa City, the Syrian capital of the Islamic State’s (IS) caliphate. Leaving aside the geopolitical implications of the U.S. decision for NATO and regional order, and putting aside, too, the likelihood that this decision will defeat its own purposes and give IS a new lease on life, there is a purely humanitarian dimension that deserves more attention. In March the PYD effectively legalized its one-party state in northern Syria and escalated its already-severe persecution of the Kurdish opposition. That crackdown has continued. Continue reading →
In response to the recent rounds of the Russian-organized “peace” talks in Astana, Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), al-Qaeda’s restructured presence in Syria, put out a statement through its Fatwa Council on 9 May 2017, “The legal position concerning the latest events and developments facing the Syrian revolution”. HTS’s fatwa was a declaration of war against all parts of the rebellion participating in the Astana conferences, which HTS labelled a conspiracy to defeat the revolution and secure Bashar al-Assad in power. The statement is clearly intended against the mainstream rebellion, which operates under the colours of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and has shown signs of coalescing into an anti-HTS alliance. HTS’s paranoia about the rebels being repurposed against it has led to previous “pre-emptive” attacks that might well have precipitated the very thing it feared. Perhaps most interesting, however, is HTS saying that it would treat as an enemy actors who “allow [the Astana-compliant factions] to work under their banner”. The reference here is to Ahrar al-Sham, a heretofore close ally of HTS, its key enabler in infiltrating and co-opting large sections of the northern insurgency, which in January sheltered various groups that survived the first wave of HTS attacks to prevent their destruction. The statement was translated by al-Maqalaat and is reproduced below with some editions in transliteration and the key sections highlighted in bold. Continue reading →
U.S. troops patrolling with the YPG/PKK in the village of Darbasiyah, northern Syria, on the border with Turkey, 28 April 2017
The United States has tried to engage in Syria almost solely in a counter-terrorism capacity, against Daesh (IS) and—in a recently-escalating campaign—against al Qaeda. The narrowness of the focus on jihadist terrorists led to the US disregarding wider political dynamics in the war in Syria—and to a degree in Iraq, too—and partnering with forces that over the long term will undo even this narrow mission.
The announcement yesterday that President Donald Trump will now arm the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) to expel Daesh from its Syrian capital, Raqqa, is the end-point of this policy, setting up a very dangerous medium- and long-term situation that will redound to the benefit of terrorists. Continue reading →