Category Archives: Iran

Saudi Newspaper: Make Peace with Israel, Confront Iran

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 14 April 2018

Negev Desert, Israel (image source)

Al-Riyadh is the leading daily newspaper in Saudi Arabia. While Al-Riyadh’s exact status is contested, there is little doubt it is close to the Saudi government and some identify it as a “semi-official” in the Kingdom. It was therefore very interesting that the paper hosted an opinion editorial by Dr. Ahmad al-Jamiya on 14 April, republished below, which made the case for the House of Saud to make peace with the State of Israel as part of a policy to halt and reverse the Iranian revolution in the Middle East. Continue reading

Syria’s Revolution Has Been Overtaken By Outside Powers

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 16 March 2018

Devastation in Aleppo (image source)

This week marks the seventh anniversary of the Syrian revolution. A movement that began with peaceful street protests calling for reform and—after the government responded with lethal violence—the downfall of the dictator, descended into war that has to this point cost the lives of at least 500,000 people and displaced nearly twelve million others—more than half of Syria’s pre-war population.

In any strategic sense the rebellion has been defeated—it is not able to overthrow Bashar al-Assad by force on its own—and its political cause is increasingly strained as the remnants of the armed opposition are increasingly co-opted by external actors, state and non-state. Continue reading

Syria Continues to Unravel as External Powers Dominate

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 1 March 2018

Aftermath of a pro-Asad coalition bombing in Hamouria, in besieged Eastern Ghuta, near Damascus, 22 February 2018. (AFP)

In the summer and autumn of 2017, it was claimed Syria’s civil war was winding down, but the nearly seven-year conflict is nowhere near to finished, and recent events suggest it could even escalate. Continue reading

America’s Kurdish Allies in Syria Can’t Counter Iran

Published at The Arab Weekly

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 11 February 2018

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson laid out the Trump administration’s vision for Syria, making clear that, contrary to the expectations of many, the United States will stay in Syria beyond the collapse of the Islamic State’s (ISIS) self-proclaimed caliphate, holding the jihadists at bay and establishing an order compatible with US interests.

Crucially, Tillerson—in a sharp break with US President Donald Trump’s predecessor—specified that countering Iranian influence within Syria was a central US objective. The problem with the strategy is that it seems to rely on repurposing the United States’ anti-ISIS Kurdish militia allies against the Iranian revolution. Continue reading

When Iran Saved Al-Qaeda

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 24 January 2018

The new book by the investigative journalists Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark, The Exile: The Flight of Osama bin Laden, charts the career of al-Qaeda’s founder, Osama bin Laden, up to the day he became a household name—11 September 2001—through his downfall in 2011, to the end of 2016, when al-Qaeda was more powerful than ever. It is a thoroughly absorbing account, bringing to light vast tranches of new facts, including many intricate details of how al-Qaeda operated on a human, day-to-day level, and of those states and para-states that shielded the terror network, collaborated with it, and enabled it—and still do.

The gathering of the Bin Laden network in Sudan and then in the Taliban-held areas of Afghanistan in the 1990s is a familiar story, but the splits and debates among the Arab jihadists around Bin Laden, including the opposition of significant numbers of them to the 9/11 massacre, is perhaps less well known. The authors trace out how Bin Laden manipulated his own quasi-institutions to get his way. First, Bin Laden took on the plan of a man, Khalid Shaykh Muhammad (KSM), who was not even a member of al-Qaeda, and then, ahead of the crucial vote, packed the shura (consultation) council with ultra-zealous Egyptians by engineering a merger between al-Qaeda and Islamic Jihad, led by Ayman al-Zawahiri. Continue reading

What The West Can Do About The Iran Protests

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 2 January 2018

Protests in Tehran, Iran, 30 December 2017. (Photo by Stringer/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Protests broke out against the Iranian government on 27 December, and have achieved a wider geographic spread in the country than even the massive uprising of June 2009, reaching into religiously conservative, working-class towns and districts traditionally regarded as pro-regime. It is likely these demonstrations will be suppressed, but that does not obviate the need for Western policy. To the contrary, the protests exposed several flawed assumptions in recent policy-making, and a course correction is urgently necessary. Continue reading

Will Trump Crack Down on Iran’s Global Criminality and Terrorism?

Published at The New Arab

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 21 December 2017

A widely reported, 15,000-word article by Josh Meyer in Politico on Sunday moves us another step closer to finding out the actual terms of President Barack Obama’s nuclear deal with the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Though the Obama administration sold the Iran deal on the narrowest possible terms as an arms control agreement, the reality was that this agreement was intended to facilitate a strategic tilt in Iran’s favour—against traditional allies—that left a regional balance requiring less American commitment.

Because the administration wanted the paper agreement, Iran had the leverage to threaten to walk away, and was therefore appeased on multiple fronts ostensibly unrelated to the nuclear issue. Continue reading