Category Archives: Iran

What Questions Remain About 9/11?

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 5 September 2018

In less than a week, it will be the seventeenth anniversary of al-Qaeda’s “Plane’s Operation”, the assault on the United States. It is a vertiginous enough reflection that many of us have been alive more years since 11 September 2001 than before it, and positively alarming that many of those who will soon move into the government, media, and other leading societal institutions will have been born after an event that still shapes so much of the international scene. As Anthony Summers and Robbyn Swan put it in The Eleventh Day: The Ultimate Account of 9/11 (2011), we are left with “the brief name ‘9/11’,” the context and meaning stripped away all this time later. The book is a useful overview of an event that should always be to some degree fresh in mind, though it is not without its problems in its analytical sections. Continue reading

Turkey’s War Against the PKK on the Near Abroad

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 21 August 2018

Ismail Özden (image source)

Turkey killed a senior operative of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the internationally-recognised terrorist organisation and narcotics trafficking entity that has been at war with the Turkish state since 1984, in Iraq last week. Turkey launched a wave of airstrikes against PKK targets in Syria and Iraq in April 2017 and for the last several months Ankara has been widening its campaign against the PKK outside Turkey’s borders, particularly in Iraq, where the PKK is not protected by the United States, as it is in eastern Syria. Having feinted in June toward an attack on the historic PKK headquarters in the Qandil Mountains—a somewhat symbolic target at this stage, with the bulk of the PKK’s leadership and resources in Syria—it appears the Turks have opted for a more targeted approach.

This operation underscores the continuance of U.S.-Turkey relations, and the mutual benefits of the relationship, even in its current damaged state, where both sides have a laundry list of legitimate grievances with the other. If a formula for normalisation can be found, the potential to contain and weaken some of the worst, most destabilising elements in the region, saliently the PKK and the Iranian regime, is within reach. Continue reading

The Fall of Southern Syria and Israel’s Reliance on Russia

A version of this article was published in The Arab Weekly

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 3 August 2018

An Israeli Merkava tank patrols on the border between Israel and Syria, on 20 July 2018. (AFP)

Israel has been conflicted on the Syrian rebellion: some saw Bashar al-Assad’s reliance on Iran and thus favoured his departure; some, especially once the uprising militarized and jihadi-Salafists made their appearance among the insurgents, favoured a let-them-both-lose policy; and some saw the risk of chaos and jihadists and preferred to stick with what they knew.

The official Israeli policy, stated in the early months of the protests, was to side with the people “demonstrating for freedoms” since “the devil we know in Syria [i.e. Assad] is worse than the devil we don’t”. Continue reading

Don’t Bet on Russia to Restrain Iran in Syria

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 30 May 2018

Russian president Vladimir Putin and Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamene’i meeting in Tehran, Iran, 1 Nov. 2017 // Picture via Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader

There have been renewed claims that Russia and Iran, while both supporting Bashar Assad’s regime, have such differences in vision and interest in Syria that there is a schism Western policymakers can take advantage of.

The basic notion is to work with Moscow, which has a less maximalist position, to limit the influence of Iran, a more disruptive power that could draw in worried regional countries to a wider war. This idea is not new and remains illusory. Russia is powerless—even if it were willing—to restrain Iran, the dominant force driving the regime coalition’s war. Continue reading

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