Category Archives: Russia

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

Islamic State Claims Attacks Against the Police and a Sufi Shrine in Russia

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 23 May 2018

Said Afandi al-Chirkawi (image source)

The Islamic State (IS) laid claim, in two recent issues of its newsletter, Al-Naba, to three recent attacks in Russia. Continue reading

The Scandinavian Fascists Fighting for the Syrian Regime

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 16 May 2018

Skandinaviska Förbundet (Scandinavian League) fighters in Syria, where they fought under Russian command // Picture via Skandinavisk Frihet

The Norwegian news portal AldriMer reported on 11 May about a group of far-Right Scandinavians who fought under Russian command for the pro-regime coalition in Syria.

AldriMer was relaying an interview published last month by Skandinavisk Frihet (Scandinavian Freedom), a website that describes itself as attached to the Skandinaviska Förbundet (Scandinavian League), a far-Right group based primarily in Sweden. The interview is with a member of Skandinaviska Förbundet who fought in Syria. Continue reading

Trump Should Not Fear Russia In Responding to Assad’s Chemical Attack

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 10 April 2018

A child receiving oxygen after a poison gas attack in Douma, near Damascus, Syria || SYRIAN CIVIL DEFENSE WHITE HELMETS VIA AP

A year to the day after the United States struck at a Syrian airbase to punish Bashar al Assad for a chemical weapons attack, the regime has suspectedly carried out another devastating chemical atrocity. Signs are that the United States will, again, respond with force, attempting to rescue some part of the fraying international taboo against the use of poison gas. The larger question remains how Assad has gotten away with this for so long—and why murder only with certain categories of munitions prompts retaliation. 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

The United Nations Ceasefire for East Ghouta is a Farce

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 2 March 2018

Aftermath of an Assad regime bombardment in Hamouriyah, Eastern Ghouta, 9 January 9, 2018. Samir Tatin/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

The international community tried to impose a ceasefire in Syria on 24 February, passing resolution 2401 through the United Nations Security Council. The ceasefire never took hold and it is now clear it will not. This was inevitable.

Bashar al Assad’s regime, and the governments that support him in Iran and Russia, have repeatedly made use of ceasefires to sequence their war, taking advantage of the calm on some fronts to concentrate firepower on other areas. The only question is why Western diplomats gambled that this time would be any different. 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