Category Archives: Syria

Israel is Losing Ground to the Iran-Russia Axis

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 18 April 2019

Israeli opinion generally regards the country’s efforts to contain Iran, especially in Syria, as having been successful. In fact, the trendline runs the other way: Iran is constraining Israel, entrenching all around the Jewish state. Continue reading

Al-Qaeda and Global Terror

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 16 April 2019

Ahmad al-Shara (Abu Muhammad al-Jolani) [image source]

Several years ago, Al-Qaeda made a strategic decision to refrain from foreign terrorist operations, refocusing away from these global spectaculars towards integrating more closely into local conflicts. The 2014 rampage across Iraq and Syria by Al-Qaeda’s rebellious former Iraqi branch, the Islamic State (ISIS), provided both the opportunity and additional incentive for a long-mediated rebranding effort. However, there have recently been signs of a shift back towards external terror operations, just as ISIS undergoes a setback and Al-Qaeda has a chance to reassert its dominance over the jihadi scene. Continue reading

Israel’s Policy in Syria Has Let Iran and Russia Entrench

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 9 April 2019

As the regime of Bashar Assad appears to be consolidating in Syria, many Israelis have concluded that their government’s handling of the crisis was generally laudable.

The most comprehensive statement of this view was given recently in Haaretz by Anshel Pfeffer (Netanyahu Outfoxed Russia, Iran and ISIS With His Cynical, Ruthless Syria Policy.) Every aspect of this is open to question. Continue reading

If America is to Stay in Syria, What For?

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 12 March 2019

The wheel turns again. After U.S. President Donald Trump announced the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria in December, it seemed rapprochement with Turkey was on the cards. Now that looks less likely. Continue reading

What is Turkey Doing in Syria?

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 10 March 2019

Turkish soldiers in Efrin, Syria, March 2018. (AFP)

Eight years ago, peaceful protests began against Syrian President Bashar Assad. Since then, outside powers — the Iran-Russia axis, the United States and Turkey — have become dominant in Syria.

The Iranians and Russians keeping Assad’s regime alive are clearly going nowhere. The Americans’ indecision on the point is apparently final. So, what of Turkey, which is the custodian of the remnants of the armed opposition? Continue reading

The Folly of Trying to Buy Assad’s Loyalty From Iran

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 5 February 2019

Bashar al-Assad meeting Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, Damascus, Syria, 3 September 2018 // SANA handout to REUTERS

The Syrian regime of Bashar al Assad has nearly collapsed twice under pressure from the armed insurrection, in late 2012 and early 2015. On both occasions, Assad was rescued by outside powers, first Iran and then a joint Iranian-Russian operation. It has been a recurring illusion that there is or will be, a strategic split between Russia and Iran. This prospect has continued to tantalise the US and others, and occasional Moscow-Tehran disagreements are presented as evidence that dynamics are shifting this way. Another round of such speculation is currently underway. Continue reading

Can Russia Reconcile Turkey and Syria?

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 1 February 2019

American base on the outskirts of Minbij, 26 December 2018. (Photo by Delil souleiman / AFP)

U.S. President Donald Trump’s surprise announcement that U.S. troops would be withdrawn from Syria came with many visible costs. The benefits the anti-Islamic State (ISIS) campaign has delivered to Syrian President Bashar Assad, Iran, and Russia were made permanent. There is also more space for ISIS and greater instability in northeast Syria as Turkey confronts Syrian Kurdish forces. And there is the political cost to the United States of leaving its Kurdish anti-ISIS partner to face Turkey and the pro-Assad coalition alone. Continue reading