Tag Archives: al-Hashd al-Shabi

America’s Kurdish Allies in Syria Drift Toward the Regime, Russia, and Iran

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 10 December 2017

Russian soldiers in Efrin, Syria, 1 May 2017 (source)

Cross-posted from The Henry Jackson Society

The American-led Coalition against the Islamic State (IS) partnered with the “Syrian Democratic Forces” (SDF), a political façade for the proscribed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), as the ground force in Syria. The most ventilated problems with this partnership so far have been the strain it has put on relations with NATO ally Turkey, against which the PKK has run a terrorist-insurgency for more than thirty years, and the deep local suspicion of the PKK’s governing program that might yet reverse the gains against IS and open political space for other jihadists like al-Qaeda. Another of the problems is now gaining salience: the PKK’s long-term alliance with Bashar al-Asad’s regime and the states—Russia and Iran—that keep it alive. Continue reading

The Controversial End of the Islamic State in Raqqa

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 14 November 2017

IS jihadists arriving south of Deir Ezzor city, September 2017

A deal was made between the “Syrian Democratic Forces,” the U.S.-led Coalition’s “partner force” in Syria that is wholly dominated by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), and the Islamic State (IS), which ostensibly evacuated the remnants of the IS jihadists—said to be between 300 and 500 militants, plus 400 “hostages” (i.e. women and children)—from Raqqa by 15 October. The U.S.-led Coalition said at the time, “do not condone” the deal, but the Coalition acknowledged that its PKK partner had to make these tactical calls, and there was a lot of local pressure from local tribal leaders to reach this deal given the devastation visited on the city. It now transpires, however, that this deal was the worst of all worlds: the Coalition ruined the city in its efforts to overcome IS’s tactical adaptations to the air campaign, and then allowed a scandalous number of IS jihadists to escape. Continue reading

By Strengthening Iran, the Coalition Has Ensured the Islamic State’s Survival

Published at The Telegraph

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 6 October 2017

The “defeat” of the Islamic State (ISIL), signified by its eviction from Mosul in July, its impending loss of Raqqa, and an apparent resurgence of Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria, seemed to augur a new era of stability for the Middle East. The jihadists would be gone and Iranian-backed governments in Syria and Iraq consolidated.

True, Assad murdering those who resisted him with poison gas and concentration camps, and hiding the evidence by installing crematoria, would nag at our conscience. But foreign policy is a cold-blooded business and it has been decreed that ISIL is the greatest—really the only—threat emanating from the region.

It would not be justice, but it would be peace. Or something like that. Continue reading

Iran Raises the Stature of One of Its Shi’a Jihadist Militias: Harakat Hizballah al-Nujaba

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 22 September 2017

Logo of Harakat Hizballah al-Nujaba

Reuters has published a profile of Harakat Hizballah al-Nujaba (HHN), sometimes simply called Harakat al-Nujaba, a Shi’a militia made up of Iraqi citizens that is loyal to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamene’i and the revolutionary theocracy’s ideology of absolute wilayat al-faqih (guardianship of the jurist). HHN, which first emerged in the summer of 2013, is one of a web of overlapping Shi’a jihadist groups recruited from Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and beyond—as far afield as the Ivory Coast—that have been used to spearhead Tehran’s imperial push into the Arab world, particularly the rescue of Bashar al-Asad’s regime in Syria that would otherwise have fallen to a popular rebellion. In recent months, Iran has been raising the profile of HHN. Continue reading

Raqqa Doesn’t Want to Be Liberated By the West’s Partners

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 30 May 2017

Map of the tribes around Raqqa city (source: WINEP report)

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

Signs of Recovery for the Islamic State

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on April 22, 2017

The operation to clear the Islamic State (IS) from its Iraqi capital, Mosul, began on 17 October and is now 188 days old. IS was announced cleared from east Mosul on 25 January, and the offensive that began on 19 February to clear the more densely-populated and difficult west Mosul has ostensibly swept IS from sixty percent of that area. Official sources claim IS now controls less than seven percent of Iraqi territory, down from forty percent in 2014. But yesterday, a car bomb struck Zuhur, the first attack of this kind in east Mosul since February, murdering at least four people. This is part of a pattern of attacks that suggests the Mosul operation itself was rushed and more importantly that IS is already recovering in liberated areas. Continue reading

America Pushes Back Against Iranian Subversion on the Gulf

Originally posted at The Henry Jackson Society

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 17 March 2017

Protesters march through Manama, Bahrain in March 2011 (Photo from Al-Jazeera)

The U.S. State Department today imposed sanctions on two men, Ahmad Hasan Yusuf (Abu Maryam, Sajjad Hassan Nasir al-Zubaydi) and Alsayed Murtadha Majeed Ramadhan Alawi (Murtadha Majeed Ramadan al-Sindi), labelling them Specially Designated Global Terrorists (SDGT). Both men are members of a group, Saraya al-Ashtar or al-Ashtar Brigades (AAB) that has conducted terrorism in Bahrain and is part of the Iranian revolution’s long reach in the region. Continue reading