The United States has taken steps Syria in recent months that suggest a shift towards reconciliation with Turkey. Even if this is so, however, there is still such a deep divide over strategic outlook that these steps could be easily reversed, opening a new round of uncertainty in northern Syria as 2018 draws to a close. Continue reading
America’s imposition of sanctions on Turkey brings the relationship to its lowest ebb in more than forty years. Almost as soon as the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its leader, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, came into office in 2002 there have been tensions in the relationship. These manageable differences escalated considerably during the time of President Barack Obama, primarily because of his Syria policy, and now threaten to boil over. The chances to soothe a vital strategic partnership appear to be slipping. Continue reading
Five years on from the military coup d’etat in Egypt that brought to power Abdel Fattah el Sisi, the problems of the country—political, economic, demographic, security—remain as intractable as ever. Indeed, in many cases, the problems are worse than before. Among the problems that are noticeably worse now than in 2013 is security, specifically the Islamic State (Daesh) insurgency in the Sinai. Continue reading
A campaign is underway to destabilise the “Rojava” area of north-eastern Syria, ruled by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a composite force wholly dominated by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an internationally-designated terrorist organisation whose operatives use the banner of the People’s Protection Forces (YPG) in Syria. The SDF/PKK captured a lot of Arab-majority areas as a side-effect of the American-led war against the Islamic State (IS), which deputised the SDF as its ground force in Syria. It was always clear that these inhabitants did not wish to be ruled by an authoritarian Kurdish nationalist party with Marxist inflections and a cult around its leader, Abdullah Ocalan. There was, however, a chance that the goodwill of that comes with liberation could be converted, with the right adjustments, the SDF model could become a durable settlement. It appears the trendline is now running the other way, toward a disintegration of this structure. Continue reading
Among the artefacts found in Efrin after the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which uses the names Democratic Union Party (PYD) and People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Syria, was pushed out by Turkey and its Arab dependencies in the OLIVE BRANCH operation, is the above document, which sheds some light on how the PKK treated religious institutions in the province. Continue reading
A wave of politically motivated violence has swept over Europe in the last few days, carried out by an extremist group and its sympathisers, accompanied by public statements threatening further attacks.
These attacks are intended to change western policy to one more suitable to the attackers.
The conventional term for this is “terrorism”.
These assailants are not Islamist, however; they are from the Kurdish PKK, and this seems to have both reduced the amount of attention this campaign has received, and to have dulled the reaction from some who suggest that perhaps the attackers have a point. Continue reading
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
A version of this article was published in The Arab Weekly
The city of Minbij in northern Syria has become a source of severe political tension between the United States and Turkey. It might also be the key to reducing tensions and normalising relations. Continue reading