American troops look out toward the border with Turkey from a small outpost near the town of Minbij, 7 Feb. 2018 (AP Photo/Susannah George)
As Turkey moves past last month’s election, the foreign policy challenges remain acute, particularly in Syria, and there is a looming confrontation with the United States over sanctions on Iran that might undo the recent progress toward the normalisation of U.S.-Turkish relations. Continue reading →
After the schism between al-Qaeda and its former Syrian branch, Jabhat al-Nusra (now Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham), the remaining al-Qaeda loyalists in the country gathered under the banner of Tandheem Hurras al-Deen (The Religious Guardians’ Organization). Hurras al-Deen has been among those targeted in the wave of assassinations in the “Greater Idlib” area, and has been publicly hereticized by the Islamic State, whose cells are among those conducting the assassinations. Hurras al-Deen in recent days has gained some popularity and legitimacy in Idlib by being the only force to initiate offensive operations against the pro-Asad coalition as the latter conquers Deraa. Today, Hurras al-Deen released a statement through its Sham al-Ribat Media on the loss of ten of its jihadists yesterday after they stepped on a mine near Sarja in southern Idlib. The statement is reproduced below. Continue reading →
The green buses that have become a symbol of the Syrian regime’s siege and deportation policy (picture source)
The Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, set up by the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in 2011, released a report on 29 May 2018, “Sieges as a Weapon of War: Encircle, Starve, Surrender, Evacuate”. The report examined the effects of the sieges and “evacuation agreements”—deportations—between November 2012 and April 2018.
The Commission notes that the report is based on “over 400 interviews”, though the Commission continues to struggle in gathering information because it is banned from Syria by Bashar al-Asad’s regime and because of the threat the regime poses to potential interviewees. Continue reading →
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 →
At best, the United Nations has been impotent as Syria was destroyed. But when the U.N.’s role is examined more closely it looks more like a collaborator, than a bystander, to that destruction. Continue reading →
The Barzeh chemical weapons facility in Damascus, Syria, demolished by U.S. cruise missiles on 14 April 2018 (image source)
The United States and its allies, Britain and France, launched over 100 missiles at the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad in the early hours of 14 April. This was retaliation for the regime’s use of poison gas in the town of Douma, east of the capital, Damascus, exactly a week earlier, which massacred at least 43 people and wounded 500 more. The military strikes were an important signal and will likely be some deterrent against the future use of chemical weapons in Syria, but ultimately this was another missed opportunity by the West to meaningfully affect the course of the war. Continue reading →