Tag Archives: chemical weapons

The Memoir of a British Spy in Al-Qaeda

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 8 July 2019

The main issue with that Nine Lives has to overcome is the one that has attended Aimen Dean (a pseudonym) since he went public in March 2015 with an interview he gave to the BBC, claiming he had been a British spy within Al-Qaeda between 1998 and 2006. That issue is overcoming the doubts about his story. Nine Lives goes a long way to solving this by bringing in Paul Cruickshank, the editor-in-chief of CTC Sentinel, one of the premier academic resources in the terrorism field, and Tim Lister, a terrorism-focused journalist with CNN, as co-authors. As well as helping structure the book from Dean’s memories, the two co-authors note they had been able to “corroborate key details” that convinced them: “In the years immediately leading up to and following 9/11, Aimen Dean was by far the most important spy the West had inside al-Qaeda”. Continue reading

What Captured ISIS Jihadists Tell Us About the Group

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 2 December 2018

An Islamic State poster near al-Sukhna in the eastern Homs desert, Syria, August 2017 (source)

Over the past week, two members of the Islamic State (IS) have been arrested—a rarity in itself during the Coalition campaign against the group—and both in different ways give a glimpse of archetypes that have made up the organisation, from its inception to its expansion into Syria. Continue reading

The Failure of the United Nations in Syria

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 14 May 2018

United Nations in East Ghouta, Syria (image source)

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 Strikes in Syria and America’s Path Forward

A version of this article was published in CapX

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) and James Snell on 8 May 2018

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

The Criminality of the Syrian Regime

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 29 April 2018

A satellite image of Sednaya prison, about 20 miles north-east of the presidential palace. CNES and ASTRIUM / Amnesty International via AFP

To accompany the release of “Syria’s Slaughterhouses”, a film by TRT World’s “Off The Grid”, I was asked to give an overview of the available evidence of the Assad regime’s crimes against humanity.

The launching of a limited punitive raid against the Syrian regime of Bashar al Assad for the use of poison gas has brought some attention to the regime’s crimes. The regime’s visible crimes are numerous and devastating.

In addition to using weapons of mass destruction, fighter jets have levelled ancient cities, sieges have starved populations into submission, and improvised explosives like barrel bombs have maimed thousands. These tactics are part of what UN investigators have called a “systematic and widespread attack against [the Syrian] civilian population”.

The UN commission recently noted that what the Assad regime has done amounts to crimes against humanity, including extermination, murder, rape, and torture.

What does not get enough attention is the part of Assad’s criminality that is most difficult to see: that which takes place in the prisons, a vast network of concentration camps where torture and murder is routine. Continue reading

Islamic State Reacts to Western Strikes on the Syrian Regime

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 21 April 2018

Al-Naba 128, page 11

The 128th edition of Al-Naba, the Islamic State’s (IS) weekly newsletter, released on 20 April, contained in its concluding, “Events of the Week” section, the organisation’s reaction to the 14 April military strikes by America, Britain, and France against the Bashar al-Asad regime for its use of poison gas in Duma. This short comment is reproduced below. Continue reading

Trump’s Syria Strike Upheld an Important International Norm, But Did No More

A version of this article was published at The Sunday Express

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 15 April 2018

Britain joined the United States and France in a round of punitive military strikes in Syria on Friday night. The Coalition was retaliating for a poison gas attack by Bashar al-Assad’s regime in the Duma area of Damascus on 7 April. The three targets the Allies went after were related to his chemical weapons program. This was a just operation that upheld the norms of the international system, but there are disturbing signs that it will not be linked to a course correction 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

United Nations Documents Human Rights Abuses By the “Syrian Kurds”

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 8 March 2018

Kurdish YPG/PKK fighters (Rodi Said/Reuters)

The Independent International Commission of Inquiry (IICI) on the Syrian Arab Republic was set up in 2011 by the United Nations Human Rights Council to track human rights abuses in Syria.

Naturally, this has meant that most of the Commission’s work is focused on the industrial-scale crimes against humanity committed by Bashar al-Asad’s regime and his enablers in Russia and Iran. Later, as non-state terrorist and extremist groups intruded into Syria, the Commission documented the atrocities by the Islamic State (IS), al-Qaeda, and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which works under the label of the People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Syria and dominates the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) that the U.S.-led Coalition works with against IS. The Commission has also recorded abuses by rebel groups.

The Commission’s latest report, released on 6 March 2018, “draws from more than 500 interviews and encapsulates the trends over the past six months in the Syrian Arab Republic, with particular focus on the impact of the offensive against [the Islamic State] and the use of siege warfare on the civilian population.” The report, therefore, has something of a focus on the SDF/PKK human rights violations, though IS’s horrific treatment of religious minorities and so on, plus the pro-Asad coalition’s ongoing campaign of massacre and displacement in areas such as East Ghuta, are given ample attention. Continue reading

Trump Completes Obama’s Syria Policy

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 4 February 2018

Syrian rebels in eastern Aleppo, November 2016 (image source)

Operation TIMBER SYCAMORE, the formally-covert program run by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), has, since approximately 2012, ostensibly provided support to vetted Syrian rebel units fighting against Bashar al-Asad’s regime. This program, begun by President Barack Obama, was never raised to a level that could alter the course of Syria’s conflict in favour of the opposition, and indeed one of its most concrete effects was denying certain categories of heavy weapons to the rebellion. While providing subsistence to some rebels, the program was mostly a political instrument, shielding Obama from criticism as he tilted U.S. policy in Asad’s favour by empowering his patron, Iran. President Donald Trump abandoned even this fig-leaf of opposition to Asad in July 2017, announcing the end of the program, a termination that went into effect last month. Continue reading