Despite the change of rhetoric between US Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump, the United States has continued to lose influence, political and military, in the Middle East to the Iran-Russia axis. Continue reading
Today in Istanbul, four governments—Turkey, Russia, Germany, and France—are meeting for a summit over Syria, attempting to consolidate the Sochi Agreement signed by Russia and Turkey over Idlib, and re-invigorate the international political process. There is little reason to think that these talks can succeed on either front. Continue reading
A version of this article was published in The Arab Weekly
Israel has been conflicted on the Syrian rebellion: some saw Bashar al-Assad’s reliance on Iran and thus favoured his departure; some, especially once the uprising militarized and jihadi-Salafists made their appearance among the insurgents, favoured a let-them-both-lose policy; and some saw the risk of chaos and jihadists and preferred to stick with what they knew.
The official Israeli policy, stated in the early months of the protests, was to side with the people “demonstrating for freedoms” since “the devil we know in Syria [i.e. Assad] is worse than the devil we don’t”. Continue reading
The collapse of the opposition in southern Syria is the final destruction of the originally constituted rebellion against President Bashar Assad. It is also a demonstration that the United States under President Donald Trump is no more invested in shaping the outcome in Syria than his predecessor, and marks the potential end of the diplomatic pact that had allowed Turkey to retain some sphere of influence unmolested by the pro-Syrian government coalition. 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
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
Syria has broken down as a functioning entity. There were some who saw in the takeover of Aleppo City last month by the coalition of states and militias that supports Bashar al-Assad’s regime the beginning of the end of the war. The pro-Assad coalition will make further territorial gains in 2017, but peace—even the peace of the graveyard—is still a long way off, and unlikely to ever arrive while Assad remains in power. The West, unwilling and apparently unable to remove him, nonetheless has vital interests in Syria that cannot be outsourced and must be secured by navigating a fragmented state. Continue reading