Two days ago, The Wall Street Journal reported that President Donald Trump has been exploring plans to replace American troops in the areas of Syria held by the Coalition partner force, the “Syrian Democratic Forces” (SDF), with troops from the Arab states. The problems with this proposal, even in the rudimentary form it is presented, are manifold. It also feeds into the broader problem of Trump’s inconsistent messaging about Syria—or, more precisely, his failed efforts to balance domestic messaging, which calls for what was once referred to as “nation building … at home”, and his foreign messaging that needs to emphasise U.S. constancy to see through the mission to defeat the Islamic State (IS) by, among other things, stabilising and reconstructing Syria. Continue reading
The decision by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Egypt to impose a boycott on Qatar this summer was an out-of-character development for the Gulf, where all too much politics is conducted behind closed doors between the ruling families and elites. To go public, the schism between Qatar and the so-called Quartet must have been very serious.
It was the end-point of a dispute that began in the 1990s about Qatar’s foreign policy, which at that point became independent of the Saudi-led Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), and indeed actively competitive with Saudi interests. Doha wanted to alter the Saudi-oriented status quo and did so by empowering groups—almost invariably Islamists—in its cause. Those Islamists not only had agendas running counter to the other Gulf states’ conception of regional order, but which the Quartet regarded as threatening to their internal security. Continue reading
I released a report today, published by the Henry Jackson Society, Qatar and the Gulf Crisis. The intent was to examine the charges made against the Qatari government by its Gulf neighbours with regard to the funding of terrorism, the hosting of extremists, the dissemination of hate speech and incitement, among other things. Having separated fact from fiction with regards to he accusations against Qatar, the report proposes how Britain might proceed in such a way as to press Doha on issues of concern, while avoiding being drawn into the middle of the Gulf dispute, and trying to foster reconciliation between allies, especially at a time when a united front is necessary to oppose the far larger challenge of the Iranian theocracy. Continue reading
The Turkish government has gotten more and more deeply involved in Syria since the uprising began in 2011. But Turkey now finds its original aim, namely the overthrow of Bashar al-Assad’s regime, unattainable, creating tensions with the Syrian armed opposition, its primary lever inside Syria, and there are considerable problems stabilizing the zone of Syria that came under Turkish occupation after Ankara’s direct intervention in 2016. The defeat of Turkey’s primary objective has been accompanied by the rise of further problems, notably the exacerbation of its longest-standing internal security threat, that posed by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (Partiya Karkerên Kurdistan – PKK), and the generation of new internal threats, from the Islamic State (IS) and potentially from al-Qaeda-linked groups. The options for solving these problems are constrained and unpalatable. Continue reading
A major diplomatic crisis has erupted between the Gulf states, pitting Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates against Qatar because of what these states claim is Qatar’s destabilizing behaviour. On 5 June, Abdallah al-Muhaysini, identified last year by the U.S. government as a senior member of al-Qaeda in Syria, put out a message on Telegram effectively taking Qatar’s side, arguing that the campaign against Qatar was an American-orchestrated conspiracy against a government that had supported Muslims, i.e. Islamists. The message is republished below with some syntactical and spelling edits. Continue reading
Originally published at The Henry Jackson Society
At a rally in Pennsylvania as part of his “Thank You Tour” on Thursday, President-elect Donald Trump said:
We’ll build safe zones in Syria. When I look at what’s going on in Syria it’s so sad. It’s so sad, and we’ve got to help people. And we have the Gulf states; they have nothing but money. We don’t have money. We owe twenty trillion dollars. I will get the Gulf states to give us lots of money, and we’ll build and help build safe zones in Syria so people can have a chance.
Trump’s previous statements on Syria have actually demonstrated some consistency, and Trump has expressed support for safe zones before.
Taking Trump’s statement as a jumping-off point, the next day, at this final press conference of 2016, President Barack Obama was asked about the idea of safe zones in Syria and if he felt responsible for the horrors now unfolding in Aleppo. Obama responded: Continue reading