Tag Archives: Hafez al-Assad

The West’s Plan for Defeating the Islamic State in Syria is Fatally Flawed

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 6 June 2017

A member of the YPG/PKK militia, Delil Souleiman/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The United States recently committed itself to arming the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, known as the Y.P.G., to help evict the Islamic State from its Syrian stronghold, Raqqa. This decision is likely to prove deeply troublesome, risking the regional stability necessary for the lasting defeat of the Islamic State.

The Y.P.G. denies that it is, in effect, a wing of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or P.K.K., but the evidence is clear. The P.K.K., a Marxist-leaning Kurdish nationalist organization, was founded in Turkey in 1978, and took up arms against the Turkish state in 1984. The group’s leader, Abdullah Ocalan, was expelled from Syria in 1998, when his old patron, the regime of Hafez al-Assad (Bashar’s father), came under military threat from Turkey. Mr. Ocalan was soon arrested by the Turks, and the tide of war turned against the P.K.K. Continue reading

Book Review: The Consequences of Syria (2014) by Lee Smith

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on May 9, 2015

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Lee Smith’s The Consequences of Syria is part of the Hoover Institution’s “The Great Unravelling” series, which also included The Struggle for Mastery in the Fertile Crescent by the late Fouad Ajami (which I reviewed here.)

Published in June 2014, Smith narrates Syria’s terrible war to the opening months of 2014, the innumerable excuses made by the Obama administration for letting it run, and the theoretical framework behind the administration’s decision. The book is relatively short and the prose is direct; it takes very complex discussions of ideas and puts them in easily-digestible terms—all while keeping the reader’s eye on the practical implications.

Smith starts with the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the central event in President Obama’s thinking about the Middle East. Continue reading

Who Killed The Anti-Assad Imam In London?

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on April 9, 2015

Abdul Hadi Arwani

Abdul Hadi Arwani

Abdul Hadi Arwani, a Syrian-born imam, was found shot dead in his car on Tuesday in Wembley, northwest London. The British police are still refusing to officially name Arwani, but his friends and supporters have done so. Arwani leaves behind six children.

There are many possibilities for who killed Arwani. As the manager of a construction firm, it could be a deal gone wrong. The involvement of anti-terrorism police in the investigation into Arwani’s murder could indicate a far-Right anti-Muslim assailant. However, a source close to the investigation said that Arwani was struck down in an operation that had all the hallmarks of a “State-sponsored assassination“. To find that the long arm of Bashar al-Assad’s mukhabarat had caught up with Arwani would hardly be a surprise. Continue reading

The Long History of Middle Eastern State-Terrorism In Paris

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on January 19, 2015

Said Kouachi and Cherif Kouachi

Last week, Lee Smith wrote of the reasons that it was likely that there was a foreign hand, quite probably that of a State, in the attack on Charlie Hebdo and the Jewish deli in Paris. Smith noted that the French believe that the funding and weapons for the attacks came from abroad. Smith pointed to the historical record, in which terrorism in Paris is typically not carried out because of religion—or not directly: it might come from States that see themselves as god’s representatives on earth—or community grievances, but “because you’re getting paid to stage an operation on behalf of a particular cause or regime.” Smith gave three cases, and they seemed worth expanding on. Continue reading

Will The Alawis Break With Assad?

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on October 12, 2014

A grisly brood: The Assad family

A grisly brood: The Assad family

Last Thursday, in Akrama, an Alawi section of Homs City, there was the most extraordinary scene: Alawite anti-Assad protests. A twin bombing at a local school—reported as a suicide bombing by the regime, though there is no evidence for this—had massacred fifty Alawi civilians, most of them pupils. Annexing the slogans of the revolution, the Alawis took to the streets to demand the removal of Homs Governor Talal al-Barazi. “The people want to topple the governor,” people shouted, a conscious echo of the “Arab Spring” chant, a-shab yurid izkat an-nizam (the people want to topple the regime). Continue reading

Is Jordan Next To Fall To ISIS?

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on June 29, 2014

Jordan’s King Abdullah: The West’s closest Arab ally—but for how long?

It has been a rough fortnight for Jordan. After the fall of Mosul, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) announced an “unofficial” branch in Jordan and the Iraqi government surrendered its only legal border-crossing on the 110-mile frontier to tribal insurgents—opposed to ISIS, so far as can be told, but not without the danger they will be overwhelmed as has previously happened in areas like Fallujah, where the dam initially fell to local insurgents (albeit Ba’athists) and ISIS then pushed them out. Jordan has beefed up its border-defences but this has not stopped the speculation on whether Jordan, the “jewel in the ISIS crown,” will be the next domino to fall to the takfiris. Continue reading

Why Climate Change Had No Impact on the Syrian Uprising

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on May 1, 2014

It is inevitable that when a complex situation erupts everybody will try to map their own specialities onto it. At the present time, where environmentalism is such a primary Western concern, it was perhaps always likely that the Syrian war would attract those determined to see this menace in every corner. It has happened before, with Darfur Continue reading