Tag Archives: Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham

The Trial: The St. Petersburg Metro Attack Reaches Court in Russia

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) and Oved Lobel on 14 July 2019

Abror Azimov in court in Moscow in April 2017 [photo source] and Mukhamadyusup Ermatov [photo source]

When defense officials from Russia, the U.S. and Israel met for an unprecedented trilateral summit in Jerusalem recently, it was in large measure another attempt by U.S. President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to put into practice their long-running belief that Russia will help them deal with Iran and perhaps other counter-terrorist issues in Syria. Continue reading

Renewed Rebellion in Southern Syria and Western Failure

Published at The Arab Weekly

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 28 April 2019

A young boy rides his bicycle in Deraa // AFP

In military terms, the fall of Daraa, in south-western Syria, to Iranian and regime forces last July eliminated the last insurgent-held pocket not dominated by jihadists. Politically, it had profound effects, demonstrating American disengagement and Israel’s misperceptions of the Syrian landscape, particularly Russia’s role in it.

Recent signs of renewed insurgency in Daraa, however, underline how far from over Syria’s war is and how badly the West has mishandled the crisis. Continue reading

Al-Qaeda and Global Terror

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 16 April 2019

Ahmad al-Shara (Abu Muhammad al-Jolani) [image source]

Several years ago, Al-Qaeda made a strategic decision to refrain from foreign terrorist operations, refocusing away from these global spectaculars towards integrating more closely into local conflicts. The 2014 rampage across Iraq and Syria by Al-Qaeda’s rebellious former Iraqi branch, the Islamic State (ISIS), provided both the opportunity and additional incentive for a long-mediated rebranding effort. However, there have recently been signs of a shift back towards external terror operations, just as ISIS undergoes a setback and Al-Qaeda has a chance to reassert its dominance over the jihadi scene. Continue reading

What is Turkey Doing in Syria?

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 10 March 2019

Turkish soldiers in Efrin, Syria, March 2018. (AFP)

Eight years ago, peaceful protests began against Syrian President Bashar Assad. Since then, outside powers — the Iran-Russia axis, the United States and Turkey — have become dominant in Syria.

The Iranians and Russians keeping Assad’s regime alive are clearly going nowhere. The Americans’ indecision on the point is apparently final. So, what of Turkey, which is the custodian of the remnants of the armed opposition? Continue reading

Can Russia Reconcile Turkey and Syria?

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 1 February 2019

American base on the outskirts of Minbij, 26 December 2018. (Photo by Delil souleiman / AFP)

U.S. President Donald Trump’s surprise announcement that U.S. troops would be withdrawn from Syria came with many visible costs. The benefits the anti-Islamic State (ISIS) campaign has delivered to Syrian President Bashar Assad, Iran, and Russia were made permanent. There is also more space for ISIS and greater instability in northeast Syria as Turkey confronts Syrian Kurdish forces. And there is the political cost to the United States of leaving its Kurdish anti-ISIS partner to face Turkey and the pro-Assad coalition alone. Continue reading

What Are the Options in Idlib?

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 6 December 2018

The sun setting over Deraa, in southern Syria, 28 May 2018 (image source)

The Turkey-Russia Sochi Agreement in September won Idlib a reprieve from what had seemed to be an imminent and catastrophic offensive by Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces and his Russian and Iranian patrons against the last insurgent-held province.

The ceasefire was meant to provide space for Turkey to dismantle the radical insurgents. Instead, those radicals consolidated their dominance in Idlib and the ceasefire has been visibly fraying. How to proceed is a matter of domestic security for the West. Continue reading

Europe Tries to Re-engage in Syria

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 30 October 2018

Istanbul summit, 27 October 2018 (image source)

At Saturday’s summit in Istanbul between Turkey, Russia, France and Germany, the focus was on extending the September 17 Turkey-Russia ceasefire agreement reached in Sochi that spared Idlib a full-scale offensive by Bashar al-Assad’s regime and his supporters, and to “progress” on the political track. Continue reading