The Islamic State (IS) was driven from the city of Manbij yesterday, a key supply route to the Turkish border in northern Syria, the conclusion of an operation launched on 31 May by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a front-group for the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), represented in Syria by the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its armed wing, the People’s Protection Units (YPG). The SDF was backed by U.S. airstrikes. It is difficult not to see the defeat of IS as a positive development. It is, however, worth more closely examining the forces that are being enabled by Western power to fasten their rule across northern Syria, whose vision is deeply problematic—even in narrow terms of the fight against IS. Continue reading
Published at NOW Lebanon.
The Pentagon-run train-and-equip (T&E) program had intended to take Syrian rebels, stop them from being rebels by preventing them from fighting the Assad regime, and repurpose them into an American-directed strike force against the Islamic State (ISIS). Unsurprisingly, there were few takers and the program ended in disaster and humiliation. In the wake of this failure, President Barack Obama has turned away from the Arab rebels and looked to the Syrian Kurds to fight ISIS. This is a strategy that is not only doomed to fail—since Sunni Arabs taking responsibility for their local security is the only way to sustainably defeat ISIS—but would, if implemented, make the ISIS problem worse. A report from Amnesty International this week documenting crimes, including ethnic cleansing, by the armed Kurdish forces against Arabs and Turkmens in northern Syria also provides an occasion to look more closely at a force with a history of regime collaboration, political extremism, and terrorism. Continue reading
Published at Left Foot Forward
A year into the campaign against the Islamic State, the American-led coalition has precious little to show for it. Tactical victories in Kobani, Tikrit and Tel Abyad have been more than offset not only by the negative long-term side-effects of those victories but by direct I.S. military gains in the present—notably the capture of a third provincial capital in Ramadi, the capture of Palmyra and a push into Homs and southern Syria; as well as increasing I.S. infiltration of Idlib, an area cleared entirely of I.S. by a rebel offensive in early 2014. Continue reading
In the last week, two events have provided further evidence that the United States has effectively sided with the Assad regime in Syria, acting effectively as the regime’s air force, and that America’s alliance with Assad is part of the broader policy of détente with Iran, facilitated by the nuclear deal, which has ceded Syria to Iran as a sphere of influence. Continue reading
Since the main point of this post is “I Told You So,” I should get it over early. Some of us have maintained that—whatever the political view one takes of the invasion of Iraq—the factual question, “Where are the weapons of mass destruction?”, remains a live one. Now the New York Times agrees.
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