Tag Archives: Shi’a jihadists

Syria’s Revolution Has Been Overtaken By Outside Powers

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 16 March 2018

Devastation in Aleppo (image source)

This week marks the seventh anniversary of the Syrian revolution. A movement that began with peaceful street protests calling for reform and—after the government responded with lethal violence—the downfall of the dictator, descended into war that has to this point cost the lives of at least 500,000 people and displaced nearly twelve million others—more than half of Syria’s pre-war population.

In any strategic sense the rebellion has been defeated—it is not able to overthrow Bashar al-Assad by force on its own—and its political cause is increasingly strained as the remnants of the armed opposition are increasingly co-opted by external actors, state and non-state. Continue reading

By Strengthening Iran, the Coalition Has Ensured the Islamic State’s Survival

Published at The Telegraph

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 6 October 2017

The “defeat” of the Islamic State (ISIL), signified by its eviction from Mosul in July, its impending loss of Raqqa, and an apparent resurgence of Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria, seemed to augur a new era of stability for the Middle East. The jihadists would be gone and Iranian-backed governments in Syria and Iraq consolidated.

True, Assad murdering those who resisted him with poison gas and concentration camps, and hiding the evidence by installing crematoria, would nag at our conscience. But foreign policy is a cold-blooded business and it has been decreed that ISIL is the greatest—really the only—threat emanating from the region.

It would not be justice, but it would be peace. Or something like that. Continue reading

Coalition Risks Replacing the Islamic State With the Islamic Republic

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 14 September 2017

By recent reports, one could easily come away with the impression that war and instability across the Fertile Crescent are winding down. Predictions about what comes next, always a risky enterprise in the Middle East, are at a point of unique vulnerability. Chaos and violence for some considerable time to come look like a safe bet, though the timing and scale look more uncertain. Nonetheless, certain trendlines are visible, most clearly the emergence of a regional order, abetted by the international coalition’s campaign against the self-proclaimed Islamic State (ISIS), dominated by the Islamic Republic of Iran. Continue reading

The Horrors in Assad’s Prisons Are Beyond the Cruelty of the Islamic State

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 12 July 2017

In Syria, the West has been keen not to repeat the mistakes of Iraq—defined as being drawn into an open-ended ‘war of choice’ in the Middle East. This insight led to watching with folded arms as the regime of Bashar al-Assad massacred peaceful protesters and depopulated ancient cities with fighter jets and poison gas, an exodus that spread instability into Europe and allowed menacing strategic adversaries like Iran and Russia to gain footholds that Western policy had heretofore denied them. Continue reading

Coalition on the Verge of Repeating the Mistakes of the Past Against the Islamic State

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 16 May 2017

Within the next month, the Islamic State (IS) will likely lose its grip on its Iraqi capital, Mosul, and the operation to drive it from its Syrian capital, Raqqa, will begin. The destruction of IS’s caliphate, however, is not even close to the end of the road for the movement, not least because of the manner in which it is being accomplished.

At its core the IS movement is waging a revolutionary war, and as Craig Whiteside, a fellow with The International Centre for Counter-Terrorism has explained, this means that the focus is on legitimacy. Military victories come and go but if IS is, over the long-term, gaining acceptance—whether from support, resignation, or fear—among the population it hopes to govern (the Sunni Arabs), then it is winning. It is for this reason that IS tries to embed political victories within its military defeats. Continue reading

Assad and Russia Losing Palmyra is No Surprise: They Cannot Defeat Jihadism in Syria

Published at The International Business Times

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on December 12, 2016

Syrian regime army soldiers stands on the ruins of the Temple of Bel in Palmyra, 1 April 2016 (REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki)

The Islamic State (IS) is supposed to be on its way to defeat. IS is under assault in Mosul and the operation to evict it from Raqqa began a month ago. Just this morning, Turkish-backed rebel forces in Syria have reportedly pierced IS’s defences in al-Bab, IS’s most important city outside of its twin capitals. But on Sunday, after a four-day offensive, IS seized Palmyra. How to explain this? Continue reading

Russia Moves in For the Kill in Syria

Originally published at The Henry Jackson Society

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on October 21, 2016

Vladimir Putin’s Russia is “deploying all of the Northern fleet and much of the Baltic fleet in the largest surface deployment since the end of the Cold War,” a NATO diplomat told Reuters on Wednesday night. These Naval assets are designed to buttress a final offensive by the remnants of Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria, which is effectively controlled on the ground by the Islamic Republic of Iran and an assortment of foreign Shi’a jihadists, against the insurgent-held east of Aleppo city, crushing once and for all the strategic threat posed by the rebellion to the regime, a threat that had already been all-but ended in the first months of Russia’s intervention. Nearly a year ago the U.S. began a political process with the Russians intended to end the war and begin a political transition. Moscow has subverted this process, using force to buttress its political efforts to secure Assad in power. The timing of this attack is seemingly intended as one final humiliation for President Barack Obama. Continue reading

Coalition Prepares the Ground for Mosul Offensive

 

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on October 9, 2016

U.S.-led Coalition airstrikes against the Islamic State (AFP)

Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently (RBSS) is an activist group working from within the capital of the Islamic State (or so-called capital of the so-called Islamic State, if you prefer) to bring news to the outside world of the horrors therein. For this they have paid a heavy price. On 22 September, RBSS published a list on Twitter of eighteen Islamic State (IS) operatives who had been killed by the U.S.-led Coalition between 20 August and 21 September 2016. This list, presented below with some notes and context, shows the preparations being made for the rapidly-approaching offensive on IS’s Iraqi capital. Continue reading

America Not Training Syria’s Rebels Isn’t “Failure”; It’s Policy

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) July 13, 2015

Syrian rebels

President Obama gave a speech on Monday about the progress of the United States-led military campaign against the Islamic State (ISIS) in which he said that America would “do more to train and equip the moderate opposition in Syria.” This is a promise that has been made repeatedly made and repeatedly broken. The President’s strategy of détente with Clerical Iran has given Syria to Tehran as a sphere of influence—which precludes the U.S. building up a viable alternative to both ISIS and the murderous Assad regime, which has been effectively under Iran’s control since late 2012. Continue reading

Turkey and Saudi Arabia Move Against Assad

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on May 5, 2015

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Zahran Alloush, Abu Issa, Hashem al-Sheikh

An effort is underway, led by Saudi Arabia and Turkey, mediated by Qatar, to unify the largest Syrian Islamist rebel brigades. With these regional powers now seemingly reading from the same script after years of internecine competition that has fractured the Syrian rebellion, there is also talk of a direct Saudi-Turkish intervention in Syria to overthrow Bashar al-Assad. While increased support to the Syrian insurgency from the Gulf and Turkey is already arriving, a direct intervention seems unlikely, though not, in the current context after the Saudi-led coalition went it alone in Yemen, impossible.  Continue reading