Tag Archives: Shiite militias

Britain’s New Syria Policy Concedes to Iran and Russia—and Keeps Assad in Power

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on September 11, 2015

Published at Left Foot Forward

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On 9 September the British government announced a new plan for dealing with Syria and the Islamic State (ISIS):

  1. Airstrikes when necessary into Syria to destroy the leadership of ISIS;
  1. Buttressing the Iraqi government in its fight with ISIS;
  1. Dropping the demand that Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad step aside immediately and instead allowing Assad to lead a transition, in order that Russia and Iran will agree to Assad going at all.

All three parts of this plan push in a pro-Iran direction, and strengthen Assad. Continue reading

A Response to Criticism: Why the Ex-Saddamists in the Islamic State Matter

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on August 10, 2015

Abu Ayyub al-Masri and Abu Omar al-Baghdadi: ISIS's co-leaders, 2006-10

Abu Ayyub al-Masri and Abu Omar al-Baghdadi: ISIS’s co-leaders, 2006-10

In the Jerusalem Post on Sunday, Seth Frantzman wrote in opposition to the idea that the ex-military-intelligence officials of the Saddam Hussein regime had contributed significantly to the success of the Islamic State (ISIS) in taking over large swathes of Syria and Iraq. Much of what Frantzman says, about the overestimation of ISIS and Iran’s growing Imperium pushing Sunnis into ISIS’s camp, is unarguable, but he is in error about the time-frame of the ex-Saddamists’ migration into ISIS and underestimates their impact. 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

Does Iran Support The Islamic State?

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on May 26, 2015

Qassem Suleimani, Iran's spymaster, believed in some MidEast conspiracy theories to control ISIS

Qassem Suleimani, Iran’s spymaster, believed in some Mid-East conspiracy theories to control ISIS

In 2010, Farzad Farhangian, an Iranian diplomat based in Belgium, defected to Norway. Farhangian has now emerged with the extraordinary accusation that the Islamic Republic of Iran is controlling the Islamic State (ISIS) and using it as part of Tehran’s war against the Gulf States, especially Saudi Arabia. Farhangian’s accusations are lurid and (literally) incredible, but the question of Iran’s role in ISIS’ creation and growth, and Iran’s manipulation of ISIS to further its own ends, is one well worth asking. Continue reading

How Many Alawis Have Been Killed In Syria?

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on May 20, 2015

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In a report on the internal divisions in the Assad regime and the passing of Syria’s sovereignty to Iran by Ruth Sherlock in The Sunday Telegraph on May 17, there was this stunning sentence: “Perhaps a third of all Alawite males of military age have been killed in the civil war.” This is a startling thought.

To determine if this figure for the proportion of Alawis killed is plausible it is necessary to know how many Alawis there were in Syria at the outset of the war, and how many people have been killed during the war. Continue reading

The Gulf States Push Back Against Obama’s Iran Policy

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on May 12, 2015

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President Obama invited the leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to a meeting at Camp David on Thursday to clear the air as the President looks to finalize his nuclear deal with Iran. But on Sunday, Saudi King Salman said he was not attending, and soon after the Bahraini monarch followed. The only Gulf leaders in attendance will be the Emirs of Qatar and Kuwait. Since leaders do not just have other things to do when they are scheduled for a private meeting with the President of the United States, this can be taken as a pointed snub to President Obama, and no amount of administration spin about Salman’s absence having nothing to do with political substance will change that. Continue reading

Obama’s Iran Deal Increases Nukes, Terrorism, and Instability

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on April 28, 2015

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The key thing to understand about the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the nuclear accord announced on April 2 between the P5+1 and Iran, is that it does not exist. The British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said at one point, “We envisage being able to deliver a narrative,” adding that this might not be written and—these being forgiving times—Iran’s narrative need not match the West’s. In other words, nothing was signed or agreed to. This is the reason for the wild discrepancies between the American and Iranian JCPOA “factsheets”: both are drawing from a rolling text that is ostensibly to lead to a “final” or “comprehensive” deal and spinning it to their own respective advantage. The administration has as much as said so with its mantra that “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed”.

The purpose of the announcement of the JCPOA therefore was, charitably, to “build political momentum toward a final agreement“. Less charitably it was intended to “demonstrate progress in order to fend off congressional action,” as Obama’s former nuclear adviser Gary Samore put it. In that at least it was successful. Continue reading