Tag Archives: Syria

Trump’s Syria Strike Upheld an Important International Norm, But Did No More

A version of this article was published at The Sunday Express

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 15 April 2018

Britain joined the United States and France in a round of punitive military strikes in Syria on Friday night. The Coalition was retaliating for a poison gas attack by Bashar al-Assad’s regime in the Duma area of Damascus on 7 April. The three targets the Allies went after were related to his chemical weapons program. This was a just operation that upheld the norms of the international system, but there are disturbing signs that it will not be linked to a course correction in Syria. Continue reading

Trump Should Not Fear Russia In Responding to Assad’s Chemical Attack

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 10 April 2018

A child receiving oxygen after a poison gas attack in Douma, near Damascus, Syria || SYRIAN CIVIL DEFENSE WHITE HELMETS VIA AP

A year to the day after the United States struck at a Syrian airbase to punish Bashar al Assad for a chemical weapons attack, the regime has suspectedly carried out another devastating chemical atrocity. Signs are that the United States will, again, respond with force, attempting to rescue some part of the fraying international taboo against the use of poison gas. The larger question remains how Assad has gotten away with this for so long—and why murder only with certain categories of munitions prompts retaliation. Continue reading

Turkey’s Progress in Syria

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 31 March 2018

Turkish Armed Forces and allied Syrian Arab fighters capture Efrin city, Syria, 18 March 2018 (Reuters)

Since its incursion into Afrin began in January, Turkey has made significant progress in turning the military landscape in Syria in its favour. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has signalled that further operations are to come in Syria, and perhaps in Iraq, too. These next operations would present new challenges, particularly politically, an area where Turkey has not made quite as much progress. Continue reading

Turkey’s Afrin Operation and an American Opening in Syria

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) and Oved Lobel on 20 March 2018

Turkey and Syrian rebel allies captured Afrin city in north-western Syria from the Kurdish People’s Protection Forces (YPG) this weekend. The YPG has gained notice as the partner force of the US-led international coalition against the Islamic State. But, as Pentagon spokesman Robert Manning acknowledged on March 6, the YPG has been diverting its troops from the fight against IS in eastern Syria to the war with Turkey on the other side of the country. Manning presented this as a temporary setback, but the shifting dynamics might prove to be the undoing of the Coalition’s mission in Syria. Continue reading

Profile: First Spokesman of the Islamic State Movement

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 16 March 2018

The predecessor organization to the Islamic State (IS), the Islamic State in Iraq (ISI), used to run a “Prominent Martyrs” or “Distinguished Martyrs” series: essentially obituaries for important members of the IS movement. In the forty-sixth edition, on 18 August 2010, ISI profiled Abu Maysara al-Iraqi, the first official spokesman and the deputy of the Media Department until he was killed in 2006. A translation of Abu Maysara’s biography was issued by Ansar al-Mujahideen forum and is reproduced below with some minor editions for transliteration and some interesting points highlighted in bold. Continue reading

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

United Nations Documents Human Rights Abuses By the “Syrian Kurds”

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 8 March 2018

Kurdish YPG/PKK fighters (Rodi Said/Reuters)

The Independent International Commission of Inquiry (IICI) on the Syrian Arab Republic was set up in 2011 by the United Nations Human Rights Council to track human rights abuses in Syria.

Naturally, this has meant that most of the Commission’s work is focused on the industrial-scale crimes against humanity committed by Bashar al-Asad’s regime and his enablers in Russia and Iran. Later, as non-state terrorist and extremist groups intruded into Syria, the Commission documented the atrocities by the Islamic State (IS), al-Qaeda, and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which works under the label of the People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Syria and dominates the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) that the U.S.-led Coalition works with against IS. The Commission has also recorded abuses by rebel groups.

The Commission’s latest report, released on 6 March 2018, “draws from more than 500 interviews and encapsulates the trends over the past six months in the Syrian Arab Republic, with particular focus on the impact of the offensive against [the Islamic State] and the use of siege warfare on the civilian population.” The report, therefore, has something of a focus on the SDF/PKK human rights violations, though IS’s horrific treatment of religious minorities and so on, plus the pro-Asad coalition’s ongoing campaign of massacre and displacement in areas such as East Ghuta, are given ample attention. Continue reading