Tag Archives: tribes

The Coalition’s Partner in Syria: The Syrian Democratic Forces

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 9 July 2017

Syrian Democratic Forces logo

The offensive to expel the Islamic State (IS) from its primary urban stronghold in Syria, Raqqa city, began on 6 November 2016 with shaping operations and commenced in earnest on 6 June 2017. Backed by the U.S.-led Coalition, the operation, known as EUPHRATES WRATH, is being carried out on the ground by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) or Quwwat Suriya al-Dimoqratiyya (QSD). The SDF is formally a coalition of Kurds and Arabs—its announcement of the Raqqa operation named eighteen distinct sub-units. But the predominant force within the SDF is the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), and the Arab SDF play a “secondary role of maintaining local security,” which is to say providing an acceptable face for the PKK’s administration in the Arab-majority areas it has captured. Examining the SDF’s composition, and the recent marginalization of Arab SDF groups, underscores the point. Continue reading

The Structure of the Islamic State

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on August 8, 2016

On 6 July 2016, the Islamic State’s al-Furqan Media released its first video for over a year, which was in English and was entitled, “The Structure of the Caliphate“. Continue reading

Destroying Islamic State, Defeating Assad: A Strategy for Syria

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on November 25, 2015

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Today, my first report with The Henry Jackson Society was published: “Destroying Islamic State, Defeating Assad: A Strategy for Syria“. Continue reading

Islamic State Spokesman Calls For Immigration to the Caliphate, All Factions To Join

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on July 1, 2015

On June 23, 2015, the Islamic State (IS) spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani gave a speech, “O Our People, Respond to the Caller of Allah”. Al-Adnani, noting the coming of Ramadan, called on Muslims to journey to the caliphate, saying that hijra (emigration) in this month—and martyrdom—is the most blessed. Al-Adnani called on Muslims—specifically Iraqi Sunnis and Syrian rebel and Islamist insurgent groups—to unite around IS, which had no theological factions or ethnic distinctions among its membership, being the only pure expression of Islam, ruling by god’s law. Iraqi Sunni militias and Syrian rebels had betrayed the religion by seeking favour from, and even seeking alliance with, Western states. Al-Adnani threatened the town of Haditha, specifically the Jaghayfa clan, that if it surrendered now its repentance would be accepted, but if the town was overrun first then they would be slaughtered. Al-Adnani played heavily on the interlinked themes of anti-Shi’a sectarianism and the spreading influence of Iran and its proxies, repressing Sunnis. The old guard of the jihadi movement—clerics like Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi and al-Qaeda’s leader Ayman al-Zawahiri (though neither are mentioned by name)—are attacked for not being on the battlefields. Al-Adnani also accepted the allegiance of the Russian-based faction that declared itself under the caliph’s authority, naming the group Wilayat al-Kavkaz. An English transcript of the speech was posted by IS and is reproduced below with some minor editions in transliteration and some interesting sections highlighted in bold. 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

America’s Silent Partnership With Iran And The Contest For Middle Eastern Order: Part Four

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

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This is the fourth of a four-part series looking at the United States’ increasingly-evident de facto alliance with Iran in the region. The first part looked at the way this policy has developed since President Obama took office and how it has been applied in Iraq; the second part looked at the policy’s application in Syria; the third part looked at its application in Lebanon, Afghanistan, and Yemen; and this part is a conclusion. Continue reading

The Leader of the Islamic State Explains the Caliphate’s Vision

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on July 2, 2014

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In an audio message released on 1 July 2014, two days after the Islamic State announced the restoration of the caliphate, the Islamic State’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, laid out the Islamic State’s vision. The Islamic State put out an English version of the speech, which is reproduced below with some minor editions and some interesting sections highlighted in bold. Continue reading