Tag Archives: tribes

A Year In, Trump’s Syria Policy Looks A Lot Like Obama’s

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 18 December 2017

Nearly a year into Donald Trump’s administration, the president has followed the track laid down by his predecessors in Syria, accelerating it in some cases, and reinforcing the negative trends of Barack Obama’s defective policy that will undo even apparent successes, like the destruction of the Islamic State’s (ISIS) “caliphate”. Continue reading

America Reveals How Iran Funds Instability in Yemen

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 23 November 2017

The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) in the U.S. Department of Treasury, on 20 November, sanctioned “a network of individuals and entities involved in a large-scale scheme to help Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force (IRGC-QF) counterfeit currency to support its destabilizing activities” in Yemen. 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 Coalition’s Partner in Syria: The Syrian Democratic Forces

Originally published at The Henry Jackson Society

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

Raqqa Doesn’t Want to Be Liberated By the West’s Partners

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 30 May 2017

Map of the tribes around Raqqa city (source: WINEP report)

We are now on the eve of the operation to evict the Islamic State (IS) from its Syrian capital, Raqqa, and, as expected, the United States will partner with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the front-group for the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its armed wing, the People’s Protection Units (YPG), which President Donald Trump’s administration has committed to directly arming.

Many of the doubts voiced about this course relate to Turkey, since the PYD/YPG is—despite continued efforts to obfuscate the fact—the Syrian department of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the premier internal security threat to Turkey for many decades. The discussion then tends to fall into one of two grooves. 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

Coalition Allies Play Into Islamic State’s Hands

Originally published at The Henry Jackson Society

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on November 14, 2016

Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) fighters in Dohuk in northern Iraq, 14 May 2013, Azad Lashkari/Reuters

Last week, a member of the Kurdish militia that is the primary instrument the U.S.-led Coalition is using in Syria to defeat the Islamic State (IS) was killed. Examining his biography underlined that this militia is the Syrian wing of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a Marxist-separatist group that is registered as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union, and Turkey. The Western powers continue to obfuscate, if not outright deny, this fact, but Coalition support for the PKK—questionable morally and legally in and of itself—is producing negative results on the ground that help IS over the long-term. Continue reading