Showing posts with label Syria. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Syria. Show all posts

15 December 2017

Amid Russian and Syrian Regime Triumphalism, Is the War in Syria Effectively Over?


The war in Syria is not over. However, a phase in this war is indeed behind us, the one dominated by the regime (with its Iranian and Shi‘a and Russian allies) and the armed non-jihadi opposition, in all its diversity and contradictions, which Russia dramatically weakened and isolated in its two-year intervention. The fragmented territory today, foreign military occupations, and conflicting political agendas might lead to new confrontations: In Idlib, where Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra) is a potential target for different actors such as Russia, the United States, and local forces; in the north and northeast, where tensions between Turkey and Kurdish forces could escalate into armed conflict; and in the east, where the regime and pro-Iran militias on the one hand and Kurdish forces on the other might struggle for hegemony over large territories. This may be compounded in different parts of Syria by suicide bombings organized by defeated elements of the Islamic State, or by fighting around besieged opposition-held localities if the sieges are not lifted by the regime.

13 December 2017

Moving Westward: The Chinese Rebuilding of Syria

By Gideon Elazar

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: As the Syrian civil war enters its final stages, China appears determined to take on a central role in Syria’s reconstruction. One factor motivating China’s involvement is the presence of a large number of Uighur jihadists among the anti-government forces. Another is the “One Belt-One Road” initiative – a planned attempt to establish and control a modern day Silk Road connecting China, the Middle East, and Europe. The increasingly active role China is playing in Syria might mark a shift in the geostrategic reality of the region. 

9 December 2017

Why Syria Could Become the Black Hole of the Middle East

Daniel R. DePetris

Last week, representatives of Bashar al-Assad’s regime and members of the Syrian opposition met for the eighth time in Geneva for what UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura billed as the best opportunity the parties have had to discuss a political transition for the country. Unfortunately, there is very little—if anything—to talk about; both sides remain so attached to their absolutist demands and negotiating positions that even mild compromise on Syria’s political future is beyond reach.

8 December 2017

Pentagon Acknowledges 2,000 Troops in Syria

The Pentagon on Wednesday acknowledged that 2,000 American troops are on the ground in Syria, the first time the military has admitted that it deployed well more than the Obama-era limit of 503 troops. And it was recently even higher: The new number reflects the withdrawal of 400 Marines who had been providing artillery support to U.S.-backed Syrian rebels. The issue of just how many American troops are quietly deployed to conflict areas around the world has taken on a fresh urgency after the October ambush of U.S. forces in Niger that left four soldiers dead. Before the firefight, there had been no public acknowledgement that there were were 800 U.S. troops in the country, part of a growing U.S. presence battling Islamic extremists in Africa.

14 November 2017

Russia’s Unlikely Withdrawal from Syria

By Emil Avdaliani

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Moscow’s intervention in the Syrian civil war boosted the reputation of the Russian military, afforded it valuable training, and enhanced Moscow’s political clout in both the conflict zone itself and the Middle East more generally. With that said, Syria threatens to become a quagmire for Russia, and Moscow is looking for an exit. This will be difficult to pull off as Russia faces considerable geopolitical constraints.

12 November 2017

When Foreign Fighters Come Home And Bring Terrorism With Them

The threat posed by foreign fighters returning from Syria and Iraq has been the subject of a lot of discussion lately. Indeed, my news feed has been full of media reports about the danger to country X, country Y or the world in general. Some good studies have been produced on the topic, such as the one recently released by Richard Barrett of the Soufan Group.

But the concern about foreign fighters is not new. Indeed, in April 2014 I wrote a piece assessing the danger, and it has aged pretty well. Like then, I believe that returning foreign fighters pose a real threat, but it is being mitigated by several factors - the most significant of which is the fact that the world has become aware of them. But other elements can also help lessen the threat.

10 November 2017

The Messaging App Fueling Syria’s Insurgency

Source Link

In rebel-held Syria, access to the weapons you need to wage an insurgency are just a tap away thanks to an encrypted messaging app. The Islamic State may be in retreat, but other militants in Syria have been trading thousands of weapons in publicly accessible black markets hosted on Telegram, including dozens of U.S. military assault rifles and parts for the same kind of anti-tank missile systems distributed by the CIA to anti-Bashar al-Assad rebels. Foreign Policy conducted an exclusive investigation to determine the scale of these arms markets, and where the weapons that ended up on them originated.

1 November 2017

Dark Victory in Raqqa

By Luke Mogelson
Source Link

In August, in the living room of an abandoned house on the western outskirts of Raqqa, Syria, I met with Rojda Felat, one of four Kurdish commanders overseeing the campaign to wrest the city from the Islamic State, or isis. Wearing fatigues, a beaded head scarf, and turquoise socks, Felat sat cross-legged on the floor, eating a homemade meal that her mother had sent in a plastic container from Qamishli, four hours away, in the northeast of the country. In the kitchen, two young female fighters washed dishes and glanced surreptitiously at Felat with bright-eyed adoration. At forty years old, she affects a passive, stoic expression that transforms startlingly into one of unguarded felicity when she is amused—something that, while we spoke, happened often. She had reason to be in good spirits. Her forces had recently completed an encirclement of Raqqa, and victory appeared to be imminent.

27 October 2017

Post-War Syria: The Next Big Crisis Between Russia and America?

Nikolas K. Gvosdev

We face the prospect of a clash between the two main coalitions led by the United States and Russia over the disposition of a post-IS Syria.

Two years before the final defeat of Adolf Hitler—at a time when German armies still occupied a significant portion of the European part of the USSR and Festung Europa seemed to be impenetrable to the Western Allies—Franklin D. Roosevelt, Winston Churchill and Josef Stalin had already begun discussions about the fate of postwar Europe. Even when the ultimate victory still seemed to be in doubt, the Allies had started to assign zones and reconstitute borders.

26 September 2017

Weekly Graphic: Turkey and a Dangerous Power Vacuum in Northwestern Syria

Turkish forces recently began massing on the southwestern border with Syria. As many as 80 military vehicles, including an unknown number of tanks and medical aid trucks, were dispatched to a part of Hatay province that’s approximately 30 miles (50 kilometers) from the border. Another convoy of an unspecified number of military vehicles was reportedly sent to another area of Hatay, just 2 miles from Syria’s border, and a third collection of 20 army vehicles was seen close to the border near Bab al-Hawa in Syria, about 7 miles from Reyhanli.

19 September 2017

Syrian army, allies close in on Islamic State in Deir al-Zor

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Syrian troops seized a suburb of the city of Deir al-Zor in eastern Syria on Sunday, tightening the noose around Islamic State militants, a military source said.

Oil-rich Deir al-Zor province, which borders Iraq, is Islamic State’s last major foothold in Syria.

The Syrian army pushed into Deir al-Zor city this month, with Russian air power and Iran-backed militias, breaking an Islamic State siege of an enclave that had lasted three years.

Russia’s RIA news agency cited an unnamed source as saying that the Syrian army cut Islamic State’s main supply line in the city on Sunday after taking control of the al-Jafra district.

The Syrian military source said the army and allied forces captured al-Jafra on the western bank of the Euphrates. Islamic State militants could only escape across the river.

“They have no outlet except crossing the Euphrates towards the eastern bank and fleeing towards the desert, or (the towns of) al-Bukamal and al-Mayadin,” the source told Reuters.

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the army and its allies took al-Jafra and other villages near the city’s air base overnight.

Islamic State militants still hold nearly a third of the city, the war monitoring group said. Russian jets pounded movements across the river as Islamic State fighters tried to escape in ferries, it added.

With Assad's fate secure, Russia sets its sights on Isis fighters in Syria

With Assad's fate secure, Russia sets its sights on Isis fighters in Syria 

Russian commander says defeat of Islamic State is imminent after Syrian forces recapture strategic town of Okeirbat 

A Russian soldier stands in front of a destroyed tank factory operated by Isis militants. Photograph: Nataliya Vasilyeva/AP

Saturday 16 September 2017 14.31 BSTLast modified on Sunday 17 September 2017 11.00 BST

The head of the Russian army in Syria has said the defeat of Islamic State in the country is imminent during a visit to a strategically located town recently recaptured from Isis by forces loyal to Bashar al-Assad.

“All the conditions are in place for the final stage of defeating Isis in Syria,” said Lt Gen Alexander Lapin, standing amid heavy security outside the building of a former Isis sharia court, adorned with the extremist group’s black-and-white logo. “I can promise you that no Isis terrorist will ever set foot in this town again.”

Okeirbat was regained by forces loyal to the Syrian government on 2 September after a three-month assault amid intensive Russian airstrikes. Recapturing the town enabled government-backed forces to push forward towards breaking the long-standing siege on Deir ez-Zor, in the east of the country.

12 September 2017

Israel's Bombing of a Weapons Factory in Syria: What Comes Next?

By Elliott Abrams

This week Israel bombed a site in Syria, from Lebanese air space. This was the so-called Scientific Studies and Researchers Center in Masyaf, a city in central Syria, and it was hit because it is a military site where chemical weapons and precision bombs are said to be produced. Israel had made clear in a series of statements in the last six months that such a facility in Syria producing such weapons for use by Hezbollah against Israel would not be tolerated.

I was reminded of 2007 and 2008, when Israeli officials repeatedly told me and other American officials that the rocketing of Israel by Hamas in Gaza was intolerable. If it does not stop, they said, an operation is inevitable. They meant it, and the result was Operation Cast Lead, which began on December 27, 2008. We in the Bush administration had been given fair warning.

Today again, Israel has given the United States fair warning that there are limits to what Israel will tolerate in Iranian conduct and the Iranian presence in Syria. Israel has long intervened, perhaps 100 times over the years, to stop advanced weaponry from being transferred by Iran to Hezbollah in Lebanon. Those were moving targets: caravans of trucks carrying such weaponry. But this week there was a stationary target, and I imagine the decision to fire from Lebanese air space was also a message—to Iran, Syria, and Lebanon.

11 September 2017

The Chechens of Syria

By Vera Mironova and Ekaterina Sergatskova

Before the Syrian conflict, there was little talk outside of the former Soviet Union about the fighting prowess of Chechens. But with the advent of the Islamic State (ISIS), Chechens, or shishani in Arabic, have developed an international reputation as some of the toughest fighters in the world. The rise of one, Abu Omar al-Shishani, to ISIS’ highest military position reinforced this public image, and according to recent interviews in Mosul, Chechens in ISIS were among the foreign fighters most feared by civilians. But those who fight with ISIS are just one group of Chechen forces currently operating in Syria.

Politically and militarily active Chechens are divided into three groups—all of which have sent foot soldiers to Syria. The first group is made up of supporters of the current head of the Chechen Republic, Ramzan Kadyrov. They are known as the Kadyrovtsy. As the official armed forces in Chechnya, they have the best military training and the most experienced fighters. Their main opponents are the Ichkeriysy, from the Independent Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, and the Emiratovsy, of the Islamist Emirate Caucasus.

The Ichkeriysy are mainly nationalist followers of Sufi Islam. They fought during the first and second Chechen wars for an independent state of Ichkeria, which existed from 1991 until 2000 and was recognized only by the Taliban government of Afghanistan. Although these fighters have extensive military experience, there are few left. Many of them have emigrated to Western Europe.

Rumors Fly That Russia Has Dropped "The Father of All Bombs" in Syria


The Russians have been especially secretive about the weapon and, if true, this would be its first combat use ever.

A rumor has appeared on social media suggesting that Russia has dropped its most powerful non-nuclear bomb, nicknamed the Father of All Bombs, on ISIS terrorists in Syria. If confirmed, this would be the first time Russia has employed this weapon, which is has otherwise revealed very little about, in combat.

On Sept. 7, 2017, posts appeared on Twitter alleging that witnesses and activists near the Syrian city of Deir ez-Zor, had seen the weapon in action.. As yet, though, there has been no reporting in English language Russian news outlets or an official statement from the Russian Ministry of Defense.

There are few concrete details about the FOAB, formally known as the Aviation Thermobaric Bomb of Increased Power (ATBIP), and almost no official pictures or video of the bomb – one Tweet even used a picture of a mockup of the Soviet hydrogen bomb Tsar Bomba instead. It apparently uses a high explosive filler boosted with a mixture of aluminium powder and ethylene oxide, components common to other known thermobaric weapons, to create the high-intensity blast and associated shockwave.

7 September 2017

What Causes Wars? Religion? Oil? The REAL REASON Will Shake Your Beliefs

Was the Syrian civil war partly caused by climate change? In an interview with Sky News on November 23, Britain’s Prince Charles made headlines when he informed listeners of a direct link between climate change and the ongoing civil war in Syria. 

“There is very good evidence indeed that one of the major reasons for this horror in Syria was a drought that lasted for about five or six years,” he told Sky News, adding that climate change is having a “huge impact” on conflict and terrorism. Before him, United States President Barack Obama, Al Gore, and the democratic presidential hopefuls Martin O’Malley and Bernie Sanders, had linked climate change to the Syrian conflict.

Have you ever wondered why most of the wars and conflicts between and with countries are now being linked to human-induced climate change or against the Earth? Does religion, politics or oil have nothing to do with wars? 

The National Geographic Channel’s 2007 documentary Six Degrees Could Change the World, explained that at 2 degrees Celsius warmer, urban Bolivians will move into rural areas in search of water; at 4 degrees hotter, we are set to experience worldwide political upheaval, economic disaster, and armed conflict as heat-weary migrants seek climate refuge in places like Northern Europe and New Zealand.

30 August 2017

Pentagon may have up to 20,000 troops in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan; it reports only 14,000

The Pentagon may have far more troops serving in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan than it has officially told the American public, due to the way some forces aren’t included in an official count.

Officially, the Pentagon has set force management levels of 8,448 for Afghanistan, 5,262 for Iraq and 503 for Syria. But there are far more troops in all three places, as not all of those units are required to be counted against the force management levels.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has previously acknowledged the discrepancy. On Tuesday, Mattis said that before he adds any of the potentially 3,900 troops the Pentagon seeks to carry out President Donald Trump’s revised strategy for Afghanistan, he would square how many troops are there now.

“The first thing I have to do is ‘level the bubble,’ and account for everybody that is on the ground there now, the idea being that we’re not going to have different pockets that we are accounting for,” Mattis said.

As of April, there were more than 7,000 forces on the ground in Iraq and more than 900 in Syria, defense officials have previously said on the condition of anonymity. On Tuesday the Wall Street Journal and NBC reported that the actual number of forces in Afghanistan at present is about 12,000, citing unnamed sources.

29 August 2017

Pentagon Hiding the Presence of Thousands of Troops in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria

Caps on troop levels in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria mandated by the Obama administration have led to an elaborate Pentagon accounting system that conceals thousands of troops from the public — one that is quickly unraveling as the Trump administration prepares to send more troops to the region.

With new plans to ramp up the war in Afghanistan, the military is finding it exceedingly difficult to maintain a practice that purposely doesn’t count certain troops in the battle zone that military officials insist was not designed to be misleading but many critics now assert is at best an officially sanctioned charade.

The U.S. already has as many as 12,000 troops in Afghanistan, significantly higher than its 8,400-person cap. If President Donald Trump sends nearly 4,000 additional troops, as officials predict, the total will be nearly double the current public number. In Iraq, where the Baghdad government faces political resistance to a large American troop presence, the 5,200 troop figure the Pentagon uses in public serves as a useful fiction. In fact, more than 7,000 U.S. troops are in Iraq, according to recent reports.

And in Syria the official 503 U.S. troops mostly covers special operations units. But hundreds of other troops who support them and their local allies remain classified — including the Marine artillerymen and Army Rangers whose vehicles are frequently photographed by local journalists.

26 August 2017

How Bashar al-Assad Won the War in Syria

Daniel R. DePetris

The way he has prosecuted the war has been as effective as it has been inhumane.

On August 21, 2013, the international community awoke to a scene of absolute terror. Broadcasted on television screens around the world were pictures and video of men, women, and even small babies sprawled on the floor, gasping for breath. Many were already dead from exposure to the sarin gas that was delivered from the Syrian army’s surface-to-surface missiles. The attack in the rebel-held suburbs of Damascus, which left an estimated 1,400 people dead according to U.S. intelligence community assessments, was the most gruesome chemical weapons strike since former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein gassed Kurdish civilians in the town of Halabja in 1988. Four years later, I still remember the New York Post cover page the next morning, dead Syrian children on one side and a grinning Bashar al-Assad on the other.

To the world’s credit, the 2013 chemical attack was so visually upsetting and such an appalling violation of international law that the United States and Russia, by then in complete opposition to how to manage the Syrian dictator, came together (with the endorsement of the U.N. Security Council) to force Assad to give up his declared chemical weapons stockpile and to enlist Syria as a signatory to the Chemical Weapons Convention. The first international chemical weapons inspectors were deployed on Syrian soil a short time later—and despite the enormous stress of working in a war zone and dealing with Syrian government officials who were less than truthful, managed to remove and destroy 1,300 tons of chemical weapons. “Never before,” the OPCW’s director boasted at the time, “has an entire arsenal of a category of weapons of mass destruction been removed from a country experiencing a state of internal armed conflict.”

11 August 2017

Economics Could Be the Key to Ending the Syrian Civil War

John Allen, Michael O'Hanlon

Rebuilding Syria will take upwards of $100 billion a year—the kind of money that Assad's allies simply do not have.

President Donald Trump’s early moves on Syria policy have had their virtues. He has gradually ramped up the military pressure against ISIS, building on efforts established in the last years of the Obama administration. Trump has also worked to reestablish a credible U.S. redline against chemical weapons use, and also, to begin a new dialogue with Russia as of his July 7 meeting with Vladimir Putin in Hamburg, Germany that led to ideas for small ceasefire zones. King Abdullah II of Jordan has helped establish one such zone in southern Syria and there is some hope that it could serve as a model for things to come. Trump has also wisely disengaged from the futile Geneva negotiation process that the Obama administration believed might create a new government of national unity; the reality is that, backed up by Russia and with considerable battlefield momentum in recent years, the government of President Bashar al-Assad isn't going anywhere anytime soon. Devolution of power, at least temporarily, to various regions and subregions in Syria is a much more promising concept than wholesale replacement of the central government in Damascus.