Showing posts tagged as "Iraq"

Showing posts tagged Iraq

15 Sep
To Stop ISIS in Syria, Support Aleppo | JEAN-MARIE GUÉHENNO and NOAH BONSEY
President Obama’s speech last week signaled a likely expansion into Syria of American airstrikes against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, yet offered little indication of an immediate strategy to halt ISIS’ gains there. The administration’s first focus thus remains on Iraq, while familiar pledges to work with regional allies and increase support to moderate rebels in Syria — if Congress approves sufficient funding — appear divorced from the urgency of the situation on the ground.
Though Western attention is drawn to Iraq, it is Syria that has witnessed the most significant ISIS gains since June. It is Aleppo, Syria’s largest metropolitan area, that presents ISIS’ best opportunity for expanding its claimed caliphate. An effective strategy for halting, and eventually reversing, ISIS’ expansion should begin there, and soon.
FULL ARTICLE (The New York Times)
Photo: Basma/Foreign & Commonwealth Office/flickr

To Stop ISIS in Syria, Support Aleppo | JEAN-MARIE GUÉHENNO and NOAH BONSEY

President Obama’s speech last week signaled a likely expansion into Syria of American airstrikes against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, yet offered little indication of an immediate strategy to halt ISIS’ gains there. The administration’s first focus thus remains on Iraq, while familiar pledges to work with regional allies and increase support to moderate rebels in Syria — if Congress approves sufficient funding — appear divorced from the urgency of the situation on the ground.

Though Western attention is drawn to Iraq, it is Syria that has witnessed the most significant ISIS gains since June. It is Aleppo, Syria’s largest metropolitan area, that presents ISIS’ best opportunity for expanding its claimed caliphate. An effective strategy for halting, and eventually reversing, ISIS’ expansion should begin there, and soon.

FULL ARTICLE (The New York Times)

Photo: Basma/Foreign & Commonwealth Office/flickr

12 Sep
U.S. Pins Hope on Syrian Rebels With Loyalties All Over the Map | BEN HUBBARD, ERIC SCHMITT and MARK MAZZETTI
BEIRUT, Lebanon — President Obama’s determination to train Syrian rebels to serve as ground troops against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria leaves the United States dependent on a diverse group riven by infighting, with no shared leadership and with hard-line Islamists as its most effective fighters.
After more than three years of civil war, there are hundreds of militias fighting President Bashar al-Assad — and one another. Among them, even the more secular forces have turned to Islamists for support and weapons over the years, and the remaining moderate rebels often fight alongside extremists like the Nusra Front, Al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria.
“You are not going to find this neat, clean, secular rebel group that respects human rights and that is waiting and ready because they don’t exist,” said Aron Lund, a Syria analyst who edits the Syria in Crisis blog for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “It is a very dirty war and you have to deal with what is on offer.”
FULL ARTICLE (The New York Times)
Photo: U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Liesl Marelli/The National Guard/flickr

U.S. Pins Hope on Syrian Rebels With Loyalties All Over the Map | BEN HUBBARD, ERIC SCHMITT and MARK MAZZETTI

BEIRUT, Lebanon — President Obama’s determination to train Syrian rebels to serve as ground troops against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria leaves the United States dependent on a diverse group riven by infighting, with no shared leadership and with hard-line Islamists as its most effective fighters.

After more than three years of civil war, there are hundreds of militias fighting President Bashar al-Assad — and one another. Among them, even the more secular forces have turned to Islamists for support and weapons over the years, and the remaining moderate rebels often fight alongside extremists like the Nusra Front, Al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria.

“You are not going to find this neat, clean, secular rebel group that respects human rights and that is waiting and ready because they don’t exist,” said Aron Lund, a Syria analyst who edits the Syria in Crisis blog for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “It is a very dirty war and you have to deal with what is on offer.”

FULL ARTICLE (The New York Times)

Photo: U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Liesl Marelli/The National Guard/flickr

11 Sep
Obama promises a long and limited war on Islamic State | Tony Karon
President Barack Obama used the broadest of brushstrokes on Wednesday night to describe his “comprehensive strategy to degrade and ultimately destroy” the Islamic State insurgency, providing few details and skirting discussion of key dilemmas facing any such plan.
The United States will lead a “broad coalition,” Obama said, but its war plan “will not involve American combat troops fighting on foreign soil.” Instead, the campaign would rely on U.S. air power and support for “partner forces on the ground” to put the Islamic State (IS) to flight. The U.S. would supply intelligence, weapons and logistics and training. But it would be up to those forces to drive out the IS.
It was telling that the example he cited as the model for confronting the IS was the approach “we have successfully pursued in Yemen and Somalia for years.” That comparison underscores the message that “ultimately” is the operative word in Obama’s promise to “ultimately destroy” the IS. In both Yemen and Somalia, America’s enemy remains very much intact and active, and the U.S. approach has thus far succeeded in managing and containing the threat, but not in destroying it.
FULL ARTICLE (Al Jazeera America)
Photo: Bill Ingalls/NASA via NASA HQ Photo/flickr

Obama promises a long and limited war on Islamic State | Tony Karon

President Barack Obama used the broadest of brushstrokes on Wednesday night to describe his “comprehensive strategy to degrade and ultimately destroy” the Islamic State insurgency, providing few details and skirting discussion of key dilemmas facing any such plan.

The United States will lead a “broad coalition,” Obama said, but its war plan “will not involve American combat troops fighting on foreign soil.” Instead, the campaign would rely on U.S. air power and support for “partner forces on the ground” to put the Islamic State (IS) to flight. The U.S. would supply intelligence, weapons and logistics and training. But it would be up to those forces to drive out the IS.

It was telling that the example he cited as the model for confronting the IS was the approach “we have successfully pursued in Yemen and Somalia for years.” That comparison underscores the message that “ultimately” is the operative word in Obama’s promise to “ultimately destroy” the IS. In both Yemen and Somalia, America’s enemy remains very much intact and active, and the U.S. approach has thus far succeeded in managing and containing the threat, but not in destroying it.

FULL ARTICLE (Al Jazeera America)

Photo: Bill Ingalls/NASA via NASA HQ Photo/flickr

9 Sep
West widens contacts with Syria’s Kurds but suspicion remains | TOM PERRY
(Reuters) - The fight against Islamic State could at last win Syria’s Kurds the Western help they have sought, but they must first clarify their relationship to President Bashar al-Assad and reassure Turkey that they won’t cause trouble on its border.
The United States has entered the war against Islamic State fighters in Iraq with air strikes, but is still trying to decide a strategy for fighting the group on the other side of the frontier in Syria.
In Iraq, Kurds are one of the main Western allies against Islamic State. But in Syria, where Kurdish militia have carved out a swathe of northern territory and repeatedly battled against Islamic State during a three-and-a-half year civil war, Kurds have yet to win the West’s acceptance as partners.
FULL ARTICLE (Reuters)
Photo: Chris De Bruyn/flickr

West widens contacts with Syria’s Kurds but suspicion remains | TOM PERRY

(Reuters) - The fight against Islamic State could at last win Syria’s Kurds the Western help they have sought, but they must first clarify their relationship to President Bashar al-Assad and reassure Turkey that they won’t cause trouble on its border.

The United States has entered the war against Islamic State fighters in Iraq with air strikes, but is still trying to decide a strategy for fighting the group on the other side of the frontier in Syria.

In Iraq, Kurds are one of the main Western allies against Islamic State. But in Syria, where Kurdish militia have carved out a swathe of northern territory and repeatedly battled against Islamic State during a three-and-a-half year civil war, Kurds have yet to win the West’s acceptance as partners.

FULL ARTICLE (Reuters)

Photo: Chris De Bruyn/flickr

4 Sep
Barack Obama looks to Muslim countries for help in crushing Isis | Ian Black
Barack Obama has called for a “broad-based international coalition” to “degrade and destroy” Islamic State (Isis) after the beheading of the American journalist Steven Sotloff. But it is not clear which countries would take part in such a grouping and, crucially, whether its mission would be limited to Iraq or include fighting the jihadis in their Syrian strongholds.
In Washington and London, government officials say they had long known that their nationals were being held hostage by the extremist group, so the latest killing, plus the now explicit threat to murder a UK captive, will not change their fundamental calculations.
Talk of building a coalition to tackle Isis has been in the diplomatic air for the past two weeks, but Obama gave deeper insight into his thinking on Wednesday: “The question is going to be making sure we have the right strategy but also making sure that we have got the international will to do it,” the president said. “What we have got to make sure is that we are organising the Arab world, the Middle East, the Muslim world, along with the international community to isolate this cancer.”
FULL ARTICLE (The Guardian)
Photo: Christopher Dilts for Obama for America/flickr

Barack Obama looks to Muslim countries for help in crushing Isis | Ian Black

Barack Obama has called for a “broad-based international coalition” to “degrade and destroy” Islamic State (Isis) after the beheading of the American journalist Steven Sotloff. But it is not clear which countries would take part in such a grouping and, crucially, whether its mission would be limited to Iraq or include fighting the jihadis in their Syrian strongholds.

In Washington and London, government officials say they had long known that their nationals were being held hostage by the extremist group, so the latest killing, plus the now explicit threat to murder a UK captive, will not change their fundamental calculations.

Talk of building a coalition to tackle Isis has been in the diplomatic air for the past two weeks, but Obama gave deeper insight into his thinking on Wednesday: “The question is going to be making sure we have the right strategy but also making sure that we have got the international will to do it,” the president said. “What we have got to make sure is that we are organising the Arab world, the Middle East, the Muslim world, along with the international community to isolate this cancer.”

FULL ARTICLE (The Guardian)

Photo: Christopher Dilts for Obama for America/flickr

2 Sep
IS back in business | Peter Harling
The so-called Islamic State (IS) — the jihadist movement also known as ISIL or ISIS and by the derogatory acronym Da’ish in Arabic — now controls much of northeast Syria and northwest Iraq (1). In a region beset with so much confusion, it appears uniquely determined and self-assured. Despite its name, it is in no sense a new state, since it rejects the concept of borders and largely does without institutions. Yet IS tells us much about the Middle East — and especially about its genuine states — as well as about western foreign policy.
IS is an aggressive movement with a surprisingly clear identity, given its origins and the fact that it is made up of volunteers from many different places. It began in Iraq where, following the 2003 US invasion, a handful of former mujahideen from the Afghan war established a local Al-Qaida franchise. Very quickly their ideology parted company from that of Al-Qaida central: they focused on enemies close at hand rather than less accessible ones, such as the United States or Israel. Increasingly ignoring the US occupier, they instigated a sectarian war between Sunni and Shia, and then descended into fratricidal conflict, using extreme violence against supposed traitors and apostates in their own Sunni camp. The ensuing self-destruction, between 2007 and 2008, reduced the movement to a few diehards entrenched in the Iraqi desert.
FULL ARTICLE (Le Monde Diplomatique - English Edition)
Photo: U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Vanessa Valentine/Flickr

IS back in business | Peter Harling

The so-called Islamic State (IS) — the jihadist movement also known as ISIL or ISIS and by the derogatory acronym Da’ish in Arabic — now controls much of northeast Syria and northwest Iraq (1). In a region beset with so much confusion, it appears uniquely determined and self-assured. Despite its name, it is in no sense a new state, since it rejects the concept of borders and largely does without institutions. Yet IS tells us much about the Middle East — and especially about its genuine states — as well as about western foreign policy.

IS is an aggressive movement with a surprisingly clear identity, given its origins and the fact that it is made up of volunteers from many different places. It began in Iraq where, following the 2003 US invasion, a handful of former mujahideen from the Afghan war established a local Al-Qaida franchise. Very quickly their ideology parted company from that of Al-Qaida central: they focused on enemies close at hand rather than less accessible ones, such as the United States or Israel. Increasingly ignoring the US occupier, they instigated a sectarian war between Sunni and Shia, and then descended into fratricidal conflict, using extreme violence against supposed traitors and apostates in their own Sunni camp. The ensuing self-destruction, between 2007 and 2008, reduced the movement to a few diehards entrenched in the Iraqi desert.

FULL ARTICLE (Le Monde Diplomatique - English Edition)

Photo: U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Vanessa Valentine/Flickr

28 Aug
EXPERT VIEWS: Is Islamic State a flash in the pan? | Alex Whiting
LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Is Islamic State a flash in the pan, or is it here for the long term? What impact is its expansion in Iraq having on the war in Syria, and the region as a whole?
Thomson Reuters Foundation asked three experts for their views: Nigel Inkster is director of transnational threats and political risk at the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies, chair of the World Economic Forum’s committee on terrorism, and former director for operations and intelligence at MI6; Noah Bonsey is International Crisis Group’s senior analyst on Syria, based in Lebanon; and Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi is a distinguished senior fellow at the Gatestone Institute, and a student at Oxford University.
Islamic State (IS) was formerly called ISIS. It took control of key Iraqi cities like Mosul and Fallujah as part of a broad coalition of groups earlier this year, but it went it alone when it expanded into Kurdistan.
FULL ARTICLE (Thomson Reuters Foundation)
Photo: maps.bpl.org/flickr

EXPERT VIEWS: Is Islamic State a flash in the pan? | Alex Whiting

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Is Islamic State a flash in the pan, or is it here for the long term? What impact is its expansion in Iraq having on the war in Syria, and the region as a whole?

Thomson Reuters Foundation asked three experts for their views: Nigel Inkster is director of transnational threats and political risk at the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies, chair of the World Economic Forum’s committee on terrorism, and former director for operations and intelligence at MI6; Noah Bonsey is International Crisis Group’s senior analyst on Syria, based in Lebanon; and Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi is a distinguished senior fellow at the Gatestone Institute, and a student at Oxford University.

Islamic State (IS) was formerly called ISIS. It took control of key Iraqi cities like Mosul and Fallujah as part of a broad coalition of groups earlier this year, but it went it alone when it expanded into Kurdistan.

FULL ARTICLE (Thomson Reuters Foundation)

Photo: maps.bpl.org/flickr

18 Aug
Iraq refugees ‘terrified to be sent back’ | Noah Blaser
Silopi refugee camp, Turkey - After a four-day trek through the barren, sun-blasted terrain of northern Iraq, Murad Kasim Rashow shook with anger as he remembered the family members he left behind.
Newly arrived at a makeshift refugee camp in Silopi, a remote border town in Turkey’s southeast, he grieved for his two aunts who have been missing since armed fighters from the Islamic State group overran their hometown of Sinjar one week ago.
"I fear the worst. Every family now has its tale of loss or death," said Rashow, a 37-year-old former translator for the US army. "There is no way we can imagine returning there."
Rashow is one of tens of thousands of Yazidis - ethnic Kurds who practise a distinct religion - who have fled northern Iraq amid the advance of fighters from the Islamic State group, formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS).
The Islamic State offensive left thousands of Yazidis trapped and starving on Iraq’s desolate Sinjar mountain, while tens of thousands of Iraqis have fled to the country’s Kurdish region in the northeast.
FULL ARTICLE (Al Jazeera America)
Photo: Rachel Unkovic/International Rescue Committee/UK Department for International Development/flickr

Iraq refugees ‘terrified to be sent back’ | Noah Blaser

Silopi refugee camp, Turkey - After a four-day trek through the barren, sun-blasted terrain of northern Iraq, Murad Kasim Rashow shook with anger as he remembered the family members he left behind.

Newly arrived at a makeshift refugee camp in Silopi, a remote border town in Turkey’s southeast, he grieved for his two aunts who have been missing since armed fighters from the Islamic State group overran their hometown of Sinjar one week ago.

"I fear the worst. Every family now has its tale of loss or death," said Rashow, a 37-year-old former translator for the US army. "There is no way we can imagine returning there."

Rashow is one of tens of thousands of Yazidis - ethnic Kurds who practise a distinct religion - who have fled northern Iraq amid the advance of fighters from the Islamic State group, formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS).

The Islamic State offensive left thousands of Yazidis trapped and starving on Iraq’s desolate Sinjar mountain, while tens of thousands of Iraqis have fled to the country’s Kurdish region in the northeast.

FULL ARTICLE (Al Jazeera America)

Photo: Rachel Unkovic/International Rescue Committee/UK Department for International Development/flickr

14 Aug
Engaging the enemy | The Economist
IN JUNE, when extremists from the Islamic State (IS) took over the Iraqi city of Mosul and hurtled south towards Baghdad, the Kurds in the north reacted with glee. They had no love for IS, a group which grew out of al-Qaeda in Iraq, later re-emerged in Syria and now operates in both countries. Indeed IS is sufficiently vile and disobedient, not to mention power hungry, that not even al-Qaeda likes it any more. But the Kurds saw its success as a deserved kick in the teeth for Nuri al-Maliki, the Shia prime minister. And if the fight with IS broke Iraq into sectarian pieces, semi-autonomous Kurdistan would achieve long-dreamed-of independence.
That sentiment disappeared at the beginning of August when, possibly as a result of resistance to the south, IS pivoted to take on the Peshmerga, the Kurdish armed forces. The Peshmerga number at least 120,000 and are reputed to be Iraq’s best-trained force. Before June IS was reckoned to have barely more than 10,000 fighters all told, though “they have doubled or tripled since this started,” according to Helgurd Hikmet of the Peshmerga. But the IS onslaught was brutal and well equipped, thanks to American hardware provided to the Iraqi government and then captured. Suicide-bombers were dispatched ahead of high-speed convoys; the troops showed an eagerness to die in battle rather than duck bullets. The Peshmerga admit that without American air strikes against IS, which started on August 8th, the fighting would have reached Erbil, their capital.
FULL ARTICLE (The Economist)
Photo: UK Department for International Development(DFID)/flickr

Engaging the enemy | The Economist

IN JUNE, when extremists from the Islamic State (IS) took over the Iraqi city of Mosul and hurtled south towards Baghdad, the Kurds in the north reacted with glee. They had no love for IS, a group which grew out of al-Qaeda in Iraq, later re-emerged in Syria and now operates in both countries. Indeed IS is sufficiently vile and disobedient, not to mention power hungry, that not even al-Qaeda likes it any more. But the Kurds saw its success as a deserved kick in the teeth for Nuri al-Maliki, the Shia prime minister. And if the fight with IS broke Iraq into sectarian pieces, semi-autonomous Kurdistan would achieve long-dreamed-of independence.

That sentiment disappeared at the beginning of August when, possibly as a result of resistance to the south, IS pivoted to take on the Peshmerga, the Kurdish armed forces. The Peshmerga number at least 120,000 and are reputed to be Iraq’s best-trained force. Before June IS was reckoned to have barely more than 10,000 fighters all told, though “they have doubled or tripled since this started,” according to Helgurd Hikmet of the Peshmerga. But the IS onslaught was brutal and well equipped, thanks to American hardware provided to the Iraqi government and then captured. Suicide-bombers were dispatched ahead of high-speed convoys; the troops showed an eagerness to die in battle rather than duck bullets. The Peshmerga admit that without American air strikes against IS, which started on August 8th, the fighting would have reached Erbil, their capital.

FULL ARTICLE (The Economist)

Photo: UK Department for International Development(DFID)/flickr

11 Aug
How to fight Islamic State jihadists 
About a century ago, after World War I, British and French leaders carved up the Middle East and set the modern borders of Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan.
Now a growing force of Sunni extremists fighting under the banner of the Islamic State are creating a new nation in the same region … at gunpoint. Its boundaries are not yet set in ink on a map. But the jihadists have seized vast chunks of Syria and Iraq with a clear goal: Establish a new “caliphate,” an Islamic state led by a supreme religious and political leader. Theirs would be a kingdom where justice is dispensed by bullet, blade and sheer savagery.
For America this is a geopolitical crisis that threatens allies in the region. For people who live there this is an existential crisis that many of them cannot survive without more help from Western powers and Arab countries in the jihadists’ sights.
FULL ARTICLE (The Chicago Tribune)
Photo: CIA/flickr

How to fight Islamic State jihadists 

About a century ago, after World War I, British and French leaders carved up the Middle East and set the modern borders of Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan.

Now a growing force of Sunni extremists fighting under the banner of the Islamic State are creating a new nation in the same region … at gunpoint. Its boundaries are not yet set in ink on a map. But the jihadists have seized vast chunks of Syria and Iraq with a clear goal: Establish a new “caliphate,” an Islamic state led by a supreme religious and political leader. Theirs would be a kingdom where justice is dispensed by bullet, blade and sheer savagery.

For America this is a geopolitical crisis that threatens allies in the region. For people who live there this is an existential crisis that many of them cannot survive without more help from Western powers and Arab countries in the jihadists’ sights.

FULL ARTICLE (The Chicago Tribune)

Photo: CIA/flickr