Showing posts tagged as "iraq"

Showing posts tagged iraq

11 Jul
Kurdish Independence: Harder Than It Looks | Joost Hilterman
Joost Hilterman is the Chief Operating Officer at the International Crisis Group
The jihadist blitz through northwestern Iraq has ended the fragile peace that was established after the 2007-2008 US surge. It has cast grave doubt on the basic capacity of the Iraqi army—reconstituted, trained and equipped at great expense by Washington—to control the country, and it could bring down the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, whose eight-year reign has been marred by mismanagement and sectarian polarization. But for Iraqi Kurds, the offensive by the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) and other groups has offered a dramatic opportunity: a chance to expand their own influence beyond Iraqi Kurdistan and take possession of other parts of northern Iraq they’ve long claimed as theirs.
At the heart of these “disputed areas” is the strategic city of Kirkuk, which the disciplined and highly motivated Kurdish Peshmerga took over in mid-June, after Iraqi soldiers stationed there fled in fear of advancing jihadists. A charmless city of slightly less than one million people, Kirkuk betrays little of its past as an important Ottoman garrison town. The desolate ruin of an ancient citadel, sitting on a mound overlooking the dried-out Khasa River, is one of the few hints of the city’s earlier glory. Yet Kirkuk lies on top of one of Iraq’s largest oil fields, and with its crucial location directly adjacent to the Kurdish region, the city is the prize in the Kurds’ long journey to independence, a town they call their Jerusalem. When their Peshmerga fighters easily took over a few weeks ago, there was loud rejoicing throughout the Kurdish land.
But while the Kurds believe Kirkuk’s riches give them crucial economic foundations for a sustainable independent state, the city’s ethnic heterogeneity raises serious questions about their claims to it. Not only is Kirkuk’s population—as with that of many other Iraqi cities, including Baghdad itself—deeply intermixed. The disputed status of its vast oil field also stands as a major obstacle to any attempt to divide the country’s oil revenues equitably. To anyone who advocates dividing Iraq into neat ethnic and sectarian groups, Kirkuk shows just how challenging that would be in practice.
The definitive loss of Kirkuk and the giant oil field surrounding it could precipitate the breakup of Iraq, and while the present government in Baghdad is in no position to resist Kurdish control, a restrengthened leadership might, in the future, seek to retake the city by force. For the Kurds, the sudden territorial gains may also not be the panacea they seem to think they are. The Kurdish oil industry is still much in development, and if the Kurdish region loses access to Baghdad’s annual budget allocations without a ready alternative, it is likely to face a severe economic crisis. Moreover, the same jihadist insurgency that has enabled Kurdish advances in the disputed territories is also a potent new threat to the Kurds themselves. So the taking of Kirkuk poses an urgent question: how important is Iraq’s stability to the Kurds’ own security and long-term aims?
I first visited Kirkuk some twenty-three years ago, driving from Baghdad and entering from the west. Coming up from the capital in those days one had little doubt that one was in Arab areas all the way to the outskirts of Kirkuk, while the city itself, like many urban conglomerations in the wider region, was home to many different ethnic and religious groups, none of them dominant. There were Shia mixed in with Sunnis, and along with three major ethnicities—Arab, Kurdish, and Turkic—the city contained a smaller population of Chaldo-Assyrian Christians, who claimed to be original inhabitants of what was known in ancient times as Arrapha. In fact, despite the Kurds’ strong presence in Kirkuk today, they were relatively late arrivals, having settled mostly in the years since the oil industry first took hold in the 1930s.
FULL ARTICLE (New York Times Review of Books)
Photo: Jorgen Nijman/flickr

Kurdish Independence: Harder Than It Looks | Joost Hilterman

Joost Hilterman is the Chief Operating Officer at the International Crisis Group

The jihadist blitz through northwestern Iraq has ended the fragile peace that was established after the 2007-2008 US surge. It has cast grave doubt on the basic capacity of the Iraqi army—reconstituted, trained and equipped at great expense by Washington—to control the country, and it could bring down the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, whose eight-year reign has been marred by mismanagement and sectarian polarization. But for Iraqi Kurds, the offensive by the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) and other groups has offered a dramatic opportunity: a chance to expand their own influence beyond Iraqi Kurdistan and take possession of other parts of northern Iraq they’ve long claimed as theirs.

At the heart of these “disputed areas” is the strategic city of Kirkuk, which the disciplined and highly motivated Kurdish Peshmerga took over in mid-June, after Iraqi soldiers stationed there fled in fear of advancing jihadists. A charmless city of slightly less than one million people, Kirkuk betrays little of its past as an important Ottoman garrison town. The desolate ruin of an ancient citadel, sitting on a mound overlooking the dried-out Khasa River, is one of the few hints of the city’s earlier glory. Yet Kirkuk lies on top of one of Iraq’s largest oil fields, and with its crucial location directly adjacent to the Kurdish region, the city is the prize in the Kurds’ long journey to independence, a town they call their Jerusalem. When their Peshmerga fighters easily took over a few weeks ago, there was loud rejoicing throughout the Kurdish land.

But while the Kurds believe Kirkuk’s riches give them crucial economic foundations for a sustainable independent state, the city’s ethnic heterogeneity raises serious questions about their claims to it. Not only is Kirkuk’s population—as with that of many other Iraqi cities, including Baghdad itself—deeply intermixed. The disputed status of its vast oil field also stands as a major obstacle to any attempt to divide the country’s oil revenues equitably. To anyone who advocates dividing Iraq into neat ethnic and sectarian groups, Kirkuk shows just how challenging that would be in practice.

The definitive loss of Kirkuk and the giant oil field surrounding it could precipitate the breakup of Iraq, and while the present government in Baghdad is in no position to resist Kurdish control, a restrengthened leadership might, in the future, seek to retake the city by force. For the Kurds, the sudden territorial gains may also not be the panacea they seem to think they are. The Kurdish oil industry is still much in development, and if the Kurdish region loses access to Baghdad’s annual budget allocations without a ready alternative, it is likely to face a severe economic crisis. Moreover, the same jihadist insurgency that has enabled Kurdish advances in the disputed territories is also a potent new threat to the Kurds themselves. So the taking of Kirkuk poses an urgent question: how important is Iraq’s stability to the Kurds’ own security and long-term aims?

I first visited Kirkuk some twenty-three years ago, driving from Baghdad and entering from the west. Coming up from the capital in those days one had little doubt that one was in Arab areas all the way to the outskirts of Kirkuk, while the city itself, like many urban conglomerations in the wider region, was home to many different ethnic and religious groups, none of them dominant. There were Shia mixed in with Sunnis, and along with three major ethnicities—Arab, Kurdish, and Turkic—the city contained a smaller population of Chaldo-Assyrian Christians, who claimed to be original inhabitants of what was known in ancient times as Arrapha. In fact, despite the Kurds’ strong presence in Kirkuk today, they were relatively late arrivals, having settled mostly in the years since the oil industry first took hold in the 1930s.

FULL ARTICLE (New York Times Review of Books)

Photo: Jorgen Nijman/flickr

30 Jun
Redrawn Lines Seen as No Cure in Iraq Conflict | Robert Worth
Over the past two weeks, the specter that has haunted Iraq since its founding 93 years ago appears to have become a reality: the de facto partition of the country into Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish cantons.
With jihadists continuing to entrench their positions across the north and west, and the national army seemingly incapable of mounting a challenge, Americans and even some Iraqis have begun to ask how much blood and treasure it is worth to patch the country back together.
It is a question that echoes not only in Syria — also effectively divided into mutually hostile statelets — but also across the entire Middle East, where centrifugal forces unleashed by the Arab uprisings of 2011 continue to erode political structures and borders that have prevailed since the collapse of the Ottoman Empire a century ago.
Yet Iraq and Syria’s potential fragmentation along sectarian or ethnic lines is not likely to offer any solution to the region’s dysfunction, analysts say, and may well generate new conflicts driven by ideology, oil, and other resources.
FULL ARTICLE (New York Times)
Photo: Austin King/flickr

Redrawn Lines Seen as No Cure in Iraq Conflict | Robert Worth

Over the past two weeks, the specter that has haunted Iraq since its founding 93 years ago appears to have become a reality: the de facto partition of the country into Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish cantons.

With jihadists continuing to entrench their positions across the north and west, and the national army seemingly incapable of mounting a challenge, Americans and even some Iraqis have begun to ask how much blood and treasure it is worth to patch the country back together.

It is a question that echoes not only in Syria — also effectively divided into mutually hostile statelets — but also across the entire Middle East, where centrifugal forces unleashed by the Arab uprisings of 2011 continue to erode political structures and borders that have prevailed since the collapse of the Ottoman Empire a century ago.

Yet Iraq and Syria’s potential fragmentation along sectarian or ethnic lines is not likely to offer any solution to the region’s dysfunction, analysts say, and may well generate new conflicts driven by ideology, oil, and other resources.

FULL ARTICLE (New York Times)

Photo: Austin King/flickr

25 Jun
How Will Iraq’s New War End? | Joshua Keating
Last September I blogged, in reference to the ongoing war in Syria, about a survey by Dutch political scientists Madeleine Hosli and Anke Hoekstra looking at how civil wars typically end. Generally, it’s not in a negotiated settlement: Between 1945 and 1993, 75 percent of civil wars ended in outright military victory by one side. But certain factors make diplomatic outcomes more likely, and they’re worth considering in light of John Kerry’s new push for Iraqi leaders to form a more inclusive government. Considering precedent, it seems at first that prospects for a negotiated settlement might actually be decent.
Negotiated settlements are more likely in situations of military stalemate. We appear to be approaching something like that in Iraq. Despite their recent gains in the north, where defenses were weak, at the moment it seems most likely, as Kenneth Pollack argues, that ISIS’s advance will be halted north of Baghdad, where it will run into more heavily fortified and more predominantly Shiite areas. Without major U.S. or Iranian military intervention—both of which seem unlikely—Iraqi security forces don’t seem particularly capable of launching a major counteroffensive. In other words, Iraq could be in for a long one.
FULL ARTICLE (Slate)
Photo: jrseles/flickr

How Will Iraq’s New War End? | Joshua Keating

Last September I blogged, in reference to the ongoing war in Syria, about a survey by Dutch political scientists Madeleine Hosli and Anke Hoekstra looking at how civil wars typically end. Generally, it’s not in a negotiated settlement: Between 1945 and 1993, 75 percent of civil wars ended in outright military victory by one side. But certain factors make diplomatic outcomes more likely, and they’re worth considering in light of John Kerry’s new push for Iraqi leaders to form a more inclusive government. Considering precedent, it seems at first that prospects for a negotiated settlement might actually be decent.

Negotiated settlements are more likely in situations of military stalemate. We appear to be approaching something like that in Iraq. Despite their recent gains in the north, where defenses were weak, at the moment it seems most likely, as Kenneth Pollack argues, that ISIS’s advance will be halted north of Baghdad, where it will run into more heavily fortified and more predominantly Shiite areas. Without major U.S. or Iranian military intervention—both of which seem unlikely—Iraqi security forces don’t seem particularly capable of launching a major counteroffensive. In other words, Iraq could be in for a long one.

FULL ARTICLE (Slate)

Photo: jrseles/flickr

23 Jun
Iraq’s House of Cards: The Primary Mission | Robin Wright
On Friday, a new report by the International Crisis Group, an independent research and policy institute, bluntly warned of both the political and military challenges in Iraq. Under Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, the report declared, “Parliament has been rendered toothless, independent state agencies shorn of their powers. Ministries, to an unprecedented extent, have become bastions of nepotism and other forms of corruption; the severely politicized judiciary represents anything but the ‘rule of law,’ with even the Supreme Court doing the government’s bidding.”
This week, as the jihadi juggernaut solidifies its control over almost a third of the country in a Sunni proto-state, a token American team of Special Forces will embed in Iraq to assess and advise Iraq’s disintegrating military. Meanwhile, Secretary of State John Kerry is conferring with regional leaders about ways to prevent a geostrategic prize from imploding into a failed state. He, too, is expected in Baghdad. 
The primary American mission is to help rebuild the house of cards that is the Iraqi government—a political challenge almost as daunting as devising a strategy to beat back the alienated Sunni (and other) forces in the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). The goal is to prevent Iraq from becoming another Lebanon, where sectarian tensions over a power-sharing formula dragged on in a fifteen-year civil war (despite repeated American diplomatic interventions and attempts to rebuild the national Army).
FULL ARTICLE (The New Yorker)
Photo: United States Forces-Iraq/flickr

Iraq’s House of Cards: The Primary Mission | Robin Wright

On Friday, a new report by the International Crisis Group, an independent research and policy institute, bluntly warned of both the political and military challenges in Iraq. Under Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, the report declared, “Parliament has been rendered toothless, independent state agencies shorn of their powers. Ministries, to an unprecedented extent, have become bastions of nepotism and other forms of corruption; the severely politicized judiciary represents anything but the ‘rule of law,’ with even the Supreme Court doing the government’s bidding.”

This week, as the jihadi juggernaut solidifies its control over almost a third of the country in a Sunni proto-state, a token American team of Special Forces will embed in Iraq to assess and advise Iraq’s disintegrating military. Meanwhile, Secretary of State John Kerry is conferring with regional leaders about ways to prevent a geostrategic prize from imploding into a failed state. He, too, is expected in Baghdad. 

The primary American mission is to help rebuild the house of cards that is the Iraqi government—a political challenge almost as daunting as devising a strategy to beat back the alienated Sunni (and other) forces in the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). The goal is to prevent Iraq from becoming another Lebanon, where sectarian tensions over a power-sharing formula dragged on in a fifteen-year civil war (despite repeated American diplomatic interventions and attempts to rebuild the national Army).

FULL ARTICLE (The New Yorker)

Photo: United States Forces-Iraq/flickr

20 Jun
In Support For Kurds, Does Turkey Hope For A Redrawn Middle East Map?
Hugh Pope, Crisis Group’s Deputy Director for Europe and Central Asia, spoke with NPR’s Robert Siegel about the complex relationships among Turkey, Iraq, and the Kurds in the wake of the ongoing crisis in Iraq.
Listen Here (NPR)
Photo: fredmalm/flickr

In Support For Kurds, Does Turkey Hope For A Redrawn Middle East Map?

Hugh Pope, Crisis Group’s Deputy Director for Europe and Central Asia, spoke with NPR’s Robert Siegel about the complex relationships among Turkey, Iraq, and the Kurds in the wake of the ongoing crisis in Iraq.

Listen Here (NPR)

Photo: fredmalm/flickr

"It took swathes of the country falling to jihadis to put the extent of state deterioration in perspective."

—Maria Fantappie, Iraq Analyst, on our briefing, Iraq’s Jihadi Jack-in-the-Box

Iraq’s Jihadi Jack-in-the-Box
The jihadi surge is the tragic, violent outcome of steadily deteriorating political dynamics. Instead of a rash military intervention and unconditional support for the Iraqi government, pressure is needed to reverse sectarian polarisation and a disastrous record of governance.
Within days, the jihadist group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) conquered parts of north-western Iraq and revealed the fragility of a country ruined by sectarianism, hollowed-out institutions and high-level, pervasive corruption. Accumulated grievances of Sunnis in the area meant that ISIL pushed against a house of cards. But its possibilities are limited and a kneejerk international military intervention risks stoking the conflict instead of containing it. The International Crisis Group’s latest briefing, Iraq’s Jihadi Jack-in-the-Box , outlines necessary actions by Iraq, Iran, the U.S. and the wider international community to end the harmful course of events and reverse its underlying drivers.
The report’s major findings and recommendations are:
ISIL’s advance has highlighted all that has been wrong with the Iraqi government’s Sunni strategy, which sacrificed political reforms in the interest of fighting “terrorism” - a term used for all forms of Sunni violence but not for Shiite equivalents. This strategy enhanced polarisation and prepared the ground for the successful jihadi push in the north. International actors collectively failed to exert the necessary pressure on the Iraqi government to change its policy.
Despite their recent conquests, jihadis are not on the verge of storming Baghdad, nor is an all-out civil war inevitable. It could, however, be triggered by a disproportionate Iraqi Shiite and Iranian response that would cause Sunni ranks to close around the jihadis.
Iran and the U.S. should avoid a precipitate military response. Deployment of Iranian troops, who would be seen as a Shiite-Persian occupation force in Sunni-Arab territory, would bolster the jihadis’ standing further. The U.S., instead of rushing to send advisers, special troops or air power, should lay out plainly what it is willing to do to help Iraq address the ISIL challenge militarily but base its help on the premise that the government immediately implements overdue political reforms.
Iraq should form a genuine government of national unity, with meaningful Sunni inclusion and based on the recent election results, as the basis for national reconciliation.
ISIL’s rise is largely due to the growing integration of the Iraqi and Syrian arenas. Any lasting solution must be based on an integrated approach to those two arenas, possibly on the basis of a UN Security Council resolution if the Council’s disunity on Syria can be reduced.
“Under Prime Minister Maliki, the security apparatus has been undermined, parliament made toothless and other institutions gutted” says Maria Fantappie, Iraq Analyst. “All could see it, but it took swathes of the country falling to jihadis to put the extent of state deterioration in perspective”.
“A U.S. military response alone will achieve very little and could even worsen the situation”, says Peter Harling, Senior Middle East and North Africa Adviser. “Counter-insurgency cannot be successful without an effective Iraqi army to ‘clear’, an accepted Iraqi police to ‘hold’, and a legitimate Iraqi political leadership to build”.
FULL REPORT

Iraq’s Jihadi Jack-in-the-Box

The jihadi surge is the tragic, violent outcome of steadily deteriorating political dynamics. Instead of a rash military intervention and unconditional support for the Iraqi government, pressure is needed to reverse sectarian polarisation and a disastrous record of governance.

Within days, the jihadist group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) conquered parts of north-western Iraq and revealed the fragility of a country ruined by sectarianism, hollowed-out institutions and high-level, pervasive corruption. Accumulated grievances of Sunnis in the area meant that ISIL pushed against a house of cards. But its possibilities are limited and a kneejerk international military intervention risks stoking the conflict instead of containing it. The International Crisis Group’s latest briefing, Iraq’s Jihadi Jack-in-the-Box , outlines necessary actions by Iraq, Iran, the U.S. and the wider international community to end the harmful course of events and reverse its underlying drivers.

The report’s major findings and recommendations are:

  • ISIL’s advance has highlighted all that has been wrong with the Iraqi government’s Sunni strategy, which sacrificed political reforms in the interest of fighting “terrorism” - a term used for all forms of Sunni violence but not for Shiite equivalents. This strategy enhanced polarisation and prepared the ground for the successful jihadi push in the north. International actors collectively failed to exert the necessary pressure on the Iraqi government to change its policy.
  • Despite their recent conquests, jihadis are not on the verge of storming Baghdad, nor is an all-out civil war inevitable. It could, however, be triggered by a disproportionate Iraqi Shiite and Iranian response that would cause Sunni ranks to close around the jihadis.
  • Iran and the U.S. should avoid a precipitate military response. Deployment of Iranian troops, who would be seen as a Shiite-Persian occupation force in Sunni-Arab territory, would bolster the jihadis’ standing further. The U.S., instead of rushing to send advisers, special troops or air power, should lay out plainly what it is willing to do to help Iraq address the ISIL challenge militarily but base its help on the premise that the government immediately implements overdue political reforms.
  • Iraq should form a genuine government of national unity, with meaningful Sunni inclusion and based on the recent election results, as the basis for national reconciliation.
  • ISIL’s rise is largely due to the growing integration of the Iraqi and Syrian arenas. Any lasting solution must be based on an integrated approach to those two arenas, possibly on the basis of a UN Security Council resolution if the Council’s disunity on Syria can be reduced.

“Under Prime Minister Maliki, the security apparatus has been undermined, parliament made toothless and other institutions gutted” says Maria Fantappie, Iraq Analyst. “All could see it, but it took swathes of the country falling to jihadis to put the extent of state deterioration in perspective”.

“A U.S. military response alone will achieve very little and could even worsen the situation”, says Peter Harling, Senior Middle East and North Africa Adviser. “Counter-insurgency cannot be successful without an effective Iraqi army to ‘clear’, an accepted Iraqi police to ‘hold’, and a legitimate Iraqi political leadership to build”.

FULL REPORT

18 Jun
Iranian Intervention in Iraq Would Be Risky | Aryn Baker
As U.S. President Barack Obama considers his limited options in Iraq, the United States is considering holding talks with Iran later this week on how to counter the militant threat. Both the U.S. and Iran have said they will provide qualified military support to the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, should he request it, a turn of events that could suddenly see the two foes fighting on the same side. But while such an alignment might improve the relationship between the U.S. and Iran going forward, Iranian military assistance in Iraq carries substantial risks. Done improperly, it could inflame sectarian tensions or even start an all-out war in the region.
The rapid advance of the Sunni militant group, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), into Iraq’s Sunni-dominated north was a result partly of local dissatisfaction with the Shi’ite-dominated central government in Baghdad. Iraq’s Sunni minority, which had ruled Iraq for decades until the fall of the Sunni dictator President Saddam Hussein in 2003, still seethes with resentment over what they see as their loss of power and dignity. Many dismiss Maliki as an Iranian stooge, set in place to advance Shi’ite interests in the name of a greater Iranian plot to extend Iran’s influence across the region. “Iranian troops operating in Iraq will confirm everything the Sunnis have always suspected, that the Maliki regime is an extension of Iranian power. So it will become a self-fulfilling dynamic,” warns Peter Harling, Middle East Project Director of the International Crisis Group.
FULL ARTICLE (TIME)
Photo: World Economic Forum/flickr

Iranian Intervention in Iraq Would Be Risky | Aryn Baker

As U.S. President Barack Obama considers his limited options in Iraq, the United States is considering holding talks with Iran later this week on how to counter the militant threat. Both the U.S. and Iran have said they will provide qualified military support to the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, should he request it, a turn of events that could suddenly see the two foes fighting on the same side. But while such an alignment might improve the relationship between the U.S. and Iran going forward, Iranian military assistance in Iraq carries substantial risks. Done improperly, it could inflame sectarian tensions or even start an all-out war in the region.

The rapid advance of the Sunni militant group, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), into Iraq’s Sunni-dominated north was a result partly of local dissatisfaction with the Shi’ite-dominated central government in Baghdad. Iraq’s Sunni minority, which had ruled Iraq for decades until the fall of the Sunni dictator President Saddam Hussein in 2003, still seethes with resentment over what they see as their loss of power and dignity. Many dismiss Maliki as an Iranian stooge, set in place to advance Shi’ite interests in the name of a greater Iranian plot to extend Iran’s influence across the region. “Iranian troops operating in Iraq will confirm everything the Sunnis have always suspected, that the Maliki regime is an extension of Iranian power. So it will become a self-fulfilling dynamic,” warns Peter Harling, Middle East Project Director of the International Crisis Group.

FULL ARTICLE (TIME)

Photo: World Economic Forum/flickr

13 Jun
For ISIS, Iraq’s Spoils Could Tip Balance in Eastern Syria | Karen Leigh
On Wednesday, images surfaced of militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) driving U.S.-made humvees across the Iraqi border, into the Syrian province of Deir Ezzor. If real, the photos prove that the border between Iraq and Syria is now an open road for ISIS fighters hoping to establish a Sunni caliphate in the region. To the leaders of the extremist group, the battles in Iraq and Syria are part of a single, broader fight.
Analysts say the financial and strategic spoils of ISIS’s capture of Mosul and Tikrit could provide a significant, nearly unstoppable boon to its Syrian arm, helping turn the tide in the months-long battle for Deir Ezzor.
"The weapons and money that they’re gaining through the takeover of Mosul and other areas in Iraq can be used not only to consolidate what they’re doing in Iraq, but to send money back into Syria, both to their operation in Deir Ezzor and to push further into the northern part of country, Aleppo and Idlib, where they’d been operating but been pushed back," says Aaron Zelin of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, who studies the Syrian jihad.
FULL ARTICLE (Syria Deeply)
Photo: Jayel Aheram/flickr

For ISIS, Iraq’s Spoils Could Tip Balance in Eastern Syria | Karen Leigh

On Wednesday, images surfaced of militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) driving U.S.-made humvees across the Iraqi border, into the Syrian province of Deir Ezzor. If real, the photos prove that the border between Iraq and Syria is now an open road for ISIS fighters hoping to establish a Sunni caliphate in the region. To the leaders of the extremist group, the battles in Iraq and Syria are part of a single, broader fight.

Analysts say the financial and strategic spoils of ISIS’s capture of Mosul and Tikrit could provide a significant, nearly unstoppable boon to its Syrian arm, helping turn the tide in the months-long battle for Deir Ezzor.

"The weapons and money that they’re gaining through the takeover of Mosul and other areas in Iraq can be used not only to consolidate what they’re doing in Iraq, but to send money back into Syria, both to their operation in Deir Ezzor and to push further into the northern part of country, Aleppo and Idlib, where they’d been operating but been pushed back," says Aaron Zelin of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, who studies the Syrian jihad.

FULL ARTICLE (Syria Deeply)

Photo: Jayel Aheram/flickr

2 Jun
Obama’s counterterrorism doctrine: Let locals lead the fight | David Rohde
In a foreign policy address this week, U.S. President Barack Obama gave his clearest outline yet of his counterterrorism strategy. Al Qaeda splinter groups remain the largest threat to the United States, he said, but Washington must respond to it in a new way: by training local security forces, not deploying American ground troops.
“We have to develop a strategy that matches this diffuse threat - one that expands our reach without sending forces that stretch our military too thin, or stir up local resentments,” Obama said. “We need partners to fight terrorists alongside us.”
But critics say America’s past efforts to train local security forces have had mixed results. Washington has a poor track record of applying the long-term resources, funding and attention needed to carry out such efforts successfully.
FULL ARTICLE (Reuters)
Photo: NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan/flickr

Obama’s counterterrorism doctrine: Let locals lead the fight | David Rohde

In a foreign policy address this week, U.S. President Barack Obama gave his clearest outline yet of his counterterrorism strategy. Al Qaeda splinter groups remain the largest threat to the United States, he said, but Washington must respond to it in a new way: by training local security forces, not deploying American ground troops.

“We have to develop a strategy that matches this diffuse threat - one that expands our reach without sending forces that stretch our military too thin, or stir up local resentments,” Obama said. “We need partners to fight terrorists alongside us.”

But critics say America’s past efforts to train local security forces have had mixed results. Washington has a poor track record of applying the long-term resources, funding and attention needed to carry out such efforts successfully.

FULL ARTICLE (Reuters)

Photo: NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan/flickr