Showing posts tagged as "syria"

Showing posts tagged syria

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

13 Aug
'Offering Syrians work permits increase locals' anger toward refugees' | AYDIN ALBAYRAK
If Syrian refugees in Turkey are granted work permits, it would not only make the hostility already felt by locals toward Syrians rise, it would also pave the way for more Syrians, hard-pressed by the civil war, to flock to Turkey, Hurşit Güneş, a deputy from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), has warned.
“If this step is taken, then all the Syrians would rush to Turkey and hostility toward Syrians [in Turkey] would increase further,” said Güneş, who recently submitted a proposal to Parliament that called for an investigation of the Syrians’ situation in Turkey and the problems that they face, when speaking to Today’s Zaman.
According to reports, the Ministry of Labor has been working on a proposal to grant work permits to Syrians who are officially registered in Turkey, thereby giving them the means to earn a living legally. Business owners will reportedly only be required to pay a 2 percent social security contribution for Syrians they employ, while the regular contribution paid by businesses for Turkish employees is 32.5 percent.
This huge gap in social security payments between locals and Syrians is precisely what concerns Güneş. Noting that if such legislation goes into effect, employers would be more inclined to employ Syrian instead of Turkish workers, Güneş said: “This would surely provoke further hostilities toward Syrians in Turkey. This should not be allowed to happen. This is why I submitted a proposal for an investigation to be launched by Parliament into the situation of Syrians in Turkey.”
FULL ARTICLE (Today’s Zaman)
Photo: Mustafa Khayat/flickr

'Offering Syrians work permits increase locals' anger toward refugees' | AYDIN ALBAYRAK

If Syrian refugees in Turkey are granted work permits, it would not only make the hostility already felt by locals toward Syrians rise, it would also pave the way for more Syrians, hard-pressed by the civil war, to flock to Turkey, Hurşit Güneş, a deputy from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), has warned.

“If this step is taken, then all the Syrians would rush to Turkey and hostility toward Syrians [in Turkey] would increase further,” said Güneş, who recently submitted a proposal to Parliament that called for an investigation of the Syrians’ situation in Turkey and the problems that they face, when speaking to Today’s Zaman.

According to reports, the Ministry of Labor has been working on a proposal to grant work permits to Syrians who are officially registered in Turkey, thereby giving them the means to earn a living legally. Business owners will reportedly only be required to pay a 2 percent social security contribution for Syrians they employ, while the regular contribution paid by businesses for Turkish employees is 32.5 percent.

This huge gap in social security payments between locals and Syrians is precisely what concerns Güneş. Noting that if such legislation goes into effect, employers would be more inclined to employ Syrian instead of Turkish workers, Güneş said: “This would surely provoke further hostilities toward Syrians in Turkey. This should not be allowed to happen. This is why I submitted a proposal for an investigation to be launched by Parliament into the situation of Syrians in Turkey.”

FULL ARTICLE (Today’s Zaman)

Photo: Mustafa Khayat/flickr

Syrian Forces Advance on Aleppo, Rebels Fear Another Siege | Maria Abi-Habib
REYHANLI, Turkey—Syrian government forces have nearly encircled Aleppo, preparing a siege to wrest control of the city from rebels in what would be the biggest blow yet to the three-year uprising.
The fall of Aleppo, Syria’s largest city and economic hub before the fighting, could also bolster the ranks of Islamic State militants who continue to make gains across the country, as defeated members of the Western-backed Free Syrian Army switch to their side.
Rebel commanders in Aleppo say they are stockpiling goods as aid groups step up food deliveries—crates of lentils, rice, ketchup and baby formula—seeking to prevent the same kind of mass starvation that forced them to surrender the much smaller city of Homs in May.
Losing Homs, once dubbed the capital of the revolution, was a tremendous blow to the rebels. If they lose the battle for Aleppo as well, it could spell the end of their revolt against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, rebel commanders warn.
FULL ARTICLE (The Wall Street Journal)
Photo: Ed Brambley/flickr

Syrian Forces Advance on Aleppo, Rebels Fear Another Siege | Maria Abi-Habib

REYHANLI, Turkey—Syrian government forces have nearly encircled Aleppo, preparing a siege to wrest control of the city from rebels in what would be the biggest blow yet to the three-year uprising.

The fall of Aleppo, Syria’s largest city and economic hub before the fighting, could also bolster the ranks of Islamic State militants who continue to make gains across the country, as defeated members of the Western-backed Free Syrian Army switch to their side.

Rebel commanders in Aleppo say they are stockpiling goods as aid groups step up food deliveries—crates of lentils, rice, ketchup and baby formula—seeking to prevent the same kind of mass starvation that forced them to surrender the much smaller city of Homs in May.

Losing Homs, once dubbed the capital of the revolution, was a tremendous blow to the rebels. If they lose the battle for Aleppo as well, it could spell the end of their revolt against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, rebel commanders warn.

FULL ARTICLE (The Wall Street Journal)

Photo: Ed Brambley/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

1 Aug
A pincer move - Iraq’s bloody mess has helped the regime in Syria and its jihadist enemy
WHEN an alliance of disgruntled Sunnis led by the Islamic State (IS), an extremist group formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), streaked across Iraq in June and proclaimed a caliphate in the territory it holds on both sides of the Syrian-Iraqi border, Syrian rebels with a more national focus thought their day had come. Surely, they surmised, America and its Western allies would not sit by and allow to prosper a group that had grown out of al-Qaeda in Iraq and killed American soldiers during the war there in 2003? Bar the Americans getting involved militarily, the only way for them to push back IS in Syria would be to bolster the more moderate rebels there.
A little more weaponry, mainly anti-tank missiles, did indeed arrive for eight vetted groups that have been supplied by a covert programme that since last year has been run by America and states in the Gulf and Europe that want to see the back of Bashar Assad, Syria’s president. These groups have made some gains in the northern part of Hama province and the southern part of Idleb, near the regime’s stronghold in western Syria (see map). But the main picture has not changed. Syria’s regime and IS both gain from the mess next door in Iraq, whereas the more moderate rebels are increasingly being squeezed. “The aid is for a plan to deal with a 2012 problem, not a 2014 one,” says Noah Bonsey, an American Syria-watcher at the International Crisis Group, a Brussels-based think-tank.
FULL ARTICLE (The Economist) 
Photo: James Gordon/flickr

A pincer move - Iraq’s bloody mess has helped the regime in Syria and its jihadist enemy

WHEN an alliance of disgruntled Sunnis led by the Islamic State (IS), an extremist group formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), streaked across Iraq in June and proclaimed a caliphate in the territory it holds on both sides of the Syrian-Iraqi border, Syrian rebels with a more national focus thought their day had come. Surely, they surmised, America and its Western allies would not sit by and allow to prosper a group that had grown out of al-Qaeda in Iraq and killed American soldiers during the war there in 2003? Bar the Americans getting involved militarily, the only way for them to push back IS in Syria would be to bolster the more moderate rebels there.

A little more weaponry, mainly anti-tank missiles, did indeed arrive for eight vetted groups that have been supplied by a covert programme that since last year has been run by America and states in the Gulf and Europe that want to see the back of Bashar Assad, Syria’s president. These groups have made some gains in the northern part of Hama province and the southern part of Idleb, near the regime’s stronghold in western Syria (see map). But the main picture has not changed. Syria’s regime and IS both gain from the mess next door in Iraq, whereas the more moderate rebels are increasingly being squeezed. “The aid is for a plan to deal with a 2012 problem, not a 2014 one,” says Noah Bonsey, an American Syria-watcher at the International Crisis Group, a Brussels-based think-tank.

FULL ARTICLE (The Economist

Photo: James Gordon/flickr

31 Jul
With Heartland Threatened, Lebanon’s Shiites See Hezbollah as “Protector of the Community”: Q&A with Sahar Atrache | Ramy Srour
The Lebanese militant group Hezbollah has engaged in intense fighting on the Syria-Lebanon border in recent weeks, as violence increasingly threatens to spill into the group’s heartland in Lebanon’s northeastern Bekaa Valley. As the Shiite militia clashed with Syrian rebel forces, including the al-Nusra Front, reports also emerged suggesting that the nephew of Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah had been killed during the clashes.
Despite its heavy involvement in a war that increasingly shows signs of violent spillover into Lebanon, Hezbollah has been able to retain a great deal of support from the Lebanese Shiite population, said Sahar Atrache, Lebanon analyst for the International Crisis Group, in a recent interview with the Global Observatory. Ms. Atrache, who is based in Beirut, indicated that the heavy casualties suffered by Lebanon’s Shiites because of the Syrian conflict have not altered the fact that Hezbollah is seen as “the protector of the community” against Sunni extremism.
FULL INTERVIEW (IPI Global Observatory)
Photo: Omarr/flickr

With Heartland Threatened, Lebanon’s Shiites See Hezbollah as “Protector of the Community”: Q&A with Sahar Atrache | Ramy Srour

The Lebanese militant group Hezbollah has engaged in intense fighting on the Syria-Lebanon border in recent weeks, as violence increasingly threatens to spill into the group’s heartland in Lebanon’s northeastern Bekaa Valley. As the Shiite militia clashed with Syrian rebel forces, including the al-Nusra Front, reports also emerged suggesting that the nephew of Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah had been killed during the clashes.

Despite its heavy involvement in a war that increasingly shows signs of violent spillover into Lebanon, Hezbollah has been able to retain a great deal of support from the Lebanese Shiite population, said Sahar Atrache, Lebanon analyst for the International Crisis Group, in a recent interview with the Global Observatory. Ms. Atrache, who is based in Beirut, indicated that the heavy casualties suffered by Lebanon’s Shiites because of the Syrian conflict have not altered the fact that Hezbollah is seen as “the protector of the community” against Sunni extremism.

FULL INTERVIEW (IPI Global Observatory)

Photo: Omarr/flickr

30 Jul
ISIS Dominates Eastern Syria, Now Eyes Key Regime Bases | Karen Leigh
The major objectives: to overtake any remaining opposition groups and to start chipping away at areas under the Assad regime, as it began to do earlier this month in an attack on the government-held Shaar gas field.
Since reaping money and military equipment in a June offensive on the Iraqi city of Mosul, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has effectively opened the border between Syria and Iraq and pushed further east through Raqqa, Deir Ezzor and Hassakeh provinces, becoming the dominant force there over Jabhat al-Nusra and other groups.
Now it has two major objectives: to overtake any remaining opposition groups and to start chipping away at areas under the Assad regime, as it began to do this month in a bloody attack on the government-held Shaar gas field in Hama province.
"Crushing hostile rebel groups thus remains ISIS’s top strategic priority in Syria, and an escalation near Aleppo that coincided with regime gains there could go a long way towards accomplishing that goal," says Noah Bonsey, the Beirut-based senior Syria analyst at the International Crisis Group.
FULL ARTICLE (Syria Deeply)
Photo: Bilal.afghan/Wikimedia Commons

ISIS Dominates Eastern Syria, Now Eyes Key Regime Bases | Karen Leigh

The major objectives: to overtake any remaining opposition groups and to start chipping away at areas under the Assad regime, as it began to do earlier this month in an attack on the government-held Shaar gas field.

Since reaping money and military equipment in a June offensive on the Iraqi city of Mosul, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has effectively opened the border between Syria and Iraq and pushed further east through Raqqa, Deir Ezzor and Hassakeh provinces, becoming the dominant force there over Jabhat al-Nusra and other groups.

Now it has two major objectives: to overtake any remaining opposition groups and to start chipping away at areas under the Assad regime, as it began to do this month in a bloody attack on the government-held Shaar gas field in Hama province.

"Crushing hostile rebel groups thus remains ISIS’s top strategic priority in Syria, and an escalation near Aleppo that coincided with regime gains there could go a long way towards accomplishing that goal," says Noah Bonsey, the Beirut-based senior Syria analyst at the International Crisis Group.

FULL ARTICLE (Syria Deeply)

Photo: Bilal.afghan/Wikimedia Commons

23 Jul
Why Triumphant Jihadis In Iraq Will Help Assad Crush Opposition In Aleppo | Noah Bonsey
Noah Bonsey is Crisis Group’s Senior Analyst for Syria.
The world’s most feared jihadi group, the Islamic State (ISIS), is parlaying its dramatic gains in Iraq into Syria. Already flush with cash and weapons, ISIS stands to receive another, invaluable windfall in Aleppo, Syria’s largest city prior to the war. Regime forces there are on the verge of encircling opposition militants. Their success in doing so would benefit ISIS as much as it would Bashar al-Assad, throttling the more moderate rebel enemy both share.
ISIS’s recent victory in eastern Deir al-Zour province — where it defeated a rebel alliance including jihadi rival Jabhat al-Nusra, and where it now controls all major oil fields and most population centers — enables the group to turn its attention elsewhere. Having gained resources and freed up manpower, ISIS can move to retake ground lost to rebel factions in and around Aleppo in early 2014.
Rebels there, weakened by that battle and the regime’s simultaneous campaign that exploited it, lack the organization and resources to halt the regime’s progress in severing rebel supply lines. Should ISIS escalate against rebels in the northern countryside, as the regime attempts to besiege their allies inside the city, it could potentially deal a terminal blow to the rebellion in Aleppo. ISIS would likely regain valuable territory along the Turkish border, positioning itself to attack the pragmatic rebel factions that dominate Aleppo’s western countryside and much of Idlib province.
Aleppo is the Prize
Given Aleppo’s importance in the war with the regime, the defeat of anti-ISIS rebels there would shatter the backbone of the mainstream armed opposition. In seeking the destruction of the mainstream opposition, as in so much else over the past year, regime and ISIS interests coincide.
For the former, it would render the possibility of an effective Western-rebel partnership even more remote, leaving the regime as the lone apparent alternative to ISIS rule. For the latter, it would create a vacuum in the anti-regime struggle that ISIS would seek to fill, hoping to eventually redeem its reputation among anti-Assad Syrians by emerging as their defender of last resort.
ISIS recently authored this very playbook in Iraq. There, in 2007, as in Syria in 2013, ISIS’s authoritarianism within opposition strongholds alienated civilians and turned rebel allies into foes. This fueled a backlash that eventually, with American help, drove the jihadis to the verge of defeat. Yet, in Iraq, ISIS — known then as the Islamic State of Iraq — laid the groundwork for its reemergence through lethal campaigns targeting the Sunnis who had turned against it.
It was helped by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, whose desire to monopolize power proved devastating to the cohesiveness, influence and credibility of any alternative Sunni leadership. The result, ultimately, is the current scene in Iraq: many who once fought ISIS now cheer it, or assist it by default, in their struggle against Shia-dominated forces that are viewed as corrupt occupiers by much of the Sunni population.
Turning from Iraq to Syria
The potential for ISIS to engineer a similar resurgence in Syria is real. Should it succeed, ISIS would be well-positioned to present itself to Sunnis in the region at large as the only remaining force with the strength to oppose reviled regimes in Baghdad and Damascus.
The American role in supporting rebels may be the key variable here. Recent, modest shifts in the U.S. approach have helped improve coordination among the opposition’s main regional backers (Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey), resulting in a drop in support to leading Islamist factions. But efforts to increase assistance to more moderate rebels remain hamstrung by familiar problems: the limited capacity and geographic scope of groups meeting Washington’s criteria; the parsimonious support delivered to rebels on key fronts, including Aleppo; and the regime’s freedom to bomb indiscriminately from the sky.
Although the current U.S. approach seems to aim solely at keeping rebel forces alive, it is on the verge of failing to do so. The U.S. has consistently avoided tough decisions in Syria, preferring supposedly lower-risk options that in practice contribute to the jihadi ascent. It did the same in Iraq during the past several years. If the outcome there is any indication, the need for a coherent American policy in Syria today is truly urgent.
ORIGINAL ARTICLE (Huffington Post)
Photo: james_gordon_losangeles/flickr

Why Triumphant Jihadis In Iraq Will Help Assad Crush Opposition In Aleppo | Noah Bonsey

Noah Bonsey is Crisis Group’s Senior Analyst for Syria.

The world’s most feared jihadi group, the Islamic State (ISIS), is parlaying its dramatic gains in Iraq into Syria. Already flush with cash and weapons, ISIS stands to receive another, invaluable windfall in Aleppo, Syria’s largest city prior to the war. Regime forces there are on the verge of encircling opposition militants. Their success in doing so would benefit ISIS as much as it would Bashar al-Assad, throttling the more moderate rebel enemy both share.

ISIS’s recent victory in eastern Deir al-Zour province — where it defeated a rebel alliance including jihadi rival Jabhat al-Nusra, and where it now controls all major oil fields and most population centers — enables the group to turn its attention elsewhere. Having gained resources and freed up manpower, ISIS can move to retake ground lost to rebel factions in and around Aleppo in early 2014.

Rebels there, weakened by that battle and the regime’s simultaneous campaign that exploited it, lack the organization and resources to halt the regime’s progress in severing rebel supply lines. Should ISIS escalate against rebels in the northern countryside, as the regime attempts to besiege their allies inside the city, it could potentially deal a terminal blow to the rebellion in Aleppo. ISIS would likely regain valuable territory along the Turkish border, positioning itself to attack the pragmatic rebel factions that dominate Aleppo’s western countryside and much of Idlib province.

Aleppo is the Prize

Given Aleppo’s importance in the war with the regime, the defeat of anti-ISIS rebels there would shatter the backbone of the mainstream armed opposition. In seeking the destruction of the mainstream opposition, as in so much else over the past year, regime and ISIS interests coincide.

For the former, it would render the possibility of an effective Western-rebel partnership even more remote, leaving the regime as the lone apparent alternative to ISIS rule. For the latter, it would create a vacuum in the anti-regime struggle that ISIS would seek to fill, hoping to eventually redeem its reputation among anti-Assad Syrians by emerging as their defender of last resort.

ISIS recently authored this very playbook in Iraq. There, in 2007, as in Syria in 2013, ISIS’s authoritarianism within opposition strongholds alienated civilians and turned rebel allies into foes. This fueled a backlash that eventually, with American help, drove the jihadis to the verge of defeat. Yet, in Iraq, ISIS — known then as the Islamic State of Iraq — laid the groundwork for its reemergence through lethal campaigns targeting the Sunnis who had turned against it.

It was helped by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, whose desire to monopolize power proved devastating to the cohesiveness, influence and credibility of any alternative Sunni leadership. The result, ultimately, is the current scene in Iraq: many who once fought ISIS now cheer it, or assist it by default, in their struggle against Shia-dominated forces that are viewed as corrupt occupiers by much of the Sunni population.

Turning from Iraq to Syria

The potential for ISIS to engineer a similar resurgence in Syria is real. Should it succeed, ISIS would be well-positioned to present itself to Sunnis in the region at large as the only remaining force with the strength to oppose reviled regimes in Baghdad and Damascus.

The American role in supporting rebels may be the key variable here. Recent, modest shifts in the U.S. approach have helped improve coordination among the opposition’s main regional backers (Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey), resulting in a drop in support to leading Islamist factions. But efforts to increase assistance to more moderate rebels remain hamstrung by familiar problems: the limited capacity and geographic scope of groups meeting Washington’s criteria; the parsimonious support delivered to rebels on key fronts, including Aleppo; and the regime’s freedom to bomb indiscriminately from the sky.

Although the current U.S. approach seems to aim solely at keeping rebel forces alive, it is on the verge of failing to do so. The U.S. has consistently avoided tough decisions in Syria, preferring supposedly lower-risk options that in practice contribute to the jihadi ascent. It did the same in Iraq during the past several years. If the outcome there is any indication, the need for a coherent American policy in Syria today is truly urgent.

ORIGINAL ARTICLE (Huffington Post)

Photo: james_gordon_losangeles/flickr

24 Jun
Refugee-hit Turkey’s new Syrian Kurdish Dilemmas | Hugh Pope (@HughPope)
Şenyurt, Turkey: Fleeing from fighting and hunger in north-eastern Syria a year and a half ago, Abdullah’s family found refuge in a crowded refugee camp in Turkey. Nine months later, his three-year-old son Mohammed caught meningitis. Fearing for the health of his other two children, Abdullah rented a room in a mud-brick house here in the small town of Şenyurt, joining the little-seen Kurdish minority among Turkey’s one million Syrian “urban refugees”.
As Mohammed lay immobile, Turkish hospitals tried to treat him. But doctors’ advice was largely unintelligible to Abdullah’s Kurdish- and Arabic-speaking family. Above all, Abdullah felt that the Turkish medicines weren’t good enough. So he returned to the country from which he had escaped, even taking the daily Syrian Airways flight from the northern town of Qamishli to Damascus in search of “stronger” medicine. “At least his eyes are open now”, Abdullah said.
Abdullah’s journeys are just one of many paradoxes on the eastern end of Turkey’s 911km-long border with Syria. Many stem from Turkey’s conflicted and evolving view of ethnic Kurds, who are the majority on both sides of the frontier here in Mardin province. Some in Turkey challenge the legitimacy of the border itself, which, drawn a century ago by imperial Britain and France, cuts a once united town in half along the railway line – Syria’s al-Darbasiya to the south, Turkey’s Şenyurt to the north. Others believe Turkey would be mad to do anything to open up the border and empower the Syrian Kurds who dominate three cantons south of the border. They believe they have a mortal enemy in the main Syrian Kurdish militia, the Democratic Union Party (Partiya Yekîtiya Demokrat, PYD), the Syrian sister party of Turkey’s Kurdistan Workers’ Party (Partiya Karkarane Kurdistan, PKK), which has waged an insurgent war against Ankara for three decades. (For more on the PYD, see Crisis Group’s 8 May report Flight of Icarus: The PYD’s Precarious Rise in Syria.)
Şenyurt represents a compromise between these two positions: little aid ever gets across the Syrian Kurdish sections of the border, but most days Turkish soldiers allow 500-600 Syrians, mostly Kurds, to cross each way between an improvised chicane of sandbags by a railway siding. Just ten metres away flies the flag of the PYD’s first checkpoint. To many Kurds in the region, such normalisation is a glimpse of hope that a peace process sporadically under way since the late 2000s between Turkey and the PKK may be leading to more relaxed policies, not just in Turkey, but also towards the PYD.
FULL ARTICLE (Crisis Group: In Pursuit of Peace)
Photo: CRISIS GROUP/Hugh Pope

Refugee-hit Turkey’s new Syrian Kurdish Dilemmas | Hugh Pope (@HughPope)

Şenyurt, Turkey: Fleeing from fighting and hunger in north-eastern Syria a year and a half ago, Abdullah’s family found refuge in a crowded refugee camp in Turkey. Nine months later, his three-year-old son Mohammed caught meningitis. Fearing for the health of his other two children, Abdullah rented a room in a mud-brick house here in the small town of Şenyurt, joining the little-seen Kurdish minority among Turkey’s one million Syrian “urban refugees”.

As Mohammed lay immobile, Turkish hospitals tried to treat him. But doctors’ advice was largely unintelligible to Abdullah’s Kurdish- and Arabic-speaking family. Above all, Abdullah felt that the Turkish medicines weren’t good enough. So he returned to the country from which he had escaped, even taking the daily Syrian Airways flight from the northern town of Qamishli to Damascus in search of “stronger” medicine. “At least his eyes are open now”, Abdullah said.

Abdullah’s journeys are just one of many paradoxes on the eastern end of Turkey’s 911km-long border with Syria. Many stem from Turkey’s conflicted and evolving view of ethnic Kurds, who are the majority on both sides of the frontier here in Mardin province. Some in Turkey challenge the legitimacy of the border itself, which, drawn a century ago by imperial Britain and France, cuts a once united town in half along the railway line – Syria’s al-Darbasiya to the south, Turkey’s Şenyurt to the north. Others believe Turkey would be mad to do anything to open up the border and empower the Syrian Kurds who dominate three cantons south of the border. They believe they have a mortal enemy in the main Syrian Kurdish militia, the Democratic Union Party (Partiya Yekîtiya Demokrat, PYD), the Syrian sister party of Turkey’s Kurdistan Workers’ Party (Partiya Karkarane Kurdistan, PKK), which has waged an insurgent war against Ankara for three decades. (For more on the PYD, see Crisis Group’s 8 May report Flight of Icarus: The PYD’s Precarious Rise in Syria.)

Şenyurt represents a compromise between these two positions: little aid ever gets across the Syrian Kurdish sections of the border, but most days Turkish soldiers allow 500-600 Syrians, mostly Kurds, to cross each way between an improvised chicane of sandbags by a railway siding. Just ten metres away flies the flag of the PYD’s first checkpoint. To many Kurds in the region, such normalisation is a glimpse of hope that a peace process sporadically under way since the late 2000s between Turkey and the PKK may be leading to more relaxed policies, not just in Turkey, but also towards the PYD.

FULL ARTICLE (Crisis Group: In Pursuit of Peace)

Photo: CRISIS GROUP/Hugh Pope

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