Showing posts tagged as "syria"
Showing posts tagged syria
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
Crisis Group President Jean-Marie Guéhenno discusses Syria and the UN on the BBC.
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
"As Aleppo goes, so goes Syria’s rebellion. The city is crucial to the mainstream opposition’s military viability as well as its morale, thus to halting the advance of the Islamic State (IS). After an alliance of armed rebel factions seized its eastern half in July 2012, Aleppo for a time symbolised the opposition’s optimism and momentum; in the following months, it exposed the rebels’ limits, as their progress slowed, and they struggled to win over the local population. Today, locked in a two-front war against the regime and IS, their position is more precarious than at any time since the fighting began."
—From Crisis Group’s report Rigged Cars and Barrel Bombs: Aleppo and the State of the Syrian War
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
Rigged Cars and Barrel Bombs: Aleppo and the State of the Syrian War
Beirut/Brussels | 9 Sep 2014
Syria is sliding toward unending war between an autocratic, sectarian regime and the even more autocratic, more sectarian jihadi group that has made dramatic gains in both Syria and Iraq. Without either a ceasefire in Aleppo or greater support from its state backers, the mainstream opposition is likely to suffer a defeat that will dash chances of a political resolution for the foreseeable future.
It is hard to overstate the importance of the battle for greater Aleppo: continued gains there by the regime and Islamic State (IS) threaten the viability of the mainstream opposition as a whole, the defeat of which would be an unprecedented boon to IS and would render a negotiated resolution of the conflict all but impossible. In its latest report, Rigged Cars and Barrel Bombs: Aleppo and the State of the Syrian War, International Crisis Group focuses on Aleppo’s importance, analyses regime and IS strategies and examines the decision-making and political evolution of rebel forces.
The report’s major findings and recommendations are:
- There are two means of averting Aleppo’s fall. The first – immediately negotiating and implementing a ceasefire there between the regime and anti-IS rebels, including a regime withdrawal from recently captured territory – is unlikely because it would require a fundamental shift in Damascus’ objectives and strategy. The second – improving and increasing support by the opposition’s Western and regional state backers to local, non-jihadi rebels in Aleppo – is risky.
- Risks notwithstanding, augmenting support to mainstream rebels would offer potential benefits such as shifting the intra-rebel balance of power toward non-ideological groups and encouraging greater pragmatism among other factions. Their backers must jointly apply carrots and sticks to promote pragmatic political engagement with the regime and respect for local civil society, while penalising criminal behaviour, indiscriminate tactics and sectarian rhetoric.
- Calls for Western partnership with the Assad regime against jihadis are ill-conceived, unless Damascus and its allies fundamentally revise their postures. As long as the regime’s strategy strengthens the ji-hadis it claims to combat, a rapprochement would redound to IS’s advantage.
- At least in the absence of a coherent strategy to empower credible Sunni alternatives to IS, proposals for expanding U.S. airstrikes into Syria are similarly problematic; the resulting boost to IS recruitment might outweigh the group’s tactical losses.
“At stake in Aleppo is not regime victory but opposition defeat” says Noah Bonsey, Syria Senior Analyst. “If that occurs, the war would continue, pitting regime and allied forces lacking capacity to reconquer north and east Syria against an emboldened IS strengthened by recruits from rebel remnants”.
“If the regime and its Iranian and Russian backers truly wish to diminish jihadi power in Syria, they must change their strategy from pursuing the military defeat of the mainstream opposition to identifying jihadis as the primary threat”, says Jean-Marie Guéhenno, Crisis Group’s President. “Otherwise, they are leaving it to the opposition’s backers to determine whether and how to fight IS”.
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
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
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