Iranian Foreign Minister Muhammad Javad Zarif, December 2020, during an interview with Lotfullah Najafizada of TOLO News
Iran’s Foreign Minister, Muhammad Javad Zarif, took part in an oral history project intended for internal use by the clerical dictatorship in February and on 25 April the audio was leaked—so goes the story. There is every reason to think this is a controlled leak, which is to say an information operation or a piece of strategic messaging—more pejoratively, propaganda or disinformation: choose the terminology as you will—intended to assist the Iranian theocracy as it works through its negotiations on the nuclear file with the new American administration of President Joe Biden. Still, there are some insights from this episode, as with an interview Zarif gave—focused on Afghanistan—in December. Continue reading →
Russia’s presidential envoy for Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov
Russian ruler Vladimir Putin’s current special envoy for Afghanistan, Zamir Kabulov, spoke to Sputnik’s Tajik service on 17 February, and a translation of the interview is published below with some interesting sections highlighted in bold. Kabulov was the KGB resident in Kabul in the 1980s and early 1990s, and later in the 1990s, during the Taliban’s reign over Kabul and much of the rest of the country, he was an adviser to the United Nations peace envoy. Continue reading →
The world has been captivated this week by the scenes of an insurrectionary mob overrunning the United States Capitol at the behest of President Donald Trump. It is unlikely that many people remember or even know that nearly forty years ago, this building—the meeting place of the U.S. Congress, the place where laws are made—was bombed by a Communist terrorist group, a group remarkable for its all-female membership. A new book, Tonight We Bombed the Capitol: The Explosive Story of M19, America’s First Female Terrorist Group, by William Rosenau, a senior policy historian at CNA and a fellow in the International Security program at New America, examines this forgotten episode. Continue reading →
Al-Qaeda’s General Command released a statement on 29 June 2020 through its As-Sahab Media, entitled, “A Message For The Oppressed Masses In The West”, which seeks to capitalise on the recent unrest in the United States by offering Islam as the solution to racial divisions. Al-Qaeda, of course, diagnoses the root cause of America’s problems in its greed “Jewish overlords”, an antisemitic conspiracy theory that is common to most jihadists. The text of this message is reproduced below. Continue reading →
U.S. President Donald Trump and Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan meeting during the G20 leaders summit in Osaka, Japan, 29 June 2019 [image source]
The delivery of the first parts of the Russian S-400 anti-missile missile system to Turkey on 12 July has brought the crisis in the Turkish-American relations to a head. This long-simmering problem is intertwined with America’s and Turkey’s policies in Syria, specifically where the latter is responsive to the former, which has resulted in as serious rift within NATO and exposed Turkey to pressure from the Russian government. Continue reading →
Abbas Milani’s The Shah gives a portrait of Iran’s last monarch, Muhammad Reza Pahlavi, and the impact that his downfall forty years ago continues to have in the Middle East, notably the emboldening of the Islamist movement. Continue reading →
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has threatened a third military operation into Syria, this time in the east. The mobilisation of his proxies and other measures make clear that Erdoğan wants it to be believed he means it. The complication is that the intended target, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), are the chosen partners of the United States-led coalition against Islamic State (ISIS), and U.S. soldiers are present in the area. Continue reading →
The United States has taken steps Syria in recent months that suggest a shift towards reconciliation with Turkey. Even if this is so, however, there is still such a deep divide over strategic outlook that these steps could be easily reversed, opening a new round of uncertainty in northern Syria as 2018 draws to a close. Continue reading →
Foreign fighters with the YPG/PKK on the outskirts of Tal Tamr in northwestern Syria, 16 April 2015. UYGAR ÖNDER ŞİMŞEK / AFP / Getty Images
ABSTRACT: The Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) operates under the names of the Democratic Union Party and the People’s Protection Units in Syria. The PKK is registered as a terrorist group by most Western governments, the European Union and Turkey, where it originated as a separatist organization. Nonetheless, the YPG has been the partner of the United States-led coalition in Syria against the ISIS. The strengthening of the YPG/PKK and its political messaging has brought in a flow of western foreign fighters. Some of these fighters are now returning to their homelands with indications that they are bringing security problems with them.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson laid out the Trump administration’s vision for Syria, making clear that, contrary to the expectations of many, the United States will stay in Syria beyond the collapse of the Islamic State’s (ISIS) self-proclaimed caliphate, holding the jihadists at bay and establishing an order compatible with US interests.
Crucially, Tillerson—in a sharp break with US President Donald Trump’s predecessor—specified that countering Iranian influence within Syria was a central US objective. The problem with the strategy is that it seems to rely on repurposing the United States’ anti-ISIS Kurdish militia allies against the Iranian revolution. Continue reading →