In military terms, the fall of Daraa, in south-western Syria, to Iranian and regime forces last July eliminated the last insurgent-held pocket not dominated by jihadists. Politically, it had profound effects, demonstrating American disengagement and Israel’s misperceptions of the Syrian landscape, particularly Russia’s role in it.
Recent signs of renewed insurgency in Daraa, however, underline how far from over Syria’s war is and how badly the West has mishandled the crisis. Continue reading →
The U.S. Department of State designated Mubarak Mohammed Alotaibi, also transliterated as Mubarak Muhammad al-Utaybi, as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT), because he has “committed, or pose[s] a significant risk of committing, acts of terrorism that threaten the security of U.S. nationals or the national security, foreign policy, or economy of the United States.” Al-Utaybi is a citizen of Saudi Arabia and is the “Syria-based deputy leader” of the Islamic State’s (IS) branch in the Saudi Kingdom. Continue reading →
The operation to clear the Islamic State (IS) from its Iraqi capital, Mosul, began on 17 October and is now 188 days old. IS was announced cleared from east Mosul on 25 January, and the offensive that began on 19 February to clear the more densely-populated and difficult west Mosul has ostensibly swept IS from sixty percent of that area. Official sources claim IS now controls less than seven percent of Iraqi territory, down from forty percent in 2014. But yesterday, a car bomb struck Zuhur, the first attack of this kind in east Mosul since February, murdering at least four people. This is part of a pattern of attacks that suggests the Mosul operation itself was rushed and more importantly that IS is already recovering in liberated areas. Continue reading →
Islamic State fortifications in Deir Ezzor (from an IS video, 11 July 2016)
The Islamic State (IS) is nominally under attack now in its twin capitals, Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria. This is necessary task, of course, but, as I’ve writtenrepeatedly over the last few months, clearing IS from its urban centres is not sufficient. IS lost its overt urban holdings once before and nonetheless rebuilt in the deserts between 2008 and 2013, rising again to seize increasingly-large tracts of territory that were eventually declared a caliphate. IS was able to do this because of the success of its long-term method of war-making, and political changes in Baghdad—toward greater sectarianism and authoritarianism—that gave it more space to manoeuvre. The flaws in the strategy and partners the U.S.-led international Coalition have chosen to eliminate IS are creating a situation in which what will be called “victory” is really the resetting of the cycle. More evidence of this has recently come to the fore. Continue reading →