Whatever pretence there was left in Syria’s “cessation of hostilities” (CoH)—which was never more than a reduction in hostilities—enacted at midnight on 26/27 February is now at an end. Russia and the regime of Bashar al-Assad have never ceased attempts to militarily weaken the armed opposition and escalated with a concerted campaign of aerial bombardment against Aleppo City on 22 April. The insurgency fully mobilized in response on 5 May with a major offensive south of the city. The dynamics set in place by Russia’s intervention—the bolstering of the Assad regime and the strengthening of extremist forces in the insurgency—have been in full view with this latest crisis, as has the longer-term trend of the United States moving toward the position of Assad, Russia, and especially Iran in Syria. Continue reading
Jabhat an-Nusra, the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda, has driven one of America’s oldest allied rebel groups in Syria from its headquarters. Nusra began its assault on Division 13 on Saturday night and by yesterday morning Nusra had looted the rebels’ weapons and Division 13’s leader, Ahmad as-Saoud, was in Turkey. This is the third major such incident, and each time the United States has done nothing to rescue its designated proxies. The U.S.’s rapprochement with the Islamic Republic of Iran has set conditions in Syria that make it easier for al-Qaeda to spread.
Yesterday, Jeffrey Goldberg’s latest interview with President Obama was published. There have been numerous worthwhile takes on what is a very revealing conversation, such as Max Boot and Nibras Kazimi, and it is very difficult to quarrel with the conclusion of David Frum that “the dominant theme of these interviews is that we, all of us, have grievously let down the president,” who has exactly one self-criticism: “Obama admits he does not make sufficient allowances for how unreasonable other people are.” What I think deserves most attention is that the President has finally aligned his rhetoric, especially on Iran, with his actual foreign policy. Continue reading
Published at The Independent, submitted February 12.
In the coming days and weeks many people will weep for the fate of Aleppo. Many of these people will also continue to support the nuclear deal, which has facilitated this U.S.-Iran détente and supplied Iran the resources to make war. They will still consider it a triumph of diplomacy over military action—and never be called to account for the obvious contradiction.
The Geneva III peace process is the most immediate cause for this latest offensive against Aleppo, led on the ground by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and its proxies, as well as Russian airstrikes. The regime and Russia have used it as a cover to gain ground. Continue reading
In the last few days I’ve written about Russia’s initial military action in Syria, which is intended to prop up the dictatorship of Bashar al-Assad, and explained (with my friend James Snell) how U.S. policy has enabled this, both by effectively outsourcing Middle East policy to Vladimir Putin over the chemical weapons “red line” debacle, and by the pro-Iran tilt that is implicit in President Obama’s nuclear deal-facilitated move toward détente with the Islamic Republic: Obama is effectively supporting Iran’s assets in Syria, and Putin is now using those same pieces to prosecute his own war in the Levant. With this in the background, this post will focus on what Putin wants in Syria.
Putin’s aims in Syria can be boiled down to two: (1) Ensure the Assad tyranny survives, which includes the building of a permanent military-colonial outpost on the Mediterranean coast and destroying all the moderate rebels so that Syria can be presented as a choice of Assad or the Islamic State (I.S.), legitimizing Russia’s support for Assad; and (2) humiliating the West on the way to constructing an alternate world order to American hegemony. Continue reading
Published at National Review.
The situation in Syria could hardly get more desperate. With more than half the population displaced and 300,000 people dead, the civil war in Syria is the greatest humanitarian disaster of our time. But Syria is also a profound challenge to the American-underwritten geopolitical order that aspires toward free institutions and representative rule. As a direct consequence of policies pursued by the Obama administration, Iran and Russia, two enemies of this order, have taken their chance to assert their dominance. Continue reading
Published at National Review
The admission by the Taliban on July 30 that its leader, Mullah Muhammad Omar, had died was widely seen as good news for the Islamic State (ISIS) against its jihadist competitors. But while ISIS’s growing power in Afghanistan over the last year has garnered significant attention, the rise of Iran’s influence in the country has been less noted. Worse, in the light of the nuclear agreement with the U.S., Iran’s expanded influence is held by some observers to be a stability-promoting development. This is a dangerous fantasy that has already been falsified in the Fertile Crescent, where the synergetic growth of Iran and ISIS promotes chaos and radicalism—to the advantage of both and the disadvantage of the forces of moderation and order. Continue reading
On Sunday the British Embassy in Iran was reopened after four years of closure. The British government’s decision is consistent with two emerging trends: the United States using the nuclear accord to facilitate détente with Iran, and European States falling into line with this policy and beginning to compete to enter the emerging Iranian market.
The British Embassy in Tehran was closed in November 2011 after ‘protesters’—a regime-orchestrated mob—stormed the building, ostensibly in protest against sanctions. The regime claimed helplessness in the face of angry demonstrators.
But it is worth remembering that when Iranian citizens take to the streets in a manner the regime actually disapproves of, it mobilises its security forces to murder them, and imprison them en masse in facilities where they are, male and female, raped as a form of punishment and torture. Continue reading
In the last week, two events have provided further evidence that the United States has effectively sided with the Assad regime in Syria, acting effectively as the regime’s air force, and that America’s alliance with Assad is part of the broader policy of détente with Iran, facilitated by the nuclear deal, which has ceded Syria to Iran as a sphere of influence. Continue reading
Published at The Independent
With all the leaks and the numerous “interim” deals, the nuclear deal—the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)—made with Iran on July 14 contained few surprises. The deal makes Iran a threshold nuclear-weapons regime for its duration and smooths the path to an overt nuclear-weapons capacity afterward. In the meantime, it has given Iran extra resources for the export of terrorism. And that’s just if Iran keeps the deal. Continue reading