The Islamic State (IS) was driven from the city of Manbij yesterday, a key supply route to the Turkish border in northern Syria, the conclusion of an operation launched on 31 May by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a front-group for the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), represented in Syria by the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its armed wing, the People’s Protection Units (YPG). The SDF was backed by U.S. airstrikes. It is difficult not to see the defeat of IS as a positive development. It is, however, worth more closely examining the forces that are being enabled by Western power to fasten their rule across northern Syria, whose vision is deeply problematic—even in narrow terms of the fight against IS. Continue reading
Since the main point of this post is “I Told You So,” I should get it over early. Some of us have maintained that—whatever the political view one takes of the invasion of Iraq—the factual question, “Where are the weapons of mass destruction?”, remains a live one. Now the New York Times agrees.
Last Thursday, in Akrama, an Alawi section of Homs City, there was the most extraordinary scene: Alawite anti-Assad protests. A twin bombing at a local school—reported as a suicide bombing by the regime, though there is no evidence for this—had massacred fifty Alawi civilians, most of them pupils. Annexing the slogans of the revolution, the Alawis took to the streets to demand the removal of Homs Governor Talal al-Barazi. “The people want to topple the governor,” people shouted, a conscious echo of the “Arab Spring” chant, a-shab yurid izkat an-nizam (the people want to topple the regime). Continue reading
After three-and-a-half years of resistance, the United States finally intervened in Syria on September 23 with airstrikes against the Islamic State (I.S.). The I.S. had begun an attack on the Kurdish-controlled enclave in northern Aleppo along the Turkish border on September 15/16. By October 5, the Kurdish forces had been driven back into the Kurdish-majority town of Kobani (a.k.a. Ayn al-Arab), and I.S. had them surrounded. The desperate scenes of Syrian Kurds fleeing over the Turkish border in the face of the takfiris’ recalls the Iraqi Kurds making a run for the hills after the March 1991 uprising against Saddam Hussein was crushed. Then as now the Kurds believed they had stronger American backing than turned out to be the case. Continue reading