In the 270th edition of Al-Naba, the Islamic State’s (IS) weekly newsletter, on 22 January, the main editorial on page three is entitled, “Towards A ‘Unified Syria’ Under the Rule of Unbelief!” The basic premise is that the United States is trying to orchestrate a reunification of Syria that keeps Bashar al-Asad in power, supported by Russia (with, curiously, no mention of Iran, not in the whole article); brings the PKK (“Syrian Democratic Forces”) home to Damascus; and reconciles the “Awakening” (rebel) forces supported by “secular Turkey” to this state system. Continue reading
There is now, with various caveats, a general agreement that the Islamic State (IS) is on the upswing—in Iraq, particularly, but also in the Badiya, the desert regions of eastern Syria, and more recently in the south of Syria around Deraa. Still, there have been some recent notable gains against the terrorist group. Continue reading
A version of this article was published in The Arab Weekly
Mustafa Bali, head of the press office for the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the coalition partner against the Islamic State (ISIS) in Syria, sent a tweet on November 14 showing Turkey’s Arab proxies engaged in “ISIS chants.” By this, he meant the takbir, “God is Great,” an expression used by Muslims every day. When criticised, Bali doubled down and blocked many critics. This was a microcosm of one of the darker threads in an SDF messaging strategy that is among the most effective propaganda campaigns on record. Continue reading
By Oved Lobel on 18 November 2019My friend Oved Lobel, a researcher focused on Russia’s role in the Middle East (among other things), found several interviews the Russian media did with Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leaders, one with the leader himself Abdullah Ocalan, talking about, inter alia, the group’s relationship with Moscow. He very helpfully translated them and with his permission they are published below.
The broad outline of the PKK’s relationship with the Soviet Union—and then the Russian Federation—is fairly clear. After the PKK was founded in Turkey in the late 1970s by Ocalan, it was evicted from the country during the 1980 military coup. The PKK moved to Syria, where Ocalan was already based, having fled Turkey in June 1979. From there, the PKK moved into the Bekaa area of Lebanon, at that time controlled by the Syrian regime of Hafez al-Asad, and the Soviets acted through Asad, as they so often did in dealing with terrorist groups, to build the PKK into a fighting force that was then unleashed in 1984 on Turkey, a frontline NATO state in the Cold War. Continue reading
A version of this article was published at The Arab Weekly.
The beginning of Turkey’s third incursion into Syria on Wednesday, this time dubbed Operation PEACE SPRING and aimed at the areas east of the Euphrates River, is the culmination of an American policy started under Barack Obama that has been continued by Donald Trump. That it is inevitable makes it no less tragic for the innocents caught up in this mess. It does mean that the emotive posturing on social media, and attempts by Obama era officials to cast the blame for the Syria catastrophe onto Trump, are more-than-usually grotesque. Continue reading