Showing posts with label Arab World. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Arab World. Show all posts

23 October 2017

Turkey’s Incursion into Syria: Making Things Better or Worse?

By Steven Cook

It is not easy to follow what has been happening in Syria. After six years of war and between 300,000 and 400,000 people killed — with half the population displaced and a dizzying array of factions, foreign armies and extremist groups fighting — it is hard to know who shares what interest with whom or how the killing stops.

U.S. Seeks to Stay Neutral in Iraq Conflict

by Ben Kesling, Nancy A. Youssef and Paul Sonne

The U.S. sought to stay on the sidelines as an all-out battle broke out between two of its closest ground partners in the campaign against Islamic State and raised concerns about a broader civil conflict erupting in Iraq. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi ordered federal troops to push into Kirkuk province early Monday and occupy strategic locations that Kurdish Peshmerga forces had taken in a disputed area during the three-year battle against the Sunni militant group. The clashes follow a referendum in which the Kurds, who run their own semiautonomous region in northern Iraq, voted overwhelmingly in favor of independence, defying Baghdad, regional powers and the U.S, which warned it would distract from the final battles to defeat Islamic State.

With Loss of Its Caliphate, ISIS May Return to Guerrilla Roots

by Margaret Coker

Its de facto capital is falling. Its territory has shriveled from the size of Portugal to a handful of outposts. Its surviving leaders are on the run.But rather than declare the Islamic State and its virulent ideology conquered, many Western and Arab counterterrorism officials are bracing for a new, lethal incarnation of the jihadist group.The organization has a proven track record as an insurgency able to withstand major military onslaughts, while still recruiting adherents around the world ready to kill in its name.

Can ISIS Survive Defeat in Raqqa?

Milo Comerford

As the last remaining ISIS fighters are hunted down in Raqqa after a four-month Kurdish-led and US-backed offensive, some are heralding the group’s final defeat, three years and four months after it declared its ‘Caliphate’ across Syria and northern Iraq.But while its impending territorial defeat is significant, reports of ISIS’s death are wrong.You can’t kill an idea. Especially when the group has laid down deep ideological roots through its “Islamic state,” building a flourishing global network and a considerable online presence.

22 October 2017

Syrian Reconstruction Spells Juicy Contracts for Russian, Iranian Firms

The worst violence of the six-year-long Syrian civil war is winding down, as government forces under Syrian President Bashar al-Assad have reclaimed large swathes of rebel-held territory and the Islamic State has been pushed out of its major strongholds.But where millions of Syrian civilians have seen destruction and hundreds of thousands have died over the last six years, companies inside and outside of Syria now see dollar signs. Almost every destroyed bridge, road, building, and power plant will be a chance for a potentially lucrative government construction contract, which the regime will soon start handing out.

20 October 2017

Islam and the Patterns in Terrorism and Violent Extremism

Recently Anthony H. Cordesman, Arleigh A. Burke Chair in Strategy at Center for Stratrgic and International Studies has come out with, as usual, a very well researched paper on Islam and the Patterns in Terrorism and Violent Extremism : Putting the Links Between Islam and Violent Extremism in Context

It is far too easy for analysts who are not Muslim to focus on the small part of the extremist threat that Muslim extremists pose to non-Muslims in the West and/or demonize one of the world's great religions, and to drift into some form of Islamophobia—blaming a faith for patterns of violence that are driven by a tiny fraction of the world's Muslims and by many other factors like population, failed governance, and weak economic development.It is equally easy to avoid analyzing the links between extremist violence and Islam in order to be politically correct or to avoid provoking Muslims and the governments of largely Muslim states. The end result is to ignore the reality that most extremist and terrorist violence does occur in largely Muslim states, although it overwhelmingly consists of attacks by Muslim extremists on fellow Muslims, and not some clash between civilizations.

If one examines a wide range of sources, however, a number of key patterns emerge that make five things very clear:

The overwhelming majority of extremist and violent terrorist incidents do occur in largely Muslim states.

Most of these incidents are perpetrated by a small minority of Muslims seeking power primarily in their own areas of operation and whose primary victims are fellow Muslims.

Almost all of the governments of the countries involved are actively fighting extremism and terrorism, and most are allies of Western states that work closely with the security, military, and counterterrorism forces of non-Muslim states to fight extremism and terrorism.

Vast majority of Muslims oppose violent extremism and terrorism.

Religion is only one of many factors that lead to instability and violence in largely Muslim states. It is a critical ideological force in shaping the current patterns of extremism, but it does not represent the core values of Islam and many other far more material factors help lead to the rise of extremism.

Deduction of Cordesman is : The trends in the current "wars" on terrorism, the degree to which partnerships between Muslim and non-Muslim states form the core of the effort to defeat extremism, and the extent to which the rise of extremism ensures that it may take several decades of active security partnerships to end the threat.

Global Patterns of Terrorism Are Dominated by Extremism in Largely Muslim States. 

The patterns of extremist violence are dominated by violence in largely Muslim states and by extremist movements that claim to represent Islamic values.Only a relatively small portion of the incidents can be attributed to ISIS.Defeating today's key perpetrators is critical, but it in no way will defeat the longer term threat. 

There is No “Clash of Civilizations.” The Vast Majority of Muslims Consistently Reject Extremism and Terrorism. the vast majority of Muslims do not support extremist violence, and that their primary concerns are jobs, the quality of governance, security, and the same practical values shared by non-Muslims. 

The Battle of Perceptions, and Popular Motives in the MENA Region and Islamic World. Only 17% of Muslims saw religion as the key factor in recruiting fighters for ISIS, and that interpretations of Islam ranked seventh in a poll examining Arab views of way to defeat extremism. 77% of Arabs polled still felt that the Arab peoples were a single nation, rather than focused on the actions of their government and their own nation situation. 

Casualties in the U.S. and Europe Are All Too Real. But, it is Muslims that Are the Overwhelming Victims of Extremist Attacks. No one can condone or ignore the numbers killed in the U.S. and Europe, but they are relatively tiny in actuarial terms. For example, there were 658 deaths in Europe and all of the Americas between January 1, 2015 and July 16, 2016. There were 28,031—or 43 times more deaths—in other regions—most of them consisting of largely Islamic countries. Almost all of the human impact of extremist attacks is Muslims killing or injuring fellow Muslims. 

Restrictions on Religion Attempt to Limit Extremism in Much of the Islamic World. Most governments in largely Muslim states are actively moving to suppress religious extremism in their country. 

Extremism Poses a Critical Threat to the Ability of Largely Islamic States to Meet the Needs of Their Rapidly Growing Populations. Many Muslims feel their governments are corrupt and that secular options fail to protect them and provide adequate future opportunities.Population pressure and corruption are critical factors, as are ethnic and sectarian divisions and hyperurbanization. Youth lack jobs and opportunity in many states, and per capita incomes are sometimes critically low. 

Islamic States Are Key Strategic Partners in the Fight Against Extremism, and the Rising Global Impact of Islam Makes These Partnerships Steadily More Critical. Almost all of the states with large Muslim majorities have governments that already cooperate with the U.S. in the struggle against extremism. The need for lasting strategic partnerships with Muslim states is reinforced by key demographic trends on a global basis. The total number of Muslims will increase from 1.6 billion in 2010 to 2.76 billion in 2015—an increase of 73% or 1.16 billion people. 

ISIS, Al Qaida and the Taliban Are Key Current Threats. But are Only One Small Part of a Far Broader Problem that Will Endure for Decades. Al Qaida, ISIS, the Taliban, and the other main targets of today's anti-terrorism and anti-extremist efforts are only a comparatively limited part of even current threats. 

Even Total Victory in Syria and Iraq Could Only Have a Limited Impact: Most IISS “Affiliates” Outside Iraq and Syria Are Not Closely Linked to the ISIS “Caliphates” and Will Survive ISIS Defeats in Iraq and Syria. 

he Current Fighting in Syria and Iraq is Unlikely to Bring Any Lasting Security and Stability. This is Even More True of the Fighting in Afghanistan and Pakistan. 

Terrorism and Extremism in Yemen Have Become a Strategic “Black Hole” 

As usual there are lot of statistics and graphics in this paper. Some are appended below. 

19 October 2017

The Key to Countering Iran

Political and economic pressure from the United States will unite Iran's fractious political system behind the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which lies at the heart of Tehran's regional strategy.

Washington's recent addition of the IRGC to the Treasury Department's list of terrorist groups probably won't have a substantial impact on the organization's ability to fund itself and allied militant groups across the Middle East.

In response to the U.S. decision, Iran will boost its military and political support for the IRGC by expanding its budget for asymmetric operations, including the activities of the elite Quds Force and ballistic missile development.

The Need for a Real New Strategy to Deal with Iran and the Gulf

By Anthony Cordesman

Early in the Trump Administration, the President signed Executive Orders calling for the development of a new strategy to deal with Iran and the defense of the Gulf. The White House announced the broad outline of this strategy for Iran on October 13, 2017—going far beyond the expected focus on failing to certify Iran's compliance with the Iran nuclear arms agreement with the UN—the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA.

The White House Outline of the New Strategy

18 October 2017

Political Primacy, Strategic Risks, and ISIL after the Caliphate

Dr. Craig Whiteside

One of the differences between states and non-state actors is a sense of permanence. Germany and Japan were completely defeated after World War II, yet today these states are important players in the international order. Even after the Syrian civil war and the fall of Mosul and other cities in 2014, the Iraqi government – and to a much lesser extent Syria – are still recognized as the sovereign power over the land that falls within their respective borders. Armed groups are not afforded this courtesy, and some world leaders seem confident that the successful campaign to dismantle the so-called ISIL caliphate translates into a much diminished future for the group known as ISIL. 

17 October 2017

Russia's Hand Is Visible Everywhere in the Middle East

By Nikolas Gvosdev

Four years ago, my colleagues Tom Nichols and John Schindler warned that U.S. fecklessness in the Middle East was creating conditions where Russia would be able to emerge as the key player in regional security. In responding to critics of their original article, they penned a follow-up days later that laid out the Russian strategy: to present Moscow as a “viable alternative partner” for the states of the region. At the time, they were roundly criticized for their apparent pessimistic assessment that a collapsing “regional power” would be able to diminish the influence of the world’s sole remaining superpower in the Middle East or even that Moscow would have anything it could offer to compete with Washington’s largesse.

14 October 2017

Iran's Great Cultural Advantage

By Robert Kaplan

Throughout all the vicissitudes of dealing with Iran, an obvious fact has been insufficiently addressed: The external behavior of Iran's regime is simply more dynamic and more effective than that of any other Muslim regime in the Middle East. Iran has constructed thousands of centrifuges. Tehran has trained and equipped Hezbollah in Lebanon and Shiite forces in Iraq and Yemen, and it has propped up Syria's embattled president. Turkey and the Arab world appear sleepy-eyed in comparison. Iran acts. The other Muslim countries struggle to formulate responses, and when they do, they are still less effective than the Iranians. Why is that so? What secret sauce does the Iranian regime have?

13 October 2017

Iran, Trump And The Art Of The Nuclear Deal

by Matthew Bey

Deep ideological differences and mutual mistrust have marred the relationship between the United States and Iran since the Islamic Republic replaced the nation's monarchy nearly four decades ago. But time has done little to heal the wounds that each country has inflicted on the other. Their enduring enmity will be on full display this week as U.S. President Donald Trump prepares to "decertify" the deal Iran has struck with global powers on its nuclear program by arguing that the agreement isn't in the best interest of U.S. national security. Though Washington will likely keep sanctions relief for Tehran in place for now, Trump's speech will trigger a 60-day review period during which Congress will have the power to reimpose them.

12 October 2017

Status Report on the Situation in Syria

The rebels are falling apart. Russia, Iran, Turkey and the Assads have used their “de-escalation” zones into slaughterhouses by resuming attacks on pro-rebel civilians and any rebels they can catch. ISIL is rapidly losing it personnel and territory because of constant attacks by just about everyone (Turks, Kurds, Assad and his Iranian and Russian allies as well as the Americans and sundry other minor players). As ISIL is being put down everyone is thinking about the next phase of the civil war. The winners want to get rewarded for their service. The Syrian Kurds want autonomy in the northeast (mainly Hasakah province) and protection of Turkish efforts to keep the Syrian Kurds away from the Turkish border. That’s going to be a problem. There are more problems in the north, such as the FSA (Free Syrian Army). This group was a major player early on because it was largely secular and popular with Western nations. But most Syrian rebels preferred more radical groups like al Qaeda and eventually ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant). FSA continued to exist and eventually found a patron in Turkey, which apparently plans to turn over control of the Syrian side of the border to FSA, if the Assads and Syrian Kurds can be taken care of.

10 October 2017

After the fall of ISIS, what’s next for counterterrorism?

William McCants
Source Link

As ISIS continues to lose territory in Iraq and Syria, leaders in the region and the West will need to develop a new counterterrorism strategy to adapt to the group’s decentralization. Europe, meanwhile, has seen a surge of ISIS-claimed terrorist attacks on its own soil. In the context of these new challenges, experts on counterterrorism gathered at the 2017 U.S.-Islamic World Forum to discuss what governments, civil society, and the private sector can do.

ISIS Fighters, Having Pledged to Fight or Die, Surrender en Masse


DIBIS, Iraq — The prisoners were taken to a waiting room in groups of four, and were told to stand facing the concrete wall, their noses almost touching it, their hands bound behind their backs.

7 October 2017

A Lasting Defeat: The Campaign to Destroy ISIS

Ash Carter

On December 11, 2016, just before my time as Secretary of Defense would end, I stepped off a C-130 transport plane onto a cold and dusty patch of northern Iraq that had been on my mind for more than a year: an Iraqi military airfield called Qayyarah West. Q-West, as it was known to the American military, was a talisman of progress on one of the defining issues of my time as secretary, the fight to defeat ISIS. A year before, General Joe Dunford and I had briefed the President on a plan to energize the counter-ISIS fight. We had laid out a series of military tasks, in Iraq and Syria, that would lead us to the liberation of ISIS’ strongholds in Mosul, Iraq, and Raqqa, Syria. Q-West was a fulcrum of that plan. Ejecting ISIS and turning the airstrip into a logistics hub was essential to seizing Mosul, just 40 miles to the north.

6 October 2017



At this crucial point in the war against the self-proclaimed Islamic State, as it hemorrhages territory across Syria and Iraq, the latest analytical fad in the study of this movement may be leading policymakers to repeat the mistakes of a mere decade ago. The term “virtual caliphate” has grown in popularity as a way to describe the future trajectory of the Islamic State. More than just a catchy sound bite, it has emerged as a way to conceptualize how the Islamic State will recalibrate its efforts in the wake of territorial losses. And so, the notion of a virtual caliphate appears to be shaping strategic-policy debate and development. For example, Gen. Joseph Votel, the commander of U.S. Central Command, co-authored the report #Virtual Caliphate: Defeating ISIL on the Physical Battlefield is Not Enough with Lt. Col. Christina Bembenek, Charles Hans, Jeffery Mouton, and Amanda Spencer. This is how the authors describe the virtual caliphate:

The US-Russia Race to Beat ISIS in Eastern Syria

By Patrick Hoover

The race to rule eastern Syria after the defeat of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is quickly and quietly escalating into a focal point of US-Russian tension and competition. The US-backed, Kurdish-majority Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and the Russian-backed Syrian regime are conducting separate, but competing, offensives in Deir al-Zour Province, ISIS’ last remaining territorial stronghold. The United States and Russia must not only jointly work toward de-confliction, but also recognize the dangerous fluidity and deep influence of local dynamics in shaping the post-ISIS future.

REPORT Abandoning Iranian Nuclear Deal Could Lead to New Wave of Cyberattacks


Over the last two years, U.S. banks and government agencies have enjoyed a notable respite from malicious Iranian cyber activity. The timing of this drop-off happens to coincide with the signing of the nuclear deal with Iran in 2015.

Now with U.S. President Donald Trump threatening to walk away from the nuclear deal, cybersecurity experts say it is likely Iran could resume its attacks against Western targets should Trump actually follow through with his threat.

5 October 2017

Terror Has Gone Low-Tech


After the fifth low-tech terrorist attack this year alone in the U.K. — not to mention a spate of attacks across Europe since 2014, and earlier — it is time for governments to reevaluate their approach. At the core of this self-assessment should be a simple recognition, which itself requires separating facts from appearances when it comes to terrorism.