Archive for the ‘Middle East’ Category

Palestinian Embassy Opens In Vatican City

January 19, 2017 Leave a comment

Palestinian Embassy Opens In Vatican City

Pope Francis met with the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Saturday for the opening of a Palestinian embassy in Vatican City.

The inauguration of the embassy came just one day before representatives from 70 countries gathered in the French capital for an Israeli-Palestinian peace conference and amid threats by President-elect Donald Trump to illegally move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

The Paris talks began just weeks after a historic U.N. Security Council vote condemned Israel’s flagrant violation of international law in ongoing settlement construction on Palestinian territory.

The Vatican formally recognized the State of Palestine in June 2015 despite opposition from Israel, which said that it would damage prospects for peace in the region.

Politico reports:

However, it also comes amid an atmosphere of heightened concern for Palestinian politicians.

U.S. President-Elect Donald Trump has said he will move the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which Palestinians claim as their capital.

“We are waiting to see if [the move] happens. If it does it will not help peace and we hope it does not happen,” Abbas told reporters minutes after meeting Pope Francis, according to the Associated Press.

France is hosting an event on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict Sunday.

Abbas will attend but Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has refused an invite.

Anti-Assad Group Urge Israel To Intervene In Syria

January 19, 2017 Leave a comment

Anti-Assad Group Urge Israel To Intervene In Syria

A Syrian opposition group have called for Israeli intervention in Syria to help overthrow President Bashar al-Assad

The group comprised of certain foreign-based oppositionists have openly pleaded with Israel to directly confront Assad

Press TV reports:

The so-called National Salvation Front in Syria, which represents certain members of the anti-Damascus  opposition in diaspora, including some who are based in France and Belgium, also proposed a “roadmap” for closer relations with Tel Aviv, the official Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) reported on Monday.

Citing an Israeli radio station, SANA said the roadmap features the recognition of Israel by a post-Assad Syrian regime, arriving at a compromise over the issue of Syria’s Golan Heights, which have been occupied by Tel Aviv since 1967, and the setting up of friendly ties and strategic cooperation between the two sides.

The plan also obligates the dissolution of all Syria-based anti-Israeli Palestinian resistance groups.

The group’s spokesman Fahd al-Masri, meanwhile, released audio and video messages, demanding that Tel Aviv expand its support for anti-Damascus militants.

The Israeli regime has been a vociferous supporter of the Assad administration’s ouster. It has been arming the Takfiri militants fighting the government forces and providing treatment for those arriving in Golan Heights under the pretext that it would render such service to those in “its” territory.

Last year, Riad Hijab, the head of a Saudi-backed so-called opposition group, known as the High Negotiations Committee (HNC), met with former Israeli Minister of Military Affairs Moshe Ya’alon on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference.

In the past, Kamal al-Labwani, a well-known anti-Assad activist with close ties with US and Israeli officials, hailed Tel Aviv for its support for the militants, and urged the regime to establish a safe zone for them on the border with the Golan Heights.

UN Prepares Blacklist of Israeli Companies Working in Illegal Settlements

January 13, 2017 Leave a comment


Source: Middle East Monitor

The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) is preparing a blacklist of Israeli companies working in the illegal Jewish settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories, an Israeli newspaper reported on Tuesday. According to Israel Hayom, the list is an initiative “prompted” by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement and is scheduled to be released later this year.

Former UN Special Rapporteur in the occupied Palestinian territories, Richard Falk, is said to have come up with this idea six years ago when he was in office. Describing him as a “known BDS activist”, the newspaper said that Falk now has the support of a number of Arab states.

Pro-settlement group NGO Monitor has written to the UN claiming that such a list “would be a violation of international law” as it would target “Jewish-owned” companies. This, it argues, violates the UNHRC’s own guidelines against discrimination based on national origin.

BDS is an international initiative of Palestinians living under Israel’s brutal military occupation. It is an entirely peaceful movement which has spread across the world and discourages commercial and cultural trade with Israel and those companies which benefit from the occupation.

Interestingly, the Israel Hayom article does not mention the word “occupation” at all. It refers instead to companies “operating beyond the Green [1949 Armistice] Line” in “Judea and Samaria”, the Zionist term for the occupied West Bank.

10 Times That God Has Hit America With A Major Disaster After The U.S. Attempted To Divide The Land Of Israel

December 27, 2016 Leave a comment

Because Barack Obama has cursed Israel at the United Nations, America is now under a curse

10 Times That God Has Hit America With A Major Disaster After The U.S. Attempted To Divide The Land Of Israel

Michael Snyder | The American Dream

Because Barack Obama has cursed Israel at the United Nations, America is now under a curse. Friday’s stunning betrayal of Israel at the UN Security Council is making headlines all over the planet, but the truth is that what Obama has just done is far more serious than most people would dare to imagine.

Over the past several decades, whenever the U.S. government has taken a major step toward the division of the land of Israel it has resulted in a major disaster hitting the United States. This keeps happening over and over again, and yet our leaders never seem to learn. And despite the fact that President-elect Donald Trump, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and prominent members of both parties in Congress strongly urged Obama to veto Security Council resolution 2334, he went ahead and let it pass anyway.

Because the United States has veto power on the UN Security Council, nothing can get passed without our support. And it has been the policy of the U.S. government for decades to veto all anti-Israel resolutions that come before the Security Council.

But this time around, it appears that the Obama administration was working very hard behind the scenes to get this resolution pushed through the Security Council before the end of Obama’s term. At least that is what Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is claiming

“From the information that we have, we have no doubt that the Obama administration initiated it, stood behind it, coordinated on the wording and demanded that it be passed,” Netanyahu said in a statement. “This is, of course, in complete contradiction of the traditional American policy that was committed to not trying to dictate terms for a permanent agreement, like any issue related to them in the Security Council, and, of course, the explicit commitment of President Obama himself, in 2011, to refrain from such steps.”

I am sure that there will be a tremendous amount of debate about to what extent the U.S. was involved in creating and drafting this resolution, but there is one thing that is exceedingly clear.

The ultimate decision as to whether or not this resolution would be adopted was in the hands of one man. Barack Obama knew very well that he had this power, and in the end he ultimately decided to betray Israel.

And now that our government has cursed Israel at the UN, our entire nation will be cursed as a result.

In the Scriptures we are repeatedly told that God will bless those that bless Israel and will curse those that curse Israel. When Barack Obama blocked a similar resolution that France wanted to submit for a vote in September 2015, it resulted in America being blessed, and we definitely have been blessed over the past 16 months.

But now that Barack Obama has reversed course and has betrayed Israel, we will most assuredly be cursed. In the days ahead we will see how this plays out, and perhaps we can get some hints about what may happen by reviewing recent history.

There have literally been dozens of instances in recent decades when the U.S. has been hit by some sort of immediate disaster when it has made a move toward the dividing of the land of Israel. The following are ten of the most prominent examples that stand out to me…

#1 The last time the U.S. government refused to veto an anti-Israel resolution at the UN Security Council was in 1979. On March 22nd, 1979 the Carter administration chose not to veto UN Resolution 446. Four days after that on March 26th, the Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty was signed in Washington. As a result of that treaty, Israel gave up a tremendous amount of territory. Two days later, on March 28th, the worst nuclear power plant disaster in U.S. history made headlines all over the globe. The following comes from Wikipedia

The Three Mile Island accident was a partial nuclear meltdown that occurred on March 28, 1979, in reactor number 2 of Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station (TMI-2) in Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, United States. It was the most significant accident in U.S. commercial nuclear power plant history.[2] The incident was rated a five on the seven-point International Nuclear Event Scale: Accident With Wider Consequences.[3][4]

#2 On October 30th, 1991 President George H. W. Bush opened the Madrid Peace Conference which brought Israelis and Palestinians together to negotiate for the very first time. In his opening speech, Bush told Israel that “territorial compromise is essential for peace”. At the exact same time, “the Perfect Storm” was brewing in the north Atlantic. This legendary storm traveled 1000 miles the wrong direction and sent 35 foot waves slamming directly into President Bush’s home in Kennebunkport, Maine.

#3 On August 23rd, 1992 the Madrid Peace Conference moved to Washington D.C., and the very next day Hurricane Andrew made landfall in Florida causing 30 billion dollars in damage. It was the worst natural disaster up to that time in U.S. history.

#4 On January 16th, 1994 President Clinton met with President Assad of Syria to discuss the possibility of Israel giving up the Golan Heights. Within 24 hours, the devastating Northridge earthquake hit southern California. It was the second worst natural disaster up to that time in U.S. history.

#5 On January 21st, 1998 Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrived at the White House but received a very cold reception. In fact, President Clinton and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright actually refused to have lunch with him. That exact same day the Monica Lewinsky scandal broke, sending the Clinton presidency into a tailspin from which it would never recover.

#6 On September 28th, 1998 Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was working on finalizing a plan which would have had Israel give up approximately 13 percent of Judea and Samaria. On that precise day, Hurricane George slammed into the Gulf Coast with wind gusts of up to 175 miles an hour.

#7 On May 3rd, 1999 Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat was supposed to hold a press conference to declare the creation of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as the capital. On that precise day, the most powerful tornadoes ever recorded in the U.S. ripped through Oklahoma and Kansas. At one point one of the tornadoes actually had a recorded wind speed of 316 miles an hour.

#8 On April 30th, 2003, “the Road Map to Peace” that had been developed by the so-called “Quartet” was presented to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon by U.S. Ambassador Daniel Kurtzer. Over the next seven days, the U.S. was hit by a staggering 412 tornadoes. It was the largest tornado cluster ever recorded up to that time.

#9 In 2005, President George W. Bush (the son of George H. W. Bush) convinced Israel that it was necessary to remove all of the Jewish settlers out of Gaza and turn it over entirely to the Palestinians. According to the New York Times, the very last of the settlers were evacuated on August 23, 2005. On that precise day, a storm that would be given the name “Katrina” started forming over the Bahamas. The city of New Orleans still has not fully recovered from the damage that storm caused, and it ranked as the costliest natural disaster in all of U.S. history up to that time.

#10 On May 19th, 2011 Barack Obama told Israel that there must be a return to the pre-1967 borders. Three days later on May 22nd a half-mile wide EF-5 multiple-vortex tornado ripped through Joplin, Missouri. According to Wikipedia, it was “the costliest single tornado in U.S. history.”

The UN Security Council resolution that was passed on Friday is the biggest betrayal of Israel in modern history. As I explained in my last article, I believe that America’s reprieve is now over and all hell is about to break loose in this country.

When Barack Obama blocked the UN Security Council from dividing the land of Israel in September 2015, according to the Word of God we should have been blessed as a nation as a result, and we were blessed.

But now Barack Obama has cursed Israel by stabbing them in the back at the United Nations, and according to the Word of God we should be cursed as a nation as a result.

And as surely as I am writing this article, we will be cursed.

Trump Expected To End US Aid To ‘Moderate’ Syrian Rebels

November 16, 2016 Leave a comment

President-elect Donald Trump said that he is likely to end the US support of “moderate” Syrian rebel groups, according to an interview in the Wall Street Journal

Trump said that “we have no idea who these people are” and added that the US needs to focus on defeating ISIS. reports:

The interview only briefly touched on foreign policy, but Trump echoed similar concerns about backing Syrian rebels in the past, saying that the defeat of Assad could lead to something even worse in the country, and today warning that backing the rebellion risks starting a fight with Syria and Russia.

This has been an ongoing problem for the US, with the Pentagon seeking to fight ISIS and the CIA and State Department seeking to shift the focus away from ISIS and toward regime change. The CIA is heavily involved in arming and funding the rebels.

The CIA plan to aid rebels, along with Pentagon efforts to create whole new rebel forces, have largely been disastrous failures at any rate, with much of the smuggled arms ending up in the hands of al-Qaeda and ISIS forces. Despite this, the programs have largely continued, and Trump’s interest in not doing so is seen as a major shift in US policy.


US Threatens to “Covertly” Kill Russians: Targeting Russia in Syria – As Planned. Humanitarian Corridors Targeted by Al Qaeda and ISIS-Daesh

November 8, 2016 Leave a comment

Russia Syria

New Eastern Outlook

Russian forces operating in Syria upon Damascus’ request have met several close calls during military and humanitarian missions over the past two months. In late October, Syrian and Russian organised humanitarian corridors came under heavy fire in Aleppo in a brazen attempt by Western-backed militants to prevent civilians from crossing over into government-controlled western Aleppo.

Dan Rivers of UK-based ITV would say in an October 20 Tweet:

Buses ready to ‘evacuate’ civilians from east – so far no one has crossed. A rebel mortar just landed 50 ft from us. No injuries thank God.

Alex  Thomson of British Channel 4 would also Tweet:

Confirmed – rebels are firing mortars into the checkpoint areas making it extremely dangerous to attempt to leave E Aleppo…

It is important to cite Western journalists present at the corridors dodging incoming mortars particularly because the incoming fire went otherwise unreported by the Western media. The Washington Post would allude to it in an article strategically titled, “Russia says Aleppo escape corridors under fire,” in an attempt to make the claims appear to be baseless Russian propaganda.

Then early this month, Russian helicopters came under fire by designated foreign terrorist organisation, the Islamic State in western Syria with Newsweek in its article, “ISIS Claims to Have Shot Russian Helicopter,” claiming:

Russia’s Ministry of Defense confirmed militants hit one of its aircraft during a flight in Syria, but denied reports of any fatalities in the incident, Russian state news agency Itar-Tass reports. 

Extremist militant group Islamic State (ISIS) reported via their news agency Amaq they had destroyed a Russian attack helicopter in Syria’s Homs Governorate using guided missiles on Thursday, according to news website SITE Intelligence.

And again, strategically, Newsweek decides to conclude its article by stating:

The Russian government has come under heavy scrutiny for not upholding a ceasefire agreement and continuing military operations in Syria, in support of the Assad regime.

Could these serendipitous setbacks for Russia simply be a coincidence? Or are they the manifestation of Western desires to remove Russia from the Syrian conflict by targeting its forces by proxy?

US Has Openly Threatened to “Covertly” Kill Russians in Syria  

In 2015, former acting director of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Michael Morell would openly declare his desire to see Iran and Russia “pay a little price amid the ongoing conflict in Syria. When interviewer Charlie Rose attempted to clarify Morell’s comments by asking if he meant, “by killing Russians, by killing Iranians,” Morell emphatically responded, “yes, covertly.”

Morell justified this by making the incomprehensible comparison between America’s illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003 and alleged Iranian support for militias fighting the US occupation, and the current conflict in Syria in which Russia and Iran are backing the legitimate government of Syria, upon Damascus’ request. It should be noted that Morell’s desire to “kill Russians” was never even so much as incomprehensibly linked to the 2003 invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq.

Since his comments, and similar sentiments made throughout the entirety of America’s foreign policy and media circles in 2015, there have been a string of incidents where designated terrorist organisations, either Jabhat Al Nusra or the Islamic State, have targeted Russian forces, particularly their aircraft and have done so using US and European missiles and rockets. In other words, Russians were being targeted and even killed, “covertly.”

Hating Russia Enough to Kill? 

The real question for observers worldwide is, why would the US find itself at such odds with Russia regarding Syria to want to begin targeting and killing Russians?

The United States’ official purpose for being involved in Syria is to fight the Islamic State.

Under the Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF–OIR), the United States’ official mission according to US President Barack Obama is to:

…degrade, and ultimately destroy, [the Islamic State] through a comprehensive and sustained counter-terrorism strategy.

With Russian forces suffering losses fighting the Islamic State in Syria, it would appear that the US and Russia should be natural allies, yet they clearly are not.

That is either because the US believes Russia isn’t truly fighting the Islamic State, despite losing one of their helicopters just this month while doing so, or because the US itself is not really in Syria to fight the Islamic State. The latter, is clearly the case, with US policy think tanks, American media op-eds and even US presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton declaring that their collective intent is the overthrow of the Syrian government, which Russia most certainly is not a party to.

In essence, Russia’s mortal sin is not allowing Syria to be rendered a divided, destroyed and ultimately failed state by the United States and its allies just as has been done to Libya and Iraq before it. So determined to dismember Syria, the United States is willing to “covertly” target and destroy forces openly engaged in combat against alleged enemies of the United States, including Al Qaeda’s Jabhat Al Nusra Front and the Islamic State, enemies who just so happen to also be America’s best bet for ousting the government in Damascus.

Understanding and communicating to the public the fact that each and every “covert” attack on Russian forces carried out by Al Qaeda affiliates and the Islamic State not only proves Russia is actually in Syria to combat terrorism, but it also further proves how the United States has used the excuse of fighting terrorism to hide its true agenda behind, rather than uphold as its primary mission.

In a sane world, Syria would never have been set upon in the first place, and those nations seeking to use terrorism as a geopolitical tool would instead be isolated and neutralised by a coalition including both Russia and America. In reality, however, terrorism is but one of many tools of US power used against Damascus in a long-planned bid to overthrow it, and Russia has responded in an attempt to stop these dominoes of chaos from falling, started in 2011 under the cover of the Arab Spring, and aimed ultimately right at Moscow’s front door itself.

Why ISIS Can be Contained

November 8, 2016 Leave a comment

A Syrian Army ZU-23-2 firing at ISIS positions near the Ithriyah-Raqqa Highway. Wikimedia Commons/Creative Commons/Abkhazian Network News Agency

Containment would place the burden of statehood on ISIS—forcing it to either moderate itself or risk implosion from within.

Two years in, the Obama administration’s strategy to “degrade and ultimately destroy” the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has been criticized for its overall failure to articulate an ideal end state, especially for Syria. Despite a kill-ratio of “15,000-to-1,” tactical gains have not translated into strategic success. Critics contend that current efforts to defeat ISIS are unsustainable and ill-conceived given the half-measures employed. Yet, the more salient but neglected issue is what happens after the group’s demise. Even if ISIS is defeated, the cost of stabilizing former ISIS-controlled areas promises to outweigh the current commitment to destroy the group both in blood and treasure.

Indeed, in a region rife with sectarian conflict and poor governance, the rise of ISIS is a manifestation of state-failure in Syria and Iraq. This reality presents policymakers with a stark dilemma. Dislodging ISIS from Syria would only reopen a power vacuum that could possibly be filled by worse alternatives, but vacillating on ISIS would result in the caliphate’s institutions becoming more entrenched and a rogue state more likely. With the growing certainty of Mosul’s liberation, the world optimistically anticipates Raqqa to be next.

But can Raqqa be the second Mosul? Given the complexity of the Syrian conflict, it is all the more necessary to reevaluate this strategy of annihilation which has dominated the policy discourse. Instead, a strategy of containment would seek to contest the fundamental nature of ISIS’ worldview by throwing down the gauntlet of de facto (but not de jure) statehood. Paralleling George Kennan’s 1947 formulation, containing ISIS in the Middle East today would recognize the multi-generational nature of this conflict and patiently maintain the territorial status quo against the group. Contra the preferred goal of driving ISIS out of Raqqa, containment challenges the group’s ideology by permitting it to run its full course and be found wanting in its areas of control. Two pathways are possible under this strategy. Licking its battle wounds, ISIS would either seek to re-consolidate its territorial control and moderate itself, or it would, in its revolutionary fervor, continue the struggle, thereby putting it at risk of implosion.

Granted, there are valid reasons to degrade ISIS, but our analysis of interview data collected in Iraqi Kurdistan and along the Syrian border in southern Turkey present a more complicated picture of the situation in ISIS-controlled areas. These interviews were conducted with Iraqi and Syrian refugees, local NGOs and academicians, Turkish police officers, Peshmerga commanders and security officers over a course of five months from 2015 to 2016. The public rhetoric has correctly portrayed the group as fanatical and thus deserving of destruction, but our research on the internal organization of ISIS highlights three inconvenient truths which make containment of the group in Raqqa not just possible, but also desirable.

ISIS and Women

Contrary to the media’s portrayal, ISIS’ capacity as a proto-state is more resilient than we would like to believe, especially when considered through the lens of gender. Compared to al-Qaeda or the Taliban, the group’s countenancing of female involvement is unprecedented. In line with classical Islamic jurisprudence that forbids female participation in offensive jihad, ISIS initially rejected female participation during its military conquest. Upon assuming a state building role since 2014, ISIS has however adapted its theological justifications with the establishment of gender-segregated institutions to involve more women in its caliphate-building project. In an about-face from its initial restrictions, women are now playing an increasingly important role in the group’s state-like functions.

“It came to us as a surprise when ISIS did not ban women to continue working at schools and hospitals unlike the Taliban,” said a former resident of Raqqa who now lives in Sanliurfa, Turkey. Another refugee who fled Raqqa to Istanbul recounted that female doctors and nurses were still allowed to work in Raqqa General Hospital. Besides health care, women have also been employed in the police, military, education, and charity institutions. A Syrian refugee shared that her daughter’s elementary school was fully run by a principal, teachers and cleaners who were female. “Teachers who were previously working at schools were instructed to continue their jobs though they came under new rules and regulations especially in terms of the dress code and teaching curriculum,” averred the former resident of Raqqa and mother to an elementary schoolgirl. In short, fundamentalists can strive for theological consistency, but governors must be responsible. ISIS has readily adapted to the challenging ground conditions in a pragmatic bid to preserve itself.

Responsiveness to Developments from Within & Without

Although ISIS is far from a paragon of good governance, its control and administration of a territory does require a degree of social support or acquiescence from the general population. ISIS has gained a reputation as a fanatical organization with zero tolerance for dissent and infractions, but the empirical record is more mixed. The dissent of a group of female doctors at Mosul’s Ibn Sina hospital in 2014 is instructive. Through an open letter, the group lamented the restrictive regulations imposed by ISIS on hospitals and explained their decision for going on strike. This strike eventually pressured ISIS to reduce its onerous restrictions. Reflecting on that incident, a former resident of Mosul noted that, “Since the strike, it was easier for women to access female doctors in the hospital. We could take off our veils while visiting the doctor without the fear of being caught.” Thus, ISIS, as an occupying force that administers territory, has remained calculated and flexible in its approach to avoid alienating all sectors of the population.

Besides being responsive to domestic developments, the group also keeps a close watch on external ones. In 2015, the ISIS leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, reportedly urged his followers to temper the graphic nature of their propaganda videos. Sensing that many people abroad have found their videos repulsive, al-Baghdadi has sought to remedy the counterproductive nature of their outreach. Furthermore, the fact that Israel has thus far not been attacked by any ISIS-affiliate underscores the fact that, despite ISIS’ anti-Zionist rhetoric, the group can be deterred if the prospect of retaliation is appropriately signaled to it. These examples demonstrate ISIS’ propensity for pragmatism as it seeks to maintain its tenuous proto-statehood and shore up its legitimacy among both domestic and external audiences.

Ensuring Rule of Law

Finally, by imposing order in areas where the rule of law has lapsed, ISIS has gained the support of disgruntled Sunni populations in Iraq and Syria. This power vacuum has been filled by Islamic courts (al-Mahkamah al-Islamiah) whose legal judgements are enforced by the religious police (hisbah). “Although ISIS is brutal, they act quickly and with no discrimination. There was no need to bribe them like Assad’s people,” said a former resident of Raqqa. These Islamic courts have provided general judgments based on sharia and even received complaints against ISIS soldiers. There is evidence indicating several ISIS fighters were convicted in these courts for stealing and looting and were beheaded later on.

Public executions, lashings or cutting off limbs would strike many as barbaric. While morally repugnant, it bears mention that, comparatively, such punishments are similar to those in countries such as Saudi Arabia and Iran. More crucially, the implementation of sharia by ISIS has been welcomed by many marginalized Iraqis and Syrians. The group’s use of Islamic law serves not only to instill fear among non-Muslims, but also to “establish a social contract” with the Muslim inhabitants in their territory. A shopkeeper who had fled Syria in April 2016 (due to intensifying Russian airstrikes) pointed out that crime had decreased while he was still in ISIS-controlled Raqqa: “Since ISIS was executing sharia law fast and without exception, criminals did not dare to show up. I could afford to leave my shop unattended for daily prayer in the mosque.”

The Day After ISIS?

The aforementioned truths complicate the planning assumptions of our current strategy against ISIS. The sad reality is that ISIS’ opponents are in a marriage of convenience which is likely to descend into internecine war as soon as ISIS is out of the picture. Otherwise stated, ISIS is mitigating tensions within the coalition. Absent a functioning and legitimate central government in Syria, the day after ISIS bodes ominously. With Mosul’s expected liberation, it would be foolhardy to briskly confront ISIS in Syria because the group will then be fittingly surrounded by ethnically distinct rivals—both state (Turkey, Iraq, Assad’s regime) and non-state (Kurdish forces, rival Sunni groups, Iranian- and Russian-backed militants) actors.

The hallmark of a containment strategy would be the grudging acceptance of key ISIS strongholds in Syria, especially its capital city of Raqqa, for the time being. While maintaining the territorial status quo, efforts should be made to facilitate an inclusive and unified political platform among moderate Islamist groups fighting in Syria. More than tactical unity to assail a common enemy, a political vision for Syria is an imperative. Stabilizing existing borders would allow anti-ISIS parties to consolidate their existing territorial gains, thereby forming a stronger bulwark against ISIS expansionism as they are given the opportunity to administer their own areas. An example of this would be the Makhmur front in Iraq between ISIS and the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). While unofficial, this existence of a de facto ceasefire is suggestive of its feasibility writ large.

Containment would place the burden of statehood on ISIS—forcing it to either moderate itself or risk implosion from within. As seen from a recent rebellion plot, the group is under severe strain, but the bankruptcy of its perverse ideology has yet to be fully laid bare and discredited. The crisis in Iraq and Syria has gone on for too long, but a sustainable peace cannot be achieved by defeating ISIS militarily. Successfully containing ISIS within Syria by crafting a common approach among disparate anti-ISIS groups and shoring up local institutions in existing areas promises to be the best step forward.

Hamoon Khelghat-Doost is a PhD candidate in the Department of Political Science, Faculty of Arts and Social Science at the National University of Singapore (NUS). Matthew M. Koo is a graduate student researching insurgencies and state building at the University of Chicago.

Image: A Syrian Army ZU-23-2 firing at ISIS positions near the Ithriyah-Raqqa Highway. Wikimedia Commons/Creative Commons/Abkhazian Network News Agency

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