liwasuqurquneitraemblem

“Privatized Violence:” Pro-Regime Militias and the State in Syria

Going into its 6th year with no end in sight, the Syrian civil war has dramatically impacted state institutions, as well as the army. High casualty and desertion rates with a concomitant growth in the geographic scale and intensity of the fighting have seriously weakened the army. This untenable situation compelled the Syrian regime to[…]

Nusra fighting Islamic State

Jabhat Fateh al-Sham: Al-Qaeda’s Ace in Syria Rebranded

On July 28, 2016 Jabhat al-Nusra declared that it was rebranding itself Jabhat Fateh al-Sham. This maneuver was announced by the group’s commander Abu Muhammad al-Jolani, who in a spirit of apparent transparency revealed his identity after years of anonymity, dressed as and quoting Osama bin Laden. The decision is a significant shake up within the Syrian[…]

2e7f0b755094d908d4d3cfddf26a7f375fafaa35_0

Turkish State and Society in Precarious Position

The attempted coup d’etat against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan came as little surprise to some observers of Turkey. And apparently, it was not a surprise to Erdogan himself. E.U. officials have suggested that prior to the recent unrest, the Turkish government had already drawn out a list of those it wanted to purge after any attempted coup. This does not signify a false[…]

la-epa-iraq-conflict-fallujah-jpg-20140105

ISIS’ Reversion into an Insurgency: 4 Reasons Why it Doesn’t Really Matter

On May 21st, ISIS spokesman Abu Mohammed al-Adnani stated in a much hyped message that the much heralded Islamic State “does not fight to keep territory.” Initially one might be tempted to say that this sort of statement undermines the movement’s own message, strategy and heralds the beginning of the end. The Iraqi Army and[…]

fighters-islamist-syrian-rebel-group-jabhat-al-nusra-clean-their-weapons-aleppo

Al-Qaeda’s Jabhat al-Nusra: “Nice and Respectable” Jihadism

“So it looks like gold. It looks beautiful from the outside, but on the inside, it is nothing.” – “Gold Plated Attraction”  (Al-Qaeda’s view of ISIS)   J.M Berger’s recent article in the Atlantic, ISIS Is Not Winning the War of Ideas, correctly asserts that Islamic State ideology does not have mass appeal. If it[…]

22-isis-fighters_w529_h352_2x

Sure, Talk with ISIL. Just Choose the Right Topic

Terrorists At The Table: Why Negotiating is the Only Way to Peace received a glowing review from Fareed Zakaria. In his latest Washington Post column he distilled the book’s thesis as follows: “Terrorism is a reflection of an underlying political problem that almost always needs to be addressed politically.”  He went on to argue that the so-called Islamic State in Iraq[…]

en090514ward273572640x360

ISIL’s Adaptive, Evolving Tactics: Regional & Global Implications

The triple attacks at a chemical plant in France, a beachside resort in Tunisia and a Shi’ite mosque in Kuwait, happened as Shaykh Abu Muhammad al-Adnani as-Shami implored ISIL sympathizers to perform jihad during Ramadan. ISIL fighters also re entered the outskirts of the town of Ayn al-Arab (Kobani) and reportedly massacred over two hundred[…]

640x392_89957_218471

Is Lebanon Prepared to Repel the Islamic State?

On June 9th, Hezbollah met the “Islamic State” on the battlefield and for the first time ever the clash took place on Lebanese soil. Both Dae’sh and Jabhat al-Nusra (al-Qaeda in Syria) have a presence in the Qalamoun region along the Lebanon-Syria border—and have long aspired to make inroads into Lebanon in order to attack[…]

isis-britain-ground-troops_si

How to Truly Defeat ISIL

In 2011, it was widely assumed that the so-called “Arab Spring” would render groups like al-Qaeda irrelevant, as dissidents would find that they could achieve their goals for reformation through the ballot box rather than needing to rely on violence. I was one of the early and consistent cynics of this thesis. It seemed clear[…]

Mideast Israel Palestinians

Israel Takes Aim at the Laws of war

  Unnamed Israeli officials have recently indicated that a future war with Hezbollah in southern Lebanon is inevitable, and that large numbers of civilians will likely die in such a conflict. Israeli officials argued in a recent New York Times piece that Hezbollah, like Hamas, commits double war crimes by targeting Israeli civilians and militarizing[…]

Gnomes_plan

National Security Strategy: From South Park, Colorado to Washington D.C.

In the Comedy Central television series South Park, the boys discover a cartel of gnomes who steal people’s underwear. Over the course of the episode it’s revealed that these seizures are part of their business plan which goes:   Step 1: Collect Underpants → Step 2: ? → Step 3: Profit   The punchline, of course, is[…]

400x225_306035

Meet the New Israeli Government

After more than a month of negotiations, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu managed to cobble together a coalition government in the final hour, with commentators describing the process as embarrassing and circus-like. The stability of Netanyahu’s new Likud-led government is questionable – it has the slimmest coalition majority possible with only 61 of 120 seats,[…]

248527_5_

Al-Baghdadi’s Manufactured Miracles

There’s an old saying in Tennessee—I know it’s in Texas, probably in Tennessee—that says, ‘Fool me once, shame on…shame on you. Fool me — you can’t get fooled again. – George W. Bush   On April 21st, The Guardian reported that the leader of Dae’sh or Islamic State, was allegedly seriously injured in air-strikes which[…]

MILITIAS-31214e

ISIS Losing Ground in Iraq–But What Would a True Victory Look Like?

As SISMEC has previously explored, Dae’sh was able to gain so much territory in Iraq and Syria by targeting areas which were extremely vulnerable. They have so far performed extremely poorly in direct combat with well trained, equipped and prepared armed forces. In fact, Dae’sh armies in Iraq may be getting stretched thin by the[…]

isis-nato-syria-iraq_si

ISIS and the Escalation Game

ISIS distinguishes itself from other jihadist organizations, particularly its progenitor al-Qaeda, by positioning itself as the group that will do what other groups are unwilling or unable to do. There is a clear dialectic wherein other terror organizations will commit an a heinous act that receives widespread media coverage; ISIS will then try to divert[…]

untitled

Cyberwarfare and the Danger of David’s Sling

Dr. Tim Kirk SONY executives never saw this coming.  Apparently no one else did either, although it happened before:   SONY was warned against releasing “The Interview”, a farcical comedy about assassinating the beloved/despotic North Korean political leader, Kim Jong-Un. Onlookers supposed those North Korean threats against the film referred to a subsequent missile launch demonstration that[…]

An Egyptian anti-government demonstrator

Media Evolution on the Eve of the Arab Spring

Nine months before Mohammed Bouazizi’s self-immolation, the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies at Georgetown University hosted a symposium on Arab media. Much (and not much) has changed in the region’s media landscape since. Understanding the structural and functional characteristics at a historical juncture ahead of the uprisings can help us comprehend what precipitated (and inhibited) the ensuing changes. The[…]

iraq-volunteers

Trajectories of the “ War on ISIL ”

Assessing ISIL’s Local Threat (Musa al-Gharbi) From its inception, ISIL has seized and focused on areas which are ill-defended and where the government presence is generally minimal and largely unwelcome. These areas also tend to be rural and sparsely populated e.g. North (East) Syria, Western Iraq, small areas in North Lebanon)—allowing ISIL to quickly occupy[…]

saudi-arabia-will-host-training-camps-for-syrian-rebels

A Fork In The Road To Damascus? The U.S., Saudi Arabia, and a New “Moderate” Syrian Militia

Despite all of Secretary of State John F. Kerry’s recruitment efforts to enlist Sunni heads of state in the Middle East for an anti-Islamic State coalition, it is important not to forget what many Sunni leaders want to eradicate from Syria first and foremost: Bashar al-Assad and his Alawite-led regime. On September 11, 2014, King[…]

_77736975_areas_under_is_control_624_kobanev2

Airstrikes Begin in Syria: A Decisive Blow or an Ominous Precedent?

The Obama Administration has just announced that they and their coalition allies have begun a fierce campaign in Syria, bombing primarily “hard-targets” in the IS stronghold of Raqqa (about 20 of them). Here’s what is known—and perhaps more importantly—what is not known so far about the U.S. airstrikes: “Sunni Arab” Partners The U.S. was the only non-Arab actor[…]

f6d8163553sh22y

Sunni Leaders Are Key to Fighting Islamic State: An Optimistic View

While young Muslims from around the world continue to flood into the battlefields Syria, Obama’s two key diplomats in the coming war against the so-called Islamic State are also on the move. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel just flew to Turkey to enlist the country’s military support along its southern border with Syria, and Secretary[…]

Mideast Israel Palestinians

The Missing Peace: Full Recognition of Palestinian Humanity

For the third time in less than six years, Israeli airstrikes are pounding Gaza. That means six-year-old Palestinian children have lived through 3 major Israeli military assaults in their short lives. Every few years now, the same nightmare replays, along with the familiar news chorus of Israeli propaganda: Hamas is to blame for all of[…]

r-BARACK-OBAMA-large570-550x229

When Hypocrites Take the Hippocratic Oath

Or, Undoing the “Arab Spring” Earlier this month, the White House unveiled its new foreign policy credo: “Don’t do stupid shit.” While many lamented the modesty of this approach, acting with restraint in order to limit iatrogenesis is certainly a worthy goal—and an approach with wide and enduring popular support—in fact, this is the vision[…]