Syrian War: Uneasy Calm in US-protected Kurdish Enclave

September 8, 2018

The Syrian-Turkish border area in the early morning hours is calm and almost serene. Driving from the town of Kobane to the border crossing at Semalka one may get the impression that there is not much of a war remaining at all in the country.

Every few kilometres, to be sure, one runs into a checkpoint of the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces or the Asayish security police. Read more

Erdogan’s Dilemmas

September 1, 2018

Turkey Faces Few Good Options as Idlib offensive looms

Syrian regime and Russian forces are currently preparing for an offensive into Idlib Province in north west Syria. The attack on Idlib is set to mark the final major action in the war between the Assad regime and the insurgency against it.Moscow has moved 10 warships and two submarines into the waters off the western coast of Syria.  This represents the largest concentration of Russian  naval forces since the beginning of Moscow’s direct intervention into the civil war in Syria in September, 2015. Read more

A Turning Point in the Kurdish-Western Alliance?

March 1, 2018

The arrest in a Prague hotel of former Syrian Kurdish PYD (Democratic Union Party) leader Saleh Muslim Muhammad is a test case. Its outcome will establish the extent to which the central role Syrian Kurds have played in the fight against Islamic State has accrued some broader political legitimacy for their leadership and organizations.

Czech authorities arrested Muslim over the weekend after a Turkish participant at a conference in Prague took a photograph of him that was published by the Milliyetnewspaper. Read more

No ‘Russian Option’ for Israel in Syria

February 9, 2018

Why the failed Russian Sochi conference matters for Israel

The clear failure of Russia’s ‘Syrian National Dialogue Conference’ in the Black Sea resort of Sochi shows the limitations of the policy adopted by Moscow with regard to the Syrian civil war.  Since Israeli diplomatic efforts to contain the westward advance of Iran and its proxies in Syria are to a considerable extent dependent on the notion of Russian potency and effectiveness in this arena, decisionmakers in Jerusalem will have been watching the unfolding events at the conference with interest and some concern. Read more

Reality matters in Middle East, not Trump’s Jerusalem symbolism

December 16, 2017

JONATHAN SPYER, The Australian, December 16, 2017

The Jerusalem neighbourhood in which I live, on the seam line dividing Jew and Arab, can be a useful place to take the temperature of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In 2015 a wave of stabbing ­attacks against Israelis and Jews began. This was the result of a campaign of incitement by Islamist groups, according to which the government of Israel planned to change the status quo regarding the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif. Jewish prayer is forbidden on the Mount. The rumours held that this was set to change. Wilder notions of plans to replace the mosques with a rebuilt Jewish temple also were repeated. Read more

Bagdad and Tehran’s Goal: The Destruction of Kurdistan

October 28, 2017

The advance of the Iran-supported Iraqi government and paramilitary forces against their Kurdish opponents moved forward this week.

The Kurdish Regional Government, in a statement issued on the morning of October 25, offered to “freeze” the results of the referendum on independence conducted on September 25, in light of what it called the “grave and dangerous circumstances” currently prevailing. Read more

Israel Is Going to War in Syria to Fight Iran

September 28, 2017

JERUSALEM – Israeli officials believe that Iran is winning its bid for dominance in the Middle East, and they are mobilizing to counter the regional realignment that threatens to follow. The focus of Israel’s military and diplomatic campaign is Syria. Israeli jets have struck Hezbollah and Syrian regime facilities and convoys dozens of times during Syria’s civil war, with the goal of preventing the transfer of weapons systems from Iran to Hezbollah. In an apparent broadening of the scope of this air campaign, on Sept. 7 Israeli jets struck a Syrian weapons facility near Masyaf responsible for the production of chemical weapons and the storing of surface-to-surface missiles. Read more

Reporting from the front line in the battle for Mosul

February 11, 2017

The neighbourhood of Hay al-Arabi in eastern Mosul city has the appearance of a place recently visited by apocalypse. This was one of the last areas east of the Tigris River vacated by the Islamic State organisation, before the advance of the Iraqi armed forces in late January. Read more

After the Fall of Aleppo

December 16, 2016

The battle for Aleppo is over.  The Assad regime and its Russian, Iranian and Shia paramilitary allies have achieved victory.

The process of evacuation of civilians and rebels is yet to be completed.  Syrian oppositionists are alleging that pro-regime militias are committing atrocities in the conquered areas.  Read more

Iranian Kurds Join the Fight

December 15, 2016

The instability that has swept over the Middle East over the past half-decade has its winners and its losers. For the most part, the much-beleaguered Kurds are to be numbered in the former camp. In Syria, the long-silent Kurdish minority now finds itself allied with U.S. air power and special forces, and controlling a large, de facto autonomous area in the country’s north. Read more