Levant & Mesopotamia

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Peshmerga Forces Between Unification and Division

As one of the oldest armed forces in Iraq, Peshmerga dates back to the early 20th century, although its paramilitary roots had arisen in the late 19th century. The Peshmerga forces initially formed among Kurdish tribes in northern Iraq and are now a part of the Iraqi defence system. However, among others political crises and lack of trust remain obstacles to the unification of Peshmerga forces. During much of the late 20th century, the Peshmerga used guerrilla tactics in their war against Iraqi forces. Some Peshmerga forces led by Mustafa Barzani, the previous leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), while others were…
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Defeating ISIS: A War Mired in Contradictions

    The pitfalls are complex and multiple. They range from differences within the 68-member, anti-Islamic State (IS) alliance over what constitutes terrorism to diverging political priorities to varying degrees of willingness to tacitly employ jihadists to pursue geopolitical goals. The pitfalls are most evident in Yemen and Syria and involve two long-standing US allies, NATO ally Turkey and Saudi Arabia.

Israel-Palestinian Peace: The “Regional Umbrella” Approach

Suddenly the media is awash with reports, rumors and hints about a fresh approach to tackling the perennial Israel-Palestinian stand-off. Cynics, contemplating the history of the Middle East over the past 70 years, might well conclude that every conceivable method of reconciling the conflicting aspirations of the two parties has already been tried and failed. But changing circumstances can reconfigure political opportunities. An initiative impossible in 2007 may have become perfectly viable by 2017.

Iraqi Prime Minister Al-‘Abadi in Washington – Some Realities

Iraqi Prime Minister Al-‘Abadi in Washington – Some Realities

While the current media coverage of the war against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has shifted to the fighting in Syria, the major battle continues to be the Iraqi campaign to defeat the Islamist group in the city of Mosul. The Iraqi security forces – Army, Air Force, police, and special operations units, as well as several Iranian-backed Shi’a militias – have generally acquitted themselves well in the fighting. We all remember the Iraqi Army’s dismal performance against ISIS in June 2014, when the Army collapsed as the group stormed into northern Iraq from Syria and began…
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Assad’s Foreign Fighters

Assad’s Foreign Fighters

While the danger posed by foreign fighters flooding into Syria has become a central point in world media and research, this focus was more likely to concentrate on Islamically-flavoured extremists and their globally Jihadist ideology. Much less attention was given to those who fight beside Assad regime, who indeed espouse an extremist ideology but with a different flavor. As much as Assad relies on Russian fighters, warplanes and destructive force, he also relies on Iran’s money and Shiite foreign fighters from a variety of countries.

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Assad in the Ascendant?

Back in the glory days of the so-called “Arab Spring”, when Middle Eastern dictators were falling like ninepins, it seemed that the overthrow of Ben Ali of Tunisia, Mubarak of Egypt, Gaddafi of Libya and Saleh of Yemen would inevitably be followed by the downfall of President Bashar Assad of Syria. But, it now seems, providence had reserved a different fate for Assad. A determination to cling to power, however ruthless or inhumane the methods, allied to a favourable concatenation of political circumstances, has enabled Assad to emerge from a long, multi-faceted combat battered, depleted territorially and logistically, but still…
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Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq: Example of Failure?

Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq: Example of Failure?

The Kurds in Iraq have been running their government since the uprising in 1991 against the dictatorial regime Of Sadam Hussein. It means that they have been governing their territory for about 26 years. Throughout this period of time, this region has experienced many political and military crises. The main actors in these crises are those political parties running or dominating the Kurdish region, specifically both parties the Democratic Party of Kurdistan (KDP), and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK). After the collapse the Sadams’ regime in 2003, thanks to coalition forces under the leadership of the USA, all major Iraqi…
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Assad and the rise of ISIS

Assad and the rise of ISIS

A link between Bashar Assad regime and the rise of the so-called Islamic State does not come as a surprise to many Syrians. Unlike the image the regime has been trying to sell to world media that Assad is fighting ISIS, there is well-documented evidence of the Assad dictatorship’s contributions to the ISIS tale of terror. Both former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and Assad released al-Qaeda-affiliated prisoners in 2011 in their respective countries, which was instrumental to the rise of ISIS. So far, research has shown that releasing Jihadist extremists correlates with the increase of the number of arrests…
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US Army Stryker Infantry Combat Vehicle in Northern Syria – © Photo: @AfarinMamosta/Twitter

Syria: Has Turkey Been Marginalised While the US Thrusts into the Fight?

In a remarkably under-reported series of events in northern Syria, the success of the joint Turkish – Free Syrian Army (FSA) Operation Euphrates Shield (Turkish: Fırat Kalkanı Harekâtı, Arabic dara’ al-furat) is now more uncertain than ever. The goal of the military campaign is to defeat the forces of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). FSA forces supported by Turkish air power, armour, artillery, intelligence and special forces were moving slowly but steadily on their way from the Turkish border towards what is regarded as ISIS’s centre of gravity – its self-proclaimed capital in the city of Al-Raqqah. Just…
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