SyriaSource

  • How the ‘De-Escalation Zone’ Plan Benefits Syria’s Foreign Players

    BEIRUT – Russia, Iran and Turkey’s recent agreement to create “de-escalation zones” in Syria is a result of Moscow’s significant steps towards partitioning the western part of the country into zones of – sometimes foreign – influence. The Kremlin’s plan, proposed at the recent round of Astana negotiations, safeguards its own interests in Syria, while giving Russia’s allies and rivals the impression of also satisfying their respective agendas.

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  • Turkey is Missing Out on an Opportunity to Integrate Syrian Refugees and Revive its Economy

    The victory of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) in the constitutional referendum held on April 16 spurred great enthusiasm among the Syrian population in Turkey, who hoped that the AKP would use the victory to also help the Syrian refugees. However, the government has not taken any steps to improve the lives of Syrians. Recent news of a restaurant employee pouring hot water on a Syrian child standing outside a diner caused a major uproar. The child was rushed to the hospital and the employee was fired, but she was later released from the police station after claiming that she acted at the request of the customers.

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  • How Did the US End up at the Gates of Raqqa?

    With Trump’s approval last week to directly arm the YPG, the United States is gearing up for the battle to capture Raqqa city from the Islamic State (ISIS, ISIL, or Daesh). To understand how the United States got to this point—arming proxy forces, troops on the ground, all the while conducting air strikes—one can ask: how did Raqqa became the self-declared capital of ISIS?

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  • Syria Reconstruction and the Illusion of Leverage

    In early April, two days before the United States attacked a Syrian airbase with cruise missiles, high-level representatives from some seventy countries convened in Brussels for a conference on the future of Syria. The issue of Syria’s post-war reconstruction featured prominently on the agenda. Its presence signaled more than a concern with the daunting challenges of rebuilding a country devastated by six years of violent conflict. Reconstruction has become the latest political battlefield in struggles over the terms of a post-war settlement for Syria, and the future of Bashar al-Assad.

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  • The Battle for Idlib

    Northwestern Syria, consisting of Idlib city and the surrounding province, northern Hama and western Aleppo provinces, forms the biggest inhabited zone under the control of the Syrian opposition. It is also home to the biggest concentration of pro-Assad forces, including multi-national Shiite militias. Despite the presence of the Nusra Front and other jihadist groups in the area for several years, the balance of power there held steady until 2016, as local groups affiliated with the revolution managed to dominate other factions.

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  • Ankara and Washington: Can “Yes” on Syria Be Achieved?

    The visit of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to the White House offers an opportunity for two NATO allies to get to “Yes” on Syria. It is important that they do so. Yet as matters now stand it is doubtful that they will, and each side bears responsibility for a bilateral split that is entirely gratuitous and needlessly damaging. Yet Presidents Trump and Erdogan have it in their power to elevate their alliance over lesser considerations that divide them.

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  • Raqqa and the Oil Economy of ISIS

    Since establishing its headquarters in Raqqa, Syria, in 2011, the Islamic State (ISIS, ISIL, Daesh) has introduced its own brand of governance, infrastructure, and business. Now entering its sixth year in Raqqa, ISIS has largely solidified its primary means of acquiring income, the majority of which include criminal and illicit activities. Like terrorist groups before it, ISIS collects revenue from a variety of sources, including: drug and artifact smuggling, human trafficking and hostage-taking, taxation, minor cryptocurrency transactions, petty crime, and, perhaps most significantly, oil seizures and resale. 

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  • Discussion with Aaron Stein on the Decision to Arm the YPG

    Listen to Rafik Hariri Center’s Senior Resident Fellow on Turkey, Aaron Stein's commentary on the decision by the Trump administration to arm the YPG and how it could affect US-Turkey relations and the military campaign in Syria. 

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  • The Ramifications of the SDF Governance Plan for Raqqa Post-ISIS

    The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), backed by the US-led coalition, has succeeded in encircling Raqqa, the de facto capital of the Islamic State (ISIS, ISIL, Daesh) in Syria. By capturing the surrounding villages and access routes to isolate the city, this strategy has contributed to weakening ISIS yet is unlikely to lead to a swift victory. Nonetheless, the heavy cost of capturing the city seems to be a secondary concern for analysts and policy makers working on Syria. Securing and governing the Arab majority city of Raqqa post-ISIS appears to be the main concern for analysts. The SDF does not seem to share the same anxiety; its plan for Raqqa is in motion despite all warnings about the negative ramifications that may be caused by it.

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  • Arming the YPG

    On May 9, 2017, the United States Department of Defense (DoD) announced President Trump’s approval of a DoD proposal to provide arms to the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), a militia that has emerged over the past two-plus years as the principal ground combat component in the military campaign against ISIS (ISIL, Daesh, Islamic State) in eastern Syria. The YPG is the Syrian affiliate of the Turkey-and-Iraq-based Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an organization designated by the United States and NATO as a terrorist group. The DoD announcement comes one week before a scheduled meeting between Presidents Trump and Erdogan in the Oval Office.

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