SyriaSource

  • Could Federalism Work for the Syrian Crisis After Years of Conflict?

    As the Syrian crisis enters what could be its final phase and the battle between the regime and the opposition appears to have frozen, discussion is growing around options for a political solution for the country, different parts of which are controlled by disparate forces. A federal regime, as proposed by Russia and welcomed by the Kurds, appears to be the model most likely to be adopted, despite objections from both the regime and the opposition.

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  • Who’s in Charge?

    For a fleeting moment on the 10th of August the high wall of media apathy over the war in eastern Syria and its connection to American national security interests was breached. A reporter asked an American military spokesman about the anti-terror implications of permitting Iranian-led, Shia foreign fighters and armed elements of the Assad regime into Sunni eastern Syria to take over from ISIS (ISIL, Daesh, or the Islamic State) in places like Deir Ezzor. Might ISIS eventually resurrect itself in areas taken over by bad actors like Iran and Assad? The spokesman’s response: “That is not an immediate concern of ours, but I don't know if we have looked into that more deeply. Again, I told you where our focus is now and where our efforts are concentrated.” That focus and those efforts are on the city of Raqqa and the killing of ISIS: full stop.

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  • Raqqa’s Water War

    Syria is one of the most water poor countries in the world. The United Nations Development Program reported that in 2009, just three hundred cubic meters per year of freshwater were available per person. This is a stark comparison to a yearly global average of at least one thousand cubic meters per individual. The war in Syria has destroyed key water infrastructure and made Syrians even more water-insecure through the destruction and bombing of pipelines, sewerage, and major reservoirs along with irrigation networks.

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  • Considering US Options for Implementing Reconstruction Projects in Syria

    Although the United States government has yet to officially become involved in the reconstruction conversation, it will, with little doubt, be involved in some capacity in Syria’s reconstruction. Postponing the how, when, and where will only weaken America’s position vis-à-vis other actors in the country. In a press conference in May, special envoy Brett McGurk said that the US is not planning to pursue “long term reconstruction where projects are chosen by outsiders often with no connection to the local community,” but he did not say what type of reconstruction it will consider. McGurk alluded to US hesitance to become involved in reconstruction until a political settlement has been reached with Assad. Currently, the United States funds a number of programs focusing on humanitarian, relief, and stabilization projects, and some of these activities resemble reconstruction activities, but the US government has not officially changed its mandate to focus on reconstruction. Nonetheless,...
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  • Hezbollah’s Military and Political Victory in Arsal

    Hezbollah is turning its successful military operation in Arsal in East Lebanon against Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS, a coalition of Islamist militias including the former al-Qaeda affiliate the Nusra Front) into a major victory for the Lebanese militant group. The campaign, which ended with the transfer of some eight thousand Syrian refugees and a few hundred fighters back to northern Syria, gives credibility to Hezbollah’s “resistance against Takfiris” narrative, anchoring its position further within its mainly Shia constituency, and extending its reach outside its traditional base to Christian and Sunni communities. The Arsal campaign appears to be a calculated move for Hezbollah to consolidate its power in Lebanon and within the Lebanese government. 

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  • Thinking About Strategy: Part Four

    This fourth and final part of a series on American objectives and strategy for Syria aims to suggest parameters of a strategy to achieve the following objective (from part three):

    We seek a Syria that poses no national security threats to the United States, its allies, and its friends; a country pacified enough to permit the rapid dispatch of humanitarian aid to all in need; a stable country where legitimate governance rooted, at the national and local levels, in the consent of the governed precludes the rise of terrorism, extremism, and armed rebellion; an independent country free of terrorist groups and external suzerainty, one whose territorial integrity is respected and one rid of foreign military forces except those mandated internationally or agreed to bilaterally by a legitimate national government; an economically viable country where reform, reconciliation, reconstruction, accountability, and...

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  • Thinking About Strategy: Part Three

    Parts one and two of this series discussed the difficulties of officials thinking strategically about Syria, given the policy catastrophe bequeathed to the Trump administration by its predecessor. It then offered a list of outcomes the United States might nevertheless try to achieve. Although seeking nothing is an option, American disengagement would be a roll of the dice.

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  • Who Will Take Deir Ezzor from ISIS?

    Observers are focusing increasing attention on the coming battle for Deir Ezzor, which will come next after the battle for Raqqa, the latter having been launched by the Syrian Democratic Forces on June 6, 2017.

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  • Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham and Ahrar al-Sham: The Fatwas that Ignited a War for Money

    In an audio recording, Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham’s cleric, Abu al-Yaqzan al-Masri, also known as Mohammed Naji, a former member of the Salafist al-Nour Party in Egypt according to Arabi 21, issued a fatwa on the need to fight his former faction, Ahrar al-Sham. He further urged Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) fighters to kill anyone who would take up arms against them, saying that “in order to stay here [in Idlib] we must remove Ahrar al-Sham.”


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  • Thinking About Strategy: Part Two

    Part One of this series discussed why it is not easy to arrive at a coherent national security objective for Syria. The Trump administration inherited from its predecessor a policy catastrophe: the carcass of a state set upon by a ruling family whose homicidal excesses were protected by Iran (with which the Obama administration desperately wished to have a nuclear agreement); and ISIS (ISIL, Daesh, Islamic State), which was given sufficient time to sink roots in Syria and mount ferocious terror attacks in Turkey and Western Europe. Having been dealt this worst of all possible hands, what could the new administration realistically hope to achieve in Syria?

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