• The Pitfall of Politicizing Syrian Refugees in Turkey’s Election

    Of all the things that could hurt Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in this weekend’s election—authoritarian tendencies, a poor human rights record, and reports of rampant corruption—one of its more liberal policies may be its undoing.

    Polls indicate that the AKP could possibly lose its grip on power for the first time in years, and it may have something to do with the party’s welcoming stance towards Syrian refugees. With elections approaching, the 3.9 million Syrian refugees that Turkey hosts have become a rallying point for opposition leaders, who seek to gain from increasingly intolerant public opinion towards Syrian refugees.

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  • Stein in War on the Rocks: The Military Logic Behind Assad's Use of Chemical Weapons

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  • Raqqa: Amnesty International and Taking Responsibility

    On June 5, 2018 Amnesty International issued a report entitled “War of Annihilation:” Devastating Toll on Civilians, Raqqa – Syria. A shockingly painful account of the experiences of four Syrian families during the June-October 2017 military campaign to oust ISIS (ISIL, Daesh, Islamic State, IS) from its self-declared “capital” in Syria, the report (based largely on a February 2018 on-site investigation) alleges that the anti-ISIS Coalition took insufficient steps to protect civilians. Specifically:

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  • The Superficial Removal of Iranian Troops from Southern Syria

    Much has been said in the last week of a possible Israeli-Russian arrangement in Syria aimed at curbing Iranian presence in strategic areas like the country’s southern border with Israel. Contradictory reports of troop movements in Qusayr by Tehran’s proxy, Hezbollah, do not change geopolitical realities: the militant group is there to primarily protect Iranian security interests, which remain focused on a long- term presence across the borders, even if this translates into possible dissensions with its tactical ally Russia.

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  • Cracks in Iran-Russia Alliance in Syria Widen as War Winds Down

    As the Syrian government increasingly consolidates control over its territory after seven years of civil strife, cracks are widening between its key external supporters, Iran and Russia.

    The issue of Syria’s future has generated a heated debate among political elites in Tehran and in Farsi media over Iran’s continued military presence and how it can leverage its expenditure of blood and treasure to preserve its strategic and economic interests.

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  • The White Helmets Struggle Without US Funding

    In early May, CBS confirmed that the US administration had frozen aid to the Syrian Civil Defense organization known as the "White Helmets." The US State Department said the aid–which is part of a $200 million assistance package–has come under close review since March. Unexpectedly, the freeze came after the State Department hosted a White Helmets delegation that same month, which sparked strong positive signals afterward. Senior US officials even committed to US support for the Syrian Civil Defense until 2020.

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  • Syria Just Backed Russia’s Illegal Occupation of Georgian Regions

    Last week, Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria illegally recognized Abkhazia and Tskhinvali (so-called South Ossetia), two historic regions of Georgia, as independent states. This was done undoubtedly at the behest of Assad’s main patron—Russia. With this act, the Assad regime declared its support for Russia’s military aggression against Georgia, the illegal occupation of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali, and the ethnic cleansing that is taking place in these territories.

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  • Rebuilding Amidst Conflict: Law 10 and its Implications

    The passage of a new property law in April by the Syrian parliament grants the regime the power to reclaim and redevelop land across the country. Law No. 10—which could impact millions of displaced Syrians—was issued under the pretext of governmental efforts to counter terrorism and rezone illegal housing areas across Syria.

    Recent Developments

    The overall stated purpose of Law 10 is to allow the government to reclaim private property, with the goal of reconstructing destroyed neighborhoods. The law also extends to illegal housing–a long standing problem the regime sought to rectify with various laws, both prior to and after the outbreak of war.

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  • Russia and Iran: Splitting Over Syria?

    Recent reporting gives the impression that Moscow and Tehran are parting ways in Syria. The Kremlin has called on all foreign military forces—except for its own—to leave the country. Tehran has loudly and indignantly rejected the Russian invitation. American officials might be tempted to feel encouraged: a temptation that should, for the time being, be resisted. Moscow knows that without Iran and its Shia militias the Assad regime is bereft of ground combat forces. The point of this supposed contretemps may be to lull Washington into complacency; to consign Syria to Russia, to implement President Trump’s stated desire to leave quickly, and to secure Bashar al-Assad in his place indefinitely.

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  • Stabilization and the Syrian Opposition

    For seven years a chilly, arms-length relationship between the US government and the Syrian opposition has worked to the profound disadvantage of both. Washington has often deprived itself of timely information and informed advice at key junctures of the Syrian crisis, leaving it vulnerable to policy reversals and even disasters. And blindness has been contagious. The opposition—both inside and outside Syria—has typically been clueless about American intentions, as it has struggled with internal indecision, dissension, and disunity fed by the conflicting priorities of regional actors seeking to control the Revolution in the absence of American leadership.

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