Faysal Itani

  • Faysal Itani in Syria Studies: Geo-economics - Russia and Iran in Syria


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  • Expert Analysis on US Soldiers Killed in Manbij

    This morning reports of four Americanskilled in Manbij, Syria surfaced with the Islamic State (ISIS) claiming theattack which came in the form of a suicide explosive vest next to a US patrol. The attack killed two US soldiers, a civilian from the Defense Intelligence Agency, and a US contractor. Several civilians were also caught in the attack withestimates of thirteen to sixteen casualties in addition to the deaths of two local security officers. The attack occurred in the main market near a girls’ school and restaurant as US troops met up with the local Manbij Military Council (MMC). Comments and analysis from our experts are below.


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  • Pompeo: The United States is a ‘Force for Good’ in the Middle East

    US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on January 10 repudiated former US President Barack Obama’s Middle East policies while seeking to reassure allies of the United States’ commitment to the region. Ironically, allies have been rattled of late by US President Donald J. Trump’s decision to withdraw US troops from Syria. This decision, Pompeo insisted, is not a change of mission.

    “Let me be clear, America will not retreat until the terror fight is over,” Pompeo said in a speech at the American University in Cairo, adding that the United States “will labor tirelessly alongside you to defeat ISIS, al Qaeda, and other jihadists that threaten our security and yours.”

    Describing the United States as a “force for good,” the secretary said: “For those who fret about the use of American power, remember: America has always been a liberating force, not an occupying power, in the Middle East. We’ve never dreamed of domination. Can you say the same of the Iranian regime?”

    We reached out to Atlantic Council analysts for their reactions to the speech. This is what they had to say:


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  • Mattis Heads for the Exit

    Defense secretary to leave Trump administration at the end of February

    The differences between Donald J. Trump and Jim Mattis were on display in their statements on December 20. While Trump wrote in a tweet that his defense secretary was “retiring” at the end of February; Mattis made clear he was resigning over policy differences with the president.


    Mattis submitted his resignation after a failed attempt to convince Trump to keep US troops in Syria, The New York Times reported.

    “Because you have the right to have a Secretary of Defense whose views are better aligned with yours on these and other subjects, I believe it is right for me to step down from my position,” Mattis wrote in his resignation letter to Trump.

    Trump said Mattis would leave the administration at the end of February.


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  • US Preparing to Withdraw Troops From Syria: What Does It Mean?

    Media reports suggest that the Trump administration has begun planning the removal US armed forces from northeastern Syria, as US President Donald Trump believes “we have defeated ISIS in Syria.”

    White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said on December 19, "five years ago today, ISIS was very powerful and dangerous force in the Middle East, and now the United States has defeated the territorial caliphate...We have started returning United States troops home as we transition to the next phase of this campaign. The United States and our allies stand ready to re-engage at all levels to defend American interests whenever necessary." According to Department of Defense sources, the United States has already informed some of its partners of its intention to remove its troops.


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  • Event Recap: US Syria Envoy: Syrian Kurds' Future Lies in Syria

    This recap originally appeared in The New Atlanticist

    The eventual goal of the mainly-Kurdish Syrian Defense Forces (SDF) should be “to become part of the fabric of a changed Syrian society,” US Special Representative for Syria James Jeffrey said at the Atlantic Council in Washington on December 17. Distancing the United States from the prospect of supporting SDF or other Kurdish groups as autonomous from a future Syrian government, Jeffrey said “we do not have permanent relationships with substate entities. That is not the policy of this administration and has not been the policy of other administrations.”


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  • A Short Tribute to Raed Fares

    I first met Raed Fares in November 2015 when he spoke at an event hosted by the Atlantic Council in Washington, DC. I had learned about his work as an activist however much earlier in the Syrian conflict, especially his role in organizing local sit-ins in his northern Syrian town of Kafr Nabl. Locals were regularly photographed holding banners bearing witty English slogans to raise awareness of regime and extremist violence and shame the international community into taking action (that the slogans were often written in broken English somehow made them more endearing). Raed also founded Radio Fresh, whose broadcasts frequently criticized the local al-Qaeda derivative Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) who likely murdered Raed five days ago.

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  • In Istanbul, Geopolitical Maneuvering But No Progress

    A summit held in Istanbul on Saturday failed to produce any breakthroughs in the core disagreements over the Syrian conflict. It did however have notable geopolitical implications that affect each of the four attendees Russia, Germany, and France, and Turkey – two of whom are new to an effort created to manage Russia and Turkish interests in Syria. Significantly, the United States took no part in the meeting despite the presence of two major European allies and NATO partner, Turkey.

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  • A Case in Context: From the Lebanese Civil War to the Special Tribunal for Lebanon

    The Special Tribunal for Lebanon has just heard the closing arguments inAyyash et. al, on September 21, 2018; a case in which prosecutors charged four members or associates of Hezbollah with the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafic Hariri. Thirteen years after the assassination, judges are in the process of making their judgement. In a series of pieces to be published from now until the judges reach a verdict, Atlantic Council resident senior fellow Faysal Itani and non-resident fellow Anthony Elghossain will consider Hariri’s killing, the context around the case, the evolution in the effort to bring the killers to justice, and the politics of the Levant since 2005.

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  • Itani Quoted in Washington Post on Syria and Iran


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