Eagerness to Criticize Obama Explains Trump’s Inconsistency on Syria

Businessman Donald Trump speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, February 27, 2015
Businessman Donald Trump speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, February 27, 2015 (Gage Skidmore)

Critics are calling Donald Trump’s missile strike against Syria a flip flop, but it’s really the logical outcome of holding two wildly inconsistent opinions on an issue. Read more “Eagerness to Criticize Obama Explains Trump’s Inconsistency on Syria”

Trump Strikes Syrian Base in Wake of Chemical Attack

The American guided-missile cruiser USS Cowpens fires a missile at an airborne drone during a live fire weapons shoot in the Pacific Ocean, September 20, 2012
The American guided-missile cruiser USS Cowpens fires a missile at an airborne drone during a live fire weapons shoot in the Pacific Ocean, September 20, 2012 (USN/Paul Kelly)
  • American cruise missiles struck a Syrian air base near Homs early on Friday from which the United States said a chemical attack had been launched earlier in the week.
  • It was the first direct American military action against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad in six years. Read more “Trump Strikes Syrian Base in Wake of Chemical Attack”

Trump Seems to Realize Assad Is No Ally Against Islamic State

American president Donald Trump reviews troops at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, February 6
American president Donald Trump reviews troops at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, February 6 (DoD/D. Myles Cullen)

It appears to have dawned on Donald Trump that a pact with Syria’s Bashar al-Assad against the Islamists in his country makes no sense.

“It’s very, very possible, and, I will tell you, it’s already happened, that my attitude toward Syria and Assad has changed very much,” the American president told reporters in Washington after it emerged that Assad’s troops had again deployed chemical weapons. Read more “Trump Seems to Realize Assad Is No Ally Against Islamic State”

Syria’s Endgame

It has taken at least 400,000 dead and over ten million internally and externally displaced Syrians, but we are finally coming to the end game of the Syrian Civil War.

Last week, Turkey’s Recep Erdoğan blithely announced in a news conference that Raqqa, the capital of the Islamic State, would be the final target of the Turkish invasion.

Today, Pentagon sources leaked that the United States might send large combat forces into Syria.

This comes on the heels of talks between Iran, Turkey and Russia aimed at ending the conflict.

At long last, a confluence of interest is emerging that is the beginning of the end of the Syrian Civil War. Read more “Syria’s Endgame”

Aleppo Has Fallen. Now What?

Aleppo Syria
View of Aleppo, Syria before the war, March 30, 2010 (Michał Unolt)

I am waiting to die or be captured.

That is the farewell message of one of the handful of remaining anti-Assad activists in Aleppo. As the Assad regime now triumphs a murderous, four-year-long victory, the question of what comes next must be asked.

Syria is a ruined country. It was a state imposed upon a land not yet a nation and while that state had made progress in building a Syrian nation over the past forty years under the Assad family, at the end of the day the corruption and incompetence of the regime coalesced into an uprising that almost immediately became a civil war.

As early as the summer of 2013, a year into the battle of Aleppo, Bashar al-Assad’s regime had concluded they would have to create a wilderness to manufacture peace. This they have done in several places, emptying out whole villages and neighborhoods and helping create the world’s largest postwar refugee crisis.

Under the barrage of relentless bombing, Russian and barrel, Aleppo, the symbol of the rebellion, has collapsed.

So now what? Read more “Aleppo Has Fallen. Now What?”

Joining Assad and Russia Against Islamic State Is Foolish

Businessman Donald Trump makes a speech in Derry, New Hampshire, August 19, 2015
Businessman Donald Trump makes a speech in Derry, New Hampshire, August 19, 2015 (Michael Vadon)

One of Donald Trump’s most foolish foreign-policy proposals is to team up with Iran, Russia and Bashar al-Assad to defeat the Islamic State in Syria.

“I don’t like Assad at all, but Assad is killing ISIS,” the American president-elect said last month, referring to the self-proclaimed Islamic State by an acronym.

“Russia is killing ISIS and Iran is killing ISIS.”

If that were true, a pact might make sense. But it isn’t. And even if it were, the arguments are against an alliance. Read more “Joining Assad and Russia Against Islamic State Is Foolish”

As Syria’s Ceasefire Fails, It’s Time to Break Some Stereotypes

Damascus Syria
Damascus, Syria at dusk, September 27, 2005 (Upyernoz)

Even last week, as I went about analyzing the Russian and American motives behind the most recent go at peace in the Syria civil war, I was hesitant to triumph success. I doubt many are shocked; maybe John Kerry is heartbroken, but certainly this wasn’t beyond the realm of expectations.

So while anybody paying attention is full of “I told you sos,” perhaps fewer say much more beyond the cliché that the Middle East is full of people who have hated one another since the Bible.

The truth it, folks out there have been hating one another a lot longer than that. And yet, such age-old conflicts are irrelevant at best and worse, misleading. Of value now is using geopolitics as a way to both understand why the ceasefire failed and as a way to break up some useless stereotypes. Read more “As Syria’s Ceasefire Fails, It’s Time to Break Some Stereotypes”

The Long, Short and Medium of the Syrian Peace Deal

President Barack Obama speaks with Bob Carr, Australia's foreign minister, as Russian president Vladimir Putin opens an afternoon plenary session of the G20 summit in Saint Petersburg, September 6, 2013
President Barack Obama speaks with Bob Carr, Australia’s foreign minister, as Russian president Vladimir Putin opens an afternoon plenary session of the G20 summit in Saint Petersburg, September 6, 2013 (White House/Pete Souza)

We should all retain a hefty dose of skepticism whenever someone uses the words “Syria” and “peace” in a sentence. Having becoming the world’s geopolitically favored proxy battleground, Syria’s civil war may not stop upon the say-so of Washington and Moscow.

There is, of course, the intractable and resolutely murderous Islamic State, whose entire recruitment strategy hinges upon more extreme human outrages. Yet they are much more easily contained than the ranks of jihadists now clustered amongst the husk that is the Free Syrian Army. At least IS has bothered with trying to set up borders; formerly Al Qaeda branch al-Nusra is mingled among American, Gulf Arab and Turkish proxies. Will they play nice just because the Americans and Russians say so?

But really, it’s the wider scene that warrants attention. We’ve learned a lot about American and Russian priorities through this deal. Let’s take a closer look. Read more “The Long, Short and Medium of the Syrian Peace Deal”

Turkey’s Intervention in Syria: Why and Why Now?

A Polish Leopard 2 tank, also in service with the Turkish army, takes part in military exercises near Zagan, June 13, 2015
A Polish Leopard 2 tank, also in service with the Turkish army, takes part in military exercises near Zagan, June 13, 2015 (MCD/Evert-Jan Daniels)

Turkish tanks rolled across the border into Syria on Wednesday. Protected by warplanes and flanked by special forces, they quickly succeeded in forcing Islamic State militants out of the city of Jarablus and driving a wedge between their territory and that of the Syrian Kurds.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Turkish-backed rebels — mostly Arab and Turkmen — had taken control of the city. Read more “Turkey’s Intervention in Syria: Why and Why Now?”

Assad Shifts Strategy, Attacks Kurdish Rebel Group in Syria

Bashar al-Assad
President Bashar al-Assad of Syria speaks with Vladimir Putin of Russia at the Kremlin in Moscow, October 21, 2015 (Kremlin)

Forces loyal to Syrian president Bashar Assad have for the first time bombarded Kurdish rebel positions in the northeast of the country, marking a shift in the regime’s strategy.

The largely Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) claims that regime forces carried out airstrikes in the Al-Hasakah Governorate and attacked urban areas with artillery, killing and injuring dozens.

CNN reports that American officials were nearby when the attack occurred.

The United States support the YPG in their fight against the self-declared Islamic State, a fanatical Sunni Islamist group that occupies territory in between the Assad regime’s and the Kurds. Read more “Assad Shifts Strategy, Attacks Kurdish Rebel Group in Syria”