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  • Author: Joris Couvreur
  • Publication Date: 01-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: EGMONT - The Royal Institute for International Relations
  • Abstract: On the eve of the Geneva II conference and amid continued fighting on the ground, this short paper seeks to draw up a roadmap, indicating the different stages and steps on the way to a sustainable political settlement of the conflict in Syria. A longer term perspective is put forward, adopting a broad-based and inclusive approach, focused on a Syrian-led transition process under international supervision with the assistance of key third countries, thus preparing the w ay for a multi-party democratic post-Baath future.
  • Topic: Political Violence, International Cooperation, Armed Struggle
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Syria
  • Publication Date: 09-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: As Aleppo goes, so goes Syria's rebellion. The city is crucial to the mainstream opposition's military viability as well as its morale, thus to halting the advance of the Islamic State (IS). After an alliance of armed rebel factions seized its eastern half in July 2012, Aleppo for a time symbolised the opposition's optimism and momentum; in the following months, it exposed the rebels' limits, as their progress slowed, and they struggled to win over the local population. Today, locked in a two-front war against the regime and IS, their position is more precarious than at any time since the fighting began. Urgent action is required to prevent the mainstream opposition's defeat: either for Iran and Russia to press the regime for de-escalation, to showcase their willingness to confront IS instead of exploiting its presence to further strengthen Damascus; or, more realistically, for the U.S., Europe and regional allies to qualitatively and quantitatively improve support to local, non-jihadi rebel factions in Aleppo. Any eventual possibility of a negotiated resolution of the war depends on one course or the other being followed.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Civil War, Islam, Terrorism, Counterinsurgency
  • Political Geography: Arabia, Syria
  • Author: Mieke Eoyang, Peter Billerbeck
  • Publication Date: 09-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Third Way
  • Abstract: Congress should pass a new, specific authorization for the President to act against ISIS. ISIS represents a substantial threat, and left unchecked, could launch attacks against the US. Because defeating ISIS will be a long-term effort, it is incumbent on Congress to pass a new authorization for the use of force. Unlike previous authorizations, this one should be carefully tailored and come in the context of a broader strategy.
  • Topic: Security
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Middle East, Syria
  • Author: Xenia Avezov, Timo Smit
  • Publication Date: 09-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Stockholm International Peace Research Institute
  • Abstract: The transition towards multipolarity in the international system has concerned many observers in recent years. They fear'an era of disorder and greatly diminished multilateralism owing to miscalculation, uncertainty and distrust between the new and established powers'. This is based partly on the assumption that multipolarity will create competition rather than cooperation as international actors promote or object to intervention in conflicts based on their own geostrategic, economic or political interests.
  • Topic: Security, United Nations
  • Political Geography: Russia, United States, China, Syria
  • Author: Daniel Gorevan
  • Publication Date: 09-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Oxfam Publishing
  • Abstract: While the world's attention is on crises in Gaza, Ukraine and elsewhere, the humanitarian crisis in Syria continues to deteriorate beyond anything that could have been envisaged when protests broke out over three years ago. A staggering 190,000 people have been killed and 6.5 million displaced inside the country, and the conflict shows little sign of abating. There are three million registered refugees from Syria in neighbouring countries and an unknown number who have not registered. Jordan's planning minister has highlighted the fact that the presence of Syrian refugees in Jordan is akin to 'the United States absorbing the entire population of Canada'.
  • Topic: Security, Defense Policy
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Canada, Syria, Jordan
  • Publication Date: 06-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Soufan Group
  • Abstract: The number of foreign fighters is high, 12,000 and counting, and the spread of countries they come from covers much of the globe. Two recent events involving foreign fighters show the radicalizing influence of the war. With the support to bolster Syria's more secular rebel forces at times inconsistent and tepid, the lack of an alternative has accelerated a natural gravitation towards extremist elements. It will be hard to know which returnees pose a threat, and harder still to deal with them. Given that the number of foreign fighters already exceeds those that went to Afghanistan, government resources will be severely strained to monitor all returnees and will have to rely on the help of local communities.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Foreign Policy, Islam, Terrorism, Counterinsurgency
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, United Kingdom, Middle East, Syria
  • Publication Date: 10-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Soufan Group
  • Abstract: No region has seen more of its people travel to fight in Syria than North Africa; more than 3,000 Tunisians have traveled there as of last April, and more than 1,500 Moroccans This is a repeat of a decade ago when large numbers of North Africans traveled to Iraq to fight there as well, in proportions far above those of neighboring countries A significant number of recent North African fighters have conducted suicide bombings in both Iraq and Syria, highlighting that the deadly ideological message of the so-called Islamic State (IS) and other extremist groups is finding purchase in North Africa The reasons for this export of extremists include incomplete political reforms that have failed to redress serious societal issues, persistent high youth unemployment, and a failure to cope with the apparent high levels of disaffection, despair, and anger that drive people to choose violent extremism.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Islam, Terrorism, Counterinsurgency
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Arabia, North Africa, Syria
  • Publication Date: 10-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Soufan Group
  • Abstract: The Turkish parliament's vote to authorize the deployment of military forces in Syria and Iraq provided a legal and official framework for such action It may appear to be a positive step in degrading and destroying the putative Islamic State (IS), however, the parliament in its vote used the broader term "terrorist organizations," thus the landscape for Turkey, Syria-Iraq, and regional states and interests remains exceptionally complex Though there is nearly universal and implacable opposition to IS among all actors in Syria and Iraq, Turkey's future role-depending on steps taken-could aggravate tensions not only with Arab Gulf states and Kurdish elements in Syria and Iraq, but Iran, Russia, and the Iraqi government Turkey's desire to create a buffer zone on the Syrian side of its common border remains one of the most sensitive issues Amid reports of increased IS pressure on Kobani, Kurdish PKK has insinuated Turkey will be to blame-not IS-for creating conditions for the refugee crisis, and threatens to resume opposition activity in Turkey. The Turkish parliament's vote Thursday to authorize use of its army and military facilities in the fight against the so-called Islamic State (IS) may appear at first look to be a positive step for the broader coalition. The measures-to be determined-are in addition to any financial, diplomatic, humanitarian, and support activities for the anti-IS coalition. However, parliament's vote did not entail Turkey's officially joining the coalition. After the recent deal-details yet to be revealed-to bring home over 40 hostages IS had taken from Turkey's consulate in Mosul, Iraq, in June 2014, pressure increased for Turkey to take military steps in the anti-IS fight. A factor increasing the possibility of military action is Turkish special operations forces' guarding the tomb of Suleyman Shah, a Turkish enclave in Syria reported to be increasingly surrounded by IS. Though there is almost universal animus toward IS in the region, there is also nearly uniform resistance to Turkey's perceived unilateral military involvement in Syria and Iraq, outside the framework of the anti-IS coalition. Turkey's next moves may cause more conflict than benefit in the anti-IS fight. Indeed, the political landscape for Turkey's moves at home and abroad remains extraordinarily complex.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Foreign Policy, Islam, Terrorism
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Turkey, Middle East, Syria
  • Publication Date: 11-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Soufan Group
  • Abstract: The collapse of two prominent coalition-supported Syrian rebel groups at the hands of al-Qaeda-affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra (JN) has not just compounded doubts against the capabilities and loyalties of these groups but also doubt as to whether any "moderate" rebel group can succeed. This long-simmering uncertainty about arming and training rebel groups that aren't as cohesive or even as moderate as once hoped throws into question the prospects of an acceptable military solution to the almost four-year long Syrian civil war. The coalition-equipped rebel groups Harakat Hazm and the Syrian Revolutionary Front were overrun in northern Syria by JN-though most rebel groups have long cooperated with it and, unlike Washington, don't consider the group to be a terrorist organization. Reports of increased airstrikes against JN will further drive a wedge between most rebel groups and the U.S.-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA), that demands the primary target is the Bashar al-Assad regime and not extremist groups fighting it. The realities of settling the civil war exclusively, thus far, via rebel military might open up other avenues for non-military actors to assume a role in resolving the war; after all, there are an estimated 2.5 million refugees and another 6.5 internally displaced persons in Syria, with obvious needs that perhaps new Syrian civilian leadership might stand up to address.
  • Topic: Armed Struggle, Insurgency, Foreign Aid
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Syria
  • Publication Date: 10-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Soufan Group
  • Abstract: The deliberate targeting and killing of journalists by The Islamic State (IS) and the resulting lack of outside reporting has created a nearly information-free zone for the group to fill with its own messaging. The group's embrace of the decentralized nature of social media has allowed its many thousands of cyber-supporters to create and operate their own ministries of propaganda. Abu Mohammad al-Adnani is the official spokesman for the group, but the notion of an official spokesman does not really apply to IS in the way it has applied to al Qaeda; the crowdsourcing of messages negates the need for a single point of contact.
  • Topic: Islam, Terrorism, Communications, Mass Media, Insurgency
  • Political Geography: Iraq, North Africa, Syria