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  • Author: David Pollock
  • Publication Date: 01-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: As the United States prepares to withdraw its 2,000 troops from Syria, it has one last essential mission to accomplish. Those U.S. forces have fought successfully, hand in hand, with 60,000 Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) against Islamic State terrorists for the past four years. And President Trump’s latest statement about this, on January 2, noted his desire to protect these Kurds. So, despite all obstacles, the United States should still try to protect that brave and loyal militia in the short term, and secure a safer medium-term future for the Syrian Kurds and their local partners.
  • Topic: International Security, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Syria
  • Author: Jasmine El-Gamal
  • Publication Date: 03-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: European Council On Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: European governments must decide when and how to protect Syrian refugees who are voluntarily returning home They should do so using their remaining levers of influence in Syria, in line with European interests and UNHCR protection parameters. European engagement on voluntary refugee returns should be limited, cautious, and conditional. Europe must work with Middle Eastern host countries to prevent forced refugee returns. European governments must talk to all relevant stakeholders in the Syrian conflict, particularly Russia.
  • Topic: International Cooperation, International Affairs, Refugee Crisis
  • Political Geography: Syria
  • Author: Çağlar Açıkyıldız
  • Publication Date: 01-2018
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Global Political Trends Center
  • Abstract: The events in Syria since the beginning of the conflict in 2011 have been a source of concern for the international community. The ongoing civil war has caused many military and civilian casualties. Reports on the state of the country indicate that both government forces and rebels have committed both crimes against humanity and war crimes. What began as a crisis in March 2011, turned into a civil war between the Syrian government and armed opposition groups and has resulted in over 465,000 deaths. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), as of April 2017, there were more than 5 million Syrian refugees and at least 6.3 million internally displaced persons (IDPs). Over 13.5 million Syrians remain in dire need of humanitarian assistance, with 4.5 million people in inaccessible areas, including at least 419,900 people trapped in 10 besieged communities. Besides, Islamic State has been very effective in the country especially since 2014. The Islamic State took control of some land and equally committed war crimes and crimes against humanity. Therefore, Syria demonstrates a clear case of a state unable or unwilling to protect its own citizens; hence, enough ground to invoke Responsibility to Protect (R2P) to save civilian lives in Syria. However, it is difficult to assume that the international community has a solution to the problem. In this paper, the validity of the R2P and problems of its implementation in the Syrian case are discussed.
  • Topic: International Security, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Syria
  • Author: Samar Batrawi, Ana Uzelac
  • Publication Date: 09-2018
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Clingendael Netherlands Institute for International Relations
  • Abstract: Syrian society is more socially, politically and geographically fragmented than ever before. None of the social problems that caused the 2011 protests have been resolved. Nevertheless, during recent months the Syrian regime has been trying to foster the image that Syria is entering a post-war phase in which a unified and stable Syria can flourish under President Bashar al-Assad. The fact that more than half of the country’s pre-war population is living in exile and has no part in this new social contract of sorts is conveniently omitted from the image presented of this ‘new’ Syria. These refugees will likely continue to live in precarious conditions, with few prospects for safe and voluntary return.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, International Security
  • Political Geography: Syria
  • Author: Ana Uzelac, Jos Meester
  • Publication Date: 08-2018
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Clingendael Netherlands Institute for International Relations
  • Abstract: This report analyses the challenges of implementing a ´protection in the region´ agenda in Lebanon, a country that hosts the highest number of refugees per capita in the world, and which has been the recipient of one of the largest per capita aid and support packages since 2016. Our main finding is that EU diplomatic efforts and financial commitments to date have made very limited progress in ensuring protection for Syrian refugees in the country or improving their dismal socio-economic position. On the contrary, the main socio-economic indicators for Syrian refugees have remained very poor for the past three years, and the refugees’ continued presence in the country is increasingly questioned by parts of Lebanon’s political establishment.
  • Topic: International Affairs, Refugee Crisis
  • Political Geography: Syria
  • Author: Andrew J. Tabler
  • Publication Date: 02-2017
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: In this new Transition 2017 paper, Institute expert Andrew J. Tabler argues that Syria remains de facto partitioned, making the establishment of safe zones in non-Assad-controlled areas the Trump administration's most expedient course of action. Moreover, it would further Washington's cause to drive a wedge into the country's Russia-Iran alliance, and both isolate and pressure the Assad regime. If Washington's objectives in Syria are to defeat U.S.-designated terrorist groups and stem the outflow of refugees, President Bashar al-Assad is under no circumstances the right person to entrust with these missions. Simply in practical terms, he lacks the manpower to retake and hold the two-thirds of Syrian territory outside his control any time soon, despite having sufficient support from Russia and Iran to maintain control in large parts of the country. But more important, Assad is an avowed adversary of the West, undeserving of its cooperation.
  • Topic: International Relations, Civil War, International Security, International Affairs, Neoimperialism
  • Political Geography: Russia, America, Iran, Syria
  • Author: Maha Yahya, Jean Kassir
  • Publication Date: 03-2017
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Abstract: A sustainable political settlement to end the multiple conflicts in Syria will not be possible without a real focus on the challenges of refugee returns. The complexities of the Syrian wars as well as previous international experiences with similar conflicts underscore that ensuring long-term peace requires a more focused attention on the challenges for effective repatriation of refugees and internally displaced persons, including significant security and protection guarantees. Without these, and irrespective of the eventual shape of a political solution, their return may be neither possible nor sustainable—with significant repercussions for peace in Syria, neighboring countries, and states beyond.
  • Topic: War, International Security, Refugee Crisis
  • Political Geography: Syria
  • Publication Date: 03-2017
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Al Jazeera
  • Abstract: Since the beginning of the Astana process, Moscow seems to be in a race against time to establish the foundations of a solution in Syria before arriving in Geneva: first, by reforming the opposition’s delegation to the negotiations, an effort Moscow has been working on ever since the military intervention in Syria began, and second, by redrawing the solution’s main parameters, which Moscow exerted great effort towards during marathon negotiations conducted with the former US Secretary of State, John Kerry. Through these negotiations, Moscow has been able to change the rules at Geneva by prioritising an agreement to change the constitution, followed by the formation of a non-sectarian representative government, and then calling for presidential elections with Assad’s participation, so ‘the Syrian people can decide his fate’.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Conflict Prevention, Civil War, International Security
  • Political Geography: Syria
  • Author: Luigi Achilli
  • Publication Date: 09-2017
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: IEMed/EuroMeSCo
  • Abstract: The question of how neighbouring countries manage the socioeconomic challenges of incoming Syrian refugees necessitates assessment of the policies developed, over the past few years by the governments of Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, to tackle the embracement strategies and financial challenges, whether through international, humanitarian or bilateral aid or national resources. This paper is composed of three chapters; each dedicated to one of three afore mentioned countries. The status quo is discussed in terms of the latest data on the numbers of Syrians, the financial costs and the apparent socioeconomic implications. How policies are developed and financed by these neighbouring host countries, and what lessons and recommendations can be drawn from this analysis of policies and their financing is also evaluated.
  • Topic: International Affairs, Refugee Crisis
  • Political Geography: Syria
  • Author: Flemming Splidsboel Hansen
  • Publication Date: 12-2016
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Danish Institute for International Studies
  • Abstract: Senior researcher and research coordinator Flemming Splidsboel Hansen explores Russia’s Syria agenda as part of a DIIS initiative to understand the geopolitics of nonwestern intervention in Syria. The Kremlin presents Russia’s political and military involvement in Syria as an unconditional success. Its overall aim of putting Russia firmly back on the geopolitical map has been met. It is now clear that the key to any negotiated settlement to the conflict in Syria lies in Moscow. Moreover, Russia now seems to be close to a position where it may dictate the composition of the future Syrian regime and, not least, decide whether Syrian president Bashar al-Assad will remain in the presidential palace or be forced into exile. The costs of the military operations have been acceptable to the Russian public. Defence observers estimate that the first year of military operations cost the Russian armed forces 65 bn Rubles (approximately one bn USD) and some 20 deaths (combat and non-combat). The financial costs may be partially offset by increased future weapons sales. There is a high probability, however, that Russia will find itself embroiled in a complicated sectarian conflict in Syria from which there is no easy exit. This would test Russian public support for the military involvement in Syria. Already now Russian media comments suggest some degree of frustration over the alleged lack of fighting capacity and will on part of the Syrian armed forces. The Russian public may want to see a plan for an orderly exit from Syria, and this puts pressure on the Kremlin to deliver. However, the Syrian regime may not be able to survive without Russian military support, and Russian policy-makers may therefore soon be facing difficult choices.
  • Topic: International Relations, International Security, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Russia, Syria
  • Author: Halle Malmvig
  • Publication Date: 12-2016
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Danish Institute for International Studies
  • Abstract: Senior researcher Helle Malmvig explores Israels’s Syria agenda as part of a DIIS initiative to understand the geopolitics of nonwestern intervention in Syria. Israel’s activities in Syria have not drawn much attention due to Israel’s official policy of neutrality. Yet, over the last couple of years, Israel has stepped up its operations in Syria, targeting Iranian and Hezbollah assets and providing quiet assistance to the rebels.
  • Topic: International Relations, International Security
  • Political Geography: Israel, Syria
  • Publication Date: 04-2016
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Al Jazeera
  • Abstract: This policy brief examines developments regarding resolution of the Syrian issue, particularly in light of three key events: Russia’s announcement of a withdrawal, Geneva III talks and the opposition’s latest announcement that they wanted the talks to cease given increasing aggression on civilian areas. For the opposition belonging to the High Negotiations Committee (HNC), Assad cannot have a role in Syria’s political future, particularly given that his regime and its allies is responsible for 95 per cent of the casualties in the country, far exceeding any other actors in Syria, including the Islamic State organisation.(1) This policy brief looks at the outcomes of the third round of Geneva III, what Russia has gained from its intervention and so-called withdrawal, and argues that any future proposals for Syria which maintain Assad’s position will result in continuation of fighting.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Civil War
  • Political Geography: Syria
  • Author: Andrew J. Tabler
  • Publication Date: 01-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Washington's nascent policy of "uncoordinated deconfliction" with Bashar al-Assad's regime in the fight against the "Islamic State"/ISIS may not be a formal alliance, but it does have the potential to foster serious problems. The regime's tacit agreement to avoid firing on coalition strike aircraft -- juxtaposed with long delays in the Obama administration's train-and-equip program for the Syrian opposition and the president's October 2014 letter to Iran's Supreme Leader on cooperation against ISIS -- is creating widespread perceptions that the United States is heading into a de facto alliance with Assad and Tehran regarding the jihadists. If Washington continues this policy as is, it will merely contain ISIS, not "defeat" or "destroy" the group as called for by President Obama. Worse, it could lead to a deadly extremist stalemate in Syria between Iranian-backed/Hezbollah forces and jihadists, amplifying threats to U.S. national security interests.
  • Political Geography: United States, Washington, Syria
  • Author: David Schenker
  • Publication Date: 01-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: On January 18, six senior members of the Lebanese terrorist organization Hezbollah and a commander of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps were killed while visiting Quneitra in the Syrian Golan Heights, reportedly by an Israeli missile. The attack came just days after Hezbollah secretary-general Hassan Nasrallah threatened to deploy troops across the border into the Galilee in retaliation for repeated Israeli strikes against militia targets in Syria. In the past, the audacious timing and resultant high-profile casualties would have prompted significant and unambiguous Hezbollah military retribution. While the group may eventually retaliate -- anonymous Hezbollah officials in Lebanon say it is "inevitable" -- its ongoing military operations in Syria and the evolving sectarian dynamic in Lebanon may constrain its actions. The pressure to respond is great, but the last thing Hezbollah needs right now is an escalation with Israel that devolves to war.
  • Political Geography: Israel, Lebanon, Syria
  • Author: Ed Stafford
  • Publication Date: 01-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: In all the discussions about Turkey not being particularly supportive to the coalition fighting the "Islamic State"/ISIS, little has been said about the military's role in shaping the government's policy. In part this reflects the ruling Justice and Development Party's diminution of the military's role in policy formulation since 2002, and the ascendancy of the National Intelligence Organization (MIT) for the implementation of Syria policy. But there are other reasons for the military's reluctance to combat ISIS, some of which have existed for decades and are more deeply rooted than the recent resentment over political emasculation of the military leadership. These views are also common among the politically active class beyond the AKP ruling elites.
  • Political Geography: Syria
  • Author: Scott A. Vickery
  • Publication Date: 01-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Coalition airstrikes in Iraq and Syria have had clear benefits, but a broader campaign involving more intelligence and targeting assistance on the ground is required to reap the full strategic benefits of turning back ISIS.
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Syria
  • Author: Matthew Levitt, Phillip Smyth
  • Publication Date: 01-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Although Iran's proxies are fighting ISIS in parallel with the U.S.-led effort, their actions and radical Shiite agendas are diametrically opposed to the goal of building inclusive governments and societies in Iraq and Syria.
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Syria
  • Publication Date: 02-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Soufan Group
  • Abstract: The Islamic State has been moving aggressively to exploit the chaos of Libya since last summer, with profound risks for the Mediterranean region and beyond Libya is a perfect breeding ground for an expanded Islamic State, with large amounts of heavy weaponry, systemic lawlessness, a divided population, and sustained armed conflict The group has formed three active and capable groups in Libya-in Tripoli, Fezzan, and Barqa-all of which have conducted deadly attacks in recent months The phenomenon of Islamic State affiliates-beginning in the summer of 2014, before which the group was entirely focused on Iraq and Syria-is actually in the tradition of its arch-rival al-Qaeda the presence and power of the Islamic State in Libya will likely increase as conditions in Syria and Iraq deteriorate for the group, and conditions in Libya continue to worsen.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Islam, Terrorism, Armed Struggle, Counterinsurgency
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Libya, Syria
  • Author: Teemu Sinkkonen
  • Publication Date: 01-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Finnish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: The ISIL surge has inspired a new generation of jihadist terrorists. The large number of foreign volunteers in Syria may cause a global terrorism blowback when ISIL is defeated in Syria/Iraq. This underlines the need for common goals and policies regarding the foreign terrorist fighter phenomenon. The EU has not been able to take a decisive role regarding the Syrian conflict and foreign terrorist fighters, but it can still play an important role in coordinating the responses of the member states. The EU could take a role in establishing common guidelines for social media regarding extremist material and agitation for violence. Finding common ground with Turkey on information gathering and sharing would be essential in preventing the travel-for-terrorism cause. Countries bordering Syria and Iraq are in danger of ISIL spill-over effects in the form of potential affiliates and organizations emulating the rebel group. Egypt and Libya are also likely to become breeding grounds for such groups.
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Turkey, Libya, Syria, Egypt
  • Publication Date: 04-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Soufan Group
  • Abstract: Iran and the P5+1 countries are expected to issue a joint statement today that outlines most aspects of a comprehensive nuclear deal, but defers some still thorny issues to further talks A key remaining sticking point is Iran's demand for immediate and comprehensive lifting of sanctions, which the P5+1 cannot accept The United States is attempting to reassure nervous regional partners, such as Israel and Arab Gulf states, that the U.S. is not making too many concessions for the sake of a deal U.S. allies in the region are concerned that lifting sanctions, even if done gradually, will enable Iran to provide even more military and financial aid to the Assad regime in Syria, Shi'a militias in Iraq, and the Houthi movement in Yemen.
  • Topic: Government
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Yemen, Syria
  • Publication Date: 03-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Soufan Group
  • Abstract: The seizure of Idlib, Syria on March 27 by a newly formed coalition led by al-Qaeda's Syrian affiliate makes it ever clearer that the conflict in Syria has devolved into two camps: extremist followers of the violent ideology of bin Ladinism and supporters of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad The rebel coalition, led by al-Nusra Front with its effective fighting force and recently seized advanced weaponry and Jaysh al-Fatah, a group divided amongst itself between various shades of Islamist factions that include groups like Ahrar al-Sham, accomplished in several days what rebel groups had been unable to do for four years: take effective control of the provincial capital of Idlib The loss of Idlib is a significant setback for the Assad regime, which conceded the provincial capital of Raqqa in 2013 to the Islamic State; with the regime in Damascus, there are now three extremist capitals in one broken country As success begets success, al-Nusra will attract more groups and supporters who believe it is the only realistic chance of toppling Assad, rallying more to its extremist ranks even if only out of necessity.
  • Topic: Islam
  • Political Geography: Syria
  • Publication Date: 03-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Soufan Group
  • Abstract: The crisis in Yemen is primarily a Yemeni one, with legitimate internal issues and dysfunction that will not be improved by turning the crisis into a regional sectarian fight Once the genie of sectarian war is out of the bottle in Yemen, it will be impossible to put back, as seen in Iraq and Syria; the result will be years of conflict that could have been avoided by addressing the conflict as a local one As acknowledged by the U.S. State Department, Saudi Arabia does have legitimate concerns about what happens with its southern neighbor; however, treating the crisis as a primarily sectarian issue will likely be counterproductive The rhetoric on all sides and in their respective social media echo chambers is increasingly sectarian, escalating the conflict to the point where only Sunni extremists and Shi'a hardliners benefit and the people of Yemen suffer.
  • Topic: War
  • Political Geography: Yemen, Syria
  • Publication Date: 03-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Soufan Group
  • Abstract: Outside of its own borders, Iran now has significant proxy presence and influence in four countries encompassing 1.1 million square kilometers and 82 million people, in Yemen, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon It has done this by leveraging tactical decisions made by other countries into its own strategic expansion; from Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, and now Yemen, Iran is taking advantage of the short-term actions of others in its long-term plan The complete collapse of the U.S.-aided Yemeni president and the associated counterterrorism and military support is just the latest example of measures intended to address immediate pressures, which ultimately benefit Iran-all while U.S. airstrikes support Iraqi and Iranian militias in Tikrit against the immediate threat of the Islamic State It's not that Iranian leaders are all-knowing, masterful chess players but rather that the Middle East has for decades been a battlefield of ad hoc stability measures by numerous countries that have enabled Iran to steadily project power, to the extreme concern of countries such as Saudi Arabia, which has now launched airstrikes in Yemen.
  • Topic: Security
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Iran, Middle East, Yemen, Syria
  • Publication Date: 03-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Soufan Group
  • Abstract: The horrific suicide bombings at Sana'a mosques, which killed at least 137 people, are the worst such attacks in 20 years and an omen of sectarian conflict that the beleaguered country has so far avoided With worsening sectarian violence, terrible governance, terrorist groups on the rise, meddling regional powers, and a tribal population awash with weapons but little else, Yemen resembles post-2009 Iraq, with significant differences but troubling similarities The Iraqification of Yemen will be a disaster for that country and an international community that is already unable to deal with Syria, Iraq, Libya, and other failing states The Houthi advance into the central town of Taiz, after calling for a general mobilization against the supporters of deposed/exiled president Hadi, and the fighting in Aden show the situation is escalating and could easily follow the path of Iraq, as more sectarian violence and regional demands tear the country apart.
  • Topic: Governance
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Yemen, Syria
  • Publication Date: 03-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Soufan Group
  • Abstract: The brazen terrorist attack in the heart of Tunis, at the Bardo National Museum, is the most serious attack to take place in Tunisia since 2002, and presents the tourism-dependent country with serious challenges in how to respond effectively and proportionately Such an attack was nearly inevitable, given the disproportionately large number of Tunisians who have traveled to fight with the Islamic State, as well as being squeezed in a vise of extremism with Libya to the east and Algeria to the west There have been no claims of responsibility but there is no shortage of plausible suspects, with both the Islamic State and al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb active in the country There will likely be more attacks in Tunisia, though perhaps of a smaller but equally destabilizing nature, as the government increases pressure on networks, leaving the field open for Charlie Hebdo-styled attacks which are harder to disrupt given the smaller numbers of actors.
  • Topic: Government
  • Political Geography: Libya, Syria, Tunisia
  • Publication Date: 03-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Soufan Group
  • Abstract: Turkey will play a significant role in Syria's future, more so than any other neighbor, though the history between the two nations has been a troubled one Although Turkey's President Erdogan was at first keen to have good relations with Syria's President Assad, and succeeded in doing so, since 2011, they have gone sour Turkey is determined to influence the outcome of Syria's civil war, even if it finds no support from its allies The reappointment of Hakan Fidan to head the Turkish Intelligence Service may usher in a more active phase of Turkish involvement in the conflict.
  • Topic: Development, War
  • Political Geography: Turkey, Syria
  • Publication Date: 03-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Soufan Group
  • Abstract: The fourth anniversary of the start of the Syrian uprising has passed and the conflict sees no end in sight The humanitarian consequences of the conflict overwhelm the capacity of the international community to deal with them The involvement of malign non-state actors has complicated political options, both in the region and beyond Syria has become part of the counterterrorism agenda, and will likely be resolved in that context-however, any solution will take time.
  • Topic: United Nations
  • Political Geography: Syria
  • Publication Date: 03-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Soufan Group
  • Abstract: The Islamic State accepted Boko Haram\'s allegiance, or bay\'at, pledged to the Iraq and Syria-based extremist group over the weekend Given the recent military setbacks for Boko Haram and the Islamic State, and their increasing convergence, this development is unsurprising and a propaganda victory for both groups The alliance may spark an escalation of attacks in northeast Nigeria, as Boko Haram seeks to prove itself to the Islamic State The announcement may also internationalize Boko Haram\'s fight and draw jihadists to Nigeria from across the Middle East and North Africa.
  • Topic: Government
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Syria
  • Publication Date: 03-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Soufan Group
  • Abstract: The alleged death of Abu Humam al-Shami, military leader of the Qaeda-affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra, provides an important look at the long arc of some senior al-Qaeda members As a group, al-Qaeda was greatly diminished and dispersed after 9/11 but many al-Qaeda figures like al-Shami, who shook the hand of Usama bin Ladin and then slipped through the cracks, are still continuing the fight they started years ago Across the region, there are apostles of bin Ladin teaching their lessons to groups such as al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, and Jabhat al-Nusra, serving as both inspiration and instruction to newer fighters Because of the sustained presence of huge sanctuaries and conflict, there will unfortunately be another generation of Shami-type figures that will ensure the violence and hatred doesn't end with these current conflicts.
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, Iraq, Syria
  • Author: Abigael Baldoumas, Daniel Gorevan, Joelle Bassoul, Camilla Jelbart Mosse
  • Publication Date: 03-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Oxfam Publishing
  • Abstract: The numbers of people in need as a result of the conflict in Syria continues to rise, but the international humanitarian response has not kept pace. The donor conference in Kuwait on 31 March 2015 is an opportunity to reverse that trend and put Syrian civilians first. Oxfam has developed indicators to help guide the fair level of commitment that each wealthy country should make in 2015 to alleviate the suffering of those affected by the Syria crisis: The level of funding each country makes available for the humanitarian response, relative to the size of their economy (based on gross national income); The number of Syrian refugees each country has helped to find safety through offers of resettlement or other forms of humanitarian protection, again based on the size of the economy.
  • Topic: Civil War, Humanitarian Aid
  • Political Geography: Kuwait, Syria
  • Author: Daniel Gorevan, Martin Hartberg, Dominic Bowen
  • Publication Date: 03-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Oxfam Publishing
  • Abstract: The unanimous adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 2139 (UNSCR 2139) at the end of February 2014 brought with it much needed hope for people in Syria and across the Middle East. In the resolution, the UN Security Council (UNSC) – the body responsible for international peace and security – called for an urgent increase in access to humanitarian aid in Syria and demanded that all parties immediately cease attacks against civilians, end arbitrary detention, kidnapping and torture, and lift sieges of populated areas.
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Syria
  • Author: Faysal Itani
  • Publication Date: 04-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Atlantic Council
  • Abstract: Since August 2014, the US-led air campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) has successfully inflicted casualties on ISIS and weakened its oil revenues. However, the same efforts have also accelerated the rise of the Nusra Front, an al-Qaeda affiliate, and the near-collapse of nationalist rebel forces. In "Defeating the Jihadists in Syria: Competition before Confrontation," Faysal Itani of the Atlantic Council's Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East details the unintended consequences of the coalition air campaign and proposes a revised US strategy. He argues that the United States can effectively assist nationalist insurgents to defeat ISIS and the Nusra Front by enabling them to compete with and contain these groups before ultimately confronting them. Itani writes that the US-led campaign thus far and the train-and-equip initiative set to begin next month undermine and weaken nationalist rebel forces. He criticizes these efforts for failing to provide sufficient support to the rebel forces, while directing them to target ISIS instead of the regime. Meanwhile, the Nusra Front and other jihadist organizations have greater resources and have been effective in targeting the Assad regime. As such, nationalist rebel forces and local populations have increasingly aligned with the Nusra Front and even tolerate ISIS in order to protect themselves against regime violence, criminality, and chaos. Itani's proposed US strategy offers a practical and workable response to the rise of jihadists groups in Syria; this revised strategy seeks to support rebel forces to compete with the Nusra Front for popular support and to take control of the insurgency, contain ISIS, and build capacity for an eventual offensive against the jihadists. This approach will build on positive results in southern Syria by significantly increasing direct financial and material support and training for vetted nationalist groups that have already shown significant success. Simultaneously, in the north the campaign can provide sufficient material support to nationalist forces while expanding coalition air strikes to target ISIS's frontlines, allowing the nationalist insurgency to defend and govern territory. Only once nationalist insurgent forces have successfully competed with the Nusra Front and contained ISIS can they confront and ultimately defeat the jihadist groups in Syria.
  • Topic: Politics, Terrorism, International Security
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Syria
  • Author: Patryk Sasnal
  • Publication Date: 10-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Polish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: Syrians constitute the biggest national group migrating to Europe in 2015, according to Frontex. Of all the social diversity within a single society, two generalised profiles of a Syrian refugee can be inferred from available information: a poorer, rural worker based in camps in Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon, and a richer, middle-class professional living outside of refugee camps, recently migrating to Europe via the Greece and Western Balkans route. While Europe has so far received the best of the Syrian society, poorer Syrians may also be on the move without an immediate and substantial improvement of educational infrastructure and their legal labour market status in host countries.
  • Topic: Civil War, Economics, Migration, Poverty, Refugee Issues, Infrastructure
  • Political Geography: Syria
  • Publication Date: 08-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Al Jazeera
  • Abstract: The Syrian armed opposition’s gains, especially in northern Syria, have stirred Russian and US fears about the possibility of a major regime collapse. This has prompted Moscow to return to the political solution approach to avert further expansion of the Islamic State (IS or Daesh) and to stop the regime’s power from completely dissolving. For the US, this has prompted President Obama to intensify bids to Iran for cooperation to resolve the Syrian crisis. This is in part to prove to his Republican opponents that the nuclear deal will contribute to modifying Iran’s behaviour and will motivate the country to cooperate in resolving the region’s crises rather than exacerbating them. Parallel to the military escalation in Zabadani, Iran re-launched its political initiative, which the Syrian opposition rejected, but which the regime quickly accepted because it guarantees its survival. Turkey has directly entered the fray in an effort to protect its interests in northern Syria, managing to broker a US agreement to establish an IS-free zone (which Turkey also intends to be Kurd-free).
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Syria
  • Author: Edmund Cairns
  • Publication Date: 03-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Oxfam Publishing
  • Abstract: The UK needs a safe world in which to trade and invest, and to be free from the security threats caused by conflicts or fragile states. Yet spiralling inequality and climate change, among many other factors, threaten to create a more dangerous, unequal world. As the continuing tragedy in Syria shows, the world's old and new powers have not yet found a way to unite to end conflicts. The age of interventions, such as those in Iraq and Afghanistan, is over. But a new rule-based world in which China, India, and others unite with Western powers to protect civilians and end conflicts has not yet come into being. Whoever wins the 2015 UK general election, the greatest test for UK foreign policy will be how much it can do to help build that world.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, Climate Change, Poverty, Insurgency, Fragile/Failed State
  • Political Geography: Britain, China, Iraq, United Kingdom, Europe, India, Syria
  • Author: Mona Yacoubian
  • Publication Date: 02-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Centre
  • Abstract: The Syrian crisis is rapidly turning into a humanitarian and security nightmare with regional and possibly global implications. The conflict is now firmly entrenched in a military stalemate. While "stalemate" conveys a sense of stasis, the impasse translates into the deepening deterioration of conditions on the ground. Meanwhile, the supercharged sectarian dynamic emanating from Syria is severely threatening regional stability, particularly in Iraq and Lebanon, which have both witnessed significant increases in sectarian violence.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Humanitarian Aid, International Cooperation, Sectarian violence
  • Political Geography: United Nations, Syria
  • Author: Aaron Y. Zelin
  • Publication Date: 06-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: The Mosul crisis highlights how ISIS has established a potent cadre of foreign jihadists who freely operate across the rapidly disappearing Iraq-Syria border.
  • Topic: Islam, Terrorism, Armed Struggle
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Syria
  • Author: Jeffrey White
  • Publication Date: 06-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Events on the battlefield will reveal the true effects of the crisis, but the ISIS campaign in Iraq could ultimately help the Syrian opposition and hurt the Assad regime.
  • Topic: Terrorism, Armed Struggle, Sectarian violence
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Syria
  • Author: Faysal Itani, Nathaniel Rosenblatt
  • Publication Date: 03-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Atlantic Council
  • Abstract: As the conflict in Syria enters its fourth year, US policy has consistently failed to achieve its stated object: a negotiated political transition based on the mutual consent of the regime and opposition. The United States and its Western allies have focused on summits and high-level diplomacy as the most effective means to that laudable end. This approach ignores an essential missing ingredient: an opposition able to coordinate different anti-regime forces, exercise agency on their behalf, and provide decent local governance, without which Syrians will continue to suffer and fight irrespective of whether the regime is overthrown.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Bilateral Relations
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East, Syria, North America
  • Author: Faysal Itani
  • Publication Date: 06-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Atlantic Council
  • Abstract: Jihadists are steadily capturing territory and resources and establishing a state in Syria and Iraq. The most capable jihadist group, the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (ISIS), now controls swathes of territory, energy resources, and sophisticated military hardware in both countries. Although the extremists are currently occupied with fighting other nonregime armed groups and the Syrian and Iraqi regimes, these efforts are a means to an end: building a state from which to confront and target the United States, its allies, and its interests in the region. These jihadist groups also bring boundless suffering to the populations they control, and serve as a magnet for and inspiration to jihadists worldwide.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, Terrorism, Armed Struggle, Sectarianism, Sectarian violence
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Middle East, Syria
  • 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