October 25, 2014

About Jonathan Spyer

Dr. Jonathan Spyer is a senior research fellow at the Global Research in International Affairs Center in Herzliya, Israel, and a fellow at the Middle East Forum. He is the author of The Transforming Fire: The Rise of the Israel-Islamist Conflict (Continuum, 2010) and a columnist at the Jerusalem Post newspaper. Spyer holds a PhD in International Relations from the London School of Economics and a Masters' Degree in Middle East Politics from the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. His blog can be followed at: http://jonathanspyer.com/.

The Shia-Sunni war reaches Lebanon

Flag of Hezbollah in Baalbek, 2010

Jerusalem Post, 17/10 Hezbollah is under pressure as the consequences of its ongoing intervention in Syria have come back to bite the terrorist organization. There are increasing indications that the sectarian war raging in Iraq and Syria is now moving irrevocably into Lebanon. The Shi’ite group is currently seeking to shore up its legitimacy by reminding its constituents, and other Lebanese citizens, of the role that gains it the most domestic sympathy – resistance against Israel. … [Read more...]

MERIA Special Report: Did ISIS Use Chemical Weapons Against the Kurds in Kobani?

nowarning

*** WARNING:  This post contains images which some readers may find disturbing.  Caution is advised.  Please scroll down to view these images. The fate of Kobani city now hangs in the balance, as around 9000 fighters of the Islamic State organization close in on the Kurdish held area.  The current IS assault on the Kobani enclave was not the first attempt by the jihadis to destroy the Kurdish-controlled area.  The Kobani enclave, most of which is now in the hands of the IS, at one … [Read more...]

Western fear of angering Turkey leaves besieged Kurdish town at mercy of Islamic State

Tigris River and bridge in Mosul.

Jerusalem Post, 7/10 The fate of the Kurdish enclave in Kobani appears to be sealed. The greater part of the formerly Kurdish-ruled area has already fallen to the forces of Islamic State. Some 9,000 Islamic State fighters are positioned close to the last remaining redoubt – Kobani city itself. The black flag of the Sunni Islamists is already flying in three neighborhoods of the city. On Monday, the Kurdish authorities ordered the evacuation of all remaining civilians from the city. … [Read more...]

Flawed western strategy in Iraq and Syria

jonathan-spyer

The United States and its allies have launched a military campaign whose stated goal is, in the words of President Barack Obama, to “degrade and ultimately destroy” the Islamic State (I.S., also known as ISIS or ISIL) established by Sunni jihadis in a contiguous land area stretching from western Iraq to the Syrian-Turkish border. As the aerial campaign begins in earnest, many observers are wondering what exactly its tactical and strategic objectives are, and how they will be achieved. A … [Read more...]

The Defense of Kobani

Abu Omar al-Shishani and other Chechen jihadis, 2013.

Jerusalem Post, 27/9 This week witnessed the second determined attempt by Islamic State forces to destroy the Kurdish enclave around Kobani (Ayn al-Arab) city in northern Syria. Kobani is one of three autonomous enclaves maintained by the Kurds in Syria. As of now, it appears that after initial lightning advances, the progress of the jihadis has been halted; they have not moved forward in the last 24 hours. The arrival of Kurdish forces from across the Turkish border is the key element in … [Read more...]

The Guns of August

Thriving city streets of Erbil, Iraq, in 2011, pre-IS. (photo Adam Jones)

Inside the Kurdish-IS War Jerusalem Report, 17/9 Erbil has changed a lot since I was there last. In early 2013, on my way into Syrian Kurdistan, I had stopped off in the city for a few days to make preparations. Then, the city had the feel of a boom town – shopping malls springing up across the skyline, brand new SUVs on the road, Exxon Mobil and Total were coming to town. It was the safest part of Iraq, an official of the Kurdish Regional Government had told me proudly over dinner in a … [Read more...]

At the Kurdistan Front

Peshmerga on a T-55-Tank outside Kirkuk in Iraq, 2014

Weekly Standard, 12/9. A war is being waged along a 900-mile front between two entities that today constitute de facto quasi-states stretching across the old border between Syria and Iraq. These are the Islamic State to the south and a contiguous area of Kurdish-controlled territory to the north. Recently, I traveled to the latter, in regions of northern Iraq and northeast Syria, like the town of Derik, where I spoke with a Kurdish soldier who had recently been in a firefight with IS forces … [Read more...]

Despite Setbacks, Islamic State Faces No Danger to its Existence

Steven Sotloff, American-Israeli journalist abducted by ISIS in August 2013 and murdered in September 2014.

Jerusalem Post, 5/9 The Islamic State this week executed kidnapped American journalist Steven Sotloff – in ‘retaliation’, the group said, for US bombing of its area of control in Iraq.  The murder of Sotloff once more indicated the savage  brutality of this group. But while the IS may be almost without rivals in terms of its capacity for cruelty, events on the ground in Iraq and to a lesser extent in Syria are indicating its limitations as a military force.  IS tactical setbacks, … [Read more...]

The IS-Kurdish War

Mosul Dam hydro power plant

National Post, 29/8 “Eighty years ago, they joined three nations together and formed Iraq. This mistake must not be repeated … The solution is a breakup,” says General Maghdid Haraki. The Kurdish peshmerga officer is speaking from the front lines in Khazar, northern Iraq. His position is only 45 kilometres northwest of Erbil, capital of the autonomous Kurdish regional government (KRG), which along with Sunni and Shiite Arab lands makes up modern Iraq. Today, not only the existence … [Read more...]

Qatar, Hamas and the Gaza War

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry with Qatari Foreign Minister Khalid Al Arriya in Washington, April 2014.

Tower Magazine, August 2014. One of the most notable aspects of the current conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza is the prominent role being played by the Emirate of Qatar in supporting the terrorist organization, whose genocidal charter calls for the murder of Jews and destruction of Israel. Emir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad al-Thani, the leader of the Emirate of Qatar, is acting as Hamas’ “channel of communication” to the international community. Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal is now … [Read more...]