September 30, 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 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...]

Netanyahu’s ‘Long War’ Doctrine

President Obama and PM Netanyahu Visit Iron Dome Site in 2013 (photo credit:  Mark Israel / The Israel Project)

PJmedia, 5/8: As a number of former senior Israeli officials pointed out in the course of Operation Protective Edge, Jerusalem had only two possible strategic options to choose from as it entered this fight. The first involved seeking to inflict serious damage on Hamas’s military capabilities in an operation limited in scope. The goal of such a course of action would be to achieve deterrence against Hamas. Implicit in this option is that, at its conclusion, the Hamas authority in Gaza … [Read more...]

‘Islamic State’ Advances in Syria

ISIS fighters carry their weapons during a parade in Syria, near the border with Turkey, 2014.

Jerusalem Post, 1/8 In recent weeks, far from the attention of the world’s media, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (IS, formerly ISIS) has been fighting its enemies and expanding its borders. There is mounting evidence that IS has obtained a chemical weapons capacity of some kind, and has utilized it on at least one occasion during intense combat against the Kurdish YPG militia in northern Syria. The organization has achieved signal successes against regime forces in Raqqa and Hasakeh … [Read more...]

Desperately Seeking Relevance

A protester leads a group of Egyptians in anti-Muslim Brotherhood chants, November 30, 2012. (Y. Weeks/VOA)

Jerusalem Post, 25/7 The conflict between Hamas-controlled Gaza and Israel became inevitable after a series of decisions and actions made clear that the movement was not interested in defusing tensions and returning to the cease-fire that had shakily pertained since 2012. These actions included the attempt to infiltrate a terrorist team into Zikim on July 8, the continued firing of rockets after the rejection of the Egyptian cease-fire proposal, the failure to respect the humanitarian … [Read more...]

Qatar / Hamas’s Collateral Damage

jonathan-spyer

PJMedia, 22/7 The fight between Israel and Hamas in Gaza is presented in the global media as a local conflict featuring a well organized state with its army, against a small Islamist organization. This picture is misleading. Hamas is not an isolated or even an entirely independent player. Rather, it is a member of a broader regional alliance, which is seeking to benefit from the current situation. This is the alliance of Muslim Brotherhood forces in the Middle East. Qatar is the main … [Read more...]