February 1, 2015

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/.

Victory in Kobani: A Major Achievement –  but Hard to Replicate

Coalition airstrike in Kobani on Islamic State (IS) position, October 2014

The near-complete liberation of the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani this week from the forces of the Islamic State is a remarkable testimony to the tenacity and courage of the Kurdish resistance on the ground.  It also showcases the awesome efficacy of U.S. air power, when given a clear mission and properly directed. It is nevertheless necessary to qualify some of the more hyperbolic  reactions to the announcement of the IS retreat.  The relief of Kobani in no way constitutes a general rout … [Read more...]

Yemen Joins List of Collapsed Mideast States

Map of Shi'a insurgency in Yemen. ("Yemen war detailed map" by 0ali1 - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Yemen_war_detailed_map.png#mediaviewer/File:Yemen_war_detailed_map.png)

This week in Yemen, an Iran-backed Shia militia captured the presidential palace. The president has since resigned. It was the latest stage in the slow advance of the Houthis, who entered the capital Sana’a in September of last year. The latest Houthi victories do not bring the Shia rebels undisputed control of the country. They do, however, ensure the undisputed presence of the Iranian clients in the central government. The situation in Yemen exemplifies in acute form most of the phenomena … [Read more...]

Game Not Over: The Quneitra Attack in Context

Entrance to the town of Quneitra, Syria, on the border of the Golan Heights. ("Quneitra" by Ed Brambley - originally posted to Flickr as Quneitra. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Quneitra.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Quneitra.jpg)

In analyzing the significance and hence likely fallout from the  Israeli killing of a number of senior Hizballah and IRGC personnel close to the Golan border this week, a number of things should be borne in mind: Firstly, the killings were a response to a clear attempt by the Iranians/Hizballah to violate the very fragile status quo that pertains between these elements and Israel in Lebanon and Syria. Hizballah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah in his interview to the al-Mayadeen network … [Read more...]

Four Jews Killed in Paris Attack Buried in Israel

The Hyper Cacher kosher supermarket in Porte de Vincennes, Paris, where four Jews were murdered by an Islamist terrorist on January 9, 2015.

Under a cloudless Jerusalem sky, a crowd of thousands gathered at the cemetery at Givat Shaul on Tuesday, to bury the four Jews murdered at the Hyper Cacher in Paris. Yoav Hattab, Yohan Cohen, Philippe Braham, and Francois-Michel Saada were laid to rest in Har Hamenuhot, on the approach to Jerusalem from the west. The families chose to make their funerals an act of defiance, firmly remembering that these lives were robbed by an Islamist murderer, because the four men were Jewish. The form this … [Read more...]

Reflections on the Murders in Paris

Turkish pianist Fazıl Say sentenced to 10 months in prison by the 19th Istanbul Peace Court for “insulting religious beliefs held by a section of the society,” (DHA photo).

The Islamic world is currently in the midst of a great historic convulsion. This process is giving birth to political trends and movements of a murderously violent nature. These movements offer a supposed escape route from the humiliation felt at the profound societal failure of the Arab and to a slightly lesser extent the broader Muslim world. The escape is by way of the most violent and intolerant historic trends of Islam, into a mythologized and imagined past. The route to this old-new … [Read more...]

Doha Descending

Doha skyline

Amid rumors of Mashaal’s expulsion, Doha trying to regain alliance with Egypt, Saudi Arabia It is still not clear whether reports in Turkish newspaper Aydinlik concerning the expulsion by Qatar of Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal are accurate. Hamas officials have indignantly denied that their leader is shortly set to quit his Doha home. But certainly, Mashaal’s expulsion would fit with the broader pattern of recent events. Recent months have witnessed a number of acts by Qatar … [Read more...]

How are Things in Kobani?

Kurdish refugees from Kobani in a refugee camp on the Turkish side of the Syria-Turkey border.

The battle for the Syrian Kurdish city of Kobani just entered its fourth month. It is now a fight for a heap of ruins. Four months of intense ground combat, involving tanks, mortars and RPGs as well as small arms, has reduced the city to rubble. Nevertheless, Kobani matters. It is where the Syrian Kurds showed that with the right support, local fighters are capable of turning back the forces of the Islamic State. Kobani also matters because as a result of the stand of the Kurdish YPG … [Read more...]

A Crossing of the Lines (an excerpt from a book I want to write)


On the night I was due to leave I sat in the media center talking to a very thin, very tall and soft spoken Kurdish man in his mid-30s, who everyone treated with a sort of quiet deference.  This was Nuri Mahmoud, a local man who had lost a leg fighting the Turks with the PKK in the Qandil mountains, between Northern Iraq and Southeast Turkey. Nuri spoke very quietly and at length, and was never interrupted.  He had come down from Qandil to oversee the building of political institutions in the … [Read more...]

Interview with Eric Stackelbeck: The Middle East in 2015


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Battlelines Emerge in Israel’s Election Campaign

Tzipi Livni

With the date of the elections set for March 17th, the campaigning season has begun in Israel. There was little public enthusiasm for the new polls. It is only 20 months since the last time Israelis turned out to vote. The 2015 contest will be the fifth general election in Israel since 2003. This means the average life expectancy of an Israeli government is less than two and a half years. It isn’t a recipe for political stability, or for the pursuing by governments of clear and consistent … [Read more...]