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AssessmentsFeb 5, 2020 | 09:00 GMT
Turkish-backed Syrian fighters man an anti-aircraft gun in Saraqeb, in the northwestern Syrian province of Idlib on Feb. 1, 2020.
Turkey Digs In Its Heels in Idlib
Moscow and Ankara’s long-standing alliance of convenience is set to face a trial by fire in northwestern Syria. A Russian- and Iranian-backed Syrian offensive to retake Idlib appears poised to roll back Turkish influence in the area and send a new wave of refugees to Turkey, which is already hosting 3 million Syrians. On Feb. 3, Syrian government shelling killed five Turkish soldiers in Idlib, prompting Turkey to respond with an array of strikes against Syrian government positions. The tit-for-tat strikes herald a new, dangerous phase for the conflict in Idlib, as Syrian government forces, with Iranian and Russian support, push deeper into the province, leading Turkey to respond with the deployment of new forces directly in the path of advancing Syrian troops. For Turkey, it's a game of high-stakes military pressure to buy time for negotiations to ensure that there is no new flood of refugees to Turkey and
AssessmentsJan 8, 2020 | 10:00 GMT
This Dec. 26, 2019, photo shows a damaged vehicle in the wake of an airstrike in Zawiya, 45 kilometers west of Tripoli.
Turkey's Help Won't Win Its Allies the Libyan War
Squeezed by an army on the advance, Libya's Government of National Accord (GNA) has reached for a lifeline across the Mediterranean in Ankara, which is planning to send special forces, drones and other assistance to Tripoli. But while Turkey's military support will help keep the GNA afloat in Tripoli with an eye to ensuring it remains part of any future Libyan political system, it's unlikely to move the needle enough to halt the opposing Libyan National Army's (LNA) offensive on the city entirely. More to the point, LNA leader Khalifa Hifter's foreign backers are likely to respond to Turkey's move by increasing support for the field marshal -- meaning that, in the long run, Ankara's involvement in Libya runs a high risk of encountering mission creep.
SnapshotsOct 27, 2019 | 13:46 GMT
Syria: Al-Baghdadi Dies in U.S. Operation, but Islamic State Threat Will Persist
U.S. President Donald Trump announced Oct. 27 that a U.S. military operation carried out by the U.S. Army's elite Delta Force with CIA support in Idlib province in northwestern Syria has resulted in the death of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Al-Baghdadi's death, however, will not do much to significantly weaken the wider capabilities of the Islamic State or its affiliates.
Contributor PerspectivesJul 25, 2019 | 09:00 GMT
Fighters with the U.S.-backed, Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces guard women and children waiting to leave the al-Hol camp in northeastern Syria on June 3, 2019.
The Syrian Civil War Grinds On, Largely Forgotten
While the United States and Iran risk all-out war with their game of chicken in the Persian Gulf, their proxy war is still playing out in Syria. Iran's ally, Syrian President Bashar al Assad, won the war two years ago, but his victory was incomplete. Al Assad secured his throne, but two large swathes of the country remain beyond his reach. The Turkish army and rebel militants control the northwest. The mainly Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces, supported by a small but unspecified number of American, British and French special forces, hold the area northeast of the Euphrates River near the Syria-Turkey-Iraq border triangle. Al Assad has said he will not give up the struggle until both areas revert to his dominion. The only other part of the country under foreign occupation is the Golan Heights, but Al Assad is in no position to expel the Israelis.
AssessmentsApr 26, 2019 | 09:00 GMT
Russian air force personnel secure a Tu-160 strategic long-range bomber upon landing on Dec. 10, 2018, at Maiquetia airport outside Caracas, Venezuela.
Prior Interventions Can Help Us Understand Russia's Military Plans in Venezuela
In the past five years, Russia has engaged in two major military actions abroad, one in Ukraine and the other in Syria. In both cases, Russia began with a limited and unofficial force structure, only to ramp it up into a larger, more official and more sustained military presence. Similarities between Russian interests and actions in these theaters and Venezuela suggest Moscow is poised to ramp up its small initial military deployment in the troubled South American country -- though strategic and tactical considerations will limit the extent of Russian actions in Venezuela. But any Russian military intervention could lead to increased U.S. sanctions against both Russia and Venezuela, and to even greater U.S. efforts to support the Venezuelan opposition.
SnapshotsApr 19, 2019 | 20:31 GMT
Congo: What's Behind the Islamic State's Claim of an Attack in Africa?
Ejected from its cradle in Mesopotamia, the Islamic State is expanding rapidly elsewhere in the world, including Central Africa -- or so it says. On April 18, the Islamic State's central media channel, Amaq, published a claim for an attack that occurred in North Kivu in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. According to Amaq, militants belonging to the Islamic State's "Central Africa Province" attacked Congolese soldiers, killing three and injuring five, in the remote locality of Kamango. This is the first time that Amaq has claimed an attack in the country, even though fighters claiming allegiance to the Islamic State have been conducting attacks in the area for years now. More active in the area, however, are the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a jihadist group with origins in Uganda that has attempted to rebrand itself in part by adopting the slogans and flags of an Islamic State-like group.
On SecurityMar 12, 2019 | 09:00 GMT
Algerian protesters demonstrate in the capital Algiers against ailing President Abdel Aziz Bouteflika's bid for a fifth term on March 8, 2019.
The Jihadist Peril Lurking in Algeria's Protests
No stranger to civil conflict, Algeria is once again experiencing significant political unrest. Protests in the country are gathering steam, indicating deep and widespread discontent with the power structure that has helped Algerian President Abdel Aziz Bouteflika remain in power even though the octogenarian suffered a debilitating stroke in 2013. The trigger for the most recent protests that erupted on Feb. 22 was the announcement that Bouteflika -- who is wheelchair-bound and unable to speak -- would stand for a fifth term in presidential elections on April 18. On March 11, however, he announced that he was withdrawing from the election, which authorities will delay until a national conference sets a date for a new election. In climbing down, Bouteflika is clearly hoping to defuse the current protests. But until the particulars are known, it is difficult to determine if he will succeed. The protests are not only focused on
AssessmentsMar 9, 2019 | 14:00 GMT
A column of armored Turkish military vehicles proceeds along a road in a demilitarized zone in the western countryside of Syria's Aleppo province on March 8, 2019.
Ankara Calculates the Risks of an Offensive in Northeastern Syria
With the United States on the cusp of a significant withdrawal from northern Syria and Turkey continuing to court better relations with Russia, Ankara is gearing up to cross its southern border to pursue its cherished goal of taking on the Syrian Democratic Forces. But even as Turkey might soon enjoy clear sailing into northeastern Syria to seek to drive the Syrian Democratic Forces away from key positions, particularly around the Euphrates, pitfalls remain. From remaining U.S. forces to possible Russian resistance, Ankara's likely offensive into the area could even drag it into a dangerous conflict with the numerous other countries involved in Syria.
On SecurityMar 5, 2019 | 10:15 GMT
Iraqis demand investigations March 1, 2019, in Baghdad into the discovery of a mass grave near the Islamic State's last bastion in eastern Syria.
The Erasure of the Islamic State's Caliphate Won't Ensure Its Defeat
The U.S.-allied Syrian Democratic Forces launched an operation March 1 backed by U.S. artillery and air support in an effort to defeat the remnant core fighters of the Islamic State in the last sliver of the militant group's self-declared "caliphate," the term it used to describe the territory in Syria and Iraq it conquered and governed under its austere interpretation of Sharia. With the destruction of the so-called caliphate imminent, many have begun to wonder if the jihadist group could ever recover. But this is the wrong question. Instead of asking whether the Islamic State core can recover, the proper question is whether the Islamic State core will be permitted to recover again. The difference between these two questions is subtle, but vitally important.
On SecurityJan 22, 2019 | 11:00 GMT
A Somali soldier stands at the scene of a car bomb attack conducted by al Qaeda affiliate al Shabaab near the Peace Hotel in Mogadishu on Jan. 2, 2017.
Tracking Jihadist Movements in 2019: Al Qaeda
The jihadist movement is a global insurgency – not just a terrorist phenomenon. Today, most of the world's jihadist groups have affiliated themselves with one of two poles: al Qaeda or the Islamic State. This seeming unity, however, belies numerous disagreements about how to pursue jihad. Given these differences, it is little surprise that there is a great deal of variance among different groups – even among those under the same al Qaeda or Islamic State umbrella. In this, some "franchises" stick close to the philosophies and guidance provided by the nominal parent organization, while others stray further afield. Here's a look at what how al Qaeda's various franchises fared in 2018 and what we can expect from them in the year to come.
AssessmentsNov 30, 2018 | 10:00 GMT
A Syrian air force Sukhoi Su-22 fighter jet flies over the Palestinian camp of Yarmuk on the southern outskirts of Damascus during airstrikes on the Islamic State in April 2018.
The Next Phase of the Syrian Conflict Could Be the Most Damaging
Syria's civil war may not be forgotten -- least of all by the millions the maelstrom has affected -- but the conflict no longer drives the international news cycle as it once did. In large part, that's because Syrian government forces have succeeded in seizing control of most of the country's population centers and because most of the remaining front lines have become relatively frozen. Nevertheless, even as hot conflict becomes less common in the country, the year ahead remains fraught with the risk of perhaps the biggest firestorm yet: this time, not just among government forces and rebels, but among the many states that have entered the Syrian arena.
Contributor PerspectivesNov 14, 2018 | 10:00 GMT
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, left, meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sept. 17, 2018, in Sochi, Russia.
Turkey and Russia: A New Alignment?
Turkey's relationship with Russia is historically fraught with suspicion and friction. Since the end of the Cold War, however, the two countries have established an important economic relationship, and have set a bold, perhaps unreachable target of $100 billion in bilateral trade. Even so, this economic aspiration is counterbalanced by differing prerogatives in the strategic and geopolitical realm. Turkey, representing NATO's eastern flank, has partnered for decades with the United States and the European Union to contain Russian influence in Eastern and Central Europe, as well as the Caucasus. Recent developments in the Syrian civil war have resulted in a strange congruence of interests and seeming cooperation between Ankara and Moscow, but it would be a stretch to argue that this cooperation will deepen into an enduring strategic relationship.
AssessmentsSep 19, 2018 | 09:00 GMT
This photo, taken on Sept. 9, 2018, shows destruction in the town of al-Habit on the edges of rebel-held Idlib province.
A Deal Between Turkey and Russia Won't Stop the Crisis in Idlib
Russia and Turkey have come to an agreement over Syria's last rebel stronghold, Idlib. Following their latest round of talks in Sochi, Russia, on Sept. 17, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced their deal to set up a 15- to 20-kilometer (9.3- to 12.4-mile) jointly patrolled demilitarized zone around the province by mid-October. The agreement, which will prevent Russian-backed loyalist forces from launching a major offensive to reclaim Idlib from the rebels, stands to ease tensions between Russia and Turkey. Nevertheless, the standoff over Idlib is far from resolved, and numerous obstacles remain that could undermine the deal.
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