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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.
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 PerspectivesApr 11, 2018 | 08:00 GMT
Druze men rally in support of the Syrian government in February 2012 in Majdal Shams, a Druze town on the Israeli-controlled side of the Golan Heights.
Syria's Druze Maintain a Difficult Neutrality
The most rebellious community in Syria's modern history is a people called the Druze, most of whom live in a region called the Druze Mountain, Jabal al-Druze, about 70 miles south of Damascus. Members of this syncretic, semi-Shiite Muslim sect battled the country's successive overlords, notably the Ottoman Turks in World War I and the French mandate authorities in the 1920s and '30s. Syrian independence in 1946 did not dampen their enthusiasm for revolt, as they rose against nationalist regimes that they felt threatened their traditional ways of living. Yet when the biggest rebellion in the country's history broke out in March 2011, the Druze stayed out.
Contributor PerspectivesMar 18, 2018 | 13:29 GMT
A child sits in front of the bullet-riddled wall of a former school in Syria's eastern Ghouta, a rebel-held area on the outskirts of Damascus, on Jan. 5, 2016.
The Result of a Loyalist Victory in Syria's Eastern Ghouta? More Violence
The jihadist revolution is dying in the eastern suburbs of the Syrian capital, Damascus. Syrian government forces, supported by aerial bombardment and heavy artillery barrages, have split the opposition-held territory of eastern Ghouta into two bastions and are eating away at both. The farmlands on which civilians and fighters in the besieged zones depended for food have fallen to the Syrian army and its related militias. Threatened with starvation and braving the government onslaught, some residents have defied army bombardment and rebel ire with public protests calling on the insurgents to leave. They claim that is the only way to end the hunger, privation, casualties, shelling and chaotic jihadist governance they have endured for years.
AssessmentsMar 14, 2018 | 09:00 GMT
Turkey's Operation Olive Branch advances through northwestern Syria.
Turkey After Afrin
More than 50 days on, NATO's second largest army is finally bringing its superior weight to bear in its attack on Afrin. Despite a slow start to Operation Olive Branch, Turkey has shown that its military remains an effective and powerful force, despite recent domestic turmoil, as it fights to remove the People's Protection Units (YPG) and its local allies from the mountainous area on Turkey's border. Any success in the operations against Afrin will likely embolden Ankara to undertake further military action to consolidate its position in the region and prevent the YPG from expanding its influence and territory -- even if that puts Turkey on a collision course with other countries with interests in the region.
AssessmentsFeb 23, 2018 | 19:33 GMT
Turkish-backed Syrian opposition fighters walk on the Roman bridge in the archaeological site of Cyrrhus, northeast of the Syrian city of Afrin, in February 2018.
Three Flashpoints in the Syrian Civil War
Since the start of the year, three prominent regions in the Syrian civil war have emerged as its current flashpoints: Afrin, Idlib and Damascus. These hotbeds of military activity represent the intersection of the various proxy battles underway in Syria. Turkey, Russia, Iran, the Syrian government, and the many loyalist and rebel militant groups active throughout the country all have unique goals. In the flashpoint regions, however, their objectives are overlapping to move the Syrian conflict into a new, more static phase. As these three remaining major offensives wane in the coming months, they will give way to constant deadly skirmishes and attacks along the front lines, with few significant changes in territorial control.
Partner PerspectivesJan 28, 2018 | 14:24 GMT
Turkish tanks and troops wait along the Syrian border Jan. 25, 2018, during Operation Olive Branch, an incursion into Afrin canton.
What's Next for Turkey, the U.S. and the YPG After the Afrin Operation?
Turkey's decision to conduct a full-scale military incursion into Afrin, Syria --involving airstrikes and ground forces -- should not come as a surprise. For the past three years of the campaign to defeat ISIS, the United States has increasingly turned to Syria's Kurds and their most dominant political and fighting force, the People's Protection Unit (YPG). But the YPG is the sister organization of Turkey's Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has fought the Turkish state for more than four decades and has capitalized on the civil war to establish its own, self-governed autonomous region in the northeast of Syria known as Rojava (Syrian Kurdistan).
On SecurityJan 18, 2018 | 12:23 GMT
A Yemeni man surveys the aftermath of a bombing in Huta, in the southern province of Lahj, March 27, 2017.
Tracking Global Terrorism in 2018
With the start of a new year, we once again examine the state of the global jihadist movement. Shared from Threat Lens, Stratfor's unique protective intelligence product, this column includes excerpts from a comprehensive forecast available to Threat Lens subscribers.
Contributor PerspectivesNov 22, 2017 | 08:00 GMT
Saudi, Egyptian and Emirati officials convene in Cairo for a meeting Nov. 19 at the Arab League headquarters.
For Saudi Arabia, All Politics Is Local
The recent political shake-up in Saudi Arabia extends beyond the kingdom's borders. On Nov. 4, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri resigned from office unexpectedly after being hastily summoned to Riyadh. Reports that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman coerced Hariri, a Saudi citizen, to step down while in custody created a wave of international backlash. Officials from the United Kingdom, the European Union and Germany all spoke out condemning Saudi Arabia's meddling in Lebanon's domestic politics. France's president, Emmanuel Macron, brought the full weight of French diplomacy to bear on the situation and invited Hariri to Paris to ensure his freedom. Despite Riyadh's insistence that it had not restricted his movement, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel issued a stern warning against keeping the former prime minister from traveling to France and said Europe would not abide Saudi Arabia's "adventurism." The Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs responded by recalling the kingdom's
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