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  • Author: David Pollock
  • Publication Date: 01-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: As the United States prepares to withdraw its 2,000 troops from Syria, it has one last essential mission to accomplish. Those U.S. forces have fought successfully, hand in hand, with 60,000 Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) against Islamic State terrorists for the past four years. And President Trump’s latest statement about this, on January 2, noted his desire to protect these Kurds. So, despite all obstacles, the United States should still try to protect that brave and loyal militia in the short term, and secure a safer medium-term future for the Syrian Kurds and their local partners.
  • Topic: International Security, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Syria
  • Author: Houssem Ben Lazreg, Phil Gursky
  • Publication Date: 07-2018
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Fletcher Security Review
  • Institution: The Fletcher School, Tufts University
  • Abstract: Islamic State (IS) has demonstrated unprecedented capabilities in attracting foreign fighters, particularly from Western countries. Between 2011 and 2015, Western foreign fighters coming from North America, Europe, and Australia traveled to Iraq and Syria in order to join IS and the Al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat Al-Nusra. As IS has been significantly weakened, authorities in many western countries are increasingly worried that returning fighters will come back to their home countries radicalized, battle hardened, and eager to commit terrorist attacks. This concern is clearly manifested in Phil Gursky’s book cover which features a striking image of a Belgian returnee from Syria, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, who has been named by security officials as one of the architects of the attacks in Paris in 2015. ​ In Western Foreign Fighters: The Threat to Homeland and International Security, Phil Gursky, a former analyst at the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, elaborates on the phenomenon of ‘Western Foreign Fighters.’ This book aims at addressing two fundamental issues: “why people leave their homeland to join terrorist groups?” and “do they pose a threat upon their prospective return?”[1] To answer those questions, Gurski relies not only on a detailed analysis of the excerpts and statements by the fighters recently engaged in violent extremism at home and overseas, but also on accounts that delineate historical parallels and differences with previous conflicts sharing similar dynamics. ​ Gurski divides his analysis into eight substantive chapters, an appendix, a glossary and a suggested reading list, using accessible, non-academic prose. He conducts the majority of his historical analysis in chapter three. His discussion of western volunteers—mainly Canadians and Americans—and their involvement in previous conflicts such as the Spanish Civil War and the Boers Wars provides informative and engaging insights, mostly for a general readership.[2] It also sets the stage for shedding light on why Westerners join terrorist groups like IS, and what threat they pose to homeland/international security. Obviously, these issues will be of most interest to intelligence officers, policy makers, scholars, and practitioners...
  • Topic: Terrorism, International Security, Violent Extremism, Islamic State, Homeland Security, Book Review
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Europe, Middle East, Syria, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Çağlar Açıkyıldız
  • Publication Date: 01-2018
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Global Political Trends Center
  • Abstract: The events in Syria since the beginning of the conflict in 2011 have been a source of concern for the international community. The ongoing civil war has caused many military and civilian casualties. Reports on the state of the country indicate that both government forces and rebels have committed both crimes against humanity and war crimes. What began as a crisis in March 2011, turned into a civil war between the Syrian government and armed opposition groups and has resulted in over 465,000 deaths. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), as of April 2017, there were more than 5 million Syrian refugees and at least 6.3 million internally displaced persons (IDPs). Over 13.5 million Syrians remain in dire need of humanitarian assistance, with 4.5 million people in inaccessible areas, including at least 419,900 people trapped in 10 besieged communities. Besides, Islamic State has been very effective in the country especially since 2014. The Islamic State took control of some land and equally committed war crimes and crimes against humanity. Therefore, Syria demonstrates a clear case of a state unable or unwilling to protect its own citizens; hence, enough ground to invoke Responsibility to Protect (R2P) to save civilian lives in Syria. However, it is difficult to assume that the international community has a solution to the problem. In this paper, the validity of the R2P and problems of its implementation in the Syrian case are discussed.
  • Topic: International Security, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Syria
  • Author: Samar Batrawi, Ana Uzelac
  • Publication Date: 09-2018
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Clingendael Netherlands Institute of International Relations
  • Abstract: Syrian society is more socially, politically and geographically fragmented than ever before. None of the social problems that caused the 2011 protests have been resolved. Nevertheless, during recent months the Syrian regime has been trying to foster the image that Syria is entering a post-war phase in which a unified and stable Syria can flourish under President Bashar al-Assad. The fact that more than half of the country’s pre-war population is living in exile and has no part in this new social contract of sorts is conveniently omitted from the image presented of this ‘new’ Syria. These refugees will likely continue to live in precarious conditions, with few prospects for safe and voluntary return.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, International Security
  • Political Geography: Syria
  • Publication Date: 12-2018
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Al Jazeera Center for Studies
  • Abstract: Trump’s decision leaves the Kurdish nationalists of the KDP defenceless and, with their patron gone, will likely cause splits among Arab forces allied with Kurdish militiamen. Regionally, it sends a message to US allies in the Gulf about the Trump’s commitment to the Iran-containment strategy.
  • Topic: International Security, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: America, Syria
  • Author: Maha Yahya, Jean Kassir
  • Publication Date: 03-2017
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Abstract: A sustainable political settlement to end the multiple conflicts in Syria will not be possible without a real focus on the challenges of refugee returns. The complexities of the Syrian wars as well as previous international experiences with similar conflicts underscore that ensuring long-term peace requires a more focused attention on the challenges for effective repatriation of refugees and internally displaced persons, including significant security and protection guarantees. Without these, and irrespective of the eventual shape of a political solution, their return may be neither possible nor sustainable—with significant repercussions for peace in Syria, neighboring countries, and states beyond.
  • Topic: War, International Security, Refugee Crisis
  • Political Geography: Syria
  • Author: Andrew J. Tabler
  • Publication Date: 02-2017
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: In this new Transition 2017 paper, Institute expert Andrew J. Tabler argues that Syria remains de facto partitioned, making the establishment of safe zones in non-Assad-controlled areas the Trump administration's most expedient course of action. Moreover, it would further Washington's cause to drive a wedge into the country's Russia-Iran alliance, and both isolate and pressure the Assad regime. If Washington's objectives in Syria are to defeat U.S.-designated terrorist groups and stem the outflow of refugees, President Bashar al-Assad is under no circumstances the right person to entrust with these missions. Simply in practical terms, he lacks the manpower to retake and hold the two-thirds of Syrian territory outside his control any time soon, despite having sufficient support from Russia and Iran to maintain control in large parts of the country. But more important, Assad is an avowed adversary of the West, undeserving of its cooperation.
  • Topic: International Relations, Civil War, International Security, International Affairs, Neoimperialism
  • Political Geography: Russia, America, Iran, Syria
  • Publication Date: 06-2017
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: The Carter Center
  • Abstract: Over the course of this reporting period, intra-opposition strife continued to harm groups in opposition-held territory, namely in Idleb and northern Aleppo. The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in Afrin initiated an offensive against opposition groups in northern Syria while advancing into Raqqa city to the east. Pro-government forces also advanced against ISIS in eastern Aleppo/western Raqqa and Homs. The situation around the US garrison at the al-Tanf border crossing continues to grow more complex as pro- government forces outflanked opposition groups advancing against ISIS in the area, reaching the Iraqi border to the north of opposition and US special forces positions.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, International Security
  • Political Geography: Syria, Kurdistan
  • Publication Date: 06-2017
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: The Carter Center
  • Abstract: Over the course of this reporting period, ISIS continued to lose large portions of territory, particularly to the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and pro-government Tiger Forces in northern Syria. New clashes erupted in rural Aleppo, Daraa, and Syria’s southern desert as the Syrian government began new offensives against opposition forces on those fronts. Intra-opposition strife continues to plague groups in the opposition-held Idleb pocket.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, International Security
  • Political Geography: Syria, Kurdistan
  • Author: Adam Garfinkle
  • Publication Date: 04-2017
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Foreign Policy Research Institute
  • Abstract: By now the world knows that U.S. military forces for the first time since the onset of the Syrian civil war in 2011 have attacked regime targets. Plenty of the basic facts are known about what transpired about 18 hours ago, but a few important ones are not—at least not in the public domain. For example, we have only a very general Bomb Damage Assessment (BDA) report. This matters because Tomahawk cruise missiles are very accurate if “lite” weapons. Knowing what the four dozen or so missiles hit and missed, deliberately and otherwise, could tell us a lot about why the President, presumably with Secretary of Defense James Mattis’ guidance and concurrence, chose the lesser of three options presented at what has been described as a meeting of considerable length. That, in turn, could tell us if the intention ultimately is to coerce the Russians into coercing the Syrians to stop doing monstrous things to their own people, and possibly coercing them to support a compromise political settlement to the war; or if it’s just an Eff-You gesture designed only to relieve the sudden pressure of moral unction that unexpectedly came upon our new Commander-in Chief—who seemed to lurch from coldblooded Randian to “Godtalk” invoker of the American Civil Religion in the wink of an eye. In other words, knowing more about the target set would tell us whether there is any political strategy attached to the use of force, or not. Probably not.
  • Topic: International Security, Military Affairs
  • Political Geography: America, Middle East, Syria
  • Publication Date: 03-2017
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Al Jazeera Center for Studies
  • Abstract: Since the beginning of the Astana process, Moscow seems to be in a race against time to establish the foundations of a solution in Syria before arriving in Geneva: first, by reforming the opposition’s delegation to the negotiations, an effort Moscow has been working on ever since the military intervention in Syria began, and second, by redrawing the solution’s main parameters, which Moscow exerted great effort towards during marathon negotiations conducted with the former US Secretary of State, John Kerry. Through these negotiations, Moscow has been able to change the rules at Geneva by prioritising an agreement to change the constitution, followed by the formation of a non-sectarian representative government, and then calling for presidential elections with Assad’s participation, so ‘the Syrian people can decide his fate’.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Conflict Prevention, Civil War, International Security
  • Political Geography: Syria
  • Author: Chafic Choucair
  • Publication Date: 08-2017
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Al Jazeera Center for Studies
  • Abstract: The battle of Arsal occurred in the context of a gradual easing of the Syrian conflict after its unprecedented exacerbation, and the party’s efforts to confront regional and international developments that target it. However, it also revealed the party’s multiple hegemonies over Lebanese authority.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, International Security
  • Political Geography: Lebanon, Syria
  • Publication Date: 08-2017
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Future for Advanced Research and Studies (FARAS)
  • Abstract: Current data on the political and military situation in Syria indicate that the military as- pect remains the dominant factor in the crisis due to the faltering political track at Geneva and Astana. Nonetheless, significant political changes that developed recently cannot be underestimated in determining the future of the crisis.
  • Topic: International Relations, International Security, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Syria
  • Publication Date: 08-2017
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Future for Advanced Research and Studies (FARAS)
  • Abstract: The so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) is making steady progress on the ground in Raqqa, ISIS’ main stronghold in Syria. The alliance of militias recently announced that they retook 70% of the city from the terrorist group following a successful plan to divide the city into an eastern and western zone and storm the city from both sides. The SDF militants advancing from the eastern and western parts of the city linked up for the first time on August 11 prevent- ing ISIS from reaching the Euphrates River and keeping its fighters with civilians who remain besieged by both groups.
  • Topic: Democratization, International Security, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Syria
  • Publication Date: 08-2017
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Future for Advanced Research and Studies (FARAS)
  • Abstract: Some Middle Eastern states have recently shown signs of opening up to the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad. Acting on their own and not under orders from their governments, ministerial delegations, MPs and representatives of trade unions visited Damascus. Moreover, political parties and grassroots groups called for a restoration of relations with the Syrian regime.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, International Security
  • Political Geography: Syria
  • Publication Date: 08-2017
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Future for Advanced Research and Studies (FARAS)
  • Abstract: March 8 parties – particularly Hezbollah – in support of the Iranian axis have sought rapprochement with Bashar al-Assad’s regime and they are trying to push the Lebanese state to establish direct political and economic relations with it. March 14 parties, particularly the Lebanese Forces which opposes Syria, objected because Hezbollah’s attempts aim to help the Syrian regime exit its regional and international isolation, to make it present again in Lebanon and enhance economic cooperation as a path to establish more comprehensive strategic relations.
  • Topic: International Relations, International Security
  • Political Geography: Syria