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  • Author: Anthony H. Cordesman
  • Publication Date: 08-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: In fairness, peace almost always consists of a pause in the fighting that becomes a prelude to war. Taking modern Europe as an example, the Napoleonic wars were punctuated by failed peace attempts, and then led to the rise of Germany and a whole new series of wars with Austria, Denmark, and France. The repressive peace settlements following Europe’s upheavals in 1848 set the stage for decades of new rounds of conflict and revolution. World War I led to World War II, and then led to the Cold War and now to the Ukraine. Nevertheless, the current U.S. efforts to support peace negotiations in Afghanistan and the Middle East seem remarkably weak even by historical standards. In the case of Afghanistan, “peace” is being negotiated without even the same cosmetic level of local government participation that occurred in Vietnam. It is being negotiated when there is no political stability to build upon, and no apparent prospect that the coming election can bring real unity or effective leadership.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Military Strategy, Conflict, Peace
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, Africa, Iraq, Middle East, Libya, Yemen, Syria, Gulf Nations
  • Author: Anthony H. Cordesman, Abdullah Toukan
  • Publication Date: 09-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: The U.S., its European allies, and its Strategic Partners in the Middle East achieved a significant victory in breaking up the ISIS protostate – or “caliphate” – in Syria and Iraq. This break up has sharply reduced the fighting against ISIS in Iraq, and in Eastern Syria. The U.S.-led Coalition did not, however, fully defeat ISIS in either Iraq or Syria or eliminate ISIS and other forms of extremism as serious threats. It did not bring lasting stability to Iraq or end the Syrian civil war, and it did not eliminate the threat from ISIS and other extremist groups in the rest of the MENA area. This analysis covers two important aspects of the crisis in Iraq and Syria since the break of the “caliphate.” First, it summarizes key official reporting on the resurgence of ISIS as a serious threat in both Syria and Iraq. Second, it puts ISIS in perspective – showing that it did not dominate the violence and levels of terrorism in Syria even at its peak, and noting that ISIS is only one of the major threats to stability in Iraq.
  • Topic: Terrorism, Military Strategy, ISIS, Conflict
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Syria, United States of America
  • Author: Seth G. Jones
  • Publication Date: 05-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: The Issue Some U.S. policymakers have argued that the United States should withdraw its military forces from Syria. But the United States has several interests in Syria: Balancing against Iran, including deterring Iranian forces and militias from pushing close to the Israeli border, disrupting Iranian lines of communication through Syria, preventing substantial military escalation between Israel and Iran, and weakening Shia proxy forces. Balancing against Russia, including deterring further Russian expansion in the Middle East from Syrian territory and raising the costs—including political costs—of Russian operations in Syria. Preventing a terrorist resurgence, including targeting Salafi-jihadist groups like the Islamic State and al Qaeda that threaten the United States and its allies. Our Recommendations: Based on U.S. interests in Syria, Washington should establish a containment strategy that includes the following components: Retain a small military and intelligence footprint that includes working with—and providing limited training, funding, and equipment to—groups in eastern, northern, and southern Syria, such as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). Coordinate with regional allies such as Jordan and Israel to balance against Iran and Russia and to prevent the resurgence of Salafi-jihadists. Pressure outside states to end support to Salafi-jihadists, including Turkey and several Gulf states. As the war in Syria moves into its seventh year, U.S. policymakers have struggled to agree on a clear Syria strategy. Some U.S. policymakers have argued that the United States needs to withdraw its military forces from Syria. “I want to get out,” President Trump said of the United States’ military engagement in Syria. “I want to bring our troops back home.”1 Others have urged caution, warning that a precipitous withdrawal could contribute to a resurgence of terrorism or allow U.S. competitors like Iran and Russia—along with their proxies—to fill the vacuum.2 In addition, some administration officials have argued that the Islamic State has been decimated in Syria and Iraq. The National Security Strategy notes that “we crushed Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorists on the battlefields of Syria and Iraq.”3 But between 5,000 and 12,000 Islamic State fighters remain in Syria and continue to conduct guerrilla attacks, along with between 40,000 and 70,000 Salafi-jihadist fighters in Syria overall.4
  • Topic: Civil War, Terrorism, Military Strategy, Military Intervention
  • Political Geography: United States, Iran, Middle East, Israel, Syria