ME Update 20171022 – Russia helping the Kurds, Iranian proxies gain ground in northern Iraq, Syrian Kurds advance into oil fields, stabilizing Mosul, Raqqa and governance, Iranian influence in Yemen, Salafism in Gaza, British jihadists, and more.
Iranian Proxies Advancing into Northern Iraq. The Shia militias backed by Iran have been making headway into some of the ‘disputed areas’ formerly held by the Kurds.
Russia Coming to Aid of the Kurds? It appears that Russia is going to be helping out the Iraqi Kurds. The Russians are posturing to take a role in negotiations between the Iraqi central government and the Kurds of northern Iraq. In addition, it appears to have some economic interests – particularly in the significant oil fields found in parts of Kurdistan. Russia’s friendly (at this time) relationship with Iran and Turkey would seem to position the country favorably to wield greater influence in the region; which does, of course, undercut the U.S. standing across the area. The Kurds, having been spurned by the international community (and apparently by the United States) with their drive towards independence, are probably in the hunt for new friends.
Stabilizing Mosul. In the aftermath of major combat operations in Mosul that defeat ISIS what are the critical requirements for achieving lasting stability in that city and the surrounding region? Read a 98-page paper entitled Making Victory Count After Defeating ISIS, RAND Corporation, 2017.
Syrian Kurds Capture Key Oil Field. The Kurds have made some advances into the oil-rich Deir Ezzor near the border of Iraq and captured some oil fields. This region is a Sunni Arab area and the Syrian regime wants to control this area as well. Read a detailed report about this region of Syria by Melissa G. Dalton – Empowering Sustainable Partners in the Fight and Aftermath in Syria’s Deir Ezzor, Center for Strategic & International Studies, October 16, 2017.
Victory in Raqqa. The Syrian Democratic Front (SDF) in enjoying their hard-won victory over the Islamic State with the capture of Raqqa. The city had served as the ‘Caliphate’s’ capital. “U.S.-backed Forces Tout ‘Historic Victory’ Over IS In Its Former Raqqa Capital”, Radio Free Europe, October 21, 2017.
Governing Raqqa. Now that the victory has taken place another phase begins. The success of the battlefield needs to be followed with a successful transition good governance. A report outlines the critical governance challenges that Raqqa will face and need to address if it is to prevent a return to lawlessness and extremism. See “Governance Challenges in Raqqa After the Islamic State”, United States Institute for Peace, October 19, 2017.
Islamic State in Defeat. The U.S. allies’ conquest of Raqqa, Syria has ended the so-called Caliphate; but the group and movement still exists. It will certainly carry on operations as an insurgency and terrorist group. Many European security officials are concerned that there will be an uptick in terrorist attacks in Europe as ISIS shifts focus. Some news reports below:
- “How the Islamic State will grapple with defeat in Raqqa”, Brookings.edu, October 19, 2017.
- “Why the Fall of Raqqa Doesn’t Signify The End of the Islamic State”, National Public Radio, October 21, 2017.
- “The Ignominious End of the ISIS Caliphate”, The New Yorker, October 17, 2017.
What to Do With British Jihadists? It appears that Brits are taking a hard line against its citizens who joined ISIS in Syria. Read “Killing British jihadists is only option, says Rory Stewart”, The Times, October 23, 2017.
Around the Region
Yemen – Iranian Influence? What is the true extent of Iran’s presence in Yemen – including both military and cultural aspects? Dr. Elisabeth Kendall answers the question. Read an issue brief entitled Iran’s Fingerprints in Yemen: Real or Imagined?”, Atlantic Council, 14 pages, October 2017.
Salafism Undercutting Gains in Gaza. Salafi jihadist groups have emerged that could potentially launch the Palestinians into another phase of conflict. Read “How Salafism’s Rise Threatens Gaza”, by Colin P. Clarke, The RAND Blog, October 2017.