‘Business as Usual’ Brutality

When something happens which is deeply necessary and long-awaited, it is all too easy, even briefly, to give in to relief.

So it was when, last Friday, Britain, France and the United States joined together to strike the regime of Bashar al-Assad in response to the regime’s probable use of chemical weapons on the besieged city of Douma, in Eastern Ghouta. Continue reading

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Good Neighbours? Israel in Syria

When reports of airstrikes against the regime of Bashar al-Assad began to appear last night, exactly who was striking what was initially in question.

Evidence was pieced together fast. Observers rapidly determined that the target of the aerial attack was a regime emplacement, Tiyas airbase (also called T4), which lies in Homs governate. Continue reading

US Policy in Syria: A Series of Grudging Half-Measures

The president of the United States is fond of talking off the top of his head.

Donald Trump sees his ability to make off the cuff statements on important matters of policy as an essential element of his appeal.

He would not want to appear overly rehearsed, or even too well-briefed. After all, he needs to be seen to speak his mind. Too much preparation, too much outside information, interferes with this formula. Continue reading

ISIS, Insurgent and Resurgent

The Islamic State (IS) has been militarily defeated in its attempt to create a ‘caliphate’ in Iraq and Syria. Its de facto capitals of Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria were wrested from the terror group after long, grinding campaigns fought by local forces with extensive international assistance.

After the rapid capture of Tal Afar and a pocket around Hawija from IS last year, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared that the war against IS was over, that it had been won. Continue reading

Meeting with the Enemy

For all his capacity to surprise politicians and commentators, Donald Trump has done little in office which could be called truly original.

Since his ascent to the presidency, Trump has shepherded little significant domestic legislation through Congress, and his foreign policy could hardly be considered revelatory. Continue reading

Damascus Eyes ‘Victory’ Amid Uncertain Future

In its eighth year, the Syrian conflict appears to be entering a new stage.

Foreign support for the regime of Bashar Assad, provided by Iran and its proxies and Russia, appears to have saved it from collapse. Its survival, in the immediate term, is no longer under threat. Continue reading

John Bolton Is Only as Dangerous as His Boss

Amid the routine chaos surrounding the Trump administration, one recent change in personnel, among many in recent weeks, stands out.

After months of rumour, always followed by denial, Donald Trump announced that John Bolton, once upon a time the American ambassador the United Nations, will shortly replace General H. R. McMaster as the president’s national security advisor. Continue reading