Tag Archives: Manbij

The Chlorine and the Bombs

Before the chlorine came the bombs. And before the bombs came the siege. Douma, the largest settlement in in eastern Ghouta, part of the surrounds of the Syrian capital, Damascus, had suffered greatly in the country’s civil war, which is in its eighth year.

Along with the rest of eastern Ghouta, Douma had been under siege for more than five years, its population cut off, unable to access medical supplies and food, unable to leave the area. For years, an outpost of opposition had remained a few miles from the seat of authority in Damascus, a reminder of the limits of the power of the regime of Bashar al-Assad, the hereditary president. Continue reading

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Trump’s ‘Arab Force’ More Closely Resembles a Farce

On Syria, the confused state of American policy persists.

This month, the president, Donald Trump, authorised strikes, in tandem with Britain and France, to punish the regime of Bashar al-Assad for its use of chemical weapons in Douma, eastern Ghouta. That might be taken to suggest that the United States and allies were prepared to act – to restrain brutality, to support stability, and to prevent the eruption of general chaos. Continue reading

Tensions Flare in Manbij Amid Confusion

The city of Manbij, in Aleppo governorate, has taken on uncommon importance. Manbij falls within territory controlled by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), whose main component is the People’s Protection Units (YPG). 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

Cutting Deals with the Islamic State

It is in retreat, defeated in its attempt to build a state. But the survival of the Islamic State group (IS) is assured. It’s assured because IS has effectively changed its strategy to one of insurgency, because it remains at home in the ungoverned spaces opened up by Syria’s civil war and present in Iraq’s less-populated provinces. Continue reading

The Inevitable Collapse of the Anti-ISIS Coalition

In some ways the Islamic State (ISIS) seemed to be a perfect enemy. Its initial success was so shocking, its modus operandi so brutal, that it focused minds across the world. The creation of a violent, theocratic statelet threatened not only the innocents within its areas of operation, but by implication every state. ISIS seemed a common enemy par excellence. Continue reading

Federal Misgovernment

Syria’s civil conflict is not over, or even nearly over, but some of its participants are keen that this perception travels. They hope it becomes commonly-held. The regime of Bashar al-Assad and its Russian allies are busy pretending the war is winding down and that they have won. Assad himself met the Russian president Vladimir Putin in Sochi last month in the simulation of a victory lap. Continue reading