When the forces of Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), an armed Islamist group which is a successor to the al-Qaeda-affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra, rolled into Afrin in northern Syria earlier this month, the primary reaction was one of confusion.Continue reading
Almost every night in Russia, it seems, a government building bursts into an unexplained fire. Fuel depots, office buildings, infrastructure hubs — and once a bridge. No doubt people have their theories. Insinuation abounds. ‘Karma is a cruel thing,’ one Ukrainian official has said on Telegram. But in the main, both the Russian government and Ukraine maintain an eloquent silence.Continue reading
The fourth anniversary of the start of the battle for Raqqa has just passed, during which time the city was recaptured from the Islamic State (IS).
Raqqa had been IS’ Syrian capital, and it took over four months for the liberators, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), to wrest back control of the city in October 2017 with international support.Continue reading
With a seeming spirit of negotiation sweeping the Middle East, it’s easy enough to make rash predictions. Saudi Arabia taking to Iran and the Assad regime in Syria – Egypt and Turkey talking to each other. Many commentators, notably in the United States, are already treating this as a fundamental change to the old ways of doing things, and in doing so are taking leave of things we know to be true.Continue reading
Per many accounts, Robert Fisk, a journalist who died last week, was a notably courteous man. Since his death I have spoken to a number who met him and knew his work. They describe a journalist who spoke politely to crowds after events and at signings for his books, and who reacted to praise and attention with becoming satisfaction and pleasure.Continue reading
Understanding Turkey since the dissolution of the Ottoman empire has proven difficult for westerners. The decaying magnificence of the Ottoman years was a vivid adornment to past debate. Nineteenth century diplomatists like David Urquhart defended the Sublime Porte as a reasonable counterbalance to Russia, and publicity-minded moralists like Gladstone decried Ottoman atrocities, all while the empire became more visibly moribund and threadbare. Continue reading
Libya’s civil war increasingly appears to have drawn in the world.
The war, whose new form took shape years after the defeat and death of Muammar Gaddafi, now features the following players. First, the Government of National Accord, based in Tripoli. It’s recognised by the United Nations, and in its defence, NATO’s secretary-general has recently suggested, the signatories of the North Atlantic Treaty ought to stand ready to intervene.Continue reading