Thursday 20 Feb 2020 | 07:52 | SYDNEY
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Syria

Assad set to outlast the many who wanted him out

The language emanating from the White House concerning the fate of Syrian President Bashar Assad appeared to change last week, revealing another layer in an increasingly realist foreign policy approach from Washington. President Trump had signalled during the presidential debates that his focus was

Syrian safe zones: A planning nightmare

This is the first in what will be a regular weekly post from the Lowy Institute’s West Asia program to bring Interpreter readers up to speed with the latest issues in the Middle East. The Syrian safe zone concept is getting less clear by the day.  In January President Trump said that he '

Muddying the Syrian waters

The number of US boots on the ground in Syria is gradually increasing without, it would appear, a plan to inform the public about what broader purpose the troops' presence serves and, perhaps most importantly, what defines mission success and would allow the troops to redeploy. Before leaving

The race for Raqqa

US Secretary of Defense James Mattis is in the process of briefing his draft plan for defeating Islamic State, and is allegedly taking a global strategic perspective. This is only appropriate but, before the strategic can be addressed, the tactical must be planned. And now that Mosul is in the

The problem with any US strategy on Syria

The problem the United States has always had in crafting a Syria strategy is that Washington never possessed sufficient leverage to ameliorate Bashar al-Assad's behavior. Providing arms to opposition groups provided some leverage (but was always fraught because of the lack of

Once were moderate, vetted warriors

The day before President Obama left office, a US Air Force B-52 bomber struck a training camp used by Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (JFS), the al-Qa'ida affiliate in Syria. The number of casualties varies: the US military put the total at around 100 while others cited lower figures. But as well as JFS, there

Syria and the problem with numbers

Syria has already been referred to as the most socially-mediated conflict ever. But while most have viewed Syria through this lens (often because it's the platform favoured by reporters), social media has proven to be a poor substitute for accuracy. The problem, of course, is that objective news

The Interpreter's best of 2016: Syria

It was another year of war for Syria, one in which the tide swung from forces opposed to the Assad regime back to the Syrian military and those aligned with it. The Lowy Institute Research Fellow Rodger Shanahan made sure Interpreter readers knew not just what was going on but what it meant. In the

'First we take Aleppo, then we take Idlib'

The gradual isolation and strangulation of Aleppo is part of a much broader strategy that has taken shape over the past year, albeit in the case of Aleppo on a much different scale. The actions follow a familiar pattern: encirclement; cutting off military and life support functions; limited

Retaking Mosul will be hard, but Raqqa will be harder

Today Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop observed that the Mosul offensive is an 'important milestone' in the battle against Islamic State; there is no doubt retaking the city would seriously dent both IS capabilities and morale. But it would not be a fatal blow. The Iraqi Army and its

Where the Russian intervention in Syria is headed

Russian President Vladimir Putin is well on the way to achieving several objectives of his military intervention in Syria. Russia has ensured the survival of the Assad regime, its only Arab partner, without loss of Russian personnel to the rebels or becoming mired in a ground conflict. In doing so

Syria: The gift that keeps on giving

The official announcement today that the government would refuse a US request for additional assets to be deployed in the Middle East against Islamic State came as little surprise. These types of requests rarely come out of the blue, and it is likely that Washington was aware of what Canberra’s

Turkey has got Syria wrong — again

The shooting down of the Russian aircraft by the Turks and the subsequent death of two Russian servicemen briefly got the tabloids talking about World War III but in reality this was never going to blow up into a direct military confrontation between Moscow and Ankara. What it did demonstrate, once

On Syria, the West must face facts: Russia can help

Western analysts have been at pains to discern Russia's 'real aims' in Syria.  But the best explanation probably remains the simplest: the preservation of the existing Syrian state and its institutions in pursuit of a political settlement that limits the amount of Syrian territory under

Syrian refugee crisis: Time for the G20 to step up

By the Lowy Institute's G20 Fellow Tristram Sainsbury and Research Associate Casper Wuite. Chatham House's Paola Subacchi recently asked why the G20 has not addressed the Syrian refugee crisis. She acknowledges that refugee issues have not historically been within the G20's bailiwick. However, she

Is Russia's growing intervention in Syria a game changer?

The latest analysis of the Syrian conflict from the Institute for the Study of War provides a detailed examination of what it describes (correctly) as a game changer. Assuming its analysis of the military calculus is sound, the questions that remain unanswered relate to the extent to which the

Cambodia and Syria: Every refugee crisis is different

The staggering dimensions of the migrant flow into Europe prompts me to offer a note on the Cambodian refugee crisis of the late 1970s and early 1980s, in which I played a small part. I am not suggesting that what happened 35 years ago offers any answer to current challenges. Rather, the

Syria: It's what isn't being said that's of interest

The Government's announcement yesterday that it would conduct air strikes inside Syria is notable more for what it didn't say than what it did. It was long on rhetoric, but short on detail, and lacked any semblance of strategic vision or acknowledgment of the potential impact on the situation inside

Syrian refugees and the Gulf states' lack of charity

The humanitarian tragedy unfolding daily in Europe has forced the West to again try and redefine its obligations to those who have been made vulnerable as a result of conflict in the Middle East, particularly the Syrian civil war. But it may also have stirred a desire to question why the burden

Will the RAAF be assisting the Syrian Army?

The Syrian Arab Armed Forces (SAAF) are fighting ISIS in eastern Syria. Australia is planning to bomb ISIS targets in eastern Syria. But Australia will not be involved in the broader conflict in Syria involving the Assad regime. If this doesn't appear to make sense to you it's because the concept

Iran nuclear deal opens door for Syria diplomacy

The US and Russia are reportedly promoting a concert-of-powers approach to new negotiations over Syria. Although any movement toward a political solution will be limited by the unwillingness of ISIS and other Islamists to engage in such a process, recent intelligence contact between the Syrians and

Turkey-ISIS: Safe zones open up new problems

Long resisted by the US for its impracticality and because it was considered too big a concession to Turkish interests, the concept of a 'no-fly zone' in northern Syria now appears to have morphed into a so-called 'safe zone'. The plan, as far as it appears to have been enunciated, involves US and

Is the war on ISIS coming home to Turkey?

Monday's suicide bombing in the Turkish town of Sucuc on the Syrian border, blamed on militants from ISIS, marks a significant deterioration in Turkey's national security. While not the first attack blamed on Islamist militants inside Turkey's borders, it was the deadliest in two years, killing at

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