Talk (Video & Text) delivered at the conference “EU Foreign Policy and Humanitarian Aid: Developments in the Middle East”, on October 16, 2015. Organized by The European Parliament Offices in Cyprus & Greece, The Representation of the European Commission in Cyprus & the Diplomatic Academy of the University of Nicosia.
A lot can be said and speculated about the roots and the emergence of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, also known as ISIS, ISIL or Daesh. It is, however, undeniable that its military advances and territorial gains in Iraq and Syria have had a great impact on the politics of the greater Middle East and beyond. Its presence, operations and organizational character have changed the geo-political landscape of the region and the strategic calculations of many states around it and across the world. At the same time it gave new meaning and significance to transnational asymmetrical security threats. Continue reading →
A new crisis is unfolding on the Turkish-Syrian border and Russia is once again a central actor. According to reports so far, Turkey seems to have downed a Russian Su-24 jet which, according to Ankara, violated Turkish airspace over Hatay. Russia disputes Ankara’s claims and argues that the jet was within Syrian airspace when shot down. The plane crashed in Syria (see the Guardian map below). The body of one of the pilots appeared in a leaked video and is estimated that it’s been captured by the anti-Assad Alwiya Al-‘Ashar group.
When the international anti-ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham) coalition was formed back in September 2014, Turkey was thought to be a pivotal participant. However, the international initiative divided Turkey’s political scene which appeared reluctant to follow in the footsteps of its traditional ally, the United States (US). Even after October 2, 2014, when the Turkish parliament voted on a motion that would authorize the government to conduct operations in Syria and Iraq as well as provide Turkish soil and military bases for allied operations, Ankara kept resisting any kind of meaningful military engagement of ISIS. Not only that, but it seemed to be turning a blind eye on foreign fighters crossing into Syria through its borders. Continue reading →
A year ago the world witnessed the swift advances of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) in Iraq and Syria. Though the emergence of the group was somewhat expected for those who have been following the regional developments of the past years it caught most of the world by surprise. At the same time, its brutal tactics,military victories, resilience, evolution and extreme ideology have led many to characterize it as the greatest regional and international security threat at the moment or the most dangerous Islamist threat contemporary history has seen. Continue reading →
In early May, 2015 it became known that Saudi Arabia and Turkey are supporting extremist Islamist groups in Syria against the regime of Bashar al-Assad. That Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, among others, have – mostly indirectly – been supporting Islamist groups is not news as similar reports have been emerging from time to time since 2011, if not earlier. But this policy with regard to the Syrian conflict became increasingly overt amidst growing instability and lack of Western commitment to Assad’s overthrow. According to The Independent and other media, Turkish and Saudi support focuses on the overarching jihadist group Jaish al-Fatah which includes al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, Jabhat al-Nusra – a rival to both Assad and the self-styled “Islamic State,” also known as ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham). Continue reading →