This article examines the “Islamic State” (IS) phenomenon that has shaken the Middle East since the summer of 2014 as well as its large-scale security implications. To this end the article provides a brief historical background on IS, explores and defines its organizational character, as well as identifies and evaluates the different kinds of security threats posed by IS at the regional and global levels. The argument is that IS is not a typical case of a terrorist organization. It is rather a fusion of a state, an insurgency, and a terrorist organization that could be best described as a “quasi-state.” Further, the security threats posed by IS are categorized into conventional and asymmetrical (or nonconventional) ones. The former regard the regional level, while the latter can even have global repercussions. The article concludes with an assessment of IS’s most important security threats and highlights the importance of dealing with its extremist ideology and the conditions that fuel it.
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 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 →
Turkey has lately moved to the epicenter of world politics, and rightly so. The jury is still out on whether that is a good or a bad thing and that is because of its handlings with regard to the Islamic State (IS) crisis in Iraq and Syria. Indeed, Turkey’s indecisiveness and belated actions in the face of the potential fall of the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobane and the advancements of IS more generally, bring to mind the Turkish foreign policy of the past.
Through the delay to take action or the refusal to allow Western allies to use its military bases, Turkey demonstrated a well-known reluctance to engage regional security problems, a suspicion toward Western powers, and a pro-status quo tendency. These were the very features that characterized the foreign policy of Turkish Republic for the most part of its history; a doctrine very much influenced by the founder of Turkey, Kemal Ataturk, and the military-bureaucratic establishment. Similarly, Turkey’s opportunism, namely, its wish to be on the right side of history without being willing to play its part, draws parallels between today and 1945 when Turkey joined the Allies of World War II only a couple of months before the end of the war and after its outcome had already been decided. Continue reading →
The humanitarian crisis caused by the Islamic State (IS) continues to terrorize and displace hundreds of thousands of people in the Middle East. The autonomous canton of Kobani is now bearing the brunt of the IS’s attacks as the international community has mostly been watching. The city has been under siege for three weeks. Despite fierce resistance by the defenders of the town, the advance of the IS forces towards Kobani is threatening to set off another massacre similar to that of Shengal. As scholars working on issues related to the Kurds and other peoples of Kurdistan, we are profoundly concerned about yet another imminent humanitarian crisis and stand in solidarity with the people of Kobani. We urgently call on the coalition forces against the IS and the broader international community to take immediate action to prevent an impending disaster by supporting the Kurds in their fight for self-defense. Continue reading →
One could be led to believe that it all started in 2013 with the election of Hassan Rouhani to the presidency of Iran. Rouhani, along with his moderate and reformist agenda, bore much optimism among Western countries that Iran might shift direction towards a more pragmatic and less anti-Western foreign policy. But this was not what put Iran to the epicenter of the Middle East and international politics.
Iran’s increasing influence and rising role in the broader region has been prompted by three main developments: a) the Iraq war of 2003; b) the withdrawal of the American troops from Iraq by 2011; c) and the failure of Western policies in the case of Syria’s civil war in conjunction with the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (henceforth, ISIS). Rouhani and the new round of negations about Iran’s nuclear program are only “the cherry on the pie.” Continue reading →
Generally speaking, the emergence of ISIS has posed a significant security threat to regional and international states alike; a threat which challenges the stability and territorial integrity of regional states as well as Western regional interests. As known from International Relations and particularly Realism literature, (mutual) security threats are one of the most important factors in the formation of different kinds of alliances. As such, it is without surprise that we see unlike partnerships to emerge, such as the ones mentioned below. Continue reading →