Tag Archives: Islamic State

The Rise of Iran

Source: Reuters

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

Countering ISIS: A Special Kind of Insurgency

Iraq-ISIS-606x283It is commonplace these days to refer to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Shām (i.e. Greater Syria) – henceforth, ISIS – as the greatest threat to regional, international, and for some countries, even national security. As a product of mergers between smaller Islamist groups (e.g. an al-Qaeda affiliated Iraqi group) in the aftermath of the 2003 US-led Iraq invasion, this rapidly evolving organization has been empowered in the context of the Syrian civil war, and has surprised the world when it swept into northern and central Iraq early June 2014. It has changed its name into Islamic State (IS) and declared the establishment of an Islamic Caliphate – a state run according to Sharia law – in Syrian and Iraqi territories.

One of the biggest questions that needs to be answered is, how do we counter ISIS? Almost three months after ISIS advanced into Iraq, US President Barak Obama stated, “We don’t have a strategy.” This was quite a surprising statement coming from the White House given the high level of threat that ISIS poses; but it is, nonetheless, true. However, it was later decided for Obama to announce his plan against ISIS in an address to the nation on September 10th. Among other things, Obama is expected to introduce ways of enhancing international cooperation against ISIS and try to display a more coherent and decisive stance than the one presented thus far. Continue reading

Turkey, Kurds and the Islamic State: A Strange Triangle

Among the paradoxes of the Middle East today is Turkey’s relationship with Iraqi Kurds and the “public secret” of its relationship with Islamic State which has seized territories in Syria and Iraq and has announced the de facto establishment of an Islamic Caliphate. How could Turkey’s collaboration with the Kurds – whom it used to see as a threat – be explained, and what does it have to gain from Islamic State?

That Turkey (along with Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and other Western powers) has funded and supported Islamic State (IS) is a fact, though neither Turkey nor Qatar admit it. Is it possible that Turkey uses IS against the Kurdish separatist movement in Iraq, Syria and beyond? Such scenario is not supported by the evidence at hand. If for example Turkey wanted to deter the independence of Iraqi Kurdistan then it would not have ignored provisions of the Iraqi constitution and the central Iraqi government of Baghdad, among others, to sign economic and energy agreements with Kurdish Regional Government. Rather, it would have done the opposite: to try and isolate Kurdistan by cooperating with Baghdad. That would be similar to how Turkey acted when it cooperated with Baghdad in the middle to late 2000s while trying to deal with Kurdish guerillas who found safe haven in Iraqi Kurdistan and other locations on Turkey’s southern borders. Moreover, we should not forget that the emergence of IS accelerated Kurdistan’s process of independence instead of the opposite – both in Iraq and Syria. Continue reading

The Iraq Crisis and Its Geopolitical Implications

Source: Reuters

On June 10, 2014, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (i.e. Greater Syria) – henceforth, ISIS – surprised the world by advancing into several territories of central and northern Iraq. Most notably, ISIS has taken over Iraq’s second biggest city, Mosul, and the also important cities of Fallujah and Tikrit (the birthplace of former Iraqi leader, Saddam Hussein). ISIS has also tried to gain control of the oil-rich area of Kirkuk (which is now under the control of Iraqi Kurdish forces). Furthermore, it is said that the vitally important oil refinery in Baiji has been almost completely taken over by ISIS in an offensive against the Iraqi army.

Most importantly, ISIS has declared itself to be an Islamist “Caliphate” (i.e. Islamic state) and has unilaterallydeclared statehood in Syrian and Iraqi territories under its control. The group has recently renamed itself as the “Islamic State” and declared the group’s leader, Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi, as the new caliph of the Islamic State and the leader of Muslims everywhere.

ISIS’offensive has left the Iraqi state in a dire situation, ridden by sectarian and ethnic conflict. The conflict has created a large number of refugees, and has threatened Iraq’s capital, Baghdad. The following addresses the roots and ideological features of the conflict, in addition to the geopolitical implications of the Iraqi crisis for regional relations and U.S. foreign policy. Emphasis is placed upon analyzing the most important developments and their implications rather than on facts, as the situation on the ground is highly fluid. Continue reading