Sykes-Picot drew lines in the Middle East’s sand that blood is washing away | Reuters

Last week British Foreign Secretary Phillip Hammond said the struggle against Islamic State was “effectively Iraq’s last chance as nation state.”

That somber assessment followed his visit to Iraq a few days earlier, where he had used the expression “last chance saloon” to describe Iraq’s dire predicament.

Iraq, like Syria, was a consequence of World War One and of the infamous, in Arab eyes, agreement between Sir Mark Sykes and Francois-Georges Picot which led to the division of the former Ottoman Turkish domains by the two leading European powers, Britain and France. That agreement, now almost a century old, appears in tatters, as both countries are broken, exhausted by years of war and sectarian division for which there is no easy repair. [Read more]

The Middle East problem: Boots on the ground or peace in their hearts? | Canberra Times

There are two stories, both compelling narratives, competing for attention here in the Middle East. The first is tactical and simple. It revolves around the dominance of airpower and the slowing of the advance of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

So far, the 1999 air campaign against Slobodan Milosevic remains the only conflict that was resolved by bombing alone. Not even the most slavish adherent of airpower doctrine believes the current demonstration of international resolve over Iraq is enough to defeat IS – alone. Achieving this will eventually require “boots on the ground”. The feet don’t necessarily need to belong to coalition soldiers, although that would probably help. But what’s far more critical is the presence of some ground/air controllers providing accurate and timely targeting for the aircraft circling above. [Read more]

Why Humanitarians Talk to ISIS | The Daily Beast

In early October, Jan Egeland, the secretary general of the Norwegian Refugee Council, delivered a keynote address at an annual State Department gathering of international humanitarian aid officials in Washington, D.C.

Egeland, a Norwegian politician and former top humanitarian affairs official at the United Nations, is known for his directness, and he used the platform to lambaste his colleagues for their collective failure to do more to help needy Syrians still suffering after more than three years of war—a concern that many of them shared. [Read more]

The Kobani riddle | OpEdNews

The brave women of Kobani — where Syrian Kurds are desperately fighting ISIS/ISIL/Daesh — are about to be betrayed by the “international community.” These women warriors, apart from Caliph Ibrahim’s goons, are also fighting treacherous agendas by the US, Turkey and the administration of Iraqi Kurdistan. So what’s the real deal in Kobani?

Let’s start by talking about Rojava. The full meaning of Rojava — the three mostly Kurdish provinces of northern Syria — is conveyed in this editorial (in Turkish) published by jailed activist Kenan Kirkaya. He argues that Rojava is the home of a “revolutionary model” that no less than challenges “the hegemony of the capitalist, nation-state system” — way beyond its regional “meaning for Kurds, or for Syrians or Kurdistan.” [Read more]

How We Lost Touch With Our Friends in Iraq | War on the Rocks

In December 2009, the infantry company I commanded took over an area of western Baghdad Province that stretched from just west of Baghdad International Airport to the eastern outskirts of Fallujah. The United States was in the midst of drawing down in Iraq, so as units departed, those remaining inherited successively larger areas of operation. The region, referred to as Zaidon, was a traditional smuggling route before the 2003 invasion and became particularly dangerous during the height of the war. Although the region is often most closely associated with Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), its real legacy was the 1920s Revolutionary Brigade.

The 1920s Revolutionary Brigade was created by the Zobai tribe and Zaidon was the heart of Zobai territory. The groups name is derived from the 1920s revolt against British rule; a popular myth is that the son of the paramount sheikh of the Zobai tribe ignited the rebellion by assassinating a British official, Lieutenant Colonel Gerard Leachman. While there were other 1920s rebel groups in places like Baquba, the group’s leadership came from an area just north of Zaidon called Khan Dhari. Though the Sunni Awakening was in full swing in 2007, the 1920s Revolutionary Brigade, a largely nationalist insurgent group, fought a series of knock-down-drag-out battles with AQI in Zaidon, independent of the Awakening. At least that is how we saw it. In reality, the battles were fought between two tribal houses vying for control of the tribe. [Read more]

Iraqi army months away from major offensive: US officials | Middle East Eye

The Iraqi army is still months away from staging a major offensive to retake ground lost to the Islamist State group and is regrouping after suffering battlefield defeats this year, US military officials said Thursday.

Iraqi security forces were now able to stage small-scale attacks against the Islamic State group but needed time to plan and train for a larger operation, even with the aid of US-led air strikes, one military official told reporters. [Read more]

Peshmerga, YPG and ISIS in Kobane as Turkey maintains stance | Al Arabiya

Not a day passes in my ever-tumultuous Middle East without “breaking news.” First it was announced that President Obama called President Erdogan concerning Kobane. Then we heard that the United States airlifted weapons and medical supplies to the YPG. Following this, we received news that Turkey had allowed the Peshmerga into the Syrian town of Kobane through a corridor.

We heard right, Turkey allowed the Peshmerga to pass into Kobane through its borders. However, while writing these sentences, the Peshmerga were still reluctant to cross over. Let’s remember the recent history of the Peshmerga reaction to Kobane. [Read more]

West waging a ‘CNN war’ in Syria as Isil makes gains in Iraq | The Telegraph

On the barren wastes of Mount Sinjar, the Yazidis are once more surrounded and fighting for their lives.

“We saw Isil, there are daily clashes with Isil. Today and yesterday there was heavy fighting,” said one stranded Yazidi man, Dre’i Shamo, last week. “The situation is very tragic and critical.”

Further south, the advance of the jihadists of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant on Baghdad continues, slower than before but still with no sign of a reversal of fortune. Another district fell last week, after a major military base the week before, while scores more innocent civilians have died in a rise in bombings in the city itself. [Read more]

Israel-US ties have reached ‘crisis’ point, Lapid says | Jerusalem Post

Israel and the United States are in the midst of a “diplomatic crisis,” Finance Minister Yair Lapid told a town hall meeting in Tel Aviv on Saturday.

“We need to approach [US-Israel ties] as if it were a crisis situation and to deal with it,” Lapid said. “Our relations with the US are vital and important for the State of Israel, which is why it should do everything in its power to extricate itself from this crisis and restore good ties.” [Read more]

Acid attacks in Iran: A message for Rouhani? | Al Jazeera

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani has instructed the ministries of interior, justice and intelligence to step up efforts to find the culprits behind a gruesome chain of acid attacks on women in the historic city of Isfahan. He condemned what he termed “inhuman acts” and called for bringing the perpetrators to justice.

Thousands attended demonstrations on Wednesday in front of the parliament in Tehran, and by the Justice Department in Isfahan demanding investigation. The attacks, which began over two weeks ago, appear to be by hard-line Islamist zealots trying to enforce the dress code. One banner read “down with Iranian ISIL”. [Read more]

Does ISIS Have a Cash Flow Problem? | Slate

David Cohen, the top counterterrorism official at the U.S. Treasury Department, argues that the U.S. military campaign against ISIS is beginning to cut into the group’s revenues.

Discussions of how the group funds itself necessarily rely on speculation and guesswork, but researchers are starting to get a better idea about the terror group’s finances. Eckart Woertz, a fellow at the Barcelona Centre for International Affairs, provides a useful summary of what’s known about the Islamic State’s financial lifelines. The groups revenues are likely somewhere between $1 million to $5 million per day. A U.S. intelligence official told the Guardian earlier this year that the groups assets swelled from around $875 million to over $2 billion after the fall of Mosul. [Read more]

Women on front lines in Syria, Iraq against IS | AP

Just over a year ago, Afshin Kobani was a teacher. Now, the Kurdish Syrian woman has traded the classroom for the front lines in the battle for Kobani, a town besieged by fighters from the Islamic State extremist group.

The 28-year-old Kurdish fighter, who uses a nom de guerre, said she decided to join the fight in her hometown when she saw IS advances in Syria.

“I lost many friends to this, and I decided there was a need to join up,” said Kobani, who declined to reveal her birth name. “This is our land — our own — and if we don’t do it, who else will?” [Read more]


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