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Category archive for: Middle East & North Africa

Forbidden Friends, Delivered to your Enemies: Proscription, al Qaeda, and the Islamic State

Written by Lee Jarvis and Tim Legrand.

The precise point at which Islamic State – or ISIS, or Daesh, or simply IS – emerged as an organisation in its own right presents a complicated yet important question. Although its backstory is frequently traced to 2003 and the aftermath of the US-led invasion of Iraq, the moment at which Islamic State definitively split from its apparent progenitor, al-Qaeda in Iraq, is often less precisely drawn. This is understandable: human institutions and organisations seldom have a single, uncontested, point of origins to which their existence might be traced.

Questions such as these are undoubtedly important to historians and others with an interest in the rise and decline of so-called ‘terrorist’ groups. Indeed, the temporal or historical rhythms of terrorism have become a productive research area within scholarship on terrorism in recent years: witness the pervasiveness of claims around terrorism’s ‘waves’, ‘cycles’ or ‘old’ and ‘new’ manifestations.

These questions also matter, however, in a very real and immediate sense to those tasked with arresting the terrorist threat. Continue reading Forbidden Friends, Delivered to your Enemies: Proscription, al Qaeda, and the Islamic State

Just how dangerous are the skies over Syria?

Written by David J Galbreath.

Washington greeted reports of the Russian air force’s first wave of airstrikes on September 30 with fierce rhetoric. Moscow, said defence secretary Ash Carter, was “pouring gasoline on the fire” in Syria.

The strikes reportedly hit rebels fighting pro-government forces in various towns including Hama, Homs and Jisr al-Shughour in the west of the country, a long way from areas further east where Islamic State holds sway. Kremlin spokesmen claimed that their airstrikes attacked 12 IS targets – but this has been disputed by people on the ground in Syria who posted video of the explosions on social media.

Russia’s decision to join the bombing party in Syria follows a summer of fruitless and inconsequential diplomacy and raises important questions about who is bombing who and what these campaigns aim to achieve. Continue reading Just how dangerous are the skies over Syria?

Why Putin ended up gambling on airstrikes in Syria – and what might come next

Written by Scott Lucas.

For those watching closely, the signal for Russia’s first airstrikes came in a statement early on September 30 by Kremlin spokesman Sergei Ivanov, just after the upper house of the parliament authorised military operations:

To observe international law, one of two conditions has to be met – either a UN Security Council resolution or a request by a country, on the territory of which an airstrike is delivered, about military assistance.

In this respect, I want to inform you that the president of the Syrian Arab Republic has addressed the leadership of our country with a request of military assistance.

Within hours, witnesses were reporting that Russian jet fighters were bombing parts of Hama and Homs Provinces in western Syria. Activists said scores of people – almost all civilians – had been killed, disseminating videos and photographs of slain or injured children. Continue reading Why Putin ended up gambling on airstrikes in Syria – and what might come next

How Turkey began the slide towards civil war

Written by Cengiz Gunes.

The speed with which Turkey has became engulfed in violence since the Suruç massacre on July 20 2015 is causing mass anxiety.

While public discussion has largely focused on questions of whose fault it is and why the country has suddenly descended into violence, one thing everyone agrees is that the country is passing through an extraordinary period in its history. While the current crisis has much deeper roots, the developments of the past year provide us sufficient clues about why the spiral of violence is likely to continue. Continue reading How Turkey began the slide towards civil war