Islamist militants stormed into a girls’ school in northern Nigeria this week, and with many girls still unaccounted for, Nigerians feared their country was experiencing a notorious mass abduction like one that drew worldwide condemnation almost four years ago. - New York Times
Afrin marks the point of collapse for American influence in Syria
BY DAVID P. GOLDMAN
Washington's abandonment of the Kurds left them with no other choice but to turn to the Assad government and its Russian backers. It's Moscow's chessboard now
Russia backs Turkey’s move to block Assad’s defense of Kurds
BY ASIA TIMES STAFF
‘Afrin city center will be besieged in the coming days,’ says Erdogan
An attack by three suicide bombers has left at least 20 people dead and more than 20 others wounded at a fish market outside the sprawling Nigerian city that gave rise to the Islamist extremist group Boko Haram, officials and news reports said on Saturday. - New York Times
West Africa’s extremist threat has moved into a new part of the vast Sahel region, with a previously calm area of Burkina Faso facing the kinds of assaults that have forced thousands elsewhere to flee over the past year. - Associated Press
Navy sends destroyers to Black Sea to ‘desensitize’ Russia
(Navy Times) The Navy has deployed the guided-missile destroyer Carney to join the destroyer Ross in the Black Sea in a move that U.S. military officials told CNN is intended to “desensitize” Russia to the presence of American military assets in the strategically important region.
Analysis: ISIS hasn’t been defeated
On January 19, the Pentagon released its new National Defense Strategy, which prioritizes "inter-state strategic competition" from China and Russia over "terrorism." In many ways, the strategy makes sense. However, the threat from ISIS and al Qaeda has not been eliminated. The jihadists are fighting around the globe, everywhere from West Africa to Southeast Asia.
Al-Shabaab militants in Somalia are extorting huge sums from starving communities and forcibly recruiting hundreds of children as soldiers and suicide bombers as the terror group endures financial pressures and an apparent crisis of morale. - The Guardian
Threat Assessment #Fail: Al-Qaida Quietly Growing, By Design
By Bruce Hoffman, The Cipher Brief: “So the assessment is right to say that al-Qaida is systematically building local influences and local capabilities, but that’s only a dimension of al-Qaida’s overall strategy. In my view, as the periphery becomes stronger, so does the center—and conforms to al-Qaida leader Ayman al Zawahiri’s plan.”
Cipher Brief expert Bruce Hoffman believes the Worldwide Threat Assessment presented to Congress Tuesday failed to convey the larger al-Qaida strategy.
Syria's War Is Fueling Three More Conflicts // Krishnadev Calamur
As ISIS evaporates, the buffer zones between armed combatants of several opposing groups and nations have disappeared.
Russian casualties in skirmish with US in Syria top 300
Up to 300 Russian private military contractors were killed or injured while battling US-backed forces in Syria last week, Reuters reported Thursday, citing three anonymous sources familiar with the matter. A Russian military doctor who works in a Moscow military hospital and was directly involved in the treatment of wounded men evacuated from Syria said around 100 had been killed, while others shared similar figures. The doctor said his hospital was treating 50 patients who were flown in from the Syrian battlefield on specially equipped military cargo planes.
Earlier this week the Kremlin acknowledged the killing of five Russian citizens but said they had "no relation to Russia's armed forces." A spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry said reports of hundreds of Russian casualties were "disinformation inspired by Russia's opponents." Read More
US keen on Russia distancing itself from Iran’s Syrian ambitions
BY DAVID P. GOLDMAN
Washington would like Moscow to inform its Iranian partners they cannot count on Russian support if they use Syria as a base to threaten Israel, writes Spengler
Two Russians killed in US-led coalition strikes in Syria
At least two Russians were among those killed in US-led coalition air and artillery strikes in Syria’s Deir ez-Zor province last week, former associates of the deceased said on Monday. The Feb. 7 operation, which reportedly killed more than 100 troops loyal to President Bashar al-Assad, was in “self-defense” according to US officials, who said pro-regime forces moved against the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces in the oil-rich province. The Russians were identified as Vladimir Loginov, a Cossack from Russia’s Kaliningrad exclave, and Kirill Ananiev, described as a radical Russian nationalist. Both were fighting informally with the pro-government forces during the clashes.
Meanwhile, the foreign ministers of Russia, Iran and Turkey are planning to hold another round of Syria peace talks next month, Kazakh Foreign Minister Kairat Abdrakhmanov said today. The exact date and location have not yet been set, but the meeting could take place in Astana, which will be holding another round of lower-level talks around the same time. Read More
When an Israeli jet crashed after being shot down over Syria over the weekend, it marked a serious escalation in the Syrian Civil War. But it also reflected an ongoing reality, one that is growing more dangerous: Syria’s war encompasses at least three other international conflicts, each of which are heating up. - The Atlantic
Vladimir Putin's wartime presidency
Leon Aron | AEI
At the end of his term, Putin will have been Russia’s leader for 24 years and will be 72 years old. But don’t expect a change in Russia’s leadership anytime soon. The West had better get ready for Putin’s wartime presidency: volatile, risk-prone, and lasting a very, very long time.
The Impact of Extremists in Civil War: Syria’s Shabbiha
By Estelle J. Townshend-Denton, Divergent Options: “In Syria the Shabbiha has grown from a trans-border criminal network to sectarian militias fighting for the regime. The Shabbiha are a significant impediment to the resolution of the Syrian civil war.”
While ISIS’s territory has dwindled, al Qaida has managed to build a strong following in Syria, and may use the civil-war-torn country as a base from which to target the West.The group has evolved into the network’s largest global affiliate by strategically positioning itself as a key opposition movement battling the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
The Next Phase of America’s War in Syria
By Danny Sjursen, RealClearDefense: “This month, the Trump administration all but pledged itself to an open-ended nation-building operation in U.S.-occupied, northeast Syria. Given America’s uninspiring recent track record, this should concern us all.”
Cynicism in Syria
By Dominique Moisi, The Strategist (ASPI): “In his book The grand strategy of the Byzantine Empire, political scientist Edward Luttwak credits Byzantium’s longevity to the quality of its diplomacy. By relying on persuasion, alliances and containment, rather than force, Luttwak argues, the Eastern Roman Empire managed to last for eight centuries—twice as long as the Roman Empire from which it sprang.”
Turkey is succeeding in its campaign of imposing cost on pro-regime forces in northwestern Syria. Turkey’s recent deployment to reinforce the de-escalation zone in Idlib Province capitalizes on the divergent tactical prioritizations between Russia and Iran in Syria. Turkey will continue to prioritize this campaign in order to preserve a safe haven for the Syrian opposition in al Qaeda-dominated Idlib Province. - Institute for the Study of War
Earlier this week, the U.S. coalition says it killed an estimated 100 pro-Assad regime fighters in Syria in defense of its own troops. It’s the largest clash reported to date between U.S.-backed forces and pro-regime forces in Syria.
Here’s what happened, according to public statements given by actors involved:
We asked retired Admiral Sandy Winnefeld, former Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, for his take on the incident.
After seven years of war, Syrian opposition forces are struggling to stay relevant in a country that's been carved up into spheres of interest by major powers. They've been beaten by the government, betrayed by jihadists and al-Qaida, abandoned by the U.S. and routed by the Islamic State group in north Syria. Now in their alliance with Turkey, nearly 10,000 opposition fighters have turned their guns against Kurdish forces. - Fox News
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was showing "disdain" for China's approach to Latin American by saying that the far east nation was assuming the role of "new imperial powers" alongside Russia, a nationalistic Chinese newspaper said over the weekend. - CNBC
Tobin Harshaw and Daniel Moss write: Contrary to what you might read or hear, President Donald Trump alone hasn't surrendered U.S. strategic leadership in Asia to China. What he has done is accelerate long-term trends that have severely diminished America's position in the Western Pacific, an area where the U.S. had held sway largely unchallenged since World War II. - Bloomberg
John Schaus writes: Most notably, China’s leadership is leveraging its economic rise and growing military capabilities to pursue increasingly coercive policies and actions. Many countries throughout the region are looking for ways to diversify from the China-centric model being coercively peddled by Beijing and look to the United States to provide such an option. - Center for Strategic & International Studies
Nina Khrushcheva on Russia in 2018 and Beyond
Nina Khrushcheva and PS editors discuss Russian politics, presidential elections, and why "Putinism" is a troubled ideology.
Senior administration officials are warning that the Trump administration could take military action – again – against the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad because of its continued use of chemical weapons against its own people.
"Syria and Russia Test Trump’s Red Line on Chemical Weapons," David Adesnik, FDD Policy Brief
"Germany Sold Technology to Iran for Use in Syrian Chemical Attacks," Benjamin Weinthal, The Jerusalem Post
Recovering the empire: A paper series edited by AEI's Leon Aron
Various scholars | American Enterprise Institute
Russian military intervention in Kazakhstan
Dmitry Gorenburg | American Enterprise Institute | January 2018
A troubling scenario for Kazakhstan
Paul Stronski | American Enterprise Institute | January 2018
Avenues of Russian political intervention in Moldova
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Avenues of Russian military intervention in Moldova
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Sudanese refugees hunted in Egypt
Sudanese refugees in Egypt refuse to go back to Sudan, where they fear the National Intelligence and Security Service could be waiting around the corner to harm them or their families.
Turkey’s military suffered its worst day yet in the two-week offensive in Afrin, Syria, when at least seven soldiers were killed and a tank was destroyed in the fighting, official Turkish news outlets reported on Sunday. - New York Times
AEI’s Michael Rubin on Turkish goals in Syria
ISW’s Matti Suomenaro on Russian airstrikes in Syria
Gen. Joseph Votel said the United States has no intention of withdrawing coalition forces from the northern Syrian town of Manbij, as Turkish leaders had demanded this weekend. - Defense One
Russia's role in Afrin depends on Turkey's true intentions
As Turkish forces continue their offensive on Kurdish-controlled Afrin, Russia's playbook there seems to call for a level field and level heads.
Russian-sponsored Syrian peace talks ignore key opposition demands
Russian-sponsored peace talks on Syria ended on Tuesday amid squabbles and the heckling of Russia’s foreign minister. The 1,600 participants at the Sochi congress stressed in their final statement the need to preserve Syria’s territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence. The statement also called for free elections, but made no mention of Syrian refugees’ participation in the election, a key demand of the opposition, which boycotted the talks, nor any reference to President Bashar al-Assad's fate. The convention resulted in the creation of a committee to draft a new Syrian Constitution. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the panel “will include those groups that were not attending the [Sochi] peace conference.” Some delegates interrupted Lavrov's address to the event on Tuesday, however, accusing Moscow of killing civilians.
Syrian Kurdish forces moving toward Turkish border
The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), dominated by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), have started redeploying forces in northern Syria toward the border with Turkey following Ankara’s offensive in Afrin, a US official said Tuesday. Pentagon spokesman Adrian Rankine-Galloway told the Turkish daily Hurriyet that “these movements of forces are not conducted under the direction or with the support of the [US-led] coalition.” Read More
Christopher Kozak writes: Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his allies in Russia and Iran are preparing to launch imminent combat operations in violation of the de-escalation zone in southern Syria brokered by the U.S., Russia, and Jordan in July 2017. - Institute for the Study of War
Barak Barfi writes: On January 20, Turkey began an operation to clear Kurdish forces from the northwest Syrian border pocket of Afrin. Despite Ankara's justifications, the operation risks triggering an open-ended war between allies, neutralizing gains made against the Islamic State (IS), and emboldening America's adversaries in Tehran, Moscow, and Damascus. Washington should move quickly to contain the fallout while offering its allies a soft landing; otherwise it may find itself sidelined in Syria. - Washington Institute
What Does Afrin Mean for International Security?
By Isaac Kfir, The Strategist (ASPI): “The Afrin operation has highlighted the diminishing influence of the U.S. and its failure to appreciate what’s going on in the region.”
Iran's 'Gray Zone' Strategy in Syria
Syria is shifting from being an active conflict zone to a “gray zone,” an area of ambiguity between peace and war. Iran is taking advantage of this development by extending its influence through the war-torn country. How can the United States push back? RAND's Colin Clarke explains. Read more »
What Turkey's Campaign in Afrin Means for the YPG
If the People's Protection Units (YPG) retreats from this region, it effectively concedes its military presence in the al-Jazira area, including Hasaka and Raqqa. However, evidently this will not occur as it appears that the mutual understanding between Turkey, Russia, and the United States will prevent this.
Read the analysis by Asaad Hanna >
Plenty of bumps on Xi’s New Silk Roads, on both land and sea
Chinese President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative is an ambitious program to build infrastructure across 60-plus countries on four continents. There is an overland component that links China with Western Europe by rail. The sea component links coastal China with East Africa and Europe. This month, an additional proposal linked Europe and eastern Canada via three proposed Arctic routes. There is no overarching master plan or public list of all BRI projects. Lead investors...
How Iranian repression works
Michael Rubin | Washington Examiner
Iran, the Hollow Hegemon
By Shlomo Ben-Ami, The Strategist (ASPI): “Israeli and Arab leaders have spent years warning of the rise of an Iranian-led Shia empire covering much of the Middle East. With Iran now linked to the Mediterranean through a land corridor that extends through Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, ”
How the U.S. and EU Can Thwart Iranian Missile Programs
By Sydney Freedberg, Breaking Defense: “the CR prohibits the Pentagon from starting new activities — which is exactly what a growing young program like the B-21 needs to do. “The program is going into the EMD phase (Engineering & Manufacturing Development),” Mahnken said. “You’re starting to ramp up engineering, you’re starting to ramp up manufacturing….Those are new activities….You need to hire people, you need to build stuff. Can you do that under a CR? Probably not.””
In Afrin, Turkey seeks ethnic cleansing, not terror eradication
Michael Rubin | Washington Examiner
CYMI: US General to Turkey: We're Not Pulling Back // Kevin Baron
Gen. Votel said the U.S. recognizes its NATO ally's concerns but won't abandon the coalition of Syrian Democratic Forces fighting ISIS on the world's behalf.
The U.S. Has to Back Turkey in Syria
By James Stavridis, Bloomberg View: “The Kurds are valuable allies in the fight against Islamic State, but America's higher priority is keeping Turkey a NATO ally.”
US General to Turkey: We're Not Pulling Back // Kevin Baron
General Votel said the US supports its NATO ally's concerns but won't abandon the coalition of Syrian Democratic Forces fighting ISIS on the world's behalf.
Turkey to U.S.: End support for Syrian Kurd YPG or risk confrontation
America’s Syrian humiliation is worse than it looks
BY DAVID P. GOLDMAN
Turkey’s attack on US-backed Kurds this week comes as a new set of economic relationships emerges to bankroll Ankara's regional ambitions
4 factors affecting Turkey's new operation in Syria
As Turkey’s offensive against Kurdish forces in Syria nears the end of its first week, circumstances affecting the scope, progress and duration of the operation are complicated and full of risks.
US-backed Kurdish forces in northern Syria on Thursday called on the government of President Bashar al-Assad to help them fight back against Turkey’s assault on Afrin. The request comes as the Donald Trump administration has done little to restrain Ankara’s intervention against the People’s Protection Units, which Turkey considers a terrorist group. Further complicating matters, Turkey is believed to have gotten a green light for its offensive from Russia, a key Assad ally that controls the airspace in the area.
Indian ICBM puts Beijing in range, may spur build-up in South Asia
BY ASIA TIMES STAFF
New Delhi's progress in developing a long-range missile may push China to prop up defense and deterrence, with more installations in Pakistan
Turkey plays catch-up with militarization in Red Sea
A scramble for military influence along the Red Sea could lead to a trade disaster as Turkey also looks to establish a military foothold in the area.
Matthew Brodsky writes: In essence, the shorter and non-diplomatic version is as follows: Syrian tyrant Bashar al-Assad is disgraceful and weak and dependent on Iran. America didn’t insert itself into Syria so that Assad could re-create the same mess that spawned ISIS and the civil war. Nor did the U.S. work with allies to crush ISIS just so Iran could inherit the state. - The Weekly Standard
Read Pincus' column on Team Trump's Syria policy.
Washington's Weak Hand to Play in Syria
By Rodger Shanahan, the interpreter: “Governments are urging restraint on all sides, but the reality is that no one will come to the aid of the Kurds, just as they didn't last year when the Iraqi government seized back control of Kirkuk after the Iraqi Kurds' ill-advised referendum on independence. In the world of realpolitik, sovereignty always trumps friendship.”
What’s Next for the U.S. In Syria?
By Daniel DePetris, RealClearDefense: “Scholars and analysts who consult with the Trump administration are recommending the U.S. switch some of its focus to combating Iran’s considerable influence in Syria.”
Steven A. Cook writes: Through 94 years of independence, Turkish leaders have made clear that the nightmare of post-World-War-I dismemberment can never repeat itself. But it has, despite their best efforts—albeit in an updated form, involving the United States and Syrian territory that the Kurds call Rojava, or Western Kurdistan. This explains why, last weekend, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan ordered his army to attack a district in northwestern Syria called Afrin. - The Atlantic
Turkey begins ground assault on Kurdish enclave in Syria
ISW: Syria’s “war after ISIS” begins as Turkey attacks U.S. anti-ISIS partner
With airstrikes and artillery fire, Turkey on Saturday defied U.S. appeals and opened a long-anticipated offensive on Afrin, an enclave in Syria for Kurdish militias backed by the United States. - Washington Post
Turkish troops crossed the Syrian border into the Kurdish enclave of Afrin on Sunday morning, beginning a ground assault against American-allied militias there, as the first accounts of casualties emerged amid rising international criticism of Turkey’s military action. - New York Times
Turkey's military incursion into northern Syria against Kurdish militia opens yet another front in the seven-year Syrian conflict, and risks giving ISIS breathing room just as it was being suffocated. - CNN
A missile fired across the border from Syria hit the Turkish border town of Reyhanli on Sunday, killing a Syrian national and wounding 32 people, broadcaster NTV reported the town’s mayor as saying. - Reuters
Jennifer Cafarella, Elizabeth Teoman, and Bradley Hanlon write: Turkey’s operations threaten to provoke a widening Turkish-Kurdish war that could unravel the U.S. stabilization effort in eastern Syria, place U.S. service members in Manbij at risk, and force the U.S. to reconsider support for the YPG. - Institute for the Study of War
"Atilla, Zarrab, and U.S.-Turkish Relations: Implications of the Biggest Sanctions-Evasion Scheme in Recent History," A conversation with FDD's Mark Dubowitz, Dr. Aykan Erdemir, Dr. Jonathan Schanzer, and Merve Tahiroglu
Erdogan: "We don’t care what they say"
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan finally delivered on his threat to attack against towns in the Kurdish-controlled enclave in Syria. The timing of the assault, dubbed Operation Olive Branch, followed an announcement by a military spokesman for the US-led global coalition against the Islamic State to build a 30,000-strong border force under the command of veteran Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters, and a green light from Russia, which may support a short Turkish incursion to facilitate a role for Syrian government forces in the north.
As we wrote in this column in August, “Turkey’s preoccupation with beating back Syrian Kurdish control in northern Syria could open the door to some type of accommodation with Damascus.”
Of little consequence in Erdogan’s decision were either the carefully chosen words of US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in rolling out the Trump administration’s new Syria strategy Jan. 17, which acknowledged the “concerns of our NATO ally Turkey,” or the urgent clarifications about the border force by both Tillerson, who met with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu the next day, and the Department of Defense.
In a sign of how low US-Turkey relations have sunk, Erdogan replied to his “NATO ally,” the United States, “We don't care what they say. … They will learn how wrong it is to trust a terror organization." Ankara considers the People’s Protection Units (YPG), which make up the bulk of the SDF, as an arm of the Kurdistan Workers Party, which both the United States and Turkey have labeled a terrorist organization. The Turkish president believes that the United States has reneged on earlier commitments to contain YPG expansion in northern Syria, along the Turkish border.
Fehim Tastekin explains that the announcement of the border force, in Turkey’s view, “means the US-YPG partnership will not end with the collapse of the Islamic State (IS), as Ankara had hoped. In his last phone conversation with President Donald Trump, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was led to believe that US assistance to the YPG would end. According to Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, Trump told Erdogan, 'I gave instructions. No more weapons will be delivered.' Referring to the phone call, the White House said that Trump had informed Erdogan of 'pending adjustments to the military support provided to our partners on the ground in Syria.' The United States then assured the YPG in their private talks that they would not leave the region until a political solution was found and the BSF [US-backed Syrian Border Security Force] was set up.”
What is perhaps most telling is that the final arbiter of Erdogan’s decision was not Washington, but Moscow. Tillerson’s policy speech seemed a day late and a dollar short on the gravity of US-Turkish differences over the SDF. US objectives in Syria, including stabilization of towns liberated from IS, return of refugees and containment of Iran, to name a few, will all be compromised or complicated without coordination with Turkey and Russia.
In Ankara’s score, the time for speeches and talking had long passed. So while Tillerson made his appeal to Cavusoglu in Vancouver, the meeting that day in Moscow that really mattered was between Turkish Chief of General Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar and Hakan Fidan, the Turkish head of the National Intelligence Organization. Russia soon after began withdrawing its forces from the areas targeted by Turkish forces. A statement from the Russian Foreign Ministry expressed “concern” about the situation, and called on the parties “to show mutual restraint.” Meanwhile, Russian, Iranian and Turkish diplomats met to prepare for the Syrian National Dialogue Congress to be held in Sochi Jan. 30.
Metin Gurcan’s analysis was ahead of the curve on the motivations and possible consequences for the Turkish operation. “If Ankara seeks Moscow's approval, it might get it, because Russia badly needs a military victory for domestic political consumption,” Gurcan writes. “In that case, Moscow might give the go-ahead for Turkey to launch a brief operation with limited targets. Moscow might also insist that Turkey hand over Afrin’s governance to [Syrian President Bashar al-] Assad after keeping Turkish troops in the area for a short time.”
While US-Turkey relations are in free fall, Russia-Turkey coordination over Syria is not without friction, including the Kremlin’s disappointment with Ankara’s fulfilling its obligations in Idlib, which was the subject of this column last week. Gurcan concludes, “In 2017, Moscow had offered Ankara an opportunity to clear the area: Let the radical elements in Idlib leave the city center unharmed or unarmed. But Ankara was late in responding, and its field performance did not meet Russian expectations. It's therefore possible that — dissatisfied with the Turkish performance — Russia gave the green light to the Syrian army to launch attacks north of Idlib. In other words, Russia believes that Ankara has been stalling in fulfilling its promises to Moscow that it will reshape the Sunni opposition west of the Euphrates to become a coherent actor and separate Sunni armed groups from the radical groups affiliated with Hayat Tahrir al-Sham. An Afrin operation could endanger the sensitive arrangements Russia tried so hard to achieve west of the Euphrates.”
In that same August column, “If no sanctions relief is forthcoming [from the United States], Putin will have little interest in carrying Trump’s water at the expense of his regional ties. Russia might therefore undertake an outwardly passive and inwardly supportive role that allows the regional parties to take the initiative against the Syrian Kurds or others. Moscow might see that as the winning hand. For the United States, the Russian card should be played carefully, with full appreciation that Tehran, Ankara and Damascus will all have their say.”
Syrian violence escalates in de-escalation zones
UN officials are warning of the impact of Syrian government attacks on Eastern Ghouta and Idlib, which are considered “de-escalation zones” according to the Astana process, led by Russia, Iran and Turkey.
"Since mid-November 2017," according to the UN News Centre, "the estimated 393,000 people in eastern Ghouta have been subjected to airstrikes, shelling and bombardment on an almost daily basis by Government forces and their allies. Rockets fired by armed opposition groups in eastern Ghouta into residential areas of Damascus have reportedly further aggravated the situation. In southern Idlib and northern rural Hama, where fighting between government forces and armed opposition groups — which control a majority of the Idlib governorate — has escalated since December, over 200,000 civilians have been displaced and numerous people have been killed."
Ahmed al-Ahmad, the Syria media coordinator of the Turkish Red Crescent, told Khaled al-Khateb, “The wave of displacement started in early December 2017 and got more disastrous since the first day of 2018. The Red Crescent has established two camps to accommodate the displaced: the You Are Not Alone Camp, which can accommodate up to 5,000 people, and a second one that can accommodate up to 20,000 displaced people. The two camps are located near Bab al-Hawa in the north of Idlib. … We are planning on building more camps near the Syrian-Turkish border in northern Idlib to accommodate the vast number of displaced people, estimated by the Red Crescent at more than 300,000, mostly children and women.”
Local council seizes property of IS families
Khateb reports separately that “the local council in the city of Akhtarin, in the northern Aleppo countryside, announced Jan. 2 that it would confiscate the property of people and families who had joined the ranks of the Islamic State (IS) or fought alongside regime forces. The decision took immediate effect. The money generated will go toward the orphans created by the war and their caregivers. … The council's decision is not likely to be imitated by other areas in the countryside of Aleppo, given its conflict with Sharia provisions. This is the case even though the considerable numbers of people from the cities and towns in the area of Operation Euphrates Shield who fought with IS and the regime are yet to return, and perhaps never will, most likely out of fear."
UPDATED: See Who Gets Sent Home in a Shutdown // Eric Katz
Some agencies would furlough virtually everyone, while others would remain completely open if there is a lapse in appropriations.
How Should the Pentagon Reshape Its Mideast Posture? Four Indicators to Watch // Melissa G. Dalton and Mara E. Karlin
A tour of possible scenarios reveals what U.S. policymakers ought to be focused on as they chart the future of regional force posture.
Rex Tillerson's Syria Policy Is Sensible—But It's Fanciful // Kori Schake
The resources the administration is willing to commit are at yawning variance with its ambitious goals.
America Quietly Starts Nation-Building in Parts of Syria // Paul McLeary
The U.S. has escalated its presence in the country, and has signaled no timetable for when it will end.
Mattis: Pentagon Shifting Focus to Great Power Competition — 'Not Terrorism' // Kevin Baron
The first national defense strategy in 10 years puts on paper what Mattis, McMaster have signaled for months: the U.S. is refocused on China and Russia.