Most Islamic State fighters on the ground are local Syrians and Iraqis. Many of them are conservative and religious, but the vast majority are not ideological Salafi-jihadis.
The outcome of the battle for Kobane will have significant implications for the fight against the Islamic State and developments in Turkey, Syria, and Iraq moving forward.
The contribution of Gulf Arab countries in the fight against the Islamic State should not be overstated and should be caveated with an awareness of the risks and costs—for both the Gulf regimes at home and U.S. interests in the region.
The “Khorasan Group,” a network affiliated with al-Qaeda, has been a target of recent U.S. bombing in Syria. The sudden flurry of revelations about the group in the past two weeks smacks of strategic leaks and political spin.
In the struggle against the Islamic State, Egypt needs sound political and economic policies that will quench the spread of violence and extremism within the country itself.
Ever since the Islamic State captured vast territories in northern Iraq in mid-June, no group has been more deeply affected by this jihadi civil war than the Nusra Front, which broke off from the Islamic State in April 2013 and has since emerged as Syria’s only official al-Qaeda franchise.
U.S. President Barack Obama’s four-pronged strategy against the Islamic State is fraught with trade-offs, risks, and hidden costs that need to be addressed.
Obama’s strategy is a positive step forward after years of relative inaction on part of the United States, but it is far from comprehensive.
The killing of Ahrar al-Sham’s leadership will have major ripple effects in the opposition.
Since the militarization of the Syrian uprising, Raqqa has been a strategically vital region for all armed groups. Now under the control of ISIS, Raqqa has become a hub where ISIS militants are gathered and dispatched to other battlegrounds across the country.
As the armed conflict between jihadists groups and the Syrian Kurdish militia moves into Arab-majority territories, both sides have increasingly relied on support from local Arab tribes to tip the balance.
Divisions over the formation of the Syrian Islamic Council suggest that the Syrian opposition will have to wait to see the emergence of a unified Sunni religious authority within its ranks. However, these divisions are revealing of fault lines that may play a major role in Syria’s future.
The establishment of the Syrian Islamic Council may be an important step toward the goal of consolidating a moderate Islamic axis within the opposition in the face of the large Salafi military factions.
With its leadership elections officially due to take place in July 2014, the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood is bracing to overcome internal divisions in order to elect its new comptroller general on time.
The former Iraqi branch of al-Qaeda has become an important driving force behind the global jihad, in its current guise as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL.
The emergence of the Sham Legion, a moderate Islamist rebel group, may be a significant political development because, until its formation, only more conservative and Salafi-oriented brigades had managed to merge into ideologically coherent countrywide alliances.
While the ideology, politics, and public messaging of the rebel factions making up the Islamic Front have been streamlined effectively, initial hopes for closer organizational and battlefield unity have not yet borne fruit. Five months after its creation, the Islamic Front seemingly remains a rather wobbly umbrella movement.
Since the creation of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant a year ago today, the rivalry between Iraqi and Syrian militant leaders has grown into a full-blown jihadi civil war.
Made up of thousands of fighters, the Mujahideen Army dominates a chunk of the strategically important countryside west of Aleppo and exerts influence over at least some of the main supply routes from Turkey to Aleppo.
Saudi Arabia and the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood have had a difficult relationship, one that has been further complicated by the Syrian civil war.