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.
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.
Leaving Iraq’s second-largest city of Mosul in rebel hands could fatally undermine Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s already weak legitimacy as a national leader. But even if the army were to recapture all or most of the rebel-held cities, the Mosul debacle has already dealt a tremendous blow not only to Maliki but to the Iraqi state as well.
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.
Competing regional agendas continue to drive the two leading Kurdish actors in the region apart and because of this, they cannot agree on a joint policy to aid the Syrian Kurds.
Syria’s oil and gas resources are too small to be considered a prize in the struggle over the country’s destiny, but energy issues still play an important part in the conflict.
A statement released by the top leadership of al-Qaeda asserts that there is no organizational link between the group and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
The fighting that erupted on January 3 has been driven the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) from several of its strongholds in northern Syria by rival rebel factions.
The extension of the Salafi rebel group, the Islamic State of Iraq, into Syria has finally put an end to the debate of whether al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia has been dissolved.
The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), which is led by Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, says only that it supports minority rights within a democratic Syria and that it is not in favor of autonomy for Syrian Kurds.
While the rebels in eastern Syria’s Deir ez-Zor Province have been making progress against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces, the insurgency is problematic as internal splits and rivalries are pervasive.
Eastern Syria always was its own political universe, with a demographic and sectarian makeup very different from the west.
The battle for al-Yarubiya, a border crossing point along the Syrian-Iraqi border, is an extension of the broader regional battle for control of Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon by jihadists.