Hassan Hassan

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Displaced Syrians and a Turkish military armoured vehicle in Idlib, Syria. Photograph: Burak Kara/Getty Images

Outsiders can be forgiven for being tired of the Syrian conflict. After all, the violence has lasted for nearly a decade and the worst chapters – for outsiders, at least – have come and gone: Islamic State (Isis) seized almost half the country, in addition to one-third of Iraq and launched a global network of terror in 2014. But the world has now caught its breath and the threat has all but ended. Refugees, too, flooded Europe some years ago but the influx has been contained.

Also, expert warnings about a resurgence of violence or extremism did not materialise and the return of state control seems to be the steady trajectory of the conflict despite persistent problems.…  Seguir leyendo »

Photograph: Wael Hamzeh/EPA. Kurds protest at the United Nations building in Beirut, Lebanon, on 11 October 2019 against Turkey’s attacks on Syria.

Future historians might remember Turkey’s incursion into northern Syria, launched last week, as the second time that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan provided Islamic State with a lifeline, intentionally or not. The first was when Turkey opened its borders to foreign jihadists entering Syria, which ultimately enabled Isis to build a caliphate the size of Britain in 2014.

Both the time and manner of the intervention risk unravelling the situation in Syria beyond the buffer zone that Turkey intends to establish in the north-east. It will take the pressure off extremist forces and disturb a delicate equilibrium and the relative quiet that have existed in the country for about two years.…  Seguir leyendo »

An oil field was set on fire Friday by retreating Islamic State fighters in Qayyarah, Iraq. Carl Court/Getty Images

As an alliance of Iraqi and Kurdish forces pushes to retake the city of Mosul from the Islamic State, there should be no doubt about what the group plans to do next. It will fight to the bitter end to defend its most populous and symbolic stronghold. After all, it was in Mosul that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi — the city’s leader for two years before he became the Islamic State’s leader in 2010 — declared a caliphate from the pulpit of an iconic 12th-century mosque.

If the Islamic State loses Mosul, the group has a clearly articulated contingency plan, a strategy it has frequently broadcast on multiple platforms for the past five months: inhiyaz, or temporary retreat, into the desert.…  Seguir leyendo »

Aleppo is a microcosm of the Syrian conflict. It is also a microcosm of the failures of American policy in this war-torn country.

The country's second largest city has come to define everything that is wrong with the Syrian war: Indiscriminate violence, a siege, starvation, rising extremism, and crippling regional and international rivalries. In the midst of this mess, Washington is a bystander -- even a contributor -- to the worsening situation.

On Thursday, Aleppo's last remaining doctors wrote an open letter to President Barack Obama highlighting a similar message: "We have seen no effort on behalf of the United States to lift the siege or even use its influence to push the parties to protect civilians", the doctors, 15 in total, wrote.…  Seguir leyendo »

Celebrating the Islamic State’s declaration of a caliphate in Syria in 2014. Reuters

Before Fayad Tayih abandoned the Islamic State earlier this month, he detected a striking trend: More people inside the self-declared caliphate were signing up to become suicide bombers. Mr. Tayih had been working in an administrative job for the jihadist group in Deir al-Zour, in eastern Syria, at the time. “Those who were working with me noticed the same thing,” he told me over Wickr, an encrypted messaging app.

Statistics released by the Islamic State confirm his observations. According to monthly updates from Amaq, the group’s official news outlet, the Islamic State was carrying out 50 to 60 suicide attacks per month in Iraq and Syria last November.…  Seguir leyendo »

A string of attacks and counter-attacks over the course of this year so far signal a major shift in the way Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is conducting its military operations, leaning back on insurgency tactics it used when US troops were still present in Iraq. The change comes amid widespread perception in Western capitals that the group is now on the back foot. But it also follows a variety of crises – financial and political – that may cause deeper Western involvement in the Syrian and Iraqi conflicts.

Last Sunday, the group launched an assault inside the city of Abu Ghraib, 15 kilometres from Baghdad International Airport.…  Seguir leyendo »

Wreckage of buildings in Idlib's Eriha region on 26 January 2016. Photo by Getty Images.

In January 2014, newly organized rebel factions in northern Syria declared war on Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), and this culminated in the expulsion of the group from all of the city of Idlib and most of Aleppo. Rebel forces in Raqqa, Deir ez-Zor and Hasaka similarly rose up to root out the increasingly overbearing foreign organization.

The anti-ISIS offensive reportedly cost the rebels about 7,000 fighters. The group’s presence in Syria was seriously threatened, receding to Raqqa and pockets in Aleppo, Deir ez-Zor and Hasaka, until the summer of that year, when ISIS swiftly took over Deir ez-Zor and consolidated its presence in eastern Aleppo, southern Hasaka and Raqqa.…  Seguir leyendo »