Further to this post (note links at end),
1) Earlier good advice to our incoming prime minister:
Federal advisers paint gloomy picture of Syria’s prospects in Trudeau briefing
The extremist Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant will continue to threaten the Middle East because there is “no progress” towards an effective political solution in Syria, federal advisers have bluntly told Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
In memos prepared for Trudeau as he took office last month, officials said the conflict in Iraq and Syria endangers the entire region, including key allies Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey.
ISIL has capitalized on weak governance and sectarian tensions in Syria and Iraq to take over large swaths of territory in both countries while persecuting and killing minorities through its brutal interpretation of sharia law, note the briefing memos, obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act.
Canada maintains that Iraqi leaders must undertake a concerted effort to confront ISIL advances and mend internal divisions that threaten Iraq’s long-term stability.
“Canada remains committed to an inclusive, democratic and unified Iraqi state,” the memos say. “Although unimaginable for the foreseeable future, the only viable solution in Syria requires political compromise between elements of the opposition and the government.”
Advisers squarely blame Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s 2011 suppression of popular demonstrations for allowing ISIL to gain a foothold in Syria, now beset by a proliferation of armed groups…
With continued support from the international community, Iraqi forces may over the medium term be able to contain ISIL expansion and make progress in retaking territory in Iraq, the memos say.
ISIL strongholds in Syria, however, “will continue to threaten Iraq and the region as there is no progress towards a genuine and inclusive political transition in Syria that can halt the radicalization and proliferation of extremist and terrorist groups,” the briefing materials add.
Notable challenges for the coalition include efforts to create a “well-trained and integrated Iraqi security force,” as well as ensuring that various militias of different sectarian stripes fall under government control, the notes say.
Additional efforts are also needed to counter ISIL propaganda through “alternative narratives,” preventing recruitment of foreign fighters and denying financial support to the radical group.
In addition, the notes warn that Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey are all under “severe strain” from hosting large numbers of refugees [As for Canadian policy, see: “PM Trudeau’s Continuing Confusion About the Canadian Forces vs ISIS“; “Eric Morse – Canada vs ISIS: Combat, and Are We in It?“]…
2) Now at Foreign Policy:
What’s next for ISIS? A year ago, the Islamic State was solidly in control of a vast stretch of territory from northeast Syria to northern Iraq, and down the Euphrates almost to Baghdad’s doorstep. But a good chunk of that area has been clawed back by Syrian rebel and Kurdish forces, joined over the last few months by an Iraqi army on a winning streak — taking the cities of Baiji, Tikrit, and Ramadi from the militants.
In other words, while still a potent and vicious force estimated to field somewhere between 20,000 and 30,000 fighters in Iraq and Syria — and with global ambitions that led to the November massacre of 130 people in Paris — ISIS ends the year in worse shape than it began. FP has put togethera map highlighting some of the major battles the Iraqis, Kurds, and Syrians fought with ISIS in 2015, and the loss column for the militant group far outweighs any gains. It was a bloody year in the region, and with big fights looming in Mosul, Fallujah, Raqqa, and the oil fields of Syria, 2016 might be even worse…
3) Plus at the Washington Post:
How the battle against the Islamic State is redrawing the map of the Middle East
CONFRONTING THE CALIPHATE | This is part of an occasional series.
AMIRIYAT FALLUJAH, Iraq — Along the vast, zigzagging perimeter of the Islamic State’s self-styled state, the militants are steadily being pushed back as the forces ranged against them gain in strength.
In the process, new borders are being drawn, new fiefdoms are being carved out and the seeds of potential new conflicts are being sown.
A war seen by the United States as primarily aimed at preventing future terrorist attacks in America is being prosecuted for very different reasons by the diverse assortment of Shiite, Kurdish and Sunni fighters battling in both Iraq and Syria, often in pursuit of competing agendas that work to subvert the goal of defeating the militants.
In northern Iraq and Syria, Kurds are busily carving out the borders to new Kurdish enclaves. Shiite militias, now the most powerful force in Iraq, are extending their reach deep into traditionally Sunni areas of northern Iraq. The Syrian government is focusing its energies on reclaiming land seized by its opponents during the five-year-old rebellion against it, while deeply divided Syrian rebels in turn are fighting a two-front war to hold their ground against both the government and the Islamic State.
Happy New Year.