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General Mattis’ Failure: US Army a Hot Mess

It strains creditability to describe the US military as the most successful military on the planet. Unless you are a jingoistic American military hawk trying to lead a chanting–USA USA–mob of Americans, the American military can only be described as a failure. As a former US soldier and ex-member of US intelligence community, I am placing the blame not on the individual soldiers but squarely on its failed leaders like General Mattis, General Dunford, General Kelly.

General James Mattis deserved to be fired as Secretary Defense. Not only was he one of the architects of the current failed American military, but as Secretary Defense he failed for two years to solve the deep structural issues within the military and at the same time, pushed for increased military engagement fully knowing that the US military was not prepared.

Before I launch into a detailed analysis, let me clearly state that only a suicidal nation would fight the US military on the open battlefield, or open seas. It is the best equipped, best educated, best trained, and best led–below the General Staff level-military in the world. But we do not fight these type of battles anymore. Do we? That said, it is also recognized that the United States can marshal vast resources to fight a war, and that counts in the short-term, but it does not direct a success.

Only the 1991 American Gulf War achieved its stated objectives. By all accounts, the United States did not achieve its objective in the American Vietnam War, the American 2003 invasion of Iraq, and failed in its 17-year-war in Afghanistan. On balance, it was highly successful in taking over a third-rate dictator in Panama, and the heroic invasion of Grenada, a small island without an army.

Lets dig into the significant issues of the US military that Geneal Mattis had a part in causing and failed to fix. In this analysis, I do not wish to show disrespect to the decades of excellent service of General Mattis to this nation. He is a loyal patriot who served with honor. However, the facts show it is time for new leadership.

General Mattis and the General Staff failed in the following five areas:

  • Air power is the backbone of the United States military might and according to internal reports, aircraft readiness is at an all time low. It is in desparate need of new leadership and a new strategy to improve readiness and over two years General Mattis failed to correct this situation.
  • Under General Mattis’ leadership there has been a growing list of Naval and Marine accidents that has cost lives. Other than declaring a “time-out” General Mattis has failed to halt these problems that are a sign of poor training, and incompetent leadership.
  • Deployment readiness is at an all-time low. A significant percentage of our soldiers, sailors, aviators, and Marines can not be forward deployed. General Mattis has failed to stem this problem.
  • The US military is not meeting its enlistment or re-enlistment goals with normal measures. When it does meet its goals, it is by granting an excessive number of waivers that weaken the overall quality of the fighting force.
  • Cracks in the Special Operations Command are showing with failures in Yemen and especially West Africa. These failures are leadership failures that harken to the leadership failures of the Vietnam War.

Aircraft Readiness

Air Force aircraft readiness has fallen under General Mattis’ command. In 2017, readiness of all aircraft fell to 71.3 percent from 72.1 percent in 2016; however, in terms of combat aircraft the plunge has created significant alarm.

Former head of the Air Combat Command who has followed the situation since his departure says, “it scares the heck out of me.”

John Venable of the Heritage Foundation citing the pentagon headed by General Mattis as “on the backside of the power curve.”

F-22 Raptors readiness fell 11 percent in the last year. F-35 dropped 10 percent. Some variations of the B1 bombers have a dismal readiness record of only 52 percent.

The following chart gives the full picture:

US Army Deployability Crisis

Deployability means troops ready for combat and the non-deployability percentage in the US Army has plunged to 14 percent under General Mattis’ leadership. This is despite a General Accounting Office (GAO) report in September 2016 that warned of this crisis unless a comprehensive plan was developed.

Genereal Mattis, as Secretary Defense, did not respond to this growing crisis until mid-2018. An in-depth investigation revealed two causes for the crisis. First, according to Command Sgt Major John Troxeli there was a command breakdown with soldiers missing medical and dental appointments–an activity supervised by senior unit officers–that hindered their readiness for deployment.

Former under secretary of defence for personnel and readiness, Robert Wilkie, pinned the problem on longer term problems. Wilkie blamed too many enlistment waivers for either medical or bad conduct issues. These waivers allowed the US Army to meet its enlistment goals but filled the ranks with soldiers with barriers to deployment.

If you were a CEO of a corporation and 14 percent of your workers did not show each day, would you still have a job? No.

Recruitment Failures

Under General Mattis, the US Army in the last fiscal year missed its recuritment goals by 20,000 enlistees. This is spread across the regular Army, Army National Guard, and Army Reserves. General Mattis has ordered increased waivers for medical or conduct issues which sets up further problems in terms of deployability. The larger problem is out of General Mattis’ control. A shocking number–only 30 percent–of American youth between the ages of 17 and 24 can pass the mental or physical tests for enlistment.

Though the Air Force is meeting its enlistment goals it is failing under General Mattis in terms of retention of pilots and the programs proposed by General Mattis have failed.

Air Force General Mike Holmes, head of Air Combat Command, says the pilot shortage “has become a crisis” with a significant shortage of experienced 11F pilots. At the Air Mobility Command pilot retention rates have failed despite a General Mattis plan that threw money–a common Pentagon strategy–at the problem by increasing the retention bonsus. But the pilots signaled a vote of no confidence when retention dropped a further 6 percent to 37.9 percent.

Leadership Failure at Special Operation Command

The most publicized failure in the Special Operation Command was the October 2017 ambush of a 11-member Green Beret team in Niger, Africa. However, there have been others like the botched Navy Seal Operation in Yemen during General Mattis’ tenure.

The Niger failure which cost the lives of four enlisted men is pinned directly on incompetence of the officer corp. An inquiry board found that leadership had not directed the team to have crucial training as a unit, not rehearsed the mission before leaving base, and two officers had intentionally mischaracterized the mission. In addition, there was a command breakdown in obtaining a timely evacuation of the wounded.

These findings indicate a breakdown in the command structure under General Mattis.

Lack of Naval Leadership Causing Accidents at Sea and Marine Aviation Accidents

During General Mattis’ tenure there have been four major naval accidents on the open seas, and all are pinned to lack of command leadership. These accidents have led to the death of 17 sailors and senior officers charged with dereliction of duty and endangerment of a ship.

These accidents include the USS John S McCain which rammed an oil tanker in August. 2017 and the USS Fizgerald hitting another commerical ship off the coast of Japan. Both accidents occurred in open water and under acceptable weather conditions.

Marine aviation accidents have gone through the roof. A Military Times investigation found that Marine Aviation accidents under General Mattis increased from 56 per year in 2013 to 101 per year in 2017. They reported this as an 80 percent increase and costing Marine deaths in the double digits.

The following charts provide an overview:


There is a current trend in America to compare government actions to corporation management principles. This begs one single question:

If a board of directors hired a new Chief Executive Officer (CEO) for a company with significant problems, which is true for the US military, and the new CEO did not turn it around in two years would that CEO still have a job?

Rightly, the answer is no. It was time for General Mattis to leave his job as Secretary Defense but we should still honor his decades of selfless service to this nation.

William Church


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Five Fake News Lies About Kurds and Syrian Defense Forces

I am writing this post because of the hysterical talking heads on Main Street Media (MSM) especially CNN and others pushing the idea that a withdrawal of American troops is betraying the Kurds. Many of these “experts” have limited knowledge of the situation on the ground. Here is my report after covering the Syrian War for years and numerous trips to the region starting in 2013.

MSM Lie #1: The Syrian Defense Forces is a Kurdish force.

The Syrian Defense Forces (SDF) was created in 2015 by the United States after its failed attempt to fund the Free Syrian Army (FSA) comprised of ex-Syrian Army officers, which turned out to be more corrupt, if possible, than Assad’s army. The FSA would not have existed except for United States funding through the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). In another act of incompetence, the CIA claimed it vetted the FSA and they funded, pushed by Hilary Clinton, with the promise that the FSA was safe and appropriate.

In reality, the FSA was highly ineffective and by early 2013 much of the active combat had been taken over by the Islamists elements like al-Nusra (al-Qaeda) and Saudi-backed Ahrar al-Sham. In 2013, the FSA sold most of its weapons, like the highly lethal anti-tank TOW weapon, to the highest bidder which included a wide variety of Islamists factions.

Therefore, the creation of the SDF is a reaction to that CIA blunder; however, from the very start the SDF and the United States worked at cross purposes. The SDF’s goal was the creation of a new independent nation state inside Syria. The SDF was an alliance of Syrian Kurdish Forces and the five tribes of Southern Syria. It was approximately 40 percent Arab and 60 percent Kurdish.

The threat of the Islamic State (IS) brought Arabs and Kurds together. The United States’ primary support was only fighting IS. It did not endorse the Kurdish state. It was very rare that the SDF engaged Assad forces. I stress this because the Arab tribes did not necessarily want to overthrow Assad so any characterization of the SDF as Kurdish denies its real purpose. The United States funded SDF as a coalition of Arabs and Kurds to fight IS.

MSM Lie #2: Withdrawal of US troops betrays the Kurds

The constant prattle by ill-informed CNN commentators is about Kurd betrayal. The fact is the United States supported the SDF to fight the IS. IS has been driven from Syria, except for small pockets, and Kurds and the Arab tribes are not menaced by IS in their area of Syria.

The mission was never to build a Kurdish state, regardless of what the MSM talking heads say. There is no record of that being the mission and the MSM talking heads know that. The MSM is conflating the Kurds of Iraq with the Kurds of Syria. These are two completely different situations.

MSM Lie #3: Turkey will slaughter the Syrian Kurds if the United States withdraws.

Here are the facts. Syrian Kurds live in the sovereign state of Syria. After seven years of war funded by the Saudis and the United States, Bashar Assad is in control of Syria. He is backed by Russia and Iran, and in a strange way Turkey.

Turkey has crossed the border into Syria with the silent approval of President Assad. Turkish involvement is largely confined to two areas: Idlib Province in the west and the al-Bab area and Manjb. It played a role of clearing the border areas of forces it considered hostile.

Turkey as well as Russia, Syria and Iran are part of the Astana Reconciliation process. This means there is a peaceful process to resolve these border issues. It is very clear that Russia, Syria, and Iran will not tolerate Turkey to conduct long-term military operations in Syria. The Syrian Kurds live in Syria. Iran, Russia, and Syria have clearly stated that all foreign forces must leave Syria and that includes Turkey. Once again the MSM talking heads are conflating issues.

It is true that Assad has had a rocky relationship with the Syrian Kurds. However, before the war began President Assad was making an effort to improve relations with the Syrian Kurds. A Turkish slaughter of Kurds on Syrian soil would undermine Assad’s hard-fought sovereignty. It would threaten Iran both geopolitically and internally since it also has a Kurdish population.

There will be no wholesale slaughter of Kurds in Syria by Turkey. If the Kurds want to avoid that fate from the Syrian government, it is in their best interests to negotiate with Assad and not fight.

MSM Lie #4: Kurds are needed to fight IS.

IS is largely confined to pockets of land in Syria that is far from Kurdish areas. IS is still operating in the Syrian Desert which is tribal areas. Kurdish forces are withdrawing from Deir ez Zor oil fields or making accommodations with Assad. IS is no longer a significant threat in Syria.

MSM Lie #5: IS will resurge

The real threat has always been al-Qaeda. As I have written before and now supported by academics like Max Abrahms and Ben Fishman, IS was the JV team as proposed by President Obama. For over 1200 years, nomadic forces have roared out of the Levant’s deserts and taken territory only to be driven back and IS is no different. The terrorist threat (not military) of IS was largely propaganda-based. As many academics have proven, IS played a very limited role in non-Levant based terrorism, except for feeding the hate of foreign nationals who wanted to strike against their governments in Europe.

Our threat is al-Qaeda, which IS was part of, and the al-Qaeda threat can not be handled by military effort, as 20 years of war have proven.

William Church


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Five Reasons Why General Mattis Had to Go

When dealing with military or national security issues it is important to avoid political discussions. This article is neither an endorsement of President Trump nor General Mattis.

The reality with General Mattis was he was a failure as Secretary of Defense. Here are the reasons why.

1. The SecDef’s Syria and Afghanistan strategies failed to recognize the on-the-ground realities and he became another commander who saw everything as a nail since his only tool was a hammer.

The reality of Syria is that American troops in Syria are there illegally. Americans can not bemoan the loss of the old international order when that order was built on international law that makes it illegal for one country to occupy another country by force under United Nations Charter. The USA is in Syria without the permission of the Assad government and it, whether Americans like it or not, is the government of that territory. Americans do not get to pick which laws they want to follow.

The US military does not have a Status of Forces Agreement with the Assad government. This makes them subject to international charges. The Islamic State has been driven from much of Syria except for isolated pockets in the Syrian Desert; therefore, any pretext for US presence in Syria is gone. The reality is that Assad has enough fire power with the help of Iranians and Russians to handle the Islamic State. The United States view that they are there to stop Iran has no basis in international law and is just another form of imperialism under the new world order that General Mattis seems to pine for.

SecDef Mattis’ strategy of builidng a base in al-Tanf was a suicide mission for US troops and a failed strategy that harkened to Dien Bien Phu or Khe Sanh. Some 2000 troops surrounded by hostile forces on the border of Syria/Iraq can only spell disaster or a trap to provoke further military involvement. It is against the will of the American people who voted for a president who vowed to end the senseless Middle East wars.

Finally, the United States is not part of the Astana Reconciliation process, which is run by Syria, Turkey, and Iran. The Kurds must cope with that situation and look for a peaceful solution. A military solution is not an option and United States support will only cause further death and destruction. President Assad has signaled he is open to autonomy for the Kurds and this may be a viable political solution. Not everything is a nail for the United States hammer.

2. SecDef Mattis has failed to improve the readiness of US troops. I am not denying he was dealt a bad hand after 8 years of neglect but readiness has not improved and General Mattis’ solution of throwing money at the problem is a failure. Today, Air Force readiness hovers at marginal levels. Deployment availability is at a record low. The ongoing naval accidents have not stopped and the epidemic of Naval/Marine air training disasters continue. All of these factors show a military in decline and it is the direct responsibility of the SecDef to fix this problem. SecDef has failed in this area.

3. SecDef Mattis’ Afghanistan strategy, against the wishes of President Trump, did not work. The Taliban continues to take territory and it clear that President Trump’s view seeing Afghanistan as a political problem to be solved by the Afghan people was correct. The old adage applies: When in a hole stop digging. SecDef Mattis kept digging and should resign.

4. Though I agree with the civil rights issues of the transgender and HIV issues regarding deployment, SecDef was part of the politicization of these issues and they could have been handled in a different way. These issues were used as a way to jab at the Commander in Chief and could have been handled by waivers if the politics had been removed.

5. It is time to take the blinders off. President Trump is the Commander in Chief. It is not the place of General Mattis to rebuke him in public, even if he is correct. The overall affect is that the Commander in Chief has been weakened. President Trump was elected and General Mattis was not. He should have resigned for his failures and then if he wanted to enter politics as a private citizen that is his right.

William Church


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Trump Ghosts the Middle East Helping Russian Dominance

Ghosting. The millennials use the term when someone (usually a man) disappears from a relationship after getting what he wants: no telephone calls, no emails, no texts. He becomes a ghost. He moves on to bankrupt another person’s love life.

The United States under Trump “ghosted” the Middle East and North Africa. The United States, under George W. Bush, invaded Iraq, casting it into sectarian violence; under Barrack Obama the United Sates overthrew Gaddafi in Libya and unleashed more violence, and funded rebel groups in Syria, dumping billions of dollars of weapons, and then President Trump threw a grenade into the Jerusalem issue in favor of Israel, and under Trump the United States has lost any significant seat at the table to decide the future of the Levant.

This has never been more evident as the events of the last few weeks unfolded. It is clear the Jared Kushner so-called peace plan never existed or only existed to embolden Israel to continue the dominance of Palestine and pass laws that exclude Arabs from Israel. Trump and Kushner supported the ruthless killer Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) in his boycott of Qatar, which houses America’s largest airbase in the region, and his war in Yemen, starving half the population to death.

Trump aided Russia’s power grab of the regional diplomatic process and it became the region’s military guarantor. Three events in the last two weeks makes it clear that Russia has not only won the military advantage but also the political.

First, Russia is actively working on the reconciliation of Hamas and the Fatah which divided their control of Palestine in 2006. Hamas controls Gaza and Fatah represents the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. Part of this shuttle diplomacy is a recent visit to Moscow by Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas’ top leader. A divided Gaza and West Bank plays into Israel’s hands; therefore, Russia’s efforts deals a geo-political blow to Israel.

Second, the Astana Syrian Reconciliation talks just concluded their 11th meeting and it is clear that Russia, Iran and Turkey are in-charge, without the United States being at the table. The most striking aspect of the brief meeting was a chilling call by Syria, supported by Russia, for all foreign armies to leave Syria. This will force the Kurds to decide between making peace with Assad and gain a level of autonomy without further conflict and shedding their relationship with the United States or face perpetual war with the backing of an ally like the United States that could “ghost” at any minute.

Third, Iran has increasingly felt emboldened after the Trump administration turned its back on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and this week Iran is openly tested new medium-range missile technology. Iran’s President Rouhani has threatened the United States publicly.

He called for the Islamic world to unite against “enemies of Islam which means Israel and the United States.”

At the same time, Revolutionary Guard’s General Amir Ali Hajizadeh appeared on Iranian television and declared that he has the capability to directly attack the American airbase in Qatar, al-Dhafra in the UAE, and Kandahar in Afghanistan.

Trump has ghosted the European Union and they have responded by working to create their own payment channel to by-pass the United States dollar. This move plays into Russia’s hand since it controls 30 percent of Europe’s natural gas flow and strengthens Russia’s ability to be the Levant power broker, and avoid Unites States sanctions, and determine the development of oil pipelines with its new ally, Turkey.

This map explains the Russian advantage. The magenta lines are pipelines controlled by Russia or its allies. The light blue lines are favorable to Turkey.

By gaining geo-political dominance in the Levant and Turkey, Russia has achieved a strategic goal of controlling oil into Europe. The Syrian Civil War forged a quasi-ally relationship between Turkey, Russia and Iran on one hand and unity and distrust against the United States on the other hand.

Trump’s ghosting the region completed the Russian strategy.

William Church


Islamic World Books

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Iran Consolidates Position in Syria

December 4, 2018 Special Dispatch No.7790

This is a Reprint from MEMRI

The original available at the enclosed URL.

Syrian Opposition Websites: Iran Consolidating Its Presence In Eastern Syria, West Of Euphrates, To Form Continuum From Iran, Through Iraq And Syria, To Mediterranean

Syrian Opposition Websites: Iran Consolidating Its Presence In Eastern Syria, West Of Euphrates, To Form Continuum From Iran, Through Iraq And Syria, To Mediterranean

Throughout the seven-year crisis in Syria, Iran has exploited the instability in the country to consolidate its presence there. On the military level, it dispatched Shi’ite militias to Syria[1] ADD and established military bases.[2] On other levels, it collaborated with the Syrian regime to change the demographics of the country and turn its Sunni majority into a Shi’ite majority, and acted to gain the support of the local population through preaching and by dispensing material aid.

In the first years of the crisis, these efforts concentrated on central and western Syria.[3] After defeating the opposition forces there, the regime and its allies turned to eastern Syria and the regions close to the Iraqi border, and in late 2017 they announced that they had recaptured ISIS’s strongholds in those regions, the cities of Deir Al-Zor and Al-Bukamal. Eastern Syria is of great strategic importance to Iran, because it completes the territorial continuum stretching from Iran to the Mediterranean. Moreover, U.S. forces that support the Kurdish militias are concentrated in that region, east of the Euphrates. Iran’s presence there threatens these forces and can thus serve as a bargaining chip vis-à-vis the U.S. It should be noted that, in the recent weeks, Syria and Iraq have been discussing opening the Al-Bukamal border crossing, which will enable free movement of the Iranian forces in the area.

However, Iran does not suffice with free passage across the border, but is acting to consolidate its presence in eastern Syria by the same means it employed in the central and western parts of the country. According to media outlets of the Syrian opposition and Arab newspapers opposed to the Assad regime, since late 2017 Iran has been reinforcing its Shi’ite militias in the region (Iraqi, Afghan and other) and settling militiamen and their families there, and also acting to spread the Shi’a among the locals through preaching and the provision of welfare – thereby changing the demographics of the region to create a Shi’ite, instead of Sunni, majority.

This document reviews reports by Syrian opposition outlets and Arab media opposed to the Assad regime about Iran’s efforts to consolidate its presence in eastern Syria.

IRGC Forces, Shi’ite Militias Deployed West Of The Euphrates

On October 13, 2018 the Nors Research center, which opposes the Assad regime, published the map below, showing the deployment of forces in the Deir Al-Zor area at the time. According to the map “Assad’s and Iran’s militias” control the area west of the Euphrates (marked in red), whereas Kurdish militias control the area east of the river (in yellow), and ISIS controls an area between the two (in grey).[4]

The Iranian forces in eastern Syria include Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) forces and Shi’ite militias loyal to Iran, chief of them Liwa Fatimiyyoun (a militia of Afghan fighters), and Al- Nujaba and Abu Fadl Al-‘Abbas, which are part of the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU). Hizbullah fighters are said to be present there as well. According to Ahmad Ramadan, director of the anti- Assad news outlet Furat Post, the Iranian and Iran-backed forces are deployed on the western bank of the Euphrates, between Deir Al-Zor and Al-Bukamal, and also in the city of Hatla on the east bank of the river, in close proximity to the Kurdish forces.[5] The IRGC’s headquarters in the region is located in Al-Bukamal, and the regional IRGC commander is Hajj Suleiman.[6]

To protect the forces from airstrikes like the June 18, 2018 attack on the militias’ headquarters south of Al-Bukamal, in which dozens of fighters were killed, many of the forces are stationed in temporary posts and in residential neighborhoods in Al-Mayadin and Al-Bukamal.[7] However, reports claim that the militias occasionally fly their flags over their positions,[8] presumably to display their presence to

the local population. The forces in Al-Mayadin are said to be concentrated in a sealed-off zone, which only their members can enter and which is heavily guarded, including by drones.[9] According to one report, the call for prayer heard from that area is now the Shi’ite version.[10]

Syrian Regime Forces, Iranian Forces, Vie For Control Of Territory

Although the Iranian forces and Iran-backed militias cooperate with the Syrian regime forces, according to reports there is also tension between them and competition for control of areas in eastern Syria, as previously happened in other parts of the country.[11] In some cases, the tension has even led to exchanges of fire and to arrests. The Iranian and Iran-backed forces generally have the upper hand, which suggests that they are the ones who are effectively in control. In August 2018, for example, several Shi’ite militias exchanged fire with the regime’s National Defense Forces (DNF) as part of struggles for control of territory, and fighters from both sides were killed. According to one report, the Iraqi PMU even dispatched a force to take over a DNF position on the Syria-Iraq border. [12] In October 2018 the clashes recurred, and Iran-backed militias arrested DNF members.[13] Some claim that the Iran-backed militias punish regime forces that persecute locals,[14] which may be part of these militias’ effort to gain the locals’ support.

The Iranian Forces’ Relations With Russia: Coordination Alongside Power- Struggles

The Iranian and Iran-backed Shi’ite militias also vie with the Russians for control of territory, although both sides try to avoid armed clashes. It seems that in this case it is Russia that has the upper hand and the militias generally obey its directives. In October, Syrian opposition websites reported that Shi’ite militias had evacuated several positions in Al-Mayadin and Al-Bukamal in favor of Russian forces, and had retreated to nearby areas in Syria and to Iraq.[15] Several days later Russian army commanders met with IRGC officials, including the organization’s commander in the region, Hajj Suleiman, at the IRGC headquarters in Al-Bukamal in order to formulate “a joint operation mechanism” for the forces in the region.[16]

The meeting and the removal of the Iran-backed militias may have been intended to prevent these militias from clashing directly with the Kurdish forces in the region and with the U.S. forces that support them. However, several days later, in early November, Syrian opposition websites reported that the militias had returned to the Al-Bukamal area. According to the reports, Iran dispatched considerable reinforcements to the region, including heavy vehicles, artillery, and militants who had been deployed in the Aleppo and Hama governorates.[17] It is unclear whether this move had been coordinated with Russia. The maneuver of replacing Iran-backed forces with Russian ones was also carried out in the Homs area. According to Syrian opposition websites, in October Iran removed forces from the T-4 base, after Russia asked it to distance its militias from the S-300 anti-aircraft system so as not to give Israel and the U.S. an excuse to bomb it.[18]

Indications That The Iranians Mean To Maintain A Long-Term Presence In Eastern Syria

Measures taken by Iran in eastern Syria, as in other parts of the country, indicate that it means to maintain its presence there for a considerable period of time, not only until the defeat of ISIS and the Syrian opposition, which is the stated goal of the Iranian presence in Syria.

Settling Shi’ite Families In The Region

As stated above, one of the measures taken by Iran to consolidate its presence in eastern Syria is settling Shi’ite militiamen and their families there. For example, according to recent reports, 50 families of IRGC operatives have moved into Al-Mayadin,[19] and in November dozens of families of IRGC operatives and Afghan Shi’ite militiamen settled in Deir Al-Zor and Al-Bukamal.[20] In order to provide them with housing, and apparently also as an economic investment, Iran has been buying up real estate in the region via the Jihad Al-Binaa company.[21] Reports from May 2018 stated that this company had opened a branch office in Al-Bukamal,[22] and was purchasing real estate with the knowledge of the Syrian regime and under the oversight of the regime’s governor in Deir Al-Zor.[23]

Recruiting Local Syrians To The IRGC, Shi’ite Militias

In order to maintain its influence in the region even after the cessation of the fighting, when it may be compelled to remove its forces from Syria as part of a settlement, Iran is acting to establish a large support base among the local population by recruiting locals to its forces and also by acting to spread the Shi’ite faith among its Sunni residents. Reports indicate that the IRGC and the Shi’ite militias are recruiting local Sunnis, while exploiting their economic distress and their apprehension about joining the Syrian forces. As part of this they promise the recruits higher wages than those paid by the regime army, deployment in their area of residence, and safety from persecution and arrest by the regime. The militias are also said to be using local dignitaries to persuade locals to join their ranks. [24] Trainingbasesforthenewrecruitshavebeenestablishedthroughouttheregion;oneofthemis in the town of Al-Jalaa in the rural area east of Deir Al-Zor.[25]

The local population appears to be responding to these efforts. Reports from November 2018 indicate that a new class of recruits from Dei Al-Zor has joined Hizbullah. Candidates are required to prove they have no criminal record and to provide references from Lebanese or Syrian members or former members of Hizbullah.[26]

Furthermore, the IRGC does not only recruit young Syrians to the ranks of the militias loyal to it, such as the Iraqi Al-Nujaba and Abu Al-Fadl Al-‘Abbas militias or the Lebanese Hizbullah. Recent reports claim that it is recruiting locals to its own ranks as well, and that several hundred have already done so, mostly from the area of the town of Al-Quriya near Al-Mayadin.[27]

Spreading The Shi’ite Faith Among Recruits, Other Locals

Iran is also acting to spread the Shi’its faith among the Sunni locals it recruits to the Shi’ite militias and to the IRGC, and among the local Sunni population in general. According to one report, new recruits are required to attend a one-week course in Shi’ite jurisprudence in the village of Basirin south of Hama, which is funded by Iran and supervised by Iranian clerics, and each recruit is paid $22 for taking the course.[28]

Schools for teaching the Persian language have been established as well. In Al-Bukamal there are three such schools, attended by 200 students aged 8-15, each of whom receives a $20 monthly stipend for attending. A similar school in Al-Mayadin is attended by 50 students. The Deir Al-Zor and Al-Raqqa area has several schools as well, and an Iranian cultural delegation visited the region.[29]

According to a report, Shi’ite clerics in Al-Mayadin cultivate ties with the locals and encourage them to volunteer for the Shi’ite militias and the Iranian forces.[30]

Also as part of its efforts to spread the Shi’a, Iran is establishing Shi’ite religious centers (Hussainiyas) and renovating tombs and sites holy to the Shi’ites which then become destinations of pilgrimage. The Syrian opposition website claims that, in certain cases, Iran has rewritten the history of sites, falsely associating them with the Shi’a.[31] Iran has reportedly opened a Hussainiya in the Al-Quriya area east of Deir Al-Zor[32] and renovated a tomb in the village of Al-Sawi’iya near Al- Bukmal that was destroyed by ISIS when the area was under its control.[33] A report claims that Suheil Al-Hassan, a high-ranking officer in the Syrian army, ordered to establish a religious site of this sort in ‘Ain ‘Ali, between Al-Mayadin and Mihkan.[34] After the sites are established, they are visited by many busses carrying Shi’ite pilgrims from Iran, Syria and Iraq.[35]

The pilgrimage site in ‘Ain ‘Ali (image:, September 2, 2018)

Welfare Activities

Finally, Iran also engages in charity in the region to gain the locals’ support. In September 2017, Iran’s Tasnim news agency reported that, after the breaking of the ISIS siege on Deir Al-Zor, Iran dispatched 13 truckloads of humanitarian aid to the city, whose distribution was overseen by the Jihad Al-Binaa company.[36]

Iranian trucks bringing humanitarian aid to Deir Al-Zor (image: Tasnim, Iran, September 19, 2017 )

The Afghan militia Liwa Fatimiyyoun operates a soup kitchen for residents and displaced persons in the region.[37] In addition, the Shi’ite militias have opened several free clinics in the Dir Al-Zor area, some of which dispense medicines brought in from Iran and Russia. Some of the doctors are Arabic- speaking Iranians while others are locals; the latter earn a salary of about $200 a month. According to locals, many people who visited the clinics indeed embraced the Shi’a and joined Shi’ite militias deployed in the rural areas around Deir Al-Zor.[38]

[1] See MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis No. 1157, Iran Tightens Its Grip On Syria Using Syrian And Foreign Forces, May 4, 2015.

[2] See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 7464, Reports In Arab Media On Iranian Bases In Syria, May 10, 2018.

[3] See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 7770, Anti-Syrian Regime Websites: Regime Granting Citizenship To Millions Of Iranians, Hizbullah Operatives To Change Country’s Demographics From Sunni To Shi’ite Majority, Conceal The Fighters’ Presence In Syria, November 21, 2018.

[4], October 13, 2018.

[5], September 16, 2018.

[6], October 23, 2018. [7] Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), November 8, 2018. [8], September 16, 2018.

[9], October 22, 2018.

[10], December 2, 2018.

[11] See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 6482, Tension Between Assad Forces, Hizbullah Sparks Intense Battles Between Them In Aleppo Area, June 16, 2016.

[12], August 30, 2018.

[13], October 14, 2018;, October 16, 2018.

[14], October 13, 2018.

[15], October 8, 14, 2018.

[16], October 23, 2018.

[17], November 3, 2018.

[18] Al-Jarida (Kuwait), October 18, 2018,, October 20, 2018.

[19], November 2, 2018.

[20], November 7, 2018;, November 8, 2018.

[21] This is a Hizbullah-owned construction company which has been on the U.S. terror list since 2007. According to the U.S. Treasury, it is funded directly by Iran and is subordinate to Hizbullah’s Shura Council, headed by the organization’s secretary-general Hassan Nasrallah., February 20, 2007.

[22], May 16, 2018.

[23], May 17, 2018.

[24] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), November 25, 2018;, January 13, 2017. [25], October 12, 2018.

[26] Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), November 8, 2018.

[27], October 30, 2018.

[28], October 20, 2018.

[29], October 2, 2018.

[30], November 22, 2018.

[31], November 3, 2018.

[32], November 3, 2018.

[33], October 8, 2018.

[34], September 2, 2018.

[35], October 30, 2018.

[36], September 19, 2017. [37], October 22, 2018.

[38], May 28, 2018.

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Recap of Jihadi News 1 Dec 2018

The following are some of this week’s reports from the MEMRI Jihad and Terrorism Threat Monitor (JTTM) Project, which translates and analyzes content from sources monitored around the clock, among them the most important jihadi websites and blogs. (To view these reports in full, you must be a paying member of the JTTM; for membership information, send an email to with “Membership” in the subject line.)

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IWB Editors Pick: Five New Books on Terrorism

War and Peace in Somalia: National Grievances, Local Conflict and Al-Shabaab Paperback – March 1, 2019

by Michael Keating (Editor), Matt Waldman (Editor)

For the last thirty years Somalia has experienced violence and upheaval. Today, the international effort to help Somalis build a federal state and achieve stability is challenged by deep-rooted grievances, local conflicts and a powerful insurgency led by Al-Shabaab.

Consisting of forty-four chapters by conflict resolution specialists and the world’s leading experts on Somalia, this volume constitutes a unique compendium of insights into the insurgency and its impact. War and Peace in Somalia explores the legacies of past violence, especially impunity, illegitimacy and exclusion, and the need for national reconciliation. Drawing on decades of experience and months of field research, the contributors throw light on diverse forms of local conflict, its interrelated causes, and what can be done about it. They share original research on the role of women, men and youth in the conflict, and present new insight into Al-Shabaab–particularly the group’s multi-dimensional strategy, the motivations of its fighters, their foreign links, and the prospects for engagement.

This ground-breaking volume illuminates the war in Somalia, and sets out what can and should be done to bring it to an end. For policymakers and researchers covering Somalia, East Africa, extremism or conflict resolution, this is a must-read.

• Paperback: 480 pages

• Publisher: Oxford University Press (March 1, 2019)

• Language: English

• ISBN-10: 0190947918

• ISBN-13: 978-0190947910

Targeting Top Terrorists: Understanding Leadership Removal in Counterterrorism Strategy (Columbia Studies in Terrorism and Irregular Warfare) Paperback – December 18, 2018

by Lt. Col. Bryan C. Price (Author)

When President Barack Obama announced the assassination of Osama bin Laden, many Americans hoped the killing of al-Qaida’s leader would sound the death knell for the organization. Since 9/11, killing and capturing terrorist leaders has been a central element in U.S. counterterrorism strategy. This practice, known as leadership decapitation, is based on the logic that removing key figures will disrupt the organization and contribute to its ultimate failure. Yet many scholars have argued that targeted killings are ineffective or counterproductive, questioning whether taking out a terror network’s leaders causes more problems than it solves.

In Targeting Top Terrorists, Bryan C. Price offers a rich, data-driven examination of leadership decapitation tactics, providing theoretical and empirical explanations of the conditions under which they can be successful. Analyzing hundreds of cases of leadership turnover from over two hundred terrorist groups, Price demonstrates that although the tactic may result in short-term negative side effects, the loss of top leaders significantly reduces terror groups’ life spans. He explains vital questions such as: What factors make some terrorist groups more vulnerable than others? Is it better to kill or capture terrorist leaders? How does leadership decapitation compare to other counterterrorism options? With compelling evidence based on an original dataset along with an in-depth case study of Hamas, Targeting Top Terrorists contributes to scholarship on terrorism and organizational theory and provides insights for policy makers and practitioners on some of the most pressing debates in the field.

• Series: Columbia Studies in Terrorism and Irregular Warfare

• Paperback: 288 pages

• Publisher: Columbia University Press (January 8, 2019)

• Language: English

• ISBN-10: 0231188234

• ISBN-13: 978-0231188234

Syria: From National Independence to Proxy War 1st ed. 2019 Edition

by Linda Matar (Editor), Ali Kadri (Editor)

This edited collection aims to analytically reconceptualise the Syrian crisis by examining how and why the country has moved from a stable to a war-torn society. It is written by scholars from a variety of disciplinary backgrounds, all of whom make no attempt to speculate on the future trajectory of the conflict, but aim instead to examine the historical background that has laid the objective conditions for Syria’s descent to its current situation. Their work represents an attempt to dissect the multi-layered foundation of the Syrian conflict and to make understanding its complex inner workings accessible to a broader readership. The book is divided into four parts, each of which elaborates on the origins and dynamics of today’s crisis from the perspective of a different discipline. When put together, the four parts provide a holistic picture of Syria’s developmental trajectory from the early twentieth century through to the present day. Themes addressed include Syria’s postcolonial development efforts, its leap into socialism and then into neoliberalism in the late twentieth century, its politics within the resistance front, and finally its food and health security concerns.

• Hardcover: 296 pages

• Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan; 1st ed. 2019 edition (October 9, 2018)

• Language: English

• ISBN-10: 3319984578

• ISBN-13: 978-331998457

Hezbollah: Socialisation and its Tragic Ironies Paperback – January 1, 2019

by Adham Saouli (Author)

What drives Hezbollah’s political behaviour? For three decades we believed that the impetus of establishing an Islamic state in Lebanon was its main goal. This book disagrees. Drawn from over fifteen years of research, it traces Hezbollah’s political trajectory, or socialisation process, from its birth in 1982 to 2017. It identifies the religio-political identity and doctrine that inspire Hezbollah and the politico-strategic goals that motivate it. It argues that war-making with Israel has driven Hezbollah’s socialisation in Lebanon and the region, transforming the Islamist movement from a loose organization into one of the world’s most powerful and sophisticated armed political movements.

• Paperback: 224 pages

• Publisher: Edinburgh University Press (February 1, 2019)

• Language: English

• ISBN-10: 1474419518

• ISBN-13: 978-1474419512

The Oxford Handbook of Terrorism

by Erica Chenoweth (Editor), Richard English (Editor), Andreas Gofas (Editor), Stathis N. Kalyvas (Editor)

The Oxford Handbook of Terrorism systematically integrates the substantial body of scholarship on terrorism and counterterrorism before and after 9/11. In doing so, it introduces scholars and practitioners to state of the art approaches, methods, and issues in studying and teaching these vital phenomena. This Handbook goes further than most existing collections by giving structure and direction to the fast-growing but somewhat disjointed field of terrorism studies.

The volume locates terrorism within the wider spectrum of political violence instead of engaging in the widespread tendency towards treating terrorism as an exceptional act. Moreover, the volume makes a case for studying terrorism within its socio-historical context. Finally, the volume addresses the critique that the study of terrorism suffers from lack of theory by reviewing and extending the theoretical insights contributed by several fields – including political science, political economy, history, sociology, anthropology, criminology, law, geography, and psychology. In doing so, the volume showcases the analytical advancements and reflects on the challenges that remain since the emergence of the field in the early 1970s.

Erica Chenoweth is a Professor of Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School and, beginning in 2019, the Susan S. and Kenneth L. Wallach Professor at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University. Foreign Policy magazine ranked her among the Top 100 Global Thinkers of 2013 for her work to advance the empirical study of civil resistance. Her book, Why Civil Resistance Works(Columbia University Press, 2011) with Maria J. Stephan, also won the 2013 Grawemeyer Award for Ideas Improving World Order. Chenoweth has authored or edited five books and dozens of articles on political violence and its alternatives. She earned a PhD and an MA from the University of Colorado and a BA from the University of Dayton.

Richard English is Professor of Politics at Queen’s University Belfast, where he is also Distinguished Professorial Fellow in the Senator George J. Mitchell Institute for Global Peace, Security, and Justice. He is the author of eight books, including the award-winning studies Armed Struggle: The History of the IRA (2003) and Irish Freedom: The History of Nationalism in Ireland (2006). He is a Fellow of the British Academy, a Member of the Royal Irish Academy, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, an Honorary Fellow of Keble College Oxford, and an Honorary Professor at the University of St Andrews.

Andreas Gofas is Associate Professor of International Relations at Panteion University of Athens and director of the Center for the Analysis of Terrorism and European Security (CATES) at the European Law and Governance School. His publication include The Sage Handbook of the History, Philosophy, and Sociology of International Relations (co-edited with Inanna Hamati-Ataya and Nicholas Onuf, Sage, 2018), and The Role of Ideas in Political Analysis (co-edited wtih Colin Hay, Routledge, 2012).

Stathis N. Kalyvas is the Gladstone Professor of Government at the Department of Politics and International Relations at the University of Oxford and a fellow of All Souls College. Prior to his appointment at Oxford, he was the Arnold Wolfers Professor of Political Science at Yale University, where he also founded and headed the Program on Order, Conflict and Violence. His publications include Modern Greece: What Everyone Needs to Know (OUP, 2015), and The Logic of Violence in Civil War (CUP, 2006).

• Hardcover: 848 pages

• Publisher: Oxford University Press (May 14, 2019)

• Language: English

• ISBN-10: 0198732910

• ISBN-13: 978-0198732914