Interesting to hear Jacinda Ardern is highly sceptical of further New Zealand troop deployments. And good to hear her confirming that she would be guided by United Nations mandating before doing so.
Advice from the United Nations will be needed reasonably shortly, as ISIS appears territorially on the run.
Are we beginning to see some dust clear in the middle of the Middle East? With the Syrian civil war winding down, and Islamic State reduced to much smaller collectives along the banks of the Euphrates, it could feel slightly worse than it has been.
In the immediate aftermath of the Islamic State’s defeat in eastern Syria, the emerging winners will be the existing Syrian regime and its Iranian ally. For the cost, see here.
Actual prospects for Syria? Needs a decades-long state partner to rebuild itself, at least in the major cities and coast. And in the meantime, needs the rest of the world to take care of its people because much of the cities and towns are in ruins.
The ongoing Syrian arrangement with the Kurds in cities like Raqqa and Manbij is temporary at best and will eventually break down, causing continued instability and uncertainty in the region. Regrettably, I think the United States will eventually abandon its temporary Kurdish friends. The United States influence in Syria relies on the People’s Protection Units (YPG), with close ties to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). PKK are at war with Turkey. Turkey is a NATO partner. But YPG rules much of northern Syria, and is a major U.S. military partner against the Islamic State. Yet if Islamic State becomes sufficiently degraded as they appear to be, I think the U.S. will lose interest in supporting YPG. I don’t think it will be quick, but that’s the mean summarised logic.
The counter argument is that the YPG gives the United States proxy influence in Syria, which in turn gives them some limited leverage against Iran. Iran, on the other hand, is motivated to expand and solidify their influence by encouraging the Syrian government to continue pushing the YPG back into northern Iraq. So far, Iran is winning, and the only home for the Kurds is a semi-autonomous region inside Iraq. Iran, now less shackled by sanctions and better globally integrated, will flourish in its manufacturing, agricultural and non-oil sectors.
Bathe me in the tears of Ataturk. The United States faces the task of reviving a very difficult relationship with a vital NATO partner, run by a near-tyrant. U.S. leaders are meeting there this week with Erdogan.
The consequences of Erdogan’s comprehensive civil society purges after the near-coup have a trajectory that is exceedingly dark socially. Economically, the E.U. may expand a customs union agreement into one that includes agriculture, thereby strengthening prospects. Who knows, maybe the BREXIT divorce will help EU-Turkey relations. Erdogan still faces re-election in 2019.
The United States
President Trump’s administration is weighing four competing priorities: minimising open-ended commitments abroad, repairing its strained alliance with Turkey, protecting against jihadi resurgence, and countering Iranian and Russian influence. Meaning: continue Obama’s work. On balance I don’t see the U.S. wanting to strengthen any one people against either Turkey, Iran, or from inside Iraq. It’s functionally a slow withdrawal. In most places you look west of Afghanistan, the weakened role of the United States gets weaker. With exceptions.
Under Trump I see a better chance that the United States and Russia will accept that there has been little gained by intensifying conflicts in proxy wars, which simply unleash the very chaos and sectarianism from which terrorism is born and on which it thrives. I hope they pull back from everyone else’s business unless U.N. mandated, accept the changes in influence that they each now have, and settle into the new diplomatic order in which Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Iran sort more things out between each other.
Jihadism in general?
The Islamic State, which has been around in one form or another since 2006, will almost certainly survive. So will al Qaeda. Neither will swallow the other, neither will unify into something greater. And they won’t apologise either. The conflicts they foment will be degraded not deleted.
As for the Islamic State specifically, while it will be defeated comprehensively on the battlefield, its ideology remains strong online. It is a foreseeably chronic disease to the wider world.
The United Nations is going to get called upon to hold Syrian postwar conferences, but the international invasions over so many years will mean rejection of imposed plans. For a tiny country like New Zealand, I hope a future government will simply build schools and water supplies, not send troops.
Hundreds of thousands dead in Syria, and multiple millions of its population scattered to the wind. Same in Iraq. But there’s currently less dust in the air.