With the US, Russia and Jordan agreeing to a ceasefire in south-west Syria and the recapture of Mosul from Islamic State, this Update looks at the implications for the region and in particular how these new developments could affect Israel's security and Kurdish independence.
Brian Fishman's The Master Plan provides a comprehensive history of the Islamic State's (ISIS) strategic evolution, covering the personalities and events that shaped one of the most feared terrorist-insurgent groups that has ever existed. Eminently readable, in places even amusing - no small feat in a book about ISIS - Fishman flips with ease between the overview and the granular to demonstrate his points...
The Islamic State, whose main slogan in Arabic is Baqiya watatamadad (remaining and expanding), has in reality been contracting since the high point of its advance in the autumn of 2014. Its eventual demise, at least as a quasi-state entity, is assured.
But Syria is host not only to the war against ISIS, but to a series of other, interlocking conflicts.
This Update features two articles about the serious financial problems of both the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza. In addition, it includes an article from two former senior American military officers about the lessons being learned from Israel's struggle with Hamas' terror tunnels in Gaza in the battle for Mosul, which is also believed to be riddled with tunnels by ISIS.
Various sources report today that facing ISIS's 5,000-10,000 combatants in Mosul, about 65,000 Iraqi troops from different units have massed to dislodge ISIS. Some Arab sources place the total number of combatants of the anti-ISIS coalition at almost 140,000 fighters...
Two years ago, the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq's (ISIS) blitz assault across a swath of land as big as the United Kingdom led to the establishment of the self-proclaimed Caliphate and fragmented both Syria and Iraq. The recent defeats inflicted on Islamic radicals, however, have considerably shrunk the areas under ISIS control in both countries.
This Update deals with two major crisis areas in the Middle East, both with profound effects on the fight against ISIS.
One is the major political crisis in Iraq, where the government of Prime Minister Abadi seems paralysed and under threat from radical Shi'ite groups opposed to his reforms designed to reduce corruption and provide a role for the disaffected Sunni minority in government. This led radical militias to storm the Iraqi parliament last week - with major implications for the fight against ISIS in Iraq.
The other is the consolidation and extension of an ISIS emirate in Libya, just 320 kilometres from Europe.
In late February the US Embassy in Baghdad released a statement warning that the Mosul Dam is at a ‘a serious and unprecedented risk of catastrophic failure with little warning.' The Embassy confirmed that such an event would represent an unprecedented humanitarian and strategic crisis for Iraq.