[This is a roundup of news articles and other materials circulating on Syria and reflects a wide variety of opinions. It does not reflect the views of the Syria Page Editors or of Jadaliyya. You may send your own recommendations for inclusion in each week`s roundup to firstname.lastname@example.org by Monday night of every week.]
Optimism on Syria is misplaced. Here`s why Hassan Hassan describes how Asad and existing state institutions are in the way of peace in Syria.
Russia and the U.S. in Syria: Waiting for the Other Side to Lose Syria has become a “destructive waiting game.” As problems continue to grow, Syria will continue to generate problems for the region. Syria remains a grand-power game for Russia and the United States.
Aleppo Rebels Overstretched as Attack Shifts to Defense Opposition factions in Aleppo are currently fighting on several fronts, including against Islamic State (IS) and Kurdish militias in the northern countryside, and against the regime.
The most unconventional weapon in Syria: Wheat How a flour mill, which housed part of the Syrian government’s strategic wheat reserves, became a potent weapon in the Syrian conflict.
Syrians yearn for peace, but not under Assad Hassan Hassan reflects on the nearly five-year-long conflict in Syria, and the effect it has had on civilians.
Thousands of Syrian Children Drop Out of Egyptian Schools Around nine thousand Syrian children in Egypt have been forced to drop out of school with only a basic level of education.
Exclusive: U.S. supplies Syrian fighters ahead of push for Islamic State town The United States delivers a fresh supply of ammunition to Syrian fighters ahead of an expected battle with IS in al-Shadadi.
ISIS issues fatwa to exterminate disabled children, 38 cases of babies killed through lethal injection or suffocation According to recent reports, IS has issued a fatwa to “kill newborn babies with Down syndrome and congenital deformities and disabled children.”
Fear of Checkpoints Spreads in Damascus As the war in Syria continues, residents in Damascus say more and more young men are being detained at government checkpoints throughout the capital, in what some fear may be part of a campaign to replenish Bashar al-Asad`s diminished fighting force.
This is a story about Syria at war, but it`s not a war story Ben Wedeman with Kareem Khadder, Alessandro Gentile, and Adam Dobby write about their visit to a variety of places in northeastern Syria.
The Personal Choice between Emigrating from and Staying in Syria Zaina Erhaim writes, "The choice to emigrate from Syria is a difficult one for Syrians. Despite the war and oppressive rule of extremist groups such as the Islamic State, leaving Syria means braving the unknown and feeling one has abandoned his friends and country."
A look inside of Aleppo with Rami Jarrah This article overviews a recent live broadcast with Rami Jarrah, a Syrian political activist and journalist, and one of the few journalists reporting from the liberated areas inside the city of Aleppo.
Syrian in space: From cosmonaut hero to refugee Mohammad Faris is a Syrian national hero who, after conquering space, fled in disgust when pilots were made to bomb their own people.
Killed by the Bullet That Hit My Son This story was written by Qamar al-Said, a woman from Douma who had begun writing for IWPR’s Damascus Bureau before she was killed on 19 November by a rocket that landed near the farmhouse she was living in. Qamar was in her forties, married, with three daughters and three sons, one of whom was killed while working as a photographer with the Free Syrian Army.
My Life in Syria: Diary Entry 51 Marah, a teenage girl from one of Syria’s besieged cities, shares her stories of life in the war. She recently moved to Damascus to continue her education, deciding to focus her college studies on prosthetics, which she hopes to use to help heal those injured in her country`s conflict.
Poverty Pushing War Widows Toward Foreign Fighters Driven from their homes by fighting, often with children to care for and no husband to provide protection, women bereaved by the civil war have severely limited choices in seeking security—especially when local tradition means that many Syrian men are opposed to marrying widows.
Some Are Wives for “Muhajirs”, Others Get Whipped … Tales of Women from Deir ez Zor! Adel Al-Ayed writes, "If a woman wears a colorful pair of shoes in Deir ez Zor, this is enough to irritate ISIS Hisbah (‘accountability’) enforcement members and have them punish her."
Behind the Black Flag: The Recruitment of an ISIS Killer Since the Syrian rebel leader Hassan Aboud joined IS, taking with him fighters and weapons, he has been behind a sprawling mix of battlefield action and crime.
Regional and International Perspectives
Syria war: UN Security Council unanimously backs peace plan The UN Security Council has unanimously adopted a resolution outlining a peace process in Syria.
Russia`s airstrikes on Syria appear futile with little progress on ground The Syrian army is short on troops and has been unable to use Moscow’s highly destructive campaign to its advantage.
Coalition Demands Civilian Protection as UNSC Reviews Syria Options Security council members urged to protect Syrian civilians as opposition demands an end to Russia’s indiscriminate attacks.
`At least we are treated as humans`: Syrians in Sudan Syrian refugees in Sudan say they feel welcomed, but life is hard and they may still risk their lives to reach Europe.
How ISIS Makes Radicals David Brooks argues that after the terrorist attack in San Bernardino the crucial issue "is what you might call the technology of persuasion — how is it that the Islamic State is able to radicalize a couple living in Redlands, Calif.? What psychological tools does it possess that enable it to wield this far-flung influence?"
Riyadh, Rumeilan, and Damascus: All You Need to Know About Syria’s Opposition Conferences Aron Lund provides a background review of political parties involved in the Riyadh conference.
On Syrian Talks and Ceasefires: An Open Letter to Secretary Kerry Robert S. Ford writes an open letter to Secretary Kerry advising him that without major adjustments in Obama administration`s approach to the Syrian peace talks in Vienna, the talk is headed down another dead end.
Canadian children performed the same song for refugees that was sung to Mohamed when he sought refuge The first plane of Syrian refugees landed in Toronto late on Thursday, 10 December, and Canada welcomed them in several ways.
Viewpoint: How Islamic State is managing to survive Dr. Omar Ashour writes that Iraqi forces’ recapturing of large parts of Ramadi from Islamic State marks the latest territorial setback for the jihadist group following its ejection from places like Tikrit, Sinjar, and Baiji. Despite the reversals though—and more than a year of pummeling from air strikes—IS has proven to be remarkably resistant.
Expert Roundup on Riyadh’s Opposition Conference As Saudi Arabia`s Syrian opposition talks wrapped up on Thursday, 10 December 2015, Syria Deeply asked a community of experts—including Hassan Hassan of Chatham House and Ryan Crocker, the former US ambassador to Syria and Lebanon—how likely it is that the Riyadh group could successfully represent the Syrian opposition in negotiations with the Asad government.
A Syrian refugee’s journey to speak out for gay rights at the United Nations Subhi Nahas, a Syrian refugee and anti-LGBT violence activist, recently came to the United States to testify before the United Nations.
Denmark wants to seize jewelry and cash from refugees This article reviews Denmark’s harsh stance toward refugees, where now the government is considering a law that would allow authorities to confiscate jewelry from refugees entering the country.
Cozy retirement for Assad looks likely as Syria peace talks convene Diplomats concede the Syrian dictator is unlikely to face war crimes charges any time soon.
After Years of War in Syria, U.N. Passes Resolution on Talks For the first time since the nearly five-year-old Syrian civil war began, world powers agreed on Friday, 18 December 2015 at the United Nations Security Council to embrace a plan for a ceasefire and a peace process that holds the distant prospect of ending the conflict.
Peace in Syria is vital. And it’s within our grasp Mohammad Javad Zarif, the foreign minister of Iran, writes Syrians must be allowed to determine their own fate, free from the interference of those set on promoting a petro-fueled perversion of Islam.
Uproar Over Syria Refugees Perfect ‘ISIS Propaganda’ As controversy continues in the United States around the resettlement of Syrian refugees, Syria Deeply asked a former US ambassador to Syria to help us make sense of the United States` stance toward refugees coming from the war-torn country and whether or not increased restrictions serve American interests.
Fact Check: Did Obama Withdraw From Iraq Too Soon, Allowing ISIS To Grow? Alice Fordham breaks down Republican candidates’ talk about IS, such as Jeb Bush`s claim that IS is President Obama`s fault because he withdrew troops from Iraq in 2011 when he should have kept them there to keep a lid on the insurgency.
Pennsylvania Teen Arrested for Allegedly Trying to Help ISIS A Pennsylvania nineteen-year-old has been arrested on charges he attempted to provide support to IS.
Hagel: The White House Tried to ‘Destroy’ Me In an exclusive interview, Chuck Hagel said the Obama administration micromanaged the Pentagon, stabbed him in the back on the way out—and still has no strategy for fixing Syria.
Policy and Reports
The War Economy in the Syrian Conflict: The Government’s Hands-Off Tactics The Syrian government has had a dual approach to its wartime economy, intervening when necessary but often adopting a laissez faire stance towards traders.
Syria war: Third of rebels share IS aims, report claims About a third of rebel groups in Syria—some one hundred thousand fighters—share the ideology of Islamic State, new research suggests.
The aid crisis for Syrian refugees Dawn Chatty writes that, as the Syrian war is prolonged, families are exhausting their savings. Without a massive rethinking of how aid is delivered and distributed, refugees in the region are going to look for ways to leave.
Jordan: Risk of humanitarian disaster as 12,000 refugees from Syria stranded in ‘no man’s land’ Amnesty International called on Jordan to take immediate action to assist up to twelve thousand refugees who have been denied entry to the country and are struggling to survive in desperate, freezing conditions in a “no man’s land” on the Jordanian side of the border with Syria.
“ISIS Is One Piece of the Puzzle” Sheltering Women and Girls in Iraq and Syria Yifat Susskind is executive director of MADRE, an international women’s human rights organization based in New York. Jillian Schwedler spoke with her on 28 October 2015, the week after Yanar Mohammed, head of MADRE’s partner group the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq (OWFI), testified before the UN Security Council about women’s vital role in sustainable peace building and about the task of sheltering women fleeing sexual violence, including from areas controlled by IS.
MER 276 - ISIS This issue of Middle East Research and Information Project includes several articles about IS, such as “A Jihadism Anti-Primer,” by Darryl Li; “Regional Responses to the Rise of ISIS,” by Curtis Ryan; “ISIS Is One Piece of the Puzzle,” by Jillian Schwedler; and “The Invisible Alienation of Tunisian Youth,” by Benoît Challand.
A Complete History of Jamaat Ansar al-Islam Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi provides in this article his translation of a full history of Jamaat Ansar al-Islam, written recently (late November) on Twitter in Arabic by Abu al-Waleed al-Salafi, tracing Islamist trends in Kurdistan from the early ideological beginnings until the present day.
Syria: Stories Behind Photos of Killed Detainees Nine months of research reveals some of the human stories behind the more than twenty-eight thousand photos of deaths in government custody that were smuggled out of Syria and first came to public attention in January 2014.
An Arabic version of this article can be found here: سوريا: قصصوراءصوربعضالمعتقلينالقتلى
Philip Hammond: `Syria talks in New York could lead to UN resolution` Foreign secretary says deal endorsing ceasefire is possible, but removing Bashar al-Asad remains an objective for the United Kingdom.
Congress Just Put Iranian-Americans and Others At Risk for Becoming Second-Class Citizens On Friday, 18 December 2015, both houses of congress “approved a $1.1 trillion spending bill intended to keep government services funded through September 2016. Tucked into this omnibus legislation are provisions that could undermine, on the basis of personal heritage, the ability of many American citizens to travel visa-free to countries in Europe and east Asia.”
Documentaries, Special Reports, and Other Media
Where ISIS Gained and Lost Territory This Year An illustrative and visual analysis on IS’s territorial shift in the past year.
The Psychology Of Radicalization: How Terrorist Groups Attract Young Followers This episode of Hidden Brain looks at the social and psychological drivers behind international terrorism, and why our best efforts to prevent radicalization so often fail.
Military to Military In London Review of Books, Seymour M. Hersh writes “Military to Military,” an article on US intelligence sharing in the Syrian war.
Syria and Surrealism by Muhammad Idrees Ahmad Muhammad Idrees Ahmad discusses Barack Obama’s Syria policy of “realist” restraint and argues, "Realism might have had something useful to tell us about interstate rivalries, but it is inadequate to the task of addressing civil or transnational conflicts in the post–Cold War era."
مترجم: داعش...دربالذخائر Erika Solomon and Ahmed Mhidi show that “rather than being detained or expelled as they had feared when the jihadi group swept through eastern Syria last year, many black-market traders such as Abu Ali were courted by ISIS. They were absorbed into a complex system of supply and demand that keeps the world’s richest jihadi group stocked with munitions across a self-proclaimed ‘caliphate’ spanning half of Syria and a third of Iraq.”
The English version of this article can be found here: Isis: The munitions trail
من يزود تنظيم الدولة الإسلامية بالإنترنت وكيف؟ This article investigates how European companies provide IS with access to the Internet platforms they use to spread their propaganda.
A related article in English can be found here: European Satellites: How Islamic State Takes Its Terror To the Web
الولاياتالمتحدة: مشروعقانونلإجبارفيسبوكوتويترعلى "الإبلاغبأيسلوكإرهابي" In the United States, a new bill suggests ways to force Facebook and Twitter to report any terrorist activities on their platforms.
مسلحونمنالمعارضةالسورية "يغادرونحمص" Opposition fighters left Homs following a ceasefire between the opposition armed group and the Syrian regime in Homs.
أوبامايرحببرجلسوريعلى "الفيسبوك" Obama welcomes a Syrian refugee by commenting on his story that was published on Humans of New York Facebook page.
داعشيمنعأجهزةاﻻستقبالالفضائي ( الدش ) فيكاملأراضيالدولةالإسلامية IS issues a new Fatwa that bans the use of satellite dishes in all IS-controlled areas.
السؤالالذيلايمكنللجولانيأنيردعليه Fadi Azam comments on the recent press conference of Abu Mohammad al-Julani, the leader and emir of al-Nusra Front.
السويدتحكمبالسجنالمؤبدعلىمتهمين Sweden sentenced to life imprisonment two persons that committed terrorist crimes by working with IS in Syria.
عفرين: مناهجبالكردية.. والمرأةأولوية This report discusses a new Kurdish school curriculum in Afrin, north of Aleppo.
أميركاستدعمعسكرياً إقامةمنطقةخاليةمن «داعش» شمالحلب Ibrahim Hamidi discusses new American-Turkish plans to isolate IS in northern Syria.
حماس تدين اغتيال سمير القنطار Hamas condemns the assassination of Samir Kuntar in an air strike in Syria on Saturday, 19 December 2015.