Catching Up: (Most of) 2015

Woof, I really let this blog slide.

Anyway, I plan to update this more regularly as I continue to publish, if only to ensure that there’s a single clearinghouse for everything I’ve written. (You know, in case people are interested.)

Pieces I’ve published since my last post, in chronological order:

  • Jihadology, “Abdullah al-Muheisini Weighs in on Killing of Alawite Women and Children.” A translation and analysis of jihadist evangelist and dealmaker Abdullah al-Muheisini’s ruling on killing Alawite women and children – he’s against it, but he also includes enough caveats and qualifications that we should be worried. Al-Muheisini is extreme, but he’s also influential, and he’s closer to the rebel center in northwest Syria than we might like.
  • Jihadology, “Ahrar al-Sham Spiritual Leader: The Idol of Democracy Has Shattered.” The second piece is another translation and analysis, this one of an argument on democracy from the top spiritual leader of Syria’s most powerful rebel militia, Ahrar al-Sham. This official doesn’t rule out some democracy-like mechanisms, but he’s pretty clear that “democracy” per se is not happening – particularly after Algeria and Egypt, he argues it’s a trap for Islamists.
  • War on the Rocks, “The Trouble with Turkey’s Favorite Islamists” (co-authored with Aaron Stein). Turkey has good relations with a broad spectrum of Syrian rebels, but it has forged especially close ties with Ahrar al-Sham, a Salafist brigade with one foot in global jihadism. As Turkey flirts with the possibility of establishing a “safe zone” in Aleppo, it remains an open question whether Turkey will enlist Ahrar’s support on the ground – and, if so, whether Ahrar can participate without also inviting in jihadist fellow travellers.
  • War on the Rocks, “Ahrar al-Sham’s Revisionist Jihadism.” The fanaticism and brutality of the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) have shocked people around the world, and Syria’s “mujahideen” are no exception. Inside Syria, a revisionist critique of ISIS’s hyper-extremism has emerged from within the jihadist movement, a corrective trend that’s been championed by the Salafist rebels in Ahrar al-Sham. Now Ahrar al-Sham is both manning the front lines against ISIS and vying with ISIS – and al-Qaeda – to define the jihadist movement writ large.
  • World Politics Review, “The End of the Army of Conquest? Syrian Rebel Alliance Shows Cracks.” Over the spring and summer of this year, the Jeish al-Fateh (Army of Conquest) rebel coalition scored a series of dramatic victories over the regime of Bashar al-Assad in northwest Syria. But just as Jeish al-Fateh has announced a major new offensive, ultra-extreme faction Jund al-Aqsa has very publicly quit the coalition. The resulting acrimony has exposed the persistent and probably unresolvable divisions within Jeish al-Fatah and among Syria’s rebels more broadly.
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