Rebel fighters in Jobar, Syria. Amer Almohibany / AFP
Rebel fighters in Jobar, Syria. Amer Almohibany / AFP

Why the US should rethink its anti-ISIL Syria strategy



The imminent battle to dislodge ISIL from Raqqa can deliver many things. It can be a deadly blow to ISIL in a country where it has little experience – relative to Iraq where it originated. It can be the beginning of a process to steer much of the country in a new direction. Or it can merely reset the conditions for a more chaotic north where ISIL will still be a player and other jihadist organisations will return.

The most significant battle against ISIL in Syria is muddled by the conflict between Turkey and the Kurdish militias in northern Syria. Both the United States and Turkey exerted little effort over the past two and a half years to adequately prepare for this battle. As the battle approaches, the two find themselves stuck with the forces they perceive as better positioned to do the job, when neither choice is appropriate for such an important battle.

The US had an Iraq-first strategy for the best part of the Operation Inherent Resolve, while it relied on the YPG, the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, to fight in Syria. Whereas the international coalition prepared well for Mosul and ensured that Kurdish and Shia militias do not fight in the city, the same has not been done in Syria. Kurdish militias appear primed to spearhead the fight in Raqqa.

If Washington has deemed it a bad idea for Iraqi Kurdish and Shia militias to fight in Mosul, why should it be a good idea for the Kurdish militias to lead the fight in Raqqa? The answer is clear: Washington recognises the social, ethnic and political implications of having Kurdish militias lead the Raqqa battle, considering its opposition to the same in Mosul, but it wants a tactical win against ISIL. It is that simple.

The US government should rethink the Obama administration’s misguided and imprudent approach if it is to defeat ISIL properly. Policymakers reviewing the strategy today should resist the temptation of making a choice based on what few good options the existing approach has produced. Policymakers should also not be deceived by the fact that many seem willing to work under the canopy of the YPG-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces despite the fears. Many others are joining forces with the regime, but none of these trends should drive policy.

Some may argue that locals hate ISIL more than any other force and that the YPG will leave Raqqa after liberation. Those people should consider two key complications, among many.

People in Raqqa, as elsewhere in eastern Syria, see Tal Abyad as an ominous precedent, where the Kurdish militias mistreated locals, expelled others and controlled a largely Arab area. While politicians may promise this will not happen, existing perceptions of the Kurds mean the battle will be a case of “let’s expel ISIL and deal with the consequences later”.

The second issue is how the YPG and its allies determine who is an ISIL member. This is a serious issue even in Iraq, where there is a relatively functioning state system to deal with the interrogation process. In Mosul, whole families were reportedly rounded up by formal army officers for interrogation for days because a relative was accused of being an ISIL member. Kurdish militants are more at ease with accusing locals living under ISIL of being fellow travellers, and locals know it.

The perception of a hostile militia in the lead complicates this issue. For example, if a former government technician continued to work in a certain sector, either because ISIL pressured him or because he saw his work as service to the city, will the militias kill him on the grounds that he was an ISIL member? If such a person is killed by militias operating under the YPG’s command, the act will be perceived through an ethnic and political lens.

The problems associated with the type of militias that will be fighting inside Raqqa should be taken seriously. Raqqa can be much more than a tactical victory against ISIL. It can be a way for the United States to make the win the start of a new chapter in the Syrian conflict.

Instead of rushing into Raqqa with a group viewed suspiciously by both locals and Turkey, a Nato ally, the US should use Raqqa as a mobilising battle to create an acceptable formula that reduces tensions in northern Syria.

This formula should involve enabling the rebels to fight ISIL in Raqqa and eastern Syria. It should also involve balanced political and military cooperation between Arabs and Kurds. Such cooperation should not be based on Kurdish dominance. This formula can also be tied to the idea of safe zones that the American president, Donald Trump, has repeatedly promised in Syria.

In 2012, fighting against the YPG was invigorating to so many anti-regime forces in eastern and northern Syria. The rebels say the YPG "stabbed them in the back" by fighting them as they began to storm regime bases in that region.

Al Qaeda, which ISIL uprooted from eastern Syria in 2014, will undoubtedly use grievances against the Kurdish militias to mobilise locals and fill the vacuum after ISIL is expelled from its areas. Indeed, Al Qaeda’s plan to roll back into eastern Syria is already under way, according to senior jihadist sources inside the country.

A balanced approach in northern Syria, where the US has leverage, should consider all the fault lines in northern Syria and help turn that region, which constitutes around 50 per cent of Syria, into de facto safe areas that reduce the bloodshed and prevent the return of jihadists.

Reliance on the YPG is as wrong in Raqqa as the entry of Shia and Kurdish militias in Mosul that the US opposed.

Hassan Hassan is a senior fellow at the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy and co-author of ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror

On Twitter: @hxhassan

TWISTERS

Director:+Lee+Isaac+Chung

Starring:+Glen+Powell,+Daisy+Edgar-Jones,+Anthony+Ramos

Rating:+2.5/5

Globalization and its Discontents Revisited
Joseph E. Stiglitz
W. W. Norton & Company

INFO

Visit www.wtatennis.com for more information

 

A Round of Applause

Director: Berkun Oya
Starring: Aslihan Gürbüz, Fatih Artman, Cihat Suvarioglu
Rating: 4/5

COMPANY PROFILE

Company name: Co Chocolat

Started: 2017

Founders: Iman and Luchie Suguitan

Based: Dubai, UAE

Industry: Food

Funding: $1 million-plus

Investors: Fahad bin Juma, self-funding, family and friends

Biography

Favourite book: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Holiday choice: Anything Disney-related

Proudest achievement: Receiving a presidential award for foreign services.

Family: Wife and three children.

Like motto: You always get what you ask for, the universe listens.

UFC Fight Night 2

1am – Early prelims

2am – Prelims

4am-7am – Main card

7:30am-9am – press cons

COMPANY PROFILE

Company name: Almouneer
Started: 2017
Founders: Dr Noha Khater and Rania Kadry
Based: Egypt
Number of staff: 120
Investment: Bootstrapped, with support from Insead and Egyptian government, seed round of
$3.6 million led by Global Ventures

Brief scoreline:

Liverpool 5

Keita 1', Mane 23', 66', Salah 45'+1, 83'

Huddersfield 0

Company Profile

Company name: Cargoz
Date started: January 2022
Founders: Premlal Pullisserry and Lijo Antony
Based: Dubai
Number of staff: 30
Investment stage: Seed

KEY DATES IN AMAZON'S HISTORY

July 5, 1994: Jeff Bezos founds Cadabra Inc, which would later be renamed to Amazon.com, because his lawyer misheard the name as 'cadaver'. In its earliest days, the bookstore operated out of a rented garage in Bellevue, Washington

July 16, 1995: Amazon formally opens as an online bookseller. Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies: Computer Models of the Fundamental Mechanisms of Thought becomes the first item sold on Amazon

1997: Amazon goes public at $18 a share, which has grown about 1,000 per cent at present. Its highest closing price was $197.85 on June 27, 2024

1998: Amazon acquires IMDb, its first major acquisition. It also starts selling CDs and DVDs

2000: Amazon Marketplace opens, allowing people to sell items on the website

2002: Amazon forms what would become Amazon Web Services, opening the Amazon.com platform to all developers. The cloud unit would follow in 2006

2003: Amazon turns in an annual profit of $75 million, the first time it ended a year in the black

2005: Amazon Prime is introduced, its first-ever subscription service that offered US customers free two-day shipping for $79 a year

2006: Amazon Unbox is unveiled, the company's video service that would later morph into Amazon Instant Video and, ultimately, Amazon Video

2007: Amazon's first hardware product, the Kindle e-reader, is introduced; the Fire TV and Fire Phone would come in 2014. Grocery service Amazon Fresh is also started

2009: Amazon introduces Amazon Basics, its in-house label for a variety of products

2010: The foundations for Amazon Studios were laid. Its first original streaming content debuted in 2013

2011: The Amazon Appstore for Google's Android is launched. It is still unavailable on Apple's iOS

2014: The Amazon Echo is launched, a speaker that acts as a personal digital assistant powered by Alexa

2017: Amazon acquires Whole Foods for $13.7 billion, its biggest acquisition

2018: Amazon's market cap briefly crosses the $1 trillion mark, making it, at the time, only the third company to achieve that milestone

Living in...

This article is part of a guide on where to live in the UAE. Our reporters will profile some of the country’s most desirable districts, provide an estimate of rental prices and introduce you to some of the residents who call each area home.

'Gold'

Director:Anthony Hayes

Stars:Zaf Efron, Anthony Hayes

Rating:3/5

EMIRATES'S REVISED A350 DEPLOYMENT SCHEDULE

Edinburgh: November 4 (unchanged)

Bahrain: November 15 (from September 15); second daily service from January 1

Kuwait: November 15 (from September 16)

Mumbai: January 1 (from October 27)

Ahmedabad: January 1 (from October 27)

Colombo: January 2 (from January 1)

Muscat: March 1 (from December 1)

Lyon: March 1 (from December 1)

Bologna: March 1 (from December 1)

Source: Emirates

Dates for the diary

To mark Bodytree’s 10th anniversary, the coming season will be filled with celebratory activities:

  • September 21 Anyone interested in becoming a certified yoga instructor can sign up for a 250-hour course in Yoga Teacher Training with Jacquelene Sadek. It begins on September 21 and will take place over the course of six weekends.
  • October 18 to 21 International yoga instructor, Yogi Nora, will be visiting Bodytree and offering classes.
  • October 26 to November 4 International pilates instructor Courtney Miller will be on hand at the studio, offering classes.
  • November 9 Bodytree is hosting a party to celebrate turning 10, and everyone is invited. Expect a day full of free classes on the grounds of the studio.
  • December 11 Yogeswari, an advanced certified Jivamukti teacher, will be visiting the studio.
  • February 2, 2018 Bodytree will host its 4th annual yoga market.
Company profile

Company name: Fasset
Started: 2019
Founders: Mohammad Raafi Hossain, Daniel Ahmed
Based: Dubai
Sector: FinTech
Initial investment: $2.45 million
Current number of staff: 86
Investment stage: Pre-series B
Investors: Investcorp, Liberty City Ventures, Fatima Gobi Ventures, Primal Capital, Wealthwell Ventures, FHS Capital, VN2 Capital, local family offices

The Specs

Engine: 1.6-litre 4-cylinder petrol
Power: 118hp
Torque: 149Nm
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Price: From Dh61,500
On sale: Now

COMPANY PROFILE

Company name: Revibe
Started: 2022
Founders: Hamza Iraqui and Abdessamad Ben Zakour
Based: UAE
Industry: Refurbished electronics
Funds raised so far: $10m
Investors: Flat6Labs, Resonance and various others

The Roundup : No Way Out

Director: Lee Sang-yong
Stars: Don Lee, Lee Jun-hyuk, Munetaka Aoki
Rating: 3/5

'Nightmare Alley'

Director:Guillermo del Toro

Stars:Bradley Cooper, Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara

Rating: 3/5

Indika

Developer: 11 Bit Studios
Publisher: Odd Meter
Console: PlayStation 5, PC and Xbox series X/S
Rating: 4/5

EMILY IN PARIS: SEASON 3

Created by: Darren Star

Starring: Lily Collins, Philippine Leroy-Beaulieu, Ashley Park

Rating: 2.75/5

Essentials

The flights

Emirates and Etihad fly direct from the UAE to Geneva from Dh2,845 return, including taxes. The flight takes 6 hours. 

The package

Clinique La Prairie offers a variety of programmes. A six-night Master Detox costs from 14,900 Swiss francs (Dh57,655), including all food, accommodation and a set schedule of medical consultations and spa treatments.

FORSPOKEN

Developer: Luminous Productions
Publisher: Square Enix
Console: PC, PS5
Release date: January

Company of Heroes 3

Developer: Relic Entertainment
Publisher: SEGA
Console: PC, PS5, XSX
Release date: February

Star Wars Jedi: Survivor

Developer: Respawn Entertainment
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Console: PC, PS5, XSX
Release date: March

Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League

Developer: Rocksteady Studios
Publisher: Warner Bros
Console: PC, PS5, XSX
Release date: May

Final Fantasy XVI

Developer: Square Enix
Publisher: Square Enix
Console: PS5
Release date: June

Street Fighter 6

Developer: Capcom
Publisher: Capcom
Console: PS5, XSX, PC
Release date: June

Diablo IV

Developer: Blizzard Entertainment
Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment
Console: PC, PS5, XSX
Release date: June

Baldur's Gate 3

Developer: Larian Studios
Publisher: Larian Studios
Console: PC
Release date: August

The Legend of Zelda: Tears of The Kingdom

Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo
Console: Nintendo Switch
Release date: September

Marvel's Spider-Man 2

Developer: Insomniac Games
Publisher: PlayStation
Console: PS5
Release date: Fall

Assassin's Creed Mirage

Developer: Ubisoft
Publisher: Ubisoft
Console: PC, PS5, XSX, Amazon Luna
Release date: 2023

Starfield

Developer: Bethesda Game Studios
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Console: PC, Xbox
Release date: 2023

Mercer, the investment consulting arm of US services company Marsh & McLennan, expects its wealth division to at least double its assets under management (AUM) in the Middle East as wealth in the region continues to grow despite economic headwinds, a company official said.

Mercer Wealth, which globally has $160 billion in AUM, plans to boost its AUM in the region to $2-$3bn in the next 2-3 years from the present $1bn, said Yasir AbuShaban, a Dubai-based principal with Mercer Wealth.

Within the next two to three years, we are looking at reaching $2 to $3 billion as a conservative estimate and we do see an opportunity to do so,” said Mr AbuShaban.

Mercer does not directly make investments, but allocates clients’ money they have discretion to, to professional asset managers. They also provide advice to clients.

“We have buying power. We can negotiate on their (client’s) behalf with asset managers to provide them lower fees than they otherwise would have to get on their own,” he added.

Mercer Wealth’s clients include sovereign wealth funds, family offices, and insurance companies among others.

From its office in Dubai, Mercer also looks after Africa, India and Turkey, where they also see opportunity for growth.

Wealth creation in Middle East and Africa (MEA) grew 8.5 per cent to $8.1 trillion last year from $7.5tn in 2015, higher than last year’s global average of 6 per cent and the second-highest growth in a region after Asia-Pacific which grew 9.9 per cent, according to consultancy Boston Consulting Group (BCG). In the region, where wealth grew just 1.9 per cent in 2015 compared with 2014, a pickup in oil prices has helped in wealth generation.

BCG is forecasting MEA wealth will rise to $12tn by 2021, growing at an annual average of 8 per cent.

Drivers of wealth generation in the region will be split evenly between new wealth creation and growth of performance of existing assets, according to BCG.

Another general trend in the region is clients’ looking for a comprehensive approach to investing, according to Mr AbuShaban.

“Institutional investors or some of the families are seeing a slowdown in the available capital they have to invest and in that sense they are looking at optimizing the way they manage their portfolios and making sure they are not investing haphazardly and different parts of their investment are working together,” said Mr AbuShaban.

Some clients also have a higher appetite for risk, given the low interest-rate environment that does not provide enough yield for some institutional investors. These clients are keen to invest in illiquid assets, such as private equity and infrastructure.

“What we have seen is a desire for higher returns in what has been a low-return environment specifically in various fixed income or bonds,” he said.

“In this environment, we have seen a de facto increase in the risk that clients are taking in things like illiquid investments, private equity investments, infrastructure and private debt, those kind of investments were higher illiquidity results in incrementally higher returns.”

The Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, one of the largest sovereign wealth funds, said in its 2016 report that has gradually increased its exposure in direct private equity and private credit transactions, mainly in Asian markets and especially in China and India. The authority’s private equity department focused on structured equities owing to “their defensive characteristics.”

Porsche Macan T: The Specs

Engine: 2.0-litre 4-cyl turbo 

Power: 265hp from 5,000-6,500rpm 

Torque: 400Nm from 1,800-4,500rpm 

Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch auto 

Speed: 0-100kph in 6.2sec 

Top speed: 232kph 

Fuel consumption: 10.7L/100km 

On sale: May or June 

Price: From Dh259,900  

The specs

Engine: 6.5-litre V12 and three electric motors
Power: 1,015hp
Torque: 1,500Nm (estimate)
Transmission: Eight-speed dual-clutch auto
On sale: Early 2024
Price: From Dh2 million (estimate)

Day 2, Abu Dhabi Test: At a glance

Moment of the day Dinesh Chandimal has inherited a challenging job, after being made Sri Lanka’s Test captain. He responded in perfect fashion, with an easy-natured century against Pakistan. He brought up three figures with a majestic cover drive, which he just stood and admired.

Stat of the day – 33 It took 33 balls for Dilruwan Perera to get off the mark. His time on zero was eventful enough. The Sri Lankan No 7 was given out LBW twice, but managed to have both decisions overturned on review. The TV replays showed both times that he had inside edged the ball onto his pad.

The verdict In the two previous times these two sides have met in Abu Dhabi, the Tests have been drawn. The docile nature of proceedings so far makes that the likely outcome again this time, but both sides will be harbouring thoughts that they can force their way into a winning position.

Women’s World T20, Asia Qualifier

UAE results
Beat China by 16 runs
Lost to Thailand by 10 wickets
Beat Nepal by five runs
Beat Hong Kong by eight wickets
Beat Malaysia by 34 runs

Standings (P, W, l, NR, points)

1. Thailand 5 4 0 1 9
2. UAE 5 4 1 0 8
3. Nepal 5 2 1 2 6
4. Hong Kong 5 2 2 1 5
5. Malaysia 5 1 4 0 2
6. China 5 0 5 0 0

Final
Thailand v UAE, Monday, 7am

While you're here
The specs

Engine: 3.6-litre, V6
Transmission: eight-speed auto
Power: 285hp
Torque: 353Nm
Price: Dh159,900
On sale: now

'Ashkal'

Director: Youssef Chebbi

Stars: Fatma Oussaifi and Mohamed Houcine Grayaa

Rating: 4/5

Results

2.15pm: Maiden (PA) Dh40,000 1,700m; Winner: AF Arrab, Antonio Fresu (jockey), Ernst Oertel (trainer).

2.45pm: Maiden (PA) Dh40,000 1,700m; Winner: AF Mahaleel, Antonio Fresu, Ernst Oertel.

3.15pm: Sheikh Ahmed bin Rashid Al Maktoum handicap (TB) Dh200,000 2,000m; Winner: Dolmen, Richard Mullen, Satish Seemar.

3.45pm: Handicap (PA) Dh40,000 1,200m; Winner: Amang Alawda, Sandro Paiva, Bakhit Al Ketbi.

4.15pm: The Crown Prince of Sharjah Cup Prestige (PA) Dh200,000 1,200m; Winner: AF Alwajel, Tadhg O’Shea, Ernst Oertel.

4.45pm: Handicap (PA) Dh40,000 2,000m; Winner: Al Jazi, Jesus Rosales, Eric Lemartinel.

Herc's Adventures

Developer: Big Ape Productions
Publisher: LucasArts
Console: PlayStation 1 & 5, Sega Saturn
Rating: 4/5