At War against a Global Islamic State – The Fall into Extreme Sunni-Shi’ite Tensions

In this series, which emphasises some of the major strategic dangers related to the war against the Islamic State, we focused first on geographical risks resulting potentially from a narrow understanding of the Islamic State’s implantation and outreach. We thus moved from a Mesopotamian theatre of war  to a regional one (“From Syria to the Region“), then to the necessity to also incorporate all global operations of the Islamic State in the strategy, explaining how operations in one area could impact operations elsewhere as well as the overall war (“A Global Theatre of War“). We notably took as examples, beyond the obvious case of Libya, Somalia (“Facing a Strategic Trap in Somalia?“), Bangladesh, the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia (“From the Philippines and Indonesia to Bangladesh“). The strategic challenges presented… Read More

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The Red (Team) Analysis Weekly 224 – 15 October 2015

Each week our scan collects weak – and less weak – signals… Each section focuses on signals related to a specific theme: world (international politics and geopolitics – this week to note, particularly, an increased caution in Pakistan regarding the possibility a sectarian tensions, and a low probability but potentially immense impact “event”, taking place 1500 light years from us,… Read More

Strategic Intelligence for Syria – Scenario 3.4. Back to an Al-Assad Syria?

Despite the recent victory in Qusayr by the pro Al-Assad groups, and despite the strategic character of the city, this scenario  seems to be unlikely, but not impossible, in a very near future. To obtain complete victory, we may assume that the regime of Bashar Al-Assad would continue and even strengthen his current strategy of population displacement and use of foreign forces. However, this strategy has profound impacts that would make the construction of peace much more difficult: it favours sectarianism, the spiral of fear, hatred, and retribution, while destroying wealth and thus making it more difficult to deal with displaced people and providing for their return to normal life. As underlined almost a year ago by Joshua Landis: “The… Read More

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Strategic Intelligence for Syria – Scenario 3.3.2. A Truly Secular Syria?

This post will outline the last but one scenario for Syria for the short to medium term, i.e. “a Secular Syria” resulting from a real victory by one of the warring groups. Considering the current state of play, this scenario is unlikely, even utopic. Yet, imagining it will also suggest possible policy and strategy that could change the odds.
The various scenarios constructed over the last weeks are summarized in a graph, which starts exploring ways to look at sets of scenarios as a systemic and dynamic whole.

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Strategic Intelligence for Syria (8) – Scenario 3. A Nationalist Islamic Syria or a Muslim Brotherhood’s Syria?

This post continues exploring various scenarios around the theme of “a real victory in Syria” by one or the other groups fighting on the ground, starting first with a Nationalist Islamic Syria, and then moving to a Syria under the leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood. For each scenario, current estimates of likelihood will be outlined and some indicators influencing probability will be suggested.

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Strategic Intelligence Assessment for Syria (7) – Scenario 3.1: A Real Victory – an Islamic Al-Sham?

Considering the current state of play, scenario 3: A Real Victory in Syria, and its sub-scenarios are rather unlikely in the short-term. However, they are worth outlining because they bring analytical insight into dynamics and potential strategies to favour or counter one or the other possibility, according to interests, and because they could be relevant for the medium term. The chaos and beginning of “warlordism” that characterizes the Syrian situation, as emphasised by analysts, (e.g. Joshua Landis, 1 May 2013, Syria Comment; Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi, 14 May 2013, Jihadology; see also first post of the series on Syria) lead to the relatively small probability to see any of those scenarios (or rather variations on them) happening. Nonetheless, as for scenario 1: Peace in… Read More

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Strategic Intelligence Assessment for Syria (4) – State of Play Part III

Detailed state of play for the Syrian Sunni Factions between May 2013 and January 2014 (open access) with actors mappings (members only).