Finally, the long awaited return!
In the Middle East, the arms control community has been fixated on only chemical and nuclear arms proliferation, and reasonably so, concerning the Asad regime’s stockpile of chemical weapons and nuclear talks with the Rouhani regime in Iran. Therefore, the ISIL invasion of Iraq has not been analyzed heavily from a proliferation perspective, as ISIL has no access to chemical weapons as of yet. However, the ISIL invasion has created an environment conducive to small arms proliferation, and as such should be addressed by the arms control and nonproliferation community.
Nayla Razzouk – Bloomberg | It seems that, finally, Iraqi governmental forces are striking back successfully against the ISIL (or ISIS, depends what you call the organization). 279 militants were killed, according to the Iraqi government.
Elise Foley – Huffington Post | Lindsey Graham strongly recommends collaboration with Iran against ISIL forces. Iraqi officials have already stated that they would consider accepting Iranian help. As US Marines and warships are redeployed to the area, cooperation with Iran is becoming more of a possibility. Rouhani himself has also alluded to bolstering the al-Maliki regime. One of Rouhani’s senior advisers recently stated that only the US and Iran can stabilize the region. Could cooperation, along with continuing nuclear talks, lead to a moderate thaw in relations over the next few months? Could a show of force help Obama restore some of his eroded foreign policy credibility? And could the US end up alienating a Wahhabi Sunni Saudi Arabia with actions against the Sunni ISIL?
Robin Wright – The New Yorker | Mr. Wright argues that Iran and the US are merely allies of convenience, placed in similarly poor situations as their previous involvement strategies crumble before the ISIL. However, Aki Peritz of Newsweek’s The Daily Beast contends that Iran has received the short end of the bargain.
Foreign Jihadism in Syria – Small Arms Survey | A comprehensive overview of ISIL and its history. The Economist provides some background of its own, and argues that ISIL’s goals indicate that it cannot be treated as a typical al-Qaeda cell.
Nicholas Blanford – CS Monitor | Mr. Blanford argues that, without the pressure of ISIL fighters in Syria to wear down the opposition, Asad (and Iran) will have to rely more heavily on Hezbollah. How does this complicate chemical weapons removal operations? Kingston Reif argues that the removal plan has proved effective, despite initial misgivings. However, does such regional turmoil mean all bets are off?
Arms Transfers to Syria – SIPRI | SIPRI provides an (somewhat dated, as the SIPRI yearbook is annual) overview of small arms movements within Syria to both rebel groups and government-aligned forces. With ISIL’s expansion, one wonders how much more freely small arms will flow into and out of the region.
After Qaddafi – Small Arms Survey | Small Arms Survey published a report on post-Qaddafi Libya’s armed groups, as well as small arms proliferation in the region. Throughout the conflict, the country was flooded with small arms and heavier military equipment, such as ex-soviet tanks. Those arms have reappeared throughout the Middle East, including Syria (where they were probably employed by ISIL fighters against anti-Asad forces). The ISIL capture of a US arms cache in Mosul several days ago (which included high-tech attack helicopters and heavy battle tanks) could have the same effect as pouring kerosene on a campfire.
An unstable region stretching from Saudi Arabia to Iran, with religious tensions flaring up and a crumbling central government. Close enough to a recipe for disaster.