“While international attention is focused on fighting Islamic State in its heartland in Raqqa and Mosul, a much smaller but strategically important pocket of territory has fallen under the extremist group’s sway in southern Syria, right along the borders of Jordan and the Israeli-held Golan Heights. What makes this particularly alarming is that militants in the mountainous area, known as the Yarmouk Basin, aren’t foreign jihadists from Europe or North Africa. They’re mostly local villagers, many of them former fighters of the Western-backed Syrian rebel alliance, the Free Syrian Army,” writes Yaroslav Trofimov in the Wall Street Journal.
“Violent revolutions can reach peaceful resolutions, but such an outcome is less likely where deep, unresolved sectarian grievances are in play, as they are in the Middle East. The renewed salience of old, intractable cleavages—reflected in the grievances of Sunnis in Syria and Iraq, of Shias in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen, and of Kurds and Palestinians everywhere—makes the current situation especially precarious. These problems were simmering beneath the surface of autocratic repression for decades. Now, Pandora’s box has been opened, revealing an incredibly complex geopolitical puzzle,” writes Ishac Diwan for Project Syndicate.
“The withering caliphate is becoming the latest casus belli—a divine mission to replace the ‘falsehood’ of the nation state with Islamic rule being stripped away by yet more western aggression. How that aggression takes shape in the coming months will be pivotal to the direction of the war against the jihadists—and the overall course of the Syrian war. The campaign against Isis had been fought mostly as a subset of the broader war, but has been increasingly drawn into the main conflict,” writes Martin Chulov in the Guardian.