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Syria and drawing the web of tensions

Friday, September 9th, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — with a Magnus Ranstorp squib in its tail ]

The issue is complexity, and how you represent it. The case in point is Syria.

Here’s a diagram that suggests complexity as a sort of crazy weaving, all straight lines and colors:

Daveed’s diagram has a network feel to it, with actord as nodes and the tensions between them as edges:

Karl Sharro’s tackling the wider context, but his illustration at least gives the sense of a ball of twine after a cat has carefully re-arranged it:

Juan Cole simply provides a screenshot from Google Maps —


— the headline America’s Syria SNAFU: Pentagon’s Militias fight Turkey & CIA’s Militias — which is effectively friendly fire framed as paradox — and some paras beneath it using words to describe the tangle:

The Turkish incursion into Syria at Jarabulus was advertised as an attack on a Daesh (ISIS, ISIL) stronghold and smuggling station in conjunction with (fundamentalist) remnants of the Free Syrian Army.

But the southern outskirts of Jarabulus had already fallen to the Pentagon-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, which are majority Kurdish but have a significant Arab component. The Arab, non-Kurdish SDF brigades such as the Seljuk brigade, the Army of Revolutionaries, and Northern Sun Brigade had fought to liberate the northern Syrian city of Manbij, due south of Jarabulus from Daesh. They have an outpost in the village of Amarna just a few miles south of Jarabulus, where they call themselves the Jarabulus Military Council.

The Turkish army, having secured Jarabulus itself with the help of fundamentalist militias, moved down to Amarna, where they met fierce resistance from the Syrian Democratic Forces, who are allied with the Kurds. The Turkish air force bombarded the SDF positions in Amarna and the militias responded by destroying two tanks and killing one Turkish soldier. Fighting continues there.

To be honest, I’m not sure which of those means of modeling a complex system leaves us best able to understand the situation on the ground.


Maybe this one’s the best:

Jabhat breaks from al-Qaida

Thursday, July 28th, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — and al-Jolani is dressed to kill ]

An insightful DoubleQuote in the Wild:

As Shakespeare puts it, the apparel oft proclaims the man.



  • Charles Lister, Profiling Jabhat al-Nusra
  • JM Berger, Jabhat al Nusra Splits From al Qaeda
  • Just added:

  • Charles Lister, The Nusra Front Is Dead and Stronger Than Ever Before
  • D Gartenstein-Ross, Does Jabhat al-Nusra split from al-Qaeda and what does it mean?
  • Charles Lister & Daveed Gartenstein-Ross on the Blair Foundation report

    Sunday, December 27th, 2015

    [ by Charles Cameron — opinions differ — with respect for informed disagreement ]

    Charles Lister & Daveed Gartenstein-Ross both know a great deal more than I do about the factions within the Syrian opposition, so I’m putting their two tweets on the topic, posted only fifteen moniutes apart. up here as an invitation to eacxh of them to express the angle from which they find the report, respectively, to lack knowledge and have high value.


  • Tony Blair Faith Foundation, If the Castle Falls, Ideology and Objectives of the Syrian Rebellion
  • **

    I’m posting this on Boxing Day as we’d say back in the UK, hoping both parties will have an opportunity to discuss the report at some future point, but also aware that both are more than busy, and may not find the time to do so.

    Either way, I wish them both, and all Zenpundit readers, the very best this festive season.

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