New and Noteworthy in Arab and Islamic Affairs, 9–5–17

Assad declares victory

A grim verdict on the war on Syria, a thumbs down for Putin Syria policy by Russians, and problems ahead for Iraq post-ISIS. To subscribe to this daily roundup, click here.

Assad has “won the war militarily,” says former U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford in the Los Angeles Times. “And I can’t see any prospect of the Syrian opposition being able to compel him to make dramatic concessions in a peace negotiation.”

But Russians do not support President Vladimir Putin’s military intervention in Syria, according to a poll summarized in Newsweek. “The latest Levada poll shows that around a third of Russians (32 percent) fear Syria could repeat the mistakes of the Soviet-Afghan conflict — Moscow’s quintessential example of a long and grinding military stalemate that ended with 15,000 Soviet deaths and Moscow’s inglorious withdrawal in 1989. For that reason the war is often called the Soviet “Vietnam.”

Meanwhile, in Baghdad, an ISIS defeat is poised to lay bare the frittering of the Iraqi state, according to a substantial report by the Global Public Policy Institute — posing a dilemma for international actors engaging in reconstruction. “There are competing sublayers of control even within Baghdad … [where] de facto control might be held not by ISF but by different PMF forces, which are formally part of the Iraqi Security Forces and report to the Iraqi Prime Minister, but in many cases give priority to the orders of their own leadership or their Iranian backers … [Meanwhile,] in most areas there are also a number of smaller, locally-recruited forces, from Sunni tribal forces (sometimes referred to as tribal hashd or hashd al-asha’ir), to local Turkmen, Shabak, Yazidi or Christian forces. … [I]n most cases they act as auxiliary forces to these larger security actors, helping to “hold” areas by manning checkpoints, conducting security patrols, or simply putting a local face on what are otherwise viewed as outside forces by local communities.”

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