Russia Analytical Report, Nov. 2-9, 2020

This Week’s Highlights

While European officials hope U.S. President-elect Joe Biden will soften America’s tone with traditional allies, senior Western officials in the U.S. capital are braced for an abrasive change when it comes to U.S.-Russia relations, the Financial Times reports. “We expect a massive toughening of the stance towards Russia,” a high-ranking Western diplomat in Washington told the Financial Times. “There is a hatred for Russia amongst [Biden’s team] that is really amazing. It’s not just rational; it’s also very emotional.”

Between the Coalition, ISIS, and Assad: Courting the Tribes of Deir ez-Zor


Regaining the tribal loyalty lost in the first years of the Syrian Revolution was an inevitable step in the regime’s eastern offensives. During the first half of the war, managing the weakened and fractured tribes, particularly in Deir ez-Zor, seemed to be a low priority. However, the rise of ISIS in central Syria in 2014 proved an opportunity for Damascus, eliminating “third way” options and forcing tribesmen to choose between Bashar al-Assad and ISIS. This led to the first large movement of opposition tribal factions back to Assad’s camp. By the time Damascus launched its 2017 central Syria campaign, the regime’s intelligence agencies had successfully re-integrated significant portions of tribes from Homs, Raqqa, and Deir ez-Zor, forming loyalist militias under the command of long-loyal tribal leaders.

Global Migration Is Not Abating. Neither Is the Backlash Against It

The Migrant Crisis of 2015 has abated, but European nativist and populist parties continue to attempt to stoke the popular backlash against immigrants to fuel their rise.

Italy’s Matteo Salvini, the golden boy of Europe’s anti-immigrant populists, even rode the issue into government last year, before marginalizing himself with a bid to force early elections and, more recently, misplaying the politics of the COVID-19 crisis.

Fleshing Out the Libya Ceasefire Agreement

Though overdue, the 23 October Libya ceasefire deal is worthy of applause. With help from the UN and their foreign backers, the warring parties should now close the loopholes in the agreement’s text, lest rival interpretations derail movement toward peace.

The South Syria Deal: Two Years Later

Two years have passed since Syria’s south and southwestern regions were seized by government forces. Dubbed the “South Syria Deal,” a U.S.-Russian understanding with Jordan’s and Israel’s blessings, government forces and “state Symbols” took control of the countrysides of Daraa and Qunaytirah. Daraa-based opposition forces had to surrender and make do with a limited presence in the form of local councils while “non-Syrian elements” (a euphemism for pro-Iran militias) were removed from the Jordan and Golan borders.

ISIS in the North Caucasus

More foreign fighters are thought to have joined the Islamic State (ISIS) from the former Soviet Union than from any other region of the world. The most prominent and active contingent came from the North Caucasus in southern Russia. Many of the underlying causes of radicalization and recruitment remain unresolved, and violence and instability may grow in the region in the post-ISIS era. The international community and U.S. government should engage constructively with Russian and local authorities in addressing the legacy of over two decades of fighting in the region, ineffective deradicalization programs, and the impunity and corruption seen as inherent in both government and law enforcement.

Justice, Terrorism, and Nairobi’s Westgate Mall

The 2013 al-Shabab attack on Nairobi’s Westgate Mall lasted four days and left sixty-seven shoppers dead, the youngest an eight-year-old child. The attack was fully captured on the mall’s security cameras and broadcast around the world. The attack was seen as a response to Kenyan military activity in Somalia against al-Shabab that began in 2011. At the time, the attack became, for the developed world, the face of jihadi terrorism in Africa. It also highlighted the incapacity of the Kenyan security services: soldiers and police fired on one another and looted shops.

How Yugoslavia was destroyed?

After the death of Josip Broz Tito on May 4, 1980, the Yugoslav Empire lost the main link uniting the empire. In the further history of Yugoslavia, there were no longer any high statesmen who would pursue the line of so-called Tithonism.

The Islamic State’s Revitalization in Libya and its Post-2016 War of Attrition

Over the course of the last two years, the Islamic State in Libya has gradually re-emerged as a formidable insurgent force. Following its territorial loss of Sirte in late 2016 to a U.S.-backed, anti-Islamic State coalition, the group has adopted new approaches to recruitment and financing. These reveal that the group has become more reliant on sub-Saharan African personnel in its post-territorial phase and has simultaneously deepened its connections with Libya’s desert smuggling networks, which connect North Africa to the Sahel. Moreover, as will be outlined in this article, its organizational structure appears to have shifted from ‘state-like’ to ‘guerrilla insurgency-like.’