Middle East Security

ISIS Global Strategy: A Wargame

July 2015: The United States currently faces multiple national security threats in an environment of growing disorder. ISIS is executing a sophisticated global strategy that involves simultaneous efforts in Iraq and Syria, the Middle East and North Africa, and the wider world.

Putin’s Information Warfare in Ukraine: Soviet Origins of Russia’s Hybrid Warfare

Russia has been "reflexive control" in Ukraine since early 2014 that causes a stronger adversary voluntarily to choose the actions most advantageous to Russian objectives by shaping the adversary’s perceptions of the situation decisively.

Syrian Armed Opposition Powerbrokers

March 2016: International negotiations to reach a political settlement in Syria resumed following two weeks of a “cessation of hostilities” in which the Russian air campaign in Syria decreased notably, though it did not entirely cease.

Russian-Syrian-Iranian Coalition Seizes ISIS-Held Palmyra

Pro-regime forces seized Palmyra as well as the adjacent Palmyra Airbase in Eastern Homs Province on March 27 after ISIS withdrew from the city, completing an operation that began on March 7 with the aim of recapturing the strategic crossroads.

Jabhat al-Nusra in Syria: An Islamic Emirate for al-Qaeda

The Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) is not the only Salafi-Jihadist threat emanating from Syria. JN rivals ISIS as a sophisticated, intelligent, strategic actor in the region.


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The Institute for the Study of War launched its Middle East Security Project in November 2011. The project seeks: to study the national security challenges and opportunities emerging from the Persian Gulf and wider Arab World; to identify ways the United States and Gulf States can check Iran’s growing influence and contain the threat posed by its nuclear ambitions; to explain the shifting balance of power within the Middle East caused by recent upheaval, and assess the responses of the United States and Arab States to address these changes as they emerge.

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Salafi-Jihadi Movement Weekly Update, July 20, 2023

The United States’ adversaries in Syria are prioritizing confronting the United States over ISIS, which will give the group space to grow its capabilities, rest, and refit. Iran, Russia, and Syria have deployed forces along the line of control separating parts of Syria held by the regime and US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). Russian forces are also harassing US aircraft, which draws limited Russian assets away from counter-ISIS operations. CTP has identified four possible scenarios that will affect ISIS's ability to reconstitute itself in Syria: Iran, Russia and Syria reprioritize ISIS; Russia and Iran continue coordinated coercive pressure aimed at forcing a US withdrawal from Syria; Iran chooses to target US forces or the SDF using explosively formed penetrators (EFP); and Iranian- and regime-backed forces attack SDF territory.

Salafi-Jihadi Movement Weekly Update, June 28, 2023

Iraq and Syria. ISIS has coerced greater support from the population and expanded attack zones along the Euphrates River, which will allow it to rebuild some capabilities over time. Iranian- and regime-backed activity inadvertently helps ISIS rebuild by undermining Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) control. ISIS and Iranian- and regime-backed forces will be able to exploit the degradation of SDF control along the Euphrates to strengthen their capabilities.

Somalia. Al Shabaab is increasing the rate and severity of its attacks in northeastern Kenya and against Ethiopian forces in Somalia, likely to boost recruitment and local support in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia. Al Shabaab may also intend to undermine the ability of Ethiopia and Kenya to effectively participate in an offensive against the group in southern Somalia.

Pakistan. The political crisis in Pakistan is exacerbating divisions within the Pakistani military. The Pakistani military fired three senior army commanders and disciplined 15 officers on June 26 over their actions during widespread protests in May. Divisions in the Pakistani military could weaken Pakistan's counter–Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) operations as the TTP seeks to expand into new parts of the country.

Afghanistan. TTP is using support zones in Afghanistan to support attacks inside Pakistan. The Taliban government is unlikely to change its policies toward harboring foreign fighters in Afghanistan. The Taliban’s continuing failure to prevent the TTP from using Afghanistan to support its campaign against the Pakistani state will strain the relationship between the Taliban government and Pakistan.

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ISW in the News

MSNBC's 'The Cycle' with Jessica D. Lewis

ISW's Research Director, Jessica D. Lewis, talks about ISIS and Iraq on MSNBC's 'The Cycle," stating that ISIS has a "post-war vision to make this Caliphate a reality."

How Does the Regime Stand in Aleppo and Homs?

ISW Syria Analyst Isabel Nassief talks with Syria Deeply about the Syrian Regime's stance in Aleppo and Homs.