Landis in the News

Ahval Podcast
No actor involved in Syrian conflict supports the Turkish version of the buffer zone
Feb 16, 2019

Podcast interview with Dr. Joshua Landis, Director of the University of Oklahoma’s Center for Middle East Studies.

Syria: Civilians face familiar threats in rebel-held areas
Feb 16, 2019

Joshua Landis, director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma, said that Turkey’s influence over Hay’et Tahrir al-Sham has waned.

“Turkey is supposed to control Idlib, but it does not. HTS has defied Turkish requests all along,” he said. He added that the fear that the Syrian government might still invade Idlib is possibly causing the group to opt for desperate measures.

“At any moment Syria could decide to invade forcing the HTS fighters to flee,” he said. “No doubt, many are looking to feather their nests or stash away money to ensure they can smuggle themselves out of Syria to some safer place.”

Sochi talks highlight Russia’s upper hand in Syria
Feb 16, 2019

Professor Joshua Landis, a noted Syria expert and Director of Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma, pointed out that the three powers welcome the announced U.S. withdrawal from Syria “but beyond that, their disagreements over how to settle the disputed territories of north Syria were glaring,”

“Turkey is still pressing to control a buffer zone inside the length of its Syria border,” he said. “Neither Russia or Iran agree with this, not to mention the Syrian government or the YPG.”

“Syria, Iran and Russia insist that HTS must be removed from Idlib and the province restored to Syrian sovereignty. They insist Turkey has not fulfilled its side of the Sochi agreement to bring the terrorist group to heel.”

What next as battle against ISIL nears an end?
Feb 13, 2019

Joshua Landis, director of the Centre for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma, said once the battle against ISIL was won, historical rivalries among the Arabs and Kurds would resurface.

“The Jazeera region of Syria is framed with minorities, ethnic and religious,” he said. “It has always presented a difficult challenge for rulers whether Ottoman franchises or Damascene. Today the situation is even more challenging because there has been so much violence, destruction and impoverishment. And Arabs and Kurds are bound to compete and come to blows over political and economic power.”

Sputnik International
Islam vs Societal Ethics: Scholars on How Public Perception Affects Religion
Feb 13, 2019

For his part, Joshua Landis, an American academic who specializes in the Middle East, presumed that public opinion could have been shaped by the long string of revolutions in the MENA region.

“Middle Eastern societies are going through a period of crisis and revolution,” Landis noted. “The Iranian revolution was the first Islamist revolution. It turned out a secular, pro-Western government. The Arab uprisings of 2011 are in some ways a continuation of this upheaval. Many secular, military leaders have fallen as a result or, in the case of Syria, almost fallen.”

Military Times
ISIS car bomb targets US troops in Syria one week after four Americans were killed in Manbij
Jan 22, 2019

“The argument that ISIS is going to come back if America leaves Syria seems spurious to me,” Joshua Landis, director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma, told Military Times in September.

Landis suggested that the U.S. should get out of Syria and “allow the country to knit itself back together.”

“What America is doing today, which is dividing Syria without spending significant money to rebuild, is going to open the doors for al-Qaida or ISIS to come back,” Landis said. “We’re just keeping this hollowed-out region, hollowed out.”

Turkey ready to take over Syria’s Manbij, Erdogan tells Trump
Jan 21, 2019

Joshua Landis, director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma, told Al Jazeera that Erdogan did not want to talk to the security and foreign policy teams around Trump, as these officials want US troops to stay in Syria.

“Erdogan knows that Trump wants to leave Syria, so he only wants to talk to the US president, not his team,” Landis told Al Jazeera.

“People around Trump believe troops should stay in northern Syria to continue with the fight against ISIL, roll back Iran, and protect the Kurdish fighters there,” he added.

Kurdistan 24
U.S. reaffirms commitment to protecting Kurdish allies
Jan 21, 2019

On Saturday, following a two-day visit to Ankara, US Senator Lindsey Graham (R, South Carolina) called for a major delay in the pace of the US withdrawal, warning that an unplanned, uncoordinated departure of US forces could lead to a “nightmare” for Turkey, which could face “chaos” on its southern border.

The following day, on Sunday, Erdogan and Trump had another phone conversation. Prof. Joshua Landis, who heads the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma, suggested to the Qatari news channel, Al-Jazeera, that Erdogan was reaching out to Trump, in the belief that Trump was more sympathetic to his views than Trump’s advisers.

The National Interest
Will the ISIS Attack Accelerate Trump’s Syria Pullout?
Jan 16, 2019

“The danger to U.S. troops is much higher in Manbij, where Turkey and the U.S. faced off and Turkey demanded that the YPG, or Kurdish forces, not be present. This required the U.S. to go out on patrols, which puts them at great risk. If the U.S. decides to police a buffer zone between Turkey and the Kurdish parts of Syria, more Americans will be killed,” said Oklahoma University Professor Joshua Landis, who heads their Center for Middle East Studies.

The kind of policing mission Landis describes makes the deaths of U.S. troops “probably inevitable,” in his words, and creates increasing liabilities on the ground.

RT News
Leaving Syria?
Jan 16, 2019

Dr. Landis’s interview begins at 1:23 minutes.

What’s the U.S. Plan for Iran?
Jan 14, 2019

Dr. Landis’s interview begins at 3:05 minutes.

The Arab Weekly
Ankara might not have free hand in Syria after U.S. exit
Jan 13, 2019

The development could reinforce efforts by the Assad government to regain international acceptance after almost eight years of war, said Joshua Landis, director of the Centre for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma. The “YPG will patch up relations with Damascus as soon as US troops pull,” Landis wrote on Twitter.

If Damascus teams up with the Kurds to fight ISIS in eastern Syria, the United States will face a dilemma, Landis wrote.

“If Assad and the YPG begin to cooperate on counterterrorism, Washington will have to follow. This, I believe, is what really infuriates the Bolton crowd. US policy has been to turn out Assad, not to reopen relations with him,” he said.

Chaotic Haggling Follows Trump’s Syria Withdrawal Plan
Jan 11, 2019

“The real danger of a Syria withdrawal for the Bolton crowd is that it will force the US to reopen relations with the Assad government, especially on counter-terrorism & ISIS,” tweeted Joshua Landis, a prominent Syria expert at the University of Oklahoma. “It would be final blow to Washington’s anti-Syria & anti-Iran policy. It will be a blow to Israel. For it would mean that the world will slowly accept Iran’s new security architecture for the northern Middle East as the best form of counter-terrorism and security.”

Jihadi takeover of Idlib could spell trouble for Syrian Kurds
Jan 10, 2019

Joshua Landis, director of the Centre for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma, told Al Jazeera that the al-Qaeda-affiliated militia was stronger and better led, while Turkey-sponsored NFL collapsed.

“HTS’s conquest of Atareb and Darat Izza dashes any notion that the National Liberation Front that was cobbled together by Turkey to act as a new Syrian national army is actually a cohesive or effective fighting force,” Al Jazeera quoted Landis as saying.

VOA News
Pompeo Meets Top Iraqi Officials During Unannounced Visit to Baghdad
Jan 9, 2019

Joshua Landis, who heads the Middle East program at the University of Oklahoma, tells VOA that Secretary Pompeo is facing a strategic dilemma in Iraq: “America’s position in Iraq, like its position in Syria, is on thin ice, because Iran — in Iraq — has really won the day and ultimately we’ve seen that the rise of sectarian sensibilities and sectarian animosities in the larger Middle East has undermined America’s position and strengthened Iran’s position, because Iran is (a majority) Shi’ite country…and the U.S. is seen to be a pro-Saudi, pro-Sunni, pro-Gulf country,” said Landis.

Schweizer Radio und Fernsehen
Vielleicht ist der Rückzug die beste Antwort
Jan 6, 2019

SRF News: Wie ernst ist es Trump mit seinen Abzugsplänen wirklich?

Joshua Landis: Es scheint ihm damit sehr ernst zu sein. Bolton und Aussenminister Mike Pompeo hatten Trump offenbar empfohlen, eine Anti-Iran Politik zu betreiben, mit dem Bekenntnis, lange in Syrien präsent zu bleiben. Und Trump lehnte es ab, das Dokument zu unterzeichnen.

Und jetzt müssen die beiden just jene Politik den Türken und den Israeli verkaufen, die sie gar nicht unterstützen. Wie macht man das?

Joshua Landis: Es zeigt, wie gross das Chaos im Weissen Haus ist. Trump hat Nationale Sicherheitsberater eingestellt, deren Ansichten sehr viel militaristischer sind als seine eigenen. Im Wahlkampf versprach Trump, er würde die USA aus ihren stupiden Kriegen herausholen, und er verurteilte die Nahost-Politik seiner Vorgänger Obama und Bush. Jetzt kehrt er zu seinen ursprünglichen Versprechen zurück, weil er schon den Wahlkampf für seine Wiederwahl in zwei Jahren betreibt. Das hat seine Berater überrascht: Sie dachten, sie könnten ihre eigene Nahost-Politik machen und Trump würde ihnen einfach folgen.

Manbij residents in limbo amid U.S. withdrawal uncertainty
Jan 5, 2019

Joshua Landis, director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma, said while Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was unlikely to give the Kurds complete autonomy, it might be open to some cultural concessions.

“For Kurds, there are bad choices all around,” he said. “But now, the Syrian government is entering America’s shoes. The Kurds may not be happy with this but that’s what they are likely to get.”

Landis said the people of Manbij had “kept their heads down” and refrained from expressing outright loyalty to either side in the war. They might now be better off sticking to the same playbook.

Vice News
How Trump’s Sudden Withdrawal From Syria Is Bringing the Kurds and Assad Together
Jan 4, 2019

Among all the bad options for the Kurds, Assad’s return to the northeast region, where Mabij is located, appears to be the least catastrophic outcome — even considering their decades-long abuse at the hands of his family’s rule.

“There is a deal to be made,” said Joshua Landis, a Syria specialist at the University of Oklahoma. “The Syrian government needs the Kurds to help police the north and the Kurds needs the Syrian military to protect them against the Turks.”