Much sadness marks the pages of After ISIS, as the author reveals the stories of civilians and soldiers through their own powerful words. Without taking a political position, Frantzman of The Jerusalem Post portrays the complex and troublesome partnerships, often deeply rooted in history within Iraq and Syria, between the Iraqi army and the Kurdish Peshmerga, which itself included Christians, Sunni Arabs, and Shiites. Frantzman also lays bare the motivations of the many state actors' (Syrian, Iranian, Turkish, Russian, U.S.) as well as those of sub-state actors, including Hezbollah, Shiite militias in Iraq, and the Kurds.
The author sees the Khomeinist regime capitalizing on the conflict with ISIS and highlights how Iran's increased role in Iraq allowed Tehran to form a corridor through Iraq and Syria to Lebanon, connecting several of Iran's proxies throughout the region.
As a fine journalist, Frantzman sews stories together, creating a colorful mosaic of the conflicts from 2014-19. The culmination and intersection of these accounts contribute to a deep understanding: the Turk who saw ISIS as being bad for Muslims; the professor who says the population's frustration leads to support for ISIS; those who protected the Yazidis while losing their own territory; and the Christians who volunteered after losing their homes. Stories from those on the front lines to the civilians who refused to leave, from the refugees to the prisoners, from other journalists to the wives of ISIS fighters all add to the complex picture.
There are so many tales. The testimonies reveal a search for justice and a hope for independence. Short vignettes force the reader to examine the conflict from more than one perspective and through more than one lens, thus Frantzman has truly woven the accounts together into a tapestry that contributes to a more comprehensive understanding of Syria's several civil wars. Even readers with no prior knowledge are able to grasp why and how the alliances, betrayals, misunderstandings, and strategies played out as they did but still find themselves disappointed by the not unexpected betrayals by outside powers.
Frantzman outlines the possibilities to come: A non-resolution of conflicts and a possible Iranian expansion into Lebanon and the Arabian Peninsula; a U.S.-Gulf war with Iran; Turkish dominance in northern Syria; major splits in the Arab League; and even another Middle Eastern "spring."