The Syrian War started in 2011 as an uprising and protests against the government of Syria led by Bashar Al Assad. Originally, the rebel forces were known as the Free Syrian Army, but later splintered into several different groups, one of which is ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant). The conflict has several internal and external groups and nations fighting for control of Syria and Northern Iraq.
This conflict has grown in complexity, with more groups and nations being pulled into the conflict, since the beginning in 2011. Included, to varying degrees: Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Lebanon, Russia and the United States. Some major non-state groups involved are: The Free Syrian Army, ISIL, the Kurds, and various other rebel groups.
Developments: Recently Russia has agreed to transport the S-300 surface-to-air missile system to Syria following the downing of a Russian IL-20 reconnaissance plane, for which Russia blamed Israel. Four Israeli F-16 fighters left on September 17 to hit targets it says were manufacturing weapons eventually to be used against Israel. The Syrians mistakenly fired at the Russian plane killing all on board, and Russia announced afterward that they would send the new S-300 system to Syria. Russia blames Israel for this incident, in which they claim the Israeli fighters used the Russian plane as cover causing all on board to perish after Syrian forces fired at it.
The wait for the retaking of Idlib continues as the fallout drags on for the Russian plane incident.
What to watch: Keep watching for the eventual moves to retake the city of Idlib, as well as the transfer of the S-300 missile defense system… which will most likely take place within the next few weeks.
Analysis : The United States and Israel are greatly opposed to the transfer of the new missile defense system to the Syrians. The United States has hit targets with its own planes after chemical attacks, while the Israelis are reported to have conducted over 200 air missions in Syria to hit targets allegedly linked to Iranian-backed Hezbollah. This new missile defense system will degrade Israel’s ability to conduct preemptive strikes against what it believes are imminent threats from Iran. Russia has also transferred this new system to Iran this past year, so the spread of a more lethal missile defense system is highly problematic for the United States and its allies in the region.
For more on the S-300 see the recent article here: Syria to receive new S-300 air defense system from Russia
War in Donbass, Ukraine, Ukrainian/Russian conflict
This conflict started in March of 2014, when pro-Russian rebels in Donbass (Eastern Ukraine) took control of government buildings after the successful annexation of the Crimea, near the Black Sea, by Russia. This conflict is complex, with both Russian and Ukrainian forces involved, in addition to pro-Russian rebel groups and separatists, as well as Ukrainian militia groups. The Russian government is also thought to have played a major role in large scale election meddling and cyber attacks on Ukrainian infrastructure during this conflict.
Developments: A landmine has killed three boys playing near an abandoned house in the Donetsk Peoples Republic. There is one boy who survived and he is in the hospital recovering from shrapnel wounds.
A Russian TV channel is airing footage of an explosion that killed the leader of the Donetsk rebel controlled area, Alexander Zacharchenko. The blast last month occurred in a café in rebel controlled Donetsk. The video was aired by Russian 1 television station.
Analysis : The landmine that killed the three teenagers is a reminder of the deadly effects of war even after peace deals have been signed. Landmines have been banned mainly for this reason. They are oftentimes forgotten, left to kill or injure innocent people long after peace treaties have been signed by both sides.
For the United States, major operations started after the September 11, 2001, attacks from the Al Qaeda terrorist organization. Following the September 11 attacks, which were planned and coordinated by Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, the United States attacked on October 7. The conflict is now the longest in US history, and with thousands of troops still deployed it will take more time to ensure that Afghanistan will not degrade back to a pre-9/11 condition which was a hotbed of terrorist and extremist ideology.
Developments: The F-35 Lighting II stealth fighter made its ‘combat debut’ on the 27th of September against targets in Afghanistan. The F-35 flew from the USS Essex.
What to watch: Elections in Afghanistan are coming up. The elections have been delayed several times, and the vote will take place on October 20. The election commission has wanted over 20,000 biometric identification systems to ensure the integrity of the voting, but has only so far received about 4400 systems. The election commission has reported that five candidates have been reported dead or missing.
Analysis: The F-35 is said to have flown over 1000 miles to drop bombs which could have theoretically been dropped by other means, so this combat debut of the F-35 may be for reasons other than just dropping bombs. On Saturday an F-35B jet crashed in South Carolina, making it the first crash for the new F-35 fighter jet. The crash is under investigation, however, the pilot did eject and manage to land safely.
Being a candidate in Afghanistan is dangerous. With five candidates out of the picture due to death or kidnapping, it remains a dangerous occupation. The Taliban will not accept any results of the elections, so the October 20 vote will be significant for those people in Afghanistan who want a democratically elected government. Campaigning has stared for the more than 2000 candidates running for office with only 249 seats available, with 418 women running for office as well.
Mexican Drug Wars
The Mexican drug wars have been bloody for decades, but the modern drug war as referred to in the media was generally thought to have started in 2006 when Mexican President Felipe Calderon sent over 6,000 Mexican troops to his native state of Michoacan. As a result the drug wars have increased greatly and tens of thousands of murders have occurred since then, which was a dramatic increase from before 2006. Mexico’s drug wars have claimed sometimes tens of thousands of lives a year, with many reports of escalating brutality, such as beheadings and torture.
Developments: Ten people are dead after a 2 hour confrontation in Guanajuato. According to police, it started when they were fired upon in the community of Purisima del Zapote, which then turned into a pursuit where police later had to retreat into a ravine after being shot and fired upon by at least 40 people wearing the initials CJNG which stands for Jalisco New Generation Cartel. The reports do not specify how the police were able to make it out of the shootout with minimal injuries compared to the cartel members who suffered 10 deaths compared to one police and one paramedic injured.
Analysis: Guanajuato is among the worst states for police officers in Mexico. Reportedly, 56 police officers have been murdered in this state of Mexico, and only 12 arrests have been made, with no convictions for 56 murdered police officers. This state has literally, if these statistics are correct, a zero conviction rate for murdering police officers this year. There is undoubtedly more to the friction between police and cartel members, but it would not be out of the question to have police go vigilante in situations like these, as does happen when the situations become so dire as a zero percent conviction rate for police murders. In other countries such as El Salvador police have been known to go around in death squads taking justice into their own hands. There is not enough information to determine what the local politics, people, and culture are to ascertain the details of this situation, but undoubtedly there is much more to the story than what can be determined from the few reports that exist about it.