Syrian Conflict

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 (the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant). The conflict is complex, with 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 it since the beginning in 2011, and all have participated in varying degrees. The major world players are Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Lebanon, Russia and the United States. Some of the major non-state groups involved are; The Free Syrian Army, ISIL, the Kurds, and various other rebel groups.

DevelopmentsThere was an explosion at an arms depot in the village of Sarmada which has killed at least 67 people (69 according to some reports) and caused the collapse of two five-story buildings. This is in the province of Idlib, which has over 2 million inhabitants. The preparations for the invasion of Idlib are underway, with government forces dropping leaflets warning the civilians not to resist. This is after the Syrian government along with help from Iran and Russia have taken the rebel stronghold of Daraa in the south.

What to watch: Expect the government of Syria to invade Idlib with some shelling already having taken place along with some air strikes with the help of Russian air support.

Analysis: Turkey has some observers located throughout the city, and does not want a full-scale invasion of Idlib since that would create a humanitarian crisis on their doorstep when they can least afford it due to the falling currency, the Lira, has hit new lows due to their ongoing financial crisis. Russia, Turkey, and Iran had a meeting in Sochi on July 30 perhaps to discuss this situation with Idlib. Adding to this is most of the area is controlled by a rebel group known as Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS), which sprang from Al Qaeda in Syria.

War in Donbass, Ukraine, Ukrainian/Russian conflict

This conflict started in March of 2014 when pro-Russian rebels in the 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 as well as pro-Russian rebel groups and separatists as well as Ukrainian militia groups involved. The Russian government is also thought to have played a major role in large-scale election meddling and cyber attacks on Ukrainian power grids and infrastructure during this conflict.

Developments: The OSCE has reported that for the first time they have confirmed that there were several electronic warfare devices spotted in the village of Chornukhyne. The devices are thought to disrupt communication of drones along with disruption of GPS navigation along with basic communication.

What to watch: Chancellor Angela Merkel will host Vladimir Putin on August 18 to discuss a range of topics, one of which is expected to be Ukraine and the War in Donbass.