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.
Developments: Hundreds of “White Helmet” volunteers are being evacuated with the help of Jordan and Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), hoping to be relocated to either Canada, the United Kingdom or Germany. The white helmets are officially know as the Syrian Defense League (SDL) and have been credited with saving thousands of lives. They are considered a non partisan and non governmental organization, however, Syria and Russia see them as “agents of foreign powers,” which is why they are in danger should the pro-Syrian forces retake most rebel held areas which they are expected to do.
On July 22, the State Department put out the following statement:
The United States welcomes the safe evacuation of more than 400 members of the Syrian Civil Defense, otherwise known as the White Helmets, and their families from southwest Syria. We are glad that these brave volunteers, who have saved thousands of lives, are now out of harm’s way.
The United States and our international partners asked the United Nations to take the central role in this critical humanitarian operation. In response, the UN organized entry into Jordan for these members of the White Helmets and their families, who are fleeing violence in southwest Syria. The White Helmets have consistently been targeted by the Assad regime. Members of the group, more than half of which are children, were allowed entry into Jordan on a transit basis, until UNHCR completes procedures for their resettlement in third countries.
We deeply appreciate Israel’s role in facilitating the transit of the White Helmets and their family members. We commend Jordan’s generosity in supporting their processing by UNHCR and the commitment of the United Kingdom, Canada, and Germany to provide the White Helmets and their families with permanent homes.
We renew our call on the Assad regime and Russia to abide by their commitments, end the violence, and protect all Syrian civilians, including humanitarians such as the White Helmets, in areas formerly part of the southwest de-escalation zone and throughout Syria.”
What to watch: The Syrian Civil War seems to be winding down, and with the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visiting Moscow recently there is talk about how Russia is playing a major role in brokering agreements between Iran, Syria, and Israel to end the conflict. The United States and Israel seem to be willing to leave Assad in power, given that Russia can broker certain conditions from Syria and Iran — like the removal of Iranian forces in Syria.
Analysis: There is a chance this may be an issue in the future for refugees coming from other countries, as the United States has a travel restriction on people coming from some countries and Syria being one of them. The White Helmets have even had some backing from the United States as a non governmental organization, and although they have been praised from even the State Department for their actions, there have not been any indications that they will be given entry into the United States.
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: Russian President Vladmir Putin is said to have made a proposal to President Trump during the summit in Helsinki and although the details have not been released, President Trump is said to be going over the proposal behind closed doors.
The United States is also sending 200 million in defense support to Kiev for, according to the Pentagon, non lethal military support such as medical, communications, and training.
What to watch: Expect at some point for the proposal to either be accepted, a counter-offer given to Putin, or denied. This will not be an easy agreement for either party as both sides have a major interest in the conflict with the Ukraine in the middle. Crimea is still a big issue between many countries, NATO, the EU and the United States — adding the Donbass region of Ukraine to this complicated matter will contribute to the points of contention held between all parties involved.
Analysis: Such a proposal would have to be accepted by many stakeholders such as NATO, Ukraine, the EU and the United States. The complexity of this situation makes it difficult to find a solution to satisfy all those involved. Some reports suggest that the local population wants to be part of Russia, use Russian currency and have their own government, which Ukraine or NATO do not recognize and Russia does. Russia may want this to go to a vote again, as it did with Crimea, so that they can argue that it is the will of the people to leave the Ukraine.
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, 2001, in retaliation for the 9/11 attacks and has since been involved with the long conflict in Afghanistan. The conflict is now the longest in U.S. history and with thousands of troops still deployed it will take more time to ensure that it will not degrade back to a pre-9/11 condition, which was a hotbed of terrorist and extremist ideologies.
Developments: Reports have come in of a suicide bomber who has killed at least 14 near the Kabul Airport. The intended target seems to have been Afghan Vice President Abdul Rashid Dostum. ISIS in Afghanistan is claiming responsibility. Read more about it here.
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 Calderón sent over 6,000 Mexican troops to his native state of Michoacán. As a result, the drug wars have gotten significantly worse, and tens of thousands of murders have occurred since then, which was a dramatic increase from before 2006. Mexico’s drug wars have claimed up to tens of thousands of lives a year, with many reports of escalating brutality such as beheadings and torture.
Developments: The proposed border wall has at least some funding through the House of Representatives, with $5 billion being set (but still must pass the Senate). The $5 billion would, according to the White House, pay for 200 miles of the new border wall.
What to watch: Mexico has elected Andreas Manuel Lopez Obrador as new incoming President of Mexico, and is expected to take over 1 Dec., 2018. He is reportedly considering a big change in how Mexico deals with its drug cartels and war on drugs which have claimed hundreds of thousands of lives since major developments in 2006. He is considering a number of new strategies, such as more opportunities for the youth and scholarships to divert them away from drug cartels. He is also proposing more security at the ports, having the military move away from doing law enforcement and more emphasis on police taking over for law enforcement duties. This is according to Olga Sanchez, who is Obrador’s proposed interior minister.
Analysis: Two hundred miles of border wall may affect the cartels in that they are dependent on sale of illegal drugs in the United States for their money. The United States is the biggest market of the cartels and building 200 miles may or may not do much to stop the illegal drugs from coming in, so it greatly depends on where they build the 200 miles and whether it is going to stop possible unknown drug routes that cross into the USA.
Guest Author — William Bayless: William spent nine years on active duty in the Navy as an analyst, serving aboard the USS John F. Kennedy for two years as well as serving at duty stations in Maryland and the U.K. William has an MBA, an Associate Degree in Information Systems and a solid foundation of basic cybersecurity principles and concepts.
Featured image: Syrian Civil Defense White Helmets via AP video, File.