Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, backed by Russia and Iran, has made clear its intentions to seize control of Idlib province—the last remaining rebel-held stronghold in the war-ravaged nation. Now, with Russian ships moored in the Mediterranean Sea and Assad’s forces closing in from the south, it is methodically going about doing just that.

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While the story of 3.5 million Syrian refugees pouring into Turkey and the European Union has captured the world’s attention in recent years, those displaced souls weren’t the first to flee war, tyranny, and oppression, and they won’t be the last. With inhospitable temperatures across North Africa and Central Asia, constant war and conflict in Middle East hot spots, and the advance of authoritarian regimes, today’s refugees don’t represent a temporary conundrum, but rather a new normal of European life.

This was the consistent message during my recent trip through the Atlantic Council’s Millennium Fellowship to the migrant-heavy region spanning from Gaziantep, Turkey, just thirty miles from the Syrian border, to the coastal escape of Çeşme on the Aegean Sea, to the Greek island of Lesbos, a major transit point for asylum seekers, and then to the country’s capital itself, the birthplace of Athenian democracy. High-level government officials, non-governmental organization leaders, and citizens repeated the refrain: there’s no end in sight to the mass influx. For instance, even if the Syrian war ended tomorrow, whether through negotiated solution or the forced removal of Bashar al-Assad from power, the problem will persist for decades to come.

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Jamie Shea, one of the most recognizable faces ever associated with NATO, is retiring in September after thirty-eight years, likely the Alliance’s longest-serving official. An irrepressible defender of the twenty-nine-member Alliance, Shea nonetheless reveals that he believes NATO must do more to pair its military transformation with increased assets on the battlefield of ideas and information. “Being optimistic doesn't mean being complacent,” he underscored, adding that NATO needs both perseverance in its core tasks and new initiatives.

Shea wishes he could stay on and continue to help guide that effort himself, but he turns sixty-five in early September, hitting NATO's mandatory retirement age.

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The Swedish elections on September 9 could set the country on a path to joining NATO as a full member. Opinion polls do not show a clear winner in the elections. Neither the center-left Red-Green coalition government, that has run the country for the past four years, nor the main opposition center-right bloc has a commanding lead. However, if the four-party opposition bloc—consisting of the Conservatives, the Liberals, the Center Party, and the Christian Democrats—wins it will likely steer Sweden toward NATO membership.

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As the trade war—marked by tit-for-tat tariffs—between the United States and China escalates, Latin America is looking for opportunities to diversify economic growth. The disruption of global trade flows by the dueling trends of liberalization and protectionism may provide an opportunity for some Latin American governments to pursue politically difficult modernization agendas. Seizing the moment, however, requires policy makers and the private sector to balance short-term opportunism with long-term strategies for durable growth.

The Atlantic Council’s Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center celebrates the five-year anniversary of its founding this year. This is the first in a series of blog posts to mark this milestone. To kick off the series, we have identified five ways Latin America can make the most of a changing world order.

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Appointment signals administration’s intent to wind down war, get tough with Pakistan

The appointment of Zalmay Khalilzad as US President Donald J. Trump’s special representative on Afghanistan sends a clear signal that the US administration is serious about winding down its involvement in the war in Afghanistan. By putting a longtime critic of Pakistan in charge of the peace process, the Trump administration has also put Islamabad on notice that it has little patience for its support for terrorists in Afghanistan.

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On September 6, the US Senate Banking Committee will hear expert testimony on draft Russia sanctions legislation, including the Defending American Security from Kremlin Aggression Act introduced this summer following US President Donald J. Trump’s summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki and amid reports that Russia continues to interfere in the run-up to the midterm elections in November.

The late Sen. John McCain praised this bill in an August statement, saying “until Putin pays a serious price for his actions, these attacks on our democracy will only grow. This bill would build on the strongest sanctions ever imposed on the Putin regime for its assault on democratic institutions, violation of international treaties, and siege on open societies through cyberattacks and misinformation campaigns.”

McCain was right. As noted before, inconsistent words and actions have precluded the Trump administration from establishing a sufficient deterrence to Russian aggression. The legislation currently making the rounds in Congress is a clear attempt to provide that deterrence.

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US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford arrive in Islamabad on September 5 for a fresh episode of Mission Impossible: to bend Pakistani leaders into submitting to their wishes in the losing war in Afghanistan. They hope to persuade Pakistan’s newly minted prime minister, Imran Khan, and army chief, Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa, to move against militants inside Pakistan, especially those who use Pakistani soil to fight the United States, NATO, and the Afghan troops in Afghanistan. A sense of déjà vu hangs over these talks.

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You would not know it from reading the news, but the Iran nuclear deal is still alive. The Europeans, however, are faced with an impossible task: to preserve an international agreement that cannot survive without Washington’s backing in the face of an aggressive US posture toward Tehran.

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Differences over Iran sanctions and trade are holding back the relationship

On September 6, US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and US Secretary of Defense James Mattis will participate in the inaugural 2+2 dialogue in New Delhi—a symbolically powerful reminder of growing ties between the United States and India. The relationship has, however, become beset by major challenges that should be addressed to ensure the upward trajectory of the strategic partnership.

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