Since this story was first reported in April 2018, further updates have come out on Raqqa’s mass graves, highlighting the challenges of collecting bodies and identifying missing people. This is an analysis with eyewitness stories from people who have gone back to Raqqa.
The final offensive in Idlib has been an ongoing discussion among Syria analysts for years. Idlib province contains opposition fighters, activists, and civilians displaced from Homs, Aleppo, Hama, and various parts of Damascus. A once tiny area with a 2011 population of 1.5 million now holds an estimated 2.6 million people that fled or were forced into Idlib as part of reconciliation agreements with the regime. Because of the regime-imposed consolidation of opposition fighters in Idlib, analysts speculated that Idlib would be the next great battle. Major battle fronts in opposition held areas—namely Homs, Aleppo, and Eastern Ghouta, among others—have succumbed to the regime’s brutal war tactics of bombardment and siege. Idlib now remains the last major opposition territory for the regime to control, but it is not without its complications.
For the past seven years, this writer has viewed the Syrian uprising largely through the lens of civilian protection, because civilian slaughter has defined the conflict and dictated its dire political consequences. Although one may ascribe vastly different motives to the President of Syria on the one hand and the leaders of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates on the other, war in Yemen is producing similar slaughter that may, if left unaddressed and untreated, haunt the combatants and their external supporters—led by the United States—for decades to come.
China’s overall strategy to increase its role in world affairs indicates further engagement in its global investments in Asia, Africa, and beyond. It holds the most foreign reserve assets in Asia and is the largest trading partner in Africa. However, China is also continuing to diversify its portfolio by adding investments in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. Although these investments are significantly smaller, Chinese foreign direct investment (FDI) in the MENA region is growing rapidly. Since 2010, China invested billions of dollars in nearly every MENA country and in 2016 eclipsed the United Arab Emirates to become the leading investor in the region.
The short answer is “No.” A family and an entourage that placed itself at the disposal of Iran while burning much of Syria to the ground will not prevail, provided the United States and its partners begin to push back. Yet termites are at work, and the fulfillment of this proviso is far from certain.
Tension continues to escalate along the Israeli-Syrian border with the recent regime southern offensive to oust opposition in the area and Israeli attacks on Iranian targets in Syria. Continued activity along the border is expected as Iran continues to solidify its hold on Syria. Yet Israeli's strategy is less clear as Iran continues to test the boundaries pushing Israel to act in Syria; among other actors like the Islamic State. We asked our nonresident senior fellows former Ambassador Frederic C. Hof, and Mona Alami about Israeli’s current and potential involvement in the Syrian conflict as it develops.
Moscow’s sudden interest in expediting the return of Syrian refugees to their homes is not prompted by humanitarian concerns. Neither is it motivated by a desire to promote political conditions inside Syria that would encourage people to return to the country from which they fled. It is about pressuring the West into fixing a country broken by Russia, Iran, and their client Assad regime. It is a kinder, gentler form of blackmail: either lavish reconstruction funding on the regime, or refugees won’t go home; indeed, there may be more of them arriving on your doorstep.
As the conflict in Yemen continues and the country’s humanitarian crisis deepens, UN Special Envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, is attempting to negotiate a ceasefire for the port of Hodeida, a vital port for bringing aid and food into the famine-struck country. Earlier this month, the Saudi-led coalition began attacking the port city in response to missile attacks from the Iran-backed Houthi rebels. Taken against the recommendation of its allies such as the United States, this attack endangered the lives of many Yemenis who rely on the port for 70 percent of their food, fuel, and medicine imports. Aid organizations are struggling to deliver to the “world’s worst humanitarian crisis.” As Yemen’s war continues into its fourth year and the death toll reaches over ten thousand, Griffith’s negotiation may not only provide relief to the humanitarian crisis, but might also offer hope for a future settlement to end Yemen’s civil war.
Eight years and many conferences into the Syria conflict, Syrian women still struggle to have their voices heard in decision making forums that directly impact them as citizens, and as political, economic, and civil society actors. Syrian women present at the western male-dominated EU-UN conference, Supporting Syria and the Region—known as Brussels II—in April 2018, explicitly spoke to the political processes that failed to include them, and to an aid industry that did not address their needs, including in protection from violence. 
The leaked language for the final version of the forthcoming National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) suggests that the US Congress will hold the delivery of Turkish F-35 fighter aircraft, until a report is drafted that assesses Turkish industry participation in the F-35 consortium, and how best to replace Turkish manufactured components in the supply chain. The potential Congressional action comes after the Turkish government reached agreement with Russia for the delivery of the S-400 missile system. The Russian made surface-to-air missile system poses a unique threat to American aircraft: the S-400’s radar is able to act as a platform to collect electronic and signal intelligence from the F-35. If the radar operates in Turkey, alongside the F-35, Moscow could potentially gain useful knowledge about the jet and be able to detect the jet at greater ranges, potentially giving Moscow useful data about NATO’s future frontline fighter.