• The Slaughter of Eastern Ghouta

    Just five days ago, in this blog, this writer assessed the possibility of Russia playing a positive role in ending Syria’s armed conflict. The following words proposed the test:

    If the mass murder of Syrian civilians continues—and especially if Russian pilots participate in it—Washington and its partners may safely conclude with respect to Russian benign intentions in Syria what Gertrude Stein saw in Oakland, California: ‘There’s no there there.’ Moscow knows quite well that civilized discussions over constitutional clauses cannot take place while the constituents of one party are being terrorized, vaporized, and scattered to the winds by the warplanes and artillery of the other. Will it stop the mass murder? Can it? We shall see.”

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  • Assad’s Forces Are Killing Dozens of Children in a Damascus Suburb

    Syrian President Bashar al Assad’s forces have unleashed an unrelenting bombardment of the rebel-held Damascus suburb of Eastern Ghouta that has killed hundreds—many of the victims are women and children—over the past few days.

    The United Nations (UN) has warned that the situation is “spiraling out of control.” The Assad regime has reportedly not even spared hospitals and schools. Targeted attacks on these locations could be tantamount to war crimes.

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  • Deir Ezzor: An Unbalanced Equation in the Syrian Conflict

    Deir Ezzor today is a complex variable in the Syrian equation, particularly since the opposition wrested control of the province from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime in 2013 followed by Islamic State (ISIS, ISIL, or Daesh) control in 2014. Deir Ezzor now contends with several forces trying to control it: Russia works to manage its conflict with the United States through Syria, legitimizing its presence through the Assad regime in cooperation with Iran and to some extent with Turkey; meanwhile the United States works to advance its agenda in the region by supporting the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). In addition to these geopolitical dynamics, on the domestic side ISIS enclaves continue to infiltrate and destabilize the area.

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  • Syrian Refugees: The Right to Return, But Not the Wrong Way

    Since September 2017, the agreed upon "de-escalation deal”  seemed to mark the final chapter of the Syrian civil war; entering into its eighth year. The goal of the Astana talks in 2017 was to sustain the de-escalation deal, in order to minimize violence, secure more aid, and consequently make it “safe” for Syrian refugees to return.

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  • Is Russia Seeking a Peaceful Path?

    Between Moscow and Washington there is agreement on the desirability of a Syria reflecting territorial integrity, stability, empowered local governance, legitimate national governance, an active civil society, and a country rebuilding its physical infrastructure and its sense of shared citizenship. Even Iran might pose no objection to such an outcome, provided Syria remains a superhighway for weaponry, training, cash, and other sorts of assistance to the leadership cadre of Hezbollah in Lebanon. Setting aside Tehran’s special relationship with Lebanese drug runners, money launderers, and assassins, is there a way for Russia and the United States together to help create a foundation for political legitimacy in Syria?

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  • Simakovsky Quoted in CNBC on US Airstrike in Syria

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  • Russia: Is Syria’s Fate Libya’s Future?

    On February 17th, Libyans will celebrate the anniversary of a revolt that ultimately toppled and killed Muammar Qaddafi, ending his forty-two-year oppressive rule. This anniversary and others in the region are regrettable reminders of how the expectations in the immediate aftermath of the Arab Spring compare to the reality on the ground seven years later. Many countries that sought to depose a tyrannical leader now find themselves in worse circumstances. Libya and Syria in particular have faced extreme violence since 2011. In both states, the political and security vacuums from internal fractures allowed the Islamic State (ISIS, ISIL, Daesh) to rise and thrive. In Syria, this same vacuum allowed Russia to gain military influence and involvement in the conflict. Russia is likely to use current unstable conditions in Libya today for its own interests, much as it has done in Syria, beginning over two years ago.

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  • Russian Casualties and Moscow's Intent

    Reporting out of Moscow suggests that some number of armed Russians—up to 200—were killed by the US-led, anti-ISIS coalition after crossing the Euphrates River deconfliction line in eastern Syria on February 7.  If the reports are true, this was by far the bloodiest incident for Russian personnel since Moscow’s military intervention in Syria at the end of September 2015.

    The degree to which the Kremlin knew in advance of the ill-advised fording of the Euphrates is not clear.  American military sources say that communications between them and Russian counterparts in Syria never broke down, and that the Russian air force never intervened on behalf of the invaders.

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  • Iran and Israel’s New Rules of Engagement

    A confrontation escalated along the Syrian-Israeli front the morning of February 10, opening a new destabilizing chapter to the Syrian war. A Syrian anti-aircraft battery downed an Israeli Air Force F-16 fighter aircraft that had penetrated Syrian airspace, seriously wounding the pilot. The incident immediately sparked Israeli air attacks on Syrian and Iranian rocket platforms.

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  • Talking Turkey

    US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s trip to the Middle East this week comes amid escalating tensions between NATO allies Turkey and the United States as their forces stare down one another in war-ravaged northern Syria.

    While Tillerson’s agenda is notably missing a stop in Israel, the secretary will meet with leaders in Turkey, as well as Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, and Lebanon.

    The Turkey stop on his tour will surely be wrought with tension considering the standoff currently playing out between their respective armies.

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