One thing to be learned from the uproar following the recent out-of-Syria presidential tweet is that “ready, aim, fire” makes just as much sense in government as it does on the firing range. By most accounts, US President Donald Trump is now where he should have been two weeks ago: in the “ready” phase, consulting with his national security team on the implementation of a strategy aimed at killing ISIS (ISIL, Daesh, Islamic State) in Syria and keeping it dead by preventing the pseudo-caliphate’s chief recruiting officer—Bashar al-Assad—from taking over liberated eastern Syria. But the round fired before aiming may yet prove fatal. Syrian Kurds—the core of the anti-ISIS coalition ground combat force—are now imploring the Russians (a) to get them a good deal from the Assad regime and (b) make the regime abide by it. “Fire, aim, ready” has spooked the Kurds. Fearing abandonment by Washington, they may well abandon the fight against ISIS.
In an interview during the evening of December 20, 2018 with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, Stephen Miller (adviser to US President Donald Trump) offered the following piece of commentary: “ISIS is the enemy of Russia, ISIS is the enemy of Assad, ISIS is the enemy of Turkey. Are we supposed to stay in Syria for generation after generation, spilling American blood to fight the enemies of all those countries?” One-for-three isn’t bad in baseball, but to claim ISIS (ISIL, Daesh, Islamic State) is the enemy of Russia and the Assad regime is to parrot the Kremlin’s false propaganda line. Were Miller better prepared he might have added Iran to the ISIS faux enemies list. Or perhaps the deletion was deliberate. But even as is, the Miller statement must not be the position of the United States.
Canada moved to extradite Meng Wanzhou, the top financial officer for China’s global tech giant Huawei, on December 1, 2018 to the United States. The arrest, while closely linked to the ongoing US-China trade dispute and Western fears of Huawei as a Chinese espionage tool, was triggered by allegations that the company concealed payments from Iran in violation of sanctions.
The defeat of the last Islamic State (ISIS) stronghold in Syria concomitant with the sudden US announcement of troops withdrawal from the northeast; leaves Europe in a tight spot. In recent years, EU governments have spent billions to mitigate the repercussions of the refugee wave resulting from the Syrian war while working towards normalization with the regime on a fair transition process.
In northwest Syria a small, but growing collection of private firms are working to implement technology solutions to counteract the worst effects of an aggressive disinformation campaign which threatens the relative peace that currently prevails there.
On November 25, 2018, an alleged chemical attack occurred in regime-controlled areas of Aleppo, prompting Russian airstrikes against targets in the nearby towns of al-Rashdeen and Khan Tuman. The regime justified the attacks as retaliation against the rebel groups they claim perpetrated the chemical attack. Since this exchange occurred, a declassified US assessment of the attack states the initial chemical attack was perpetrated by pro-regime forces and most likely consisted of tear gas, not chlorine. The report suggests the attack was staged in order to undermine faith in the current ceasefire and prompt a new military offensive against opposition-held areas of Idlib and the surrounding governorates.