Tuesday 20 September, 2016 Update: UN Suspends Aid Convoys In Syria

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After a UN aid convoy was hit by an airstrike while on its way to Aleppo, the UN has decided to suspend all aid shipments in Syria. The fragile seven-day ceasefire that had been brokered by the US and Russia is over and neither side is confident it can be salvaged. An effort will be made, however, for appearances sake at the very least. At the moment it is unclear if aircraft that struck the convoy were Syrian or Russian, though for the moment it is likely that they were Syrian. Casualties were heavy with at least 12 drivers and aid workers known dead and at least a dozen others injured.

Syria has directly and indirectly become a major topic in the US presidential campaign. The refugee question is addressed by the Trump and Clinton camps on a regular basis. Hillary Clinton supports a large increase in the number of Syrian refugees without an effective plan to screen the incoming waves of people. Donald Trump, for his part, is firmly against admitting any more refugees from nations ‘compromised by terrorism.’ The attacks in New York, New Jersey, and Minnesota over the weekend suggest that Trump’s plan is more likely to weed out possible terror suspects before they set foot on US soil.

Refugees aside, whoever wins the election in November will be faced with an entanglement like no other in Syria. By January, 2017 the United States may have to accept that its long term goal of removing Bashr al-Assad from power is no longer possible. Like it or not, the Syrian president is going to factor into postwar Syria one way or another. The new US administration will also need to craft a new, effective military and political strategy for Syria. One that defines US goals and national interests. At the moment, US policy continues to be ill-defined moves in response to the actions of the other major players in the Syrian conflict.

In other words, the initiative has been lost and it doesn’t seem likely that it will be regained before the next president takes office.

 

11 August Update: Russian Humanitarian Convoy To The Ukraine

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The Kremlin announced today that it will be sending a humanitarian relief convoy into the eastern Ukraine with cooperation from the International Red Cross. The announcement was made in spite of opposition from the West and the Ukraine regarding Russian aid to the eastern provinces. The West fears that Moscow’s interest in humanitarian missions will serve as a precursor to sending Russian military forces into rebel held territory. The timing of the announcement is certainly suspect. In the past ten days, the Ukrainian military has made significant inroads against rebel strongholds around Donetsk and in other parts of the Eastern Ukraine.

Donetsk is the key to the conflict for the moment. Whoever controls the city will ultimately control the region. As the rebel grip on Donetsk loosens, so does their  grip on the rest of the eastern provinces. Kiev realizes this, hence the increased military pressure. The Ukrainian goal is to encircle Donetsk and cut it off from rebel held towns and positions closer to the Russian border. Moscow realizes this as well. Only Russian support of some kind will be able to reverse the rebel’s fortunes.