The Syrian War started in 2011 as an uprising and protests against the government of Syria led by Bashar al-Assad. Originally, the rebel forces were known as the Free Syrian Army but later splintered into several different groups, one of which is ISIL (the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant). The conflict is complex, with several internal and external groups and nations fighting for control of Syria and Northern Iraq.
This conflict has grown in complexity with more groups and nations being pulled into it since the beginning in 2011, and all have participated in varying degrees. The major world players are Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Lebanon, Russia and the United States. Some of the major non-state groups involved are; The Free Syrian Army, ISIL, the Kurds, and various other rebel groups.
Developments: Israel has declared the end of the Syrian Civil War this past week as fighting has dwindled down with only small pockets of resistance. In northern Syria, the Kurds are in talks with the Syrian government to reintegrate back into the country.
What to watch: Watch for what happens with the White Helmets, who were recently evacuated from the southern part of Syria, as they settle down in Canada, Great Britain and Germany. Look for negotiations between the Kurds in the north and the Syrian government, especially as the Kurds look to reintegrate back into Syrian society. Many, if not millions of Syrian refugees, will start returning home once stability is brought back to the region. About half of the country is thought to have fled the conflict, creating large populations of refugees in countries such as Germany.
Analysis: The timing of the end of the Syrian War lines up with what took place between President Trump and Vladimir Putin; Israel was also in talks with Russia before the summit in Helsinki. It looks like this civil war, which involved many countries including Russia and the United States, seems to be winding down. Russia, Iran and Assad can claim a win for their interests with a reintegrated Syria, and the mostly Kurdish northern area is apparently coming back under Assad’s rule.
War in Donbass, Ukraine, Ukrainian/Russian conflict
This conflict started in March of 2014 when pro-Russian rebels in the Donbass (Eastern Ukraine) took control of government buildings after the successful annexation of the Crimea near the Black Sea by Russia. This conflict is complex with both Russian and Ukrainian forces involved as well as pro-Russian rebel groups and separatists as well as Ukrainian militia groups involved. The Russian government is also thought to have played a major role in large-scale election meddling and cyber attacks on Ukrainian power grids and infrastructure during this conflict.
Developments: There is an organization known as the Organization for Security and Co-operation of Europe (OSCE), which has monitors who have observed some violations such as explosions and projectiles, and has also reported that over 160 people have been killed since the beginning of the year.
What to watch: This conflict is still ongoing and will be closely followed as President Trump is said to have been thinking over a proposal made by Vladimir Putin during their meeting in Helsinki in July. President Trump has invited Putin after the new year and our readers can expect this conflict to be discussed further. The OSCE will continue to monitor the situation, however, there seems to be many small violations such as explosions, flares, and projectiles from both sides — according to many of the observers.
Analysis: It is difficult to say what will happen with this conflict as the dynamics are much different from the conflict in Syria. The issue with the War in Donbass is whether Russia can continue to invade the Ukraine after annexing the Crimea, and whether NATO will do anything to stop the advance of the Russian annexation of territories. Ukraine wants entry into NATO, which of course Russia does not want, but look to encourage further talks between the United States and Russia, and to hopefully produce a peaceful end to this conflict.
For the United States, major operations started after the September 11, 2001 attacks from the Al Qaeda terrorist organization. Following the September 11 attacks which were planned and coordinated by Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, the United States attacked on October 7, 2001, in retaliation for the 9/11 attacks and has since been involved with the long conflict in Afghanistan. The conflict is now the longest in U.S. history and with thousands of troops still deployed it will take more time to ensure that it will not degrade back to a pre-9/11 condition, which was a hotbed of terrorist and extremist ideologies.
Developments: The Taliban claims to have killed over 150 Islamic State Khorasan (IS-K) fighters while trying to have initial low-level talks between the United States and bypassing the Afghan government for peace talks. Over 200 IS-K fighters are said to have surrendered and been given amnesty to encourage other IS-K fighters to surrender as well.
3 Czech NATO service members were also killed in action on Sunday, when a suicide bomber detonated himself nearby. One U.S. soldier and two Afghan soldiers were also wounded.
What to watch: If the report is true that a State Department official met with a member of the Taliban in Doha, Qatar, for initial talks between the United States and the Taliban, it will be a shift in policy for the United States, which has not held successful peace talks or negotiations with the Taliban.
Analysis: The United States has been looking to exit Afghanistan for several years now, and working with the Afghan government has provided the intended results. The United States has a common enemy now with the Taliban: the Islamic State in Khorason, which both the Taliban and the United States do not want in Afghanistan. By that measure, neither does the Afghan government — all three sides now have a common enemy and a common goal to work toward.
Mexican Drug Wars
The Mexican Drug wars have been bloody for decades, but the modern drug war (as referred to in the media) was generally thought to have started in 2006 when Mexican President Felipe Calderón sent over 6,000 Mexican troops to his native state of Michoacán. As a result, the drug wars have gotten significantly worse, and tens of thousands of murders have occurred since then, which was a dramatic increase from before 2006. Mexico’s drug wars have claimed up to tens of thousands of lives a year, with many reports of escalating brutality such as beheadings and torture.
Developments: There are reports that large groups of armed people identifying as community police are roaming around; they have no type of control in many municipalities in the state of Guerrero. Some are said to have guns only given to the military.
Twenty five people have been murdered this past week in the town of Juarez. 11 of those murdered were in a single house, and the murders were thought to have been related to the activities of two rival gangs in Juarez.
What to watch: September 30, 2018 is the deadline for the funding for the wall between the United States and Mexico.
Mexico has elected Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador as the new incoming President of Mexico and is expected to take over on December 1st, 2018. He is reportedly considering a big change in how Mexico deals with its drug cartels and the war on drugs, which has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives since major developments in 2006. He is considering some new strategies, such as more opportunities for the youth — scholarships to divert them away from the drug cartels, more security at the ports, having the military move away from doing law enforcement, and more emphasis on police taking over more law enforcement duties, to name a few. This is according to Olga Sanchez, who is Obrador’s proposed interior minister.
Analysis: The upcoming border wall dispute between President Trump and Congress will be interesting to watch. This will no doubt have a big impact on how the cartels operate — if the wall is able to curb a lot of the drugs coming across the border, readers can expect the cartels to look to other markets (such as Europe) to make up for lost revenue. Assuming they do lose money, and if they are not able to make it back up, they may fight more viciously for internal control over Mexico’s drug market. This is speculation, however, and by the time the border wall is built, the internal politics of Mexico may have shifted and changed. At this time, it is difficult to predict how a border wall will impact the cartels.
Guest Author — William Bayless: William spent nine years on active duty in the Navy as an analyst, serving aboard the USS John F. Kennedy for two years as well as serving at duty stations in Maryland and the U.K. William has an MBA, an Associate Degree in Information Systems and a solid foundation of basic cybersecurity principles and concepts.
Featured image: Security agents stand guard as a vehicle carrying Damaso Lopez, nicknamed “El Licenciado,” arrives at the attorney general’s office for organized crime in Mexico City, Tuesday, May 2, 2017. Mexican prosecutors said they captured Lopez, one of the Sinaloa cartel leaders who launched a struggle for control of the gang following the re-arrest of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman. Lopez was long considered Guzman’s right-hand man and helped him escape from a Mexican prison in 2001. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)