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Diplomacy in the Middle East
In a time clouded by violent Middle Eastern conflicts, the spotlight is focusing on how quickly the U.S. can militarize these regions. However, it is important to take note of diplomacy in the Middle East. The following is a list of the U.S.’s current diplomatic efforts in the Middle East and the ones it could potentially make in the future.

The Iraq-U.S. Alliance

Iraq is proving itself to be a key alliance for the U.S., as America seeks to put an end to the Islamic State of Iraq. The importance of preserving this alliance is more vital now than ever. To nurture this alliance, U.S. aid goes to the government of Iraq in the hopes of helping the country attain its domestic goals. This aid will hopefully allow Iraq to respond to pressing matters such as finding living quarters for the displaced and putting reforms in place to meet the needs of its people. As Iraq continues to stabilize domestically, it will help both the U.S. and Iraq militarily by giving them the ability to build up their security forces.

Natural Disasters in Iran

In 2019, a flood struck Iran which resulted in over 60 deaths and only succeeded to add on to the country’s existing troubles. The country was already in an economic crisis as a result of President Trump’s decision to impose secondary sanctions. While the Trump administration has been harsh in its stance toward Iran, there are steps the U.S. can take to aid Iran in its recovery.

Many developing countries, like Iran, constantly face under-preparedness for natural disasters which then adds to its existing financial pains. If the U.S. were to aid Iran in preparedness by providing access to better weather monitoring technologies, the country would be better equipped to handle natural disasters. To help Iran accomplish this and save lives, the U.S. government could consider creating a new general license to allow for access to this technology.

Military and Economic Aid to Israel

Israel has been a longstanding ally of the U.S. In fact, America sends Israel over $3 billion in military and economic aid each year. Through strong diplomatic relations with Israel, the U.S. prevented radicalism movements in the Middle East. Israel also provided the U.S. with valuable military intelligence. The U.S. remains committed to this alliance, and as of August 21, 2019, the U.S. Agency for International Development released a statement indicating that it would be increasing efforts to create employment opportunities and stable communities in Israel. The U.S. also committed to continuing to provide “water, education, technology, science, agriculture, cyber-security and humanitarian assistance.”

Humanitarian Efforts in Syria

After President Trump’s targeted airstrike, humanitarian efforts in Syria have begun to garner interests again. The airstrike was in response to Bashar Al-Assad’s usage of chemical weapons on his people. Since the airstrike, the U.S. discussed different ways to aid Syria through helping displaced refugees, coordinating with other countries and giving more aid. People consider the crisis in Syria to be one of the worst humanitarian crises in modern times.

If America wishes to aid Syrians in this humanitarian crisis, the U.S. could make it easier for Syrian refugees to enter the country. Since the beginning of the Syrian refugee crisis, the U.S. has only accepted 20,000 refugees. There are still millions of Syrians in need of resettlement. The U.S. could also provide insight and intelligence to countries that are dealing with refugees on the frontlines. Countries like Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan need help learning how to deal with a mass influx of refugees.

While the world has shown more interest in U.S. militarization, the U.S. government demonstrated its interest in facilitating diplomacy in the Middle East, indicating that diplomacy in the region is never off the table.

– Gabriella Gonzalez
Photo: Flickr

Refugees in Lebanon

While the Syrian civil war and other conflicts in the Middle East continue to make international headlines, the refugee crisis caused by these conflicts has slowly faded from the public eye. Many countries around the world are now focused on more immediate internal problems. For Syria’s neighboring countries, though, the refugee crisis continues to be an impactful part of their society.

Lebanon is one of these countries. This country shares most of its land border with Syria, and this made it an obvious place for war refugees to flee. The government has allowed many to remain in the country. Estimates say that there are still more than 1.5 million Syrian refugees in Lebanon, and this is only part of the country’s refugee population.

Syrian Refugees in Lebanon

Life for Syrian refugees in Lebanon today is complicated, to say at least. While they are allowed to stay within the country, a combination of unfriendly government policies and heavily-strained infrastructure mean that few can maintain a high quality of life. Residency laws are difficult to navigate, leaving many fearful of arrest and open to exploitation.

Good work is hard to find, and 71 percent of Syrian refugees live below the country’s poverty line. This lack of financial resources helps explain why more than 200,000 refugee children were kept out of school in 2016. This education gap will only lead to more economic vulnerability in the long term.

Compounding these difficulties is the legitimate strain that 1.5 million refugees put on a Lebanese population that totals only six million. The Lebanese residents of some host communities are outnumbered by refugees. Since the start of the crisis, government spending and debt have risen while GDP has dropped and expenses have mounted. The economic troubles have heightened perception of refugees as a drain on Lebanese society and many want them to return to Syria. Of course, many Syrians would like to return home as well, especially given the conditions in Lebanon.

With the war continuing to progress, though, the United Nations does not recommend that refugees return. President of Syria, Bashar al-Assad, and his government continue to make returning difficult even for those that would like to take the chance. Beyond the obvious physical danger of the ongoing conflict, a strict military draft and the threat of property seizure for the many refugees who are left without formal documentation for their homes are harsh deterrents for many people.

Palestinian Refugees in Lebanon

It’s important to note that Syrians are not the only refugees in Lebanon. A population of around 270,000 Palestinians has settled in a few dozen U.N. camps around the country. Many of these people (or even parents of these people) have been in Lebanon since the Palestinian war in 1948. Today, these camps are essentially considered permanent settlements, and their longevity is part of what has inspired a more aggressive governmental push to ensure that Syrian refugees are only settled temporarily.

Palestinians in Lebanon have always been considered a separate legal class, with restricted access to certain public facilities, educational paths, careers and job opportunities. Many are forced to take low-paying, informal jobs.

The Syrian crisis has made life even more difficult for them, as both refugee groups must now compete for the same undesirable jobs. In 2015, 23 percent of the Palestinian population in Lebanon was unemployed. That number was only 8 percent before the crisis. Conditions are even worse for the 33,000 Palestinians who were living in Syria and have since become refugees in Lebanon as 93 percent of these people are reliant on U.N. aid as their primary source of livelihood.

International Aid for Refugees

While international news has largely moved on from the crisis, international aid continues to be involved in Lebanon and other similarly-strained countries. Thousands of families receive aid from U.N. groups, nonprofit organizations and other groups like the World Bank, to supplement governmental support and their own limited personal resources.

These sources of aid can be effective at reducing poverty, but many have been geared at short term solutions so far. As budgets and international aid dry up, support for the refugees in Lebanon will likely be most effective if it focuses on the long term effects. Groups like Habitat for Humanity are hoping to improve living conditions by building new homes and renovating old buildings as well as water and sanitation facilities. The UNHCR also has plans to shore up Lebanese infrastructure as part of the international effort.

However, with the instability in the region and the ongoing pressure to return to Syria and Palestine mounting, permanent solutions may not be a winning political idea in Lebanon. Time will tell, but in the meantime, it is vitally important not to forget the millions of people- Syrians, Palestinians, Lebanese and others- who are still impacted by the Syrian refugee crisis.

– Josh Henreckson

Photo: Flickr

Cruelest_DictatorsHere is a list of the top 10 cruelest dictators.

10. Vladimir Putin is the current president of Russia and has been in power since 1999. He spent four years as the Russian Prime Minister from 2008 to 2012, though most experts believe he was still calling the shots. Putin is a strong man who rules Russia with a fierce grip. His presidency has been lamented by human rights groups and Western governments. Putin maintains a terrible domestic civil rights policy, and viciously puts down political dissension and free speech. Moreover, under his command, Russia has engaged in military action in Georgia, Chechnya and most notably, Crimea, the invasion and annexation of which violated Ukrainian sovereignty.

9. Robert Mugabe is now in his seventh term of office as the President of Zimbabwe. Many political scientists and experts have cited massive electoral fraud and rigging in Mugabe’s favor during the 2013 election as the reasons behind his victory. According to both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, Mugabe’s government systematically violates the right to shelter, food, freedom of movement and political expression. In addition, Mugabe made all acts of homosexuality illegal in Zimbabwe.

8. Muammar Gaddafi was the self-proclaimed “Brotherly Leader and Guide of the Revolution” of Libya for more than 50 years. Gaddafi was, at first, a widely supported leader after he led the September Revolution in 1969. However, as he consolidated power, his regime became more authoritarian. His calls for Pan-Africanism were greatly overshadowed by his pitiful human rights record. During the Arab Spring, Gaddafi ordered his forces to fire on unarmed protesters calling for his resignation. The United Nations Human Rights Council called for an investigation into war crimes. Gaddafi was deposed and killed at the end of the Libyan Civil War.

7. Idi Amin’s paranoid administration was marred by rampant violence toward his political enemies. U.N. observers estimate that 100,000 to 500,000 were persecuted and killed in Uganda under his reign. Amin’s victims were originally his direct political opponents and those who supported the regime he fought to overtake. However, extrajudicial killings began to include academics, lawyers, foreign nationals and minority ethnic groups within the country.

6. Kim Jong Il continued his father’s fearsome policy of official party indoctrination. North Korea currently ranks as one of the poorest nations on the planet, with millions facing starvation, disease and lack of basic human needs. Under Kim’s reign, North Korean military spending quadrupled, yet he refused foreign aid and did not invest in his country’s farms, thereby indirectly killing millions. Kim’s policy of mass internment through the use of labor camps and virtually no political debate makes him one of history’s worst despots.

5. Pol Pot was the dictator of Cambodia for 20 years, from 1961 to 1983, as the leader of the Khmer Rouge government. His regime is characterized by the Cambodian genocide and the infamous “killing fields.” Pol Pot began a program of severe nationalization whereby he forced millions of people out of urban areas into the countryside to farm and work on forced labor projects. Due to the forced labor, poor food and medical conditions, as well as the addition of massive amounts of state-sponsored killings, nearly 25% of Cambodia’s population died under Pol Pot’s rule.

4. Bashar al-Assad is the current President of Syria. Assad’s authoritarian regime was called into question during the Arab Spring and was cited for numerous civil rights violations, including suppression of free speech, corruption and political freedom. Assad ordered massive crackdowns and thus triggered the ongoing Syrian Civil War. Government forces only grew more violent towards protesting Syrian citizens, and there have been allegations of chemical warfare. Assad has been accused of numerous human rights violations, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

3. Joseph Stalin was the second leader of the Soviet Union. Though part of the original seven Bolshevik leaders, Stalin quickly consolidated sole power and became a tyrant. In the 1930s, he pursued a policy of political upheaval known as “the Great Purge.” From 1930 to 1934, millions of Soviet citizens were imprisoned, exiled or killed. Stalin also pursued a policy of massive economic reforms that led to the deaths of millions due to famine and forced labor in Gulag camps.

2. Mao Zedong was the first Chairman of the Communist Party of China, and in terms of numbers of deaths during his reign, he tops the list. Nearly 70 million Chinese died during his rule. Mao systematically broke down ancient Chinese culture and nearly ended political dissent and freedom in China. His revolutionary economic policies during “the Great Leap Forward” resulted in one of the worst famines in modern history. In addition, Mao also implemented forced labor and public executions.

1. Adolf Hitler was the Führer of Nazi Germany from 1934 to 1945. Hitler tops the list because of his disturbingly systematic genocidal policies. 5.5 million Jews and other “unwanteds” were deliberately targeted and executed in sanctioned ghettos, work camps and extermination camps. Hitler’s foreign policy and unrelenting desire to give the German people “room to live” were the major causes of World War II. Hitler also put down political dissenters and enemies and banned art, film, literature and teaching methods not sanctioned by the state.

Joe Kitaj

Sources: Forbes, List25, The Atlantic
Photo: Flickr

worst dictators current
The world’s most repressed countries live in a dictatorship. Citizens suffering under the rule of harsh dictatorships are often stripped of political rights and civil liberties. Those who express views differing from the state suffer consequences of physical and psychological abuse. Though the number of dictatorships has been on a decline, there is still much progress to be made. Listed below are some of the worst current dictators.

Worst Current Dictators

  1.  Kim Jong-un is arguably the most well-known current dictator in the world with the antics of his late father being publicized in world news all too often. As Supreme Leader of Korea, Kim Jong-un runs his government with a totalitarian rule ranging from his pursuit of nuclear weapons to unapologetic and even public execution of his citizens. Hope for more lenient domestic and foreign policies following his father’s death has since changed as Kim Jong-un continues the ruthless administration his father started years prior.
  2. Bashar al-Assad, leader of Syria came to power in 2000 and was seen by many as a potential reformer by domestic and foreign observers alike. There were high hopes that with Assad in power, the drastic changes that Syria needed would come about sooner rather than later. Instead, Assad has tightened his political reigns and enforced harsh consequences for political opponents and potential challengers which heavily contributed to the civil war that broke out in 2011. It is believed that Assad has tens of thousands of political prisoners being held and tortured in prison.
  3. Robert Mugabe, President of Zimbabwe since 1980, came to power following the end of a civil war which ended white minority rule. Mugabe gained much attention from pursuing land reform policies that focused on reclaiming property and land owned by non-black Zimbabweans. Though some deemed his actions as racist to say the least, Mugabe seemed to gain quite a bit of support from those who felt his actions were making amends to the people of Zimbabwe from the previous abuses by European colonists. However, Mugabe and his ZANU-PF party turned the heads of many in 2008 when presidential elections came about versus Morgan Tsvangirai, a pro-democracy supporter. Tsvangirai received much support resulting in Mugabe only receiving 43 percent of the vote in the first round of the election. However, after allegations of fraud, voter intimidation, beatings and rape conducted by Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party, Mugabe swept the election with 90 percent of the vote.
  4. Vladimir Putin of Russia is known most for the staggering amount of control he has over his country through his political actions regularly linked with corruption. After serving two terms from 2000-2008, Putin decided to create a loophole in the constitution by deeming himself Prime Minister when Dmitry Medvedev became the next president of Russia following the end of Putin’s final term. Medvedev consequently made an amendment to the constitution allowing presidents to serve six terms and giving Putin the opportunity to serve as president for a third term. To no one’s surprise, Putin won the presidential election in 2012.

– Janelle Mills

Sources: Forbes, Kizaz, Freedom House
Photo: Toon Pool 

Human Rights Watch is currently investigating whether the Syrian government used chlorine bombs in recent attacks. Last September, Syria complied to dispose of its chemical weapons, around 1,300 metric tons, after external threats from the United States and Russia. Yet, many believe that chlorine was used in recent attacks in the country through barrel bombs.

The barrels, which are stuffed with nails and explosive material, are pushed out of airplanes into areas of rebel, and civilian, congregation — including schools, hospitals and civilian facilities. While the Syrian government has blamed the attacks on terrorist groups, Nadim Houry, the Deputy Director for the Middle East at Human Rights Watch, thinks otherwise.

Since the Syrian government has sole control over the air, Houry believes these attacks are meant to push residents away from these rebel areas. Causing panic amongst the civilian population, it causes them to flee and, subsequently, allows the government to advance more quickly.

While chlorine is not lethal, it can cause serious health problems for those affected. The Chemical Weapons Convention chalks chlorine’s exclusion from the list of prohibited toxic chemicals to its widespread commercial use, which is most commonly used for water purification and bleaching purposes. Yet this notion has been met with criticism; Charles Duelfer, who was head of Saddam Hussein’s investigation under weapons of mass destruction, claims that the magnitude of chlorine bombs equivocates the problem to other chemical munitions which are currently being destroyed.

Syria, which will be holding an election this upcoming Tuesday, has been in civil uproar since 2011, leaving many in rebel areas hopeless. Now, with voting only allowed in regime-controlled areas and set to virtually assure victory for the incumbent Bashar al-Assad, those in impoverished areas of the country are having trouble remaining hopeful.

Ahmed, a young rebel fighter from a now-besieged Deir Ezzor, is just one of many clinging to survival.

“Deir Ezzor is surrounded by the regime and [ISIS] has cut off the only way out,” Ezzor said.  “We will all be killed.”

– Nick Magnanti

Sources: CSMonitor, NPR, VOANews
Photo: Vice News

UN Security Council
The continuing conflict in Syria between the Bashar al-Assad’s regime and opposition forces, the National Coalition, has led to a grave population in crisis where basic humanitarian needs are not being met.

But despite the push for nationwide access to United Nations relief aid, the Syrian government is determined to keep the course with restrictions. Thus, western powers of the U.N. Security Council have opined for sanctions against Syria.

Russia, however, has continued to veto such proposals.

United States President Barack Obama, alongside French President Francois Hollande, are adamant that save for Russia, the Security Council is completely in favor of aiding the undernourished population. Obama levies criticisms towards Russia in obstructing the Security Council.

The Syrian city of Homs, previously blockaded, recently received food aid under a ceasefire. While its war-torn population, ravaged by famine and in dire need of medical supplies, obtained aid; an estimated 200 individuals were evacuated. The two-year siege was broken with the delivery of a month’s worth of food.

Though the success of the recent ceasefire in Homs prevailed, the conflict is far from over.

The National Coalition also has put pressure on Russia. With peace talks currently underway in Switzerland, the Syrian opposition has expressed that the Russians should push the Syrian government towards a resolution.

In addition, the opposition proposes a transitional government that will maintain a ceasefire throughout the nation; the U.N. would run the proposed government.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has also agreed on the need for a transitional government where Assad is not connected.

With discussions at a standstill and a divided U.N. Security Council, progress is slow towards rebuilding a nation where thousands of its civilians have been harmed by violence and hunger with displacement even increasing the numbers negatively afflicted by the conflict.

Miles Abadilla

Sources: Al Jazeera, Cleveland.com, New York Times, New York Times
Photo: CS Monitor

ruthless_leaders
In recent years many notorious leaders have been overthrown and put to death for their ruthless ways. Unfortunately, more of these leaders still remain around the world and continue to hold power over innocent lives. Here are 4 that are still around.

Kim Jong un- North Korea

In 2011, Kim Jong-un became Supreme Leader of Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, AKA North Korea, preceding his father, longtime dictator Kim Jong-Il whom was in power since 1941.

Today, the desolation of human rights still remains under rule of Jong-un. Thousands of people are held in political prison camps, facing starvation, daily beatings and death. People are sent to these camps for numerous reasons; government opposition being the main one.

If they are not sent to prison camps, execution is likely ordered by the dictator. Among recent reports Jong-un ordered the execution of his grandfather and in 2011, also executed his then girlfriend, Hyon Song Wol. Jong –UN also holds American Kenneth Bae captive for unknown reasons and refuses to release him to the American government.

Outside of prison camps famine spreads like wildfire. An estimated 1 million people have died from starvation since 1990. In addition to this, mobile phone use is highly restricted and internet usage is monitored and filtered by the government.  Television is also censored and runs numerous ads painting the U.S. as an evil nation.  Government opposition is not tolerated by Kim Jong- UN.

Xi Jinping – China

Xi Jinping became president of China in March of 2013. The communist leader claims to have loosened the ties on certain human rights violations, such as eliminating labor camps and modifying the one child rule. However, reports have surfaced stating the newly created “rehab centers” to replace labor camps might be close to one in the same. People are still beaten and starved for opposing government power and expressing religious freedom.

Complete control over all media and internet usage is common in China. Over 40,000 people are employed by the government to monitor web browsing and block news sites deemed unacceptable. Any form of government rebellion is not tolerated. Many people have been punished for speaking out against the dictatorship. Thousands of people are executed and tortured every year for this.

Bashar Al Assad – Syria

President of Syria since 2000, Al- Assad took over after his father Hafez al-Assad died. Once hoped to be a reformer of his father’s ruthless political ways, Al- Assad quickly revealed keen dictatorship after government protesters were attacked under his command.

Internet usage is monitored around the clock.  Blockage of popular internet sites such as YouTube, Facebook and Wikipedia occurred throughout the 2008 -2011 time period.

Protesters are continuously attacked and imprisoned for opposing the dictator. During the 2011 Syrian war, gang rapes of young boys and the killing of children as young as two by Syrian security were reported.

King Mswati III – Swaziland

Located in Africa, Swaziland shares borders with South Africa and Mozambique. This country has been under the rule of King Mswati III’s dictatorship since 1986. The 1 million plus country longs for a democratic government however, King Mswati clearly objects to splitting up the political parties, sticking with traditional monarchies.

Mswati’s monarchy has been known for its lavish and carefree ways which have depleted economic funds. Careless handling of finances has left the Swaziland people to fight for their lives.

Poverty, food shortages and disease take countless lives every day. Over 26 percent of adults live with AIDS, making it the highest rate per country in the world.  Anti-viral treatments that could lower this number dramatically are not provided by the government, resulting in thousands of children becoming orphans every year. The life expectancy in Swaziland is the lowest in the world, estimated to be 48.

Amy Robinson

Sources: USA Today, Amnesty International, CNN, Human Rights Watch, BBC, World Vision
Photo: Foreign Policy

UN_Geneva_Summit_Syria_Peace_Talk
Syria has been in a horrific war for the past three years, but maybe just maybe it will all come to end through what is being called the Geneva II Communique.

The UN, U.S. and Russia, have been trying to convince parities of the Syrian conflict to attend The Geneva II Communique for months. Last week both sides to the Syrian conflict finally agreed to sit down and figure out a solution to end the bloodshed in Syria. The conflicting parties are meeting with United Nations officials and speaking only through a mediator.

“After nearly three painful years of conflict and suffering in Syria, today is a day of fragile but real hope.” These are the words of United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki- moon, hoping resolution is in sight.

So far, agreement to release women and children from the war torn town of Homs has been reached. The UN is also requesting the release of the remainder of the citizens, including men. Humanitarian aid will also be sent in to the starving citizens once an agreement is made to do so. There are also talks about the release of the detainees and prisoners being held on each opposing side.

The UN is trying to implement the Geneva I communique aka as (transitional government) which was written in June of the 2013. According to BBC, the communique translates to the following:

  • Establishment of a transitional governing body with full executive powers that could include members of the government and the opposition, and should be formed on the basis of mutual consent.
  • Participation of all groups and segments of society in Syria in a meaningful national dialogue process.
  • Review of the constitutional order and the legal system.
  • Fair and free multi-party elections for the new institutions and offices that have been established.
  • Full representation of women in all aspects of the transition.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry believes a government transition is the only thing left to do or else Syria “heads closer to an abyss.”

“Bashar al-Assad will not be part of that transition government,” states Kerry. There is no way, no way possible in the imagination, that the man, who has led the brutal response to his own people, could regain the legitimacy to govern.”

The Syrian war started three long years ago when rebel groups began protesting against the inhumane leadership of the Syrian government and shouted for Al -Assad to be overthrown. The protesting then turned to bloodshed between these groups and war broke out.  Thus far, over 100,000 people have been killed and over 9 million people have fled their homes for shelter in neighboring countries.

Millions of people are still residing in the city; being held in turmoil. The citizens are literally starving to death with no access to food. Some have even gotten to the point of eating grass and weeds because no food is available. Medical supplies and medicine are also running out for the citizens. All people can do is wait to either die or be saved. By whom, no one knows.

An agreement between these opposing parties must come to an end quickly with imminent improvement of the lives of the Syrian people the first and only priority.<

Amy Robinson

Sources: United Nations, United Nations, BBC, BBC, BBC, BBC
Photo: The Guardian

syria rebels
Raging since early 2011, the civil war in Syria has left many wondering who will obtain the reins of power in the war torn nation. Will the rebel forces topple Bashar al-Assad’s regime, creating a power vacuum? Or will Assad maintain control?

These questions lie at the heart of what policymakers consider when sending aid to rebel forces who have managed to continue their three year war against the Assad regime with minimal support from the West.

One of the questions that has been most pertinent to American policymakers is who exactly are the rebels and to what extent are there Islamist extremists in their ranks.

Politifact points out politicians on both sides of the aisle, advocating both for and against aid to the Syrian rebels, who use questionable sources to justify the numbers of radical or moderate elements among the rebel forces.

For example, Senator John McCain has been a vocal proponent of aid to the rebels and has stated that close to 70 percent of the rebels are still moderate. When pressed on his certainty of where the rebels stand, McCain simply stated he visited the war torn country and through his visit, gained an understanding as to the leanings of the rebel forces.

Others such as IHS Jane’s, a British intelligence analysis agency, have estimated the radical element composes half of the 100,000 opposition fighters. Their conclusion is based off interviews and intelligence estimates that are extremely difficult to confirm.

Many have turned to social media to examine the political leanings of the rebels.

Caerus, a strategy firm that examines Syrian governance for government clients, examines major internet platforms such as YouTube to glean data about the rebels. They claim through examining social media, very reliable data can be constructed giving a better understanding of the ideological makeup of opposition fighters.

For example, the Free Syrian Army has a hefty YouTube footprint of over seven YouTube channels. Other rebel groups are active Facebook and Twitter users, posting propaganda sympathetic to their cause.

Unfortunately, David Kilcullen, CEO of Caerus, as well as many government officials have concluded that moderate opposition forces are losing influence to radical Islamist sects within the rebel forces.

The perception of Islamist elements among the rebels gaining ground has led some officials to suggest that Assad staying in power would be the best outcome for the protracted civil war. The Christian Science Monitor quotes Ryan Crocker, a former U.S. ambassador to Damascus, predicting Assad’s eventual victory in Syria.

He states, “And do we really want the alternative–a major country in the heart of the Arab world in the hands of Al-Qaeda?”

The different factions of moderates versus Islamist hardliners have contributed to the propagation of the Assad regime. Their incoordination among each other has prevented a cohesive strategy from forming against Assad.  And the radicalization of many forces has blocked the flow of foreign aid from countries unwilling to potentially support Al-Qaeda linked forces.

While many officials are now leaning toward the continuation of the Assad regime as the best outcome for the war, others have argued that the brutal tactics perpetrated by the regime was the main cause for their radicalization in the first place, and the failure by the west to adequately fund the rebel forces have led them toward radical ideals in an attempt to secure funding from wealthy Arab nations.

Now close to three years old, the Syrian conflict shows no signs of letting up and rebel groups no closer to toppling the Assad regime.

Zack Lindberg

Sources: NPR, The Christian Science Monitor, Politifact
Photo: Giphy.com

syria_assad_starvation
As the crisis in Syria continues to unfold, President Bashar al-Assad, and the Syrian regime revealed their ambidexterity in murdering rebels and innocent civilians. Blocking humanitarian efforts to deliver food and supplies to villages and towns, Assad turns to the medieval tactics of using food as a weapon by starving his opponents to death.

As rape, starvation, and militaristic destruction continues to spread throughout the devastated region like wildfire, Assad officials and figures of local authoritya have imposed a virulent denial of the most basic of human needs.

From the town of Moadhamiya, for example, ravaged by sarin gas, heavy artillery and bombs, military checkpoints have turned away all aid trucks. A pro-regime fighter was quoted by the Wall Street Journal saying, “We won’t allow them to be nourished in order to kill us. Let them starve for a bit, surrender, and then be put on trial.”

The Syrian refugees and those trapped by Assad’s regime issue a cry for help from the international community. Aid must not only be sent, but to be put in the hands of those who are in dire need of it.

For thousands of innocent Syrians, their fate depends on heroic individuals braving sniper fire and dodging other military aggressions to deliver aid. More must be done by the international community.

The United States has taken up the issues with precedential urgency, totaling $2 billion in humanitarian assistance to Syrian refugees and opponents to Assad’s regime. Moreover, President Obama has promised $339 million more in U.S. aid.

In London on October 22, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry condemned such tactics in a press release following the London 11 Ministerial Meeting, “Assad continues to deploy ballistic missiles and other conventional weapons, and he’s using his air force to rain down terror on the people of his country. Innocent men, women, and children are starving…while the Assad regime continues to block humanitarian access.”

For the fate of Syria and its people, the world can no longer afford complacency nor rely on the abstract pressures of letters and phone calls. Aid, medical care, and food must be delivered to those people in need, and aid workers must be given enough political brunt in order to carry out their jobs.

– Malika Gumpangkum

Sources: State, Foreign Policy, Full Comment, Newser