Syria Needs Help

Ten years ago, widespread and public peaceful protests emerged in Syria. The protests were non-violent. In response, Bashar Assad’s regime retaliated with military violence, massacre, arbitrary arrests and imprisonment, and torture. Islamic extremist groups took advantage of the situation and began to arm and empower themselves in the turmoil. Assad-backed thugs and interrogators perpetrated torture, rape and other abuses on Syrian victims.

In response to the crimes perpetrated by Assad, after some time, congress passed the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act. This act initiated more comprehensive sanctions on the Syrian regime. The Caesar act was enacted by the United States Treasury and State departments and included 113 additional designations for sanctions.

However, the Assad regime has perpetuated propaganda that blames Syria’s economic failures and material shortcomings solely on the U.S.-led sanctions. Inflation and a lack of medical supplies are often mentioned by media sources sympathetic to lifting the sanctions as a reason the sanctions should not be in place. According to FDD, a noted think tank focusing on foreign policy, many of these media sources who make these anti-sanction arguments do not mention Assad’s scorched earth policy. 

This policy of Assad’s has facilitated entire Syrian towns being destroyed, families killed, and people displaced without jobs or a source of income. Nor do these sources mention Assad’s systematic misuse and disruption of international medical and material aid to punish dissenters and perpetuate the regime’s control. Moreover, United States law explicitly prohibits sanctions on food or medical supplies. In addition, international aid and foreign policy observers report the influx of such necessities is not being disrupted due to sanctions. The influx is, however, being disrupted by Assad’s regime.

 Bashar Assad is attempting to win international sympathy in order to find a way to ease the sanctions that are limiting the power and reach of his regime. Some of the primary critics of the U.S.-led sanctions are also individuals and organizations who issued statements denying Assad ever used chemical weapons. It may be prudent to be suspicious of their proclamations.

Humanitarian aid should continue to Syria. Sanctions by themselves may not be enough to stop Assad, nor be used in place of prudent foreign policy. Donors of aid to Syria should aim to reform United Nations agencies that are responsible for delivering aid. In practice, Assad takes a large amount of foreign aid to enrich his regime, limiting the Syrian peoples’ access. 

Additionally, efforts to fight the Islamic State need to continue. Efforts so far have been effective, however, the Islamic State still exists. The alliance forged under the Trump presidency consisting of Kurds, Arabs, and Syrians has achieved significant success in pushing back the Islamic State and mitigating their ability to further oppress and harm the region. Any U.S. removal of troops and military support would open the gate back up for the return of ISIS and the growth of Assad’s power in Syria. A thoughtful and well-made policy toward Syria will be needed to help suffering Syrians, prevent Assad and ISIS from wreaking further havok, and further goals in the foundation defense of democratic societies in the future.


Americans Create Pharmacy for Syrian Refugees

American advocates have created a no-cost pharmacy to help displaced Syrians who have been deprived of medical aid by Assad’s regime. The Syrian Emergency Task Force (SETF) is a non-profit American organization that has created a supply of free medications and medical supplies for a refugee camp of over 10,000 people. The refugee camp of al-Rukban has not received any United Nations aid deliveries for over a year due to obstruction and blockages perpetrated by Russia and Assad’s regime.

Previously, al-Rukban had access to a health clinic in Jordan run by the UN. This clinic suspended its operations due to the crisis surrounding COVID-19. Al-Rukban is also situated within a deconfliction zone nearby a small garrison of U.S. troops along the road from Damascus to Baghdad. According to Washing-based foreign policy experts on the region, this small American presence deters attacks against the refugee camp, which could occur from either Russia, Assad’s forces, or remaining elements of the Islamic State. The civil war in Syria is still occurring.

During the height of the Syrian crisis, al-Rukban had between 50,000 and 60,000 residents living inside of it. Assad’s regime starved a significant portion of its population as a strategy in its war against its own people. The thousands of remaining people within the camp have remained there in part because they face imprisonment or conscription if they were to leave and return to Assad-controlled territory.

The pharmacy will provide medical supplies for free to those who are in need.  SETF will first provide supplies for children and babies. It also plans to stockpile supplies and medical devices for adults, as well as provide telehealth medical services to help with diagnosis in light of COVID-19. Foreign policy analysts in Washington have reported the State Department may attempt to reopen the closed UN clinic in the hope of providing additional relief to the Syrians who are suffering in the region.

Russia and Assad are obligated to allow UN convoys and humanitarian aid into the refugee camp. However, both entities refuse to allow aid into the region. Jordan could also allow UN aid to be delivered through its own territory. However, reports from researchers specializing in the conflict indicate Jordan has already taken over a million Syrian refugees into its territory and is feeling substantial pressure as a result. Jordan has even started deporting Syrian refugees to al-Rukban against their will.

Russia and Bashar al-Assad’s regime should be challenged in the public arena. This challenge should specifically target Russia and Assad’s obstruction of UN aid to al-Rubkan. Sanctions and foreign policy experts at FDD indicate the United States should also apply pressure on Jordan to allow UN convoys through its territory to help provide aid to refugees and to support the re-opening of the nearby clinic which was closed due to COVID-19. Experts on the conflict in Syria suggest the refugee crisis in al-Rukban should be seen by the United States as an opportunity to show American leadership and willingness to help people in the region in light of the suffering perpetrated by Bashar-al-Assad and Russia.

Turkey Provokes Armenian-Azerbaijan Conflict, Draws Global Power Players’ Attention

While other blasts in the headlines receive widespread media coverage, the Armenian-Azerbaijan battle over the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh hasn’t experienced the same coverage. Despite a cease-fire in 1994, fighting broke out in July 2020 and is rapidly escalating. The contentious area located in the mountains of Artsakh formally belongs to Azerbaijan but was controlled by Armenians since the early 1990s. The approximately 2,700-mile territory asserts its independence and has elections and a constitution. Azerbaijan’s position violates international law, and US foreign policy experts point out the international community doesn’t acknowledge Nagorno-Karabakh’s claim of independence. Nevertheless, the landlocked area in Artsakh was under Armenian control. However, recent drone footage shows heavy Armenian losses, Azerbaijan flags flying on buildings in the area, and atrocious war crimes despite another cease-fire reached on October 25th.

The Fallout From the Soviet Fall

The Armenian-Azerbaijan conflict is one of several in the region that emerged after the end of the Soviet era when arbitrary boundary lines created 15 new countries without regard for the multiethnic communities that overlap and cross country lines. The ethnic aggression bleeds into Iran, which shares much of its border with Armenia and whose own population is one-third Azerbaijani. On the one hand, Iran enjoys positive relations with Armenia, including a hydroelectric project in the Araz River. On the other hand, Iran’s largest minority population grows increasingly vocal of its frustration with the current regime for reported human rights issues and a flared-up Armenian-Azerbaijani war where Iran more closely allies Armenia than Azerbaijan. A Washington-based think tank posits that Iran’s precarious position is made worse by the pandemic’s economic fallout.

Russia and Turkey Broker Short-Lived Cease-Fire

Russia, who helped achieve the 1994 ceasefire agreement, arms both sides of the conflict. Still, Russia has stronger ties with Armenia and was caught sending convoys carrying munitions to Armenians through Tehran, which enraged Iran’s Azerbaijani population. In early November, President Putin attempted to broker another peace deal in a call with President Erdogan of Turkey. Erdogan reportedly stood firm, requiring Armenians to withdraw from occupied territories. Armenia begrudgingly agreed, which bolstered Erdogan’s confidence as he promised further liberation of other territories.

In addition to a slowed economy due to the pandemic, Russia is stretched thin by its foreign engagement, including disinformation offensives in other countries’ elections, according to an author on American foreign policy. Whether Russia played a role in the recent Belarus election is unknown, but what is clear is President Alexander Lukashenko claimed having won 80% of the vote despite allegations of fraud from his young opponent, 38-year-old Svetlana Tikhanovskaya. Many Belarusan citizens agreed and took to the streets in protest, which escalated after Lukashenko’s secret inauguration. In October, Kremlin officials and Russian organizations were sanctioned for numerous offenses, including cyberattacks and the poisoning of an anti-corruption dissident who was relocated to Germany to recover.

Erdogan Emboldened as International Community Takes Note

One global player who isn’t burdened by the economic calamity is Turkey, which expresses strong support of Azerbaijan and acts as provocateur since the July 2020 clash. During July, Turkish arms sales to Azerbaijan were $278,880. By September, the total increased to a staggering $77 million as the violence increased significantly. Turkey then transported Syrian jihadists from Afrin to the Artsakh region to aid Azerbaijan in the fight while publishing notoriously false media narratives and social media posts claiming their involvement was purely retaliatory. Journalists in Turkey aren’t likely to dispute the claims for fear of imprisonment or worse.

Recent Sanctions Good But Not EnoughMost recently, videos surfaced online of horrific images reminiscent of ISIS videos despite the cease-fire. Azeri soldiers appear to hold the severed heads of Armenian soldiers and allegedly desecrate the dead bodies, as acknowledged by Human Rights Watch and journalists. The Dutch Parliament adopted a resolution to impose sanctions on Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev, his wife, and Erdoğan. The EU followed suit with an embargo against selling arms to Turkey. US policy institutions and politicians are now speaking out. Their message is clear: Azerbaijan and Turkey are emboldened and must be dealt with immediately for their human rights abuses.

Sanctions Enacted Against Syrian Regime War Profiteer

The United States Treasury Department has initiated sanctions against Kodr Ali Taher, Maher al-Assad’s close associate. Maher is Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad’s younger brother. Maher’s associate, Taher has been using the war and the catastrophic environment generated in Syria to facilitate new business opportunities for himself and the Dictator’s regime. These business opportunities constitute further exploitation of the Syrian civil war and the people caught within it. Taher has been conducting business through his own security business, Castle Security and Protection.

Kodr Ali Taher ascended to political power when he started working alongside the 4th Armored Division’s security bureau. The Syrian 4th Armored Division is controlled by Maher al-Assad. Journalists covering the civil war in Syria have reported that the security bureau manages a variety of business interactions, and began contracting with Taher for force protection to provide security to the 4th Division’s conveys for their movement and interaction in the region. Taher created Castle Security and Protection LLC, his security and protection business. Taher’s firm also manages checkpoints for crossing outside of Syria into Lebanon, which the firm uses to extract fees from people crossing the border during this time of crisis.

The European Union sanctioned Taher earlier in the year, as well as another leader associated with the division’s security bureau. United States Treasury Department sanctions are another step in the direction toward attempting to reign in the human rights abuses being perpetuated by the regime and its associates. Leading researchers on the conflict in Syria have reported how the head of the Syrian Chamber of Industry has described Taher and the people who associate with him as “smugglers, thieves, and criminals.” The chamber head made this declaration on a Syrian television station, and the interview vanished from the airways shortly afterwards, leading analysts on the Syrian war have indicated. This further highlights the regime’s prohibition on freedom of speech, as it tightly controls communication channels in the war torn region.

The application of the sanction was authorized under the umbrella of the Caesar Act. The Caesar Act is a piece of legislation that was passed in the United States which has authorized the use of sanctions against the Syrian government in the face of its war atrocities over the last decade. Sanctions are having an effect, but for the Syrian government’s abusive regime to be reigned in, further sanctions will be needed. According to Syrian conflict experts at FDD, the Syrian regime has also been found to be engaging in narco-trafficking. This facet of the regime’s activity can be further pursued as a route to enact more sanctions to increase pressure on the Syrian government, under the Caesar Act. Additionally, recent reports from international relations experts have covered how the regime has been exploiting United Nations humanitarian aid to maintain its own stability and to extract control over the Syrian people in the midst of this civil war. The abuses being perpetuated by Assad’s regime in Syria continue to build, and further sanctions may be the correct diplomatic route toward halting the humanitarian crisis.

Pandemic in Syria Grows, With Limited Help Available

Syria is currently near the bottom of global rankings for COVID-19 infections.  So far, testing in Syria has indicated only 1,255 infections.  Currently, the infection rate in Syria is toward the bottom of global rankings both in total and per capita.

There is plenty of reason to suspect the numbers published by dictator Bashar al-Assad’s government.  But health authorities outside of the regime have also reported low numbers.  Reports from regions just outside of Bashar’s control, such as the Kurdish regions, have also reported similarly low infection numbers.  Despite likely underreporting by untrustworthy government entities, it seems clear that COVID-19 infections are dramatically lower in Syria than most of the world, as reported by leading foreign policy researchers at think tanks such as the FDD.

Even though the infection rates in Syria are low, the officially recorded caseload has tripled since July.  A health worker informed National Public Radio that many hospitals are being overwhelmed, and that there is insufficient medical staff and protective equipment to manage the growing pandemic.  The health worker also reported that the regime warned doctors and health workers not to share information, and that Syrian intelligence officials were watching the hospitals.

Physicians and front line medical workers in Syria have begun to speak out about the growing problems, despite warnings from dictator Bashar al-Assad’s regime. Information has come out that now, reporting the case load is growing with 100 new coronavirus patients arriving at the hospital in Damascus each day, and with 40 deaths from covid each day as well. A physician working in the COVID section of the hospital posted this information on social media, but took the post down in fear of a response from the Syrian Ministry of Health.

Earlier in the Spring, a paper published from London reported that Syria only has the capacity to treat 6,500 COVID-19 cases, due the Syrias lack of health infrastructure and resources.  Human rights researchers and international health organizations have reported that the escalating number of COVID cases in Syria represents a serious problem.  This problem has been exacerbated by the fact that about 70 percent of healthcare professionals have left the country. Additionally, Russia and Bashar al-Assad’s regime have executed over 500 confirmed attacks on Syrian health care facilities, according to human rights groups and international relations experts at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

If the public health crisis in Syria continues to rocket upward, than help from foreign countries and organizations will become necessary for any attempt to curtail the problemLeading experts on the crisis in Syria have indicated that providing this medical help to many areas in Syria will be difficult.  Russia has used its United Nations veto power to prevent border crossings that were previously key mechanisms to provide aid to Syria.  The U.S. and other entities can try to provide aid to regions under Assad’s influence, but any such attempt will be met with manipulation to the extent that the aid may provide little help aside from assisting people who are favored by Assad, according to experts reporting on the crisis in Syria.  This form of aid could then serve to bolster Assad’s abusive influence.

As it stands currently, the combination of Russian and Assad’s influence is serving as a roadblock to Syrians receiving needed health care and help for the burgeoning pandemic. Organizations reporting on the health crisis in Syria have made this clear.  Both Russia and Assad are calling for the lifting of United States and European Union sanctions. But as sanctions experts such as the FDD have highlighted, these sanctions already have well planned exceptions for humanitarian aid and assistance built into them. As of now, most Syrians have only their own perseverance to rely on to get through this additional crisis.

A Critical Moment for U.S. Iraq Relations

US Iraq

A series of strategic talks between the U.S. and Iraq kicked off on June 11th to discuss myriad issues with the two countries that have led to a recent deterioration of their partnership. While coverage was largely hyped at the outset, the initial talk, which was virtual due to the Covid-19 pandemic, was merely a practice run, not the game. The talks are expected to go on for months.

Both the U.S. and Iraq bring a list of issues and expectations to the table according to indications from diplomatic experts on Iraq and Iran. It remains a question as to what the outcome of the talks will be, but it can be assumed that the stakes are high and consequences may occur either way. The Foundation for Defense of Democracies, foundational researchers on foreign policy issues, says this is especially true in light of current economic, political, and regional stability factors.

For instance, Iraq has been in economic freefall due to the fallout from oil prices dropping to historic lows, which has resulted in its struggle to pay wages. They already lose billions of dollars a year in gas flaring in the southern part of the country while they import gas from Iran. Because of this, a 120-day waiver was given to allow Iraq to continue to import Iranian gas to meet its power needs despite the heavy sanctions levied on Iran. The waiver was allowed in good faith according to indications from experts on policy in the Middle East that Iraq would become more energy independent; however, they recently signed a two-year contract with Iran, which makes independence difficult in the short term.

The U.S. supports an independent, ISIS-free Iraq but is concerned with security both for U.S. troops and contractors as well as for peaceful Iraqi citizens according to recent information from think tanks like FDD. Both of these security issues are a reflection of Iranian influence, either directly, at the hands of a corrupt government punctuated with Iranian supporters, or as a result of designated terrorist organizations directly targeting U.S. troops. Since May of 2019, two servicemen, a U.S. government contractor, and a British serviceman were killed as a result of multiple rocket attacks. Further, violent protestors with the support and encouragement of political officials linked to Tehran attempted to storm the U.S. embassy in Baghdad and successfully breached its perimeter. These escalations and the lack of response from the Iraq government are what led to the U.S. drone strike that resulted in the killing of Qassem Soleimani and Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandes.

Making matters worse, more than 500 peaceful, Iraqi demonstrators protested against Iranian influence in their government, endemic corruption, and the inability to receive basic services were killed and thousands more injured at the hands of an unscrupulous government and ISIS-backed militias. Those detained are held at length without trial. Others are released contingent upon bribe money further displaying the pervasive corruption at all levels of government including the judiciary. This is a human rights concern with which the U.S. takes issue according to the latest analysis on relations in the Middle East.

On the bright side, newly confirmed Prime Minister, Mustafa Kadhimi, is seen as a diplomatic statesman able to remain cordial with Iran while maintaining greater sympathy with the West. U.S. and Iraqi policy from experts on diplomacy agree Kadhimi has his hands full as he tries to navigate a parliament weighted heavily with ISIS sympathizers, an economy ravaged by a pandemic and its financial fallout, and endemic corruption.

For its part, the U.S. is interested in working with Kadhimi to reinvigorate its partnership with Iraq, which would provide protection against economic collapse and keep ISIS at arm’s length. The latest research from FDD indicates that the Trump administration must contemplate its presence amidst growing concern of attacks from Iranian-backed forces. Economic and strategic support only makes sense for an independent Iraqi government. The U.S. must recognize that Kadhimi is in a challenging position. Nevertheless, assurances must be made that the prime minister will admonish Iranian-backed attacks against the U.S. and prepare to tackle disreputable government officials if they want to reignite the partnership. This is the message the Trump administration should relay in ongoing talks with Iraq.

Terrorist Organizations Taking Advantage of Covid-19 Crisis


 It looks as if terrorist organizations in the Middle East are taking complete advantage of the CoronaVirus global pandemic crisis. Should we be surprised? Well, no, but you might be somewhat surprised to what extent. In fact, the Taliban’s efforts to propel its agenda in the middle of this Covid-19 crisis is quite troubling indeed. Perhaps we should discuss this for a moment, shall we?


 We must remember that many of these terrorist organizations believe they are fulfilling their self-righteous religious duties to rid the world of the enemy. In this case, the enemy is the West and its view of how the world should be organized. Thus, we shouldn’t be surprised that the Taliban or any other radical Islamic terrorist group is taking advantage of the CoronaVirus outbreak. This is throwing a curveball in the Trump Administration’s attempt to get the Taliban to join in the political process in Afghanistan. This, of course, is the goal of bringing a rebel organization, terrorist group, or a guerilla-style undermining of government to the negotiating table.


It’s hard enough to bring such groups to peace talks, and with the CoronaVirus it’s just that much harder. Plus, when such loosely formed organizations are under stress in their ranks, they bond with a mutual enemy, again, the West. No one is going to agree to 50-people in a room to bring tribal leaders and the Taliban leadership together. No one in the Afghanistan government wishes to have that kind of a group meeting of the minds at this time of crisis either. Further negotiations between the U.S., Afghanistan and the Taliban are temporarily, perhaps permanently on hold.


As of the writing of this article, Pakistan has had a surge in Covid-19 infections and deaths, and Iran has over 45,000 infected with significant death tolls, and those two countries along with China are bordering Afghanistan. You can see why there is trepidation from both sides to get together right now. Still, this window of opportunity might be closing, the longer the CoronaVirus challenge goes on. Meanwhile, the U.S. as promised has started drawing down its 8600 troops, as part of the pre-agreement, but also due to the virus spread.


Terrorist groups are following Iran’s lead in spreading conspiracy theories that the U.S. is spreading the virus. This too has hurt any potential negotiation progress. Both ISIS and al-Qaeda are doing the same, claiming that the U.S. started the Covid-19 virus and God’s wrath is sending it back to attack them as well. A perfect storyline of conspiracy to further divide any potential mutual interests needed to reach peace in the Middle East, which many believe is unattainable anyway.


The Taliban is telling the people that the Afghanistan Government is incompetent and that only the Taliban can protect the people from the bioterrorism virus of the West and the encroachment of the West on their land reports terrorism and foreign policy experts at the Atlantic. The Afghanistan government is indeed weak and it only has some healthcare available and doesn’t control much of the country, most of the rural areas are controlled by the Taliban and other groups.


Afghanistan is made up of 407 districts which the government only really controls about 130 of them, while the Taliban controls some 190 of them, the rest are disputed areas. The rest of the districts could be classified as out of control suggest the most well informed foreign policy thinkers and experts on international terrorism.


As far as the U.S. Army handbook on Guerilla and Asymmetrical Warfare, the Taliban is doing everything right, as they are making a mockery of the Afghanistan Government, NATO, and U.S. involvement during this CoronaVirus crisis note the experts on diplomatic policy, terrorism, and the Middle East. The Taliban won’t be able to conquer the virus pandemic either, but their narrative and conspiracy theories seem to be winning the day in the minds of the Afghan people, or at least it is sure looking that way.


The WHO (World Health Organization) has its hands full, and many other locations of severe outbreaks to deal with. They can’t make a meaningful attempt to stem the spread of the virus in Afghanistan and the organization is stretched too thin as it is right now, explains non-profit foreign policy experts on terrorism think tanks like the FDD. Additionally, sending in volunteers at a time when the peace talks have been all but called off is dangerous and could lead to more bloodshed. There is not the military strength and numbers available to police the streets and guard healthcare volunteers.


When the dust settles over this global pandemic, it’s hard to say where the U.S. will stand as far as their power base inside Afghanistan or even if the current Afghan Government will survive. If the Taliban sees it falling, they will move in and seize the opportunity according to reports and information from leading diplomatic researchers and international terrorism experts. After all, this is a common theme throughout the Middle East. It’s part of the Islamic Terrorism 101 handbook. So, right now things are in limbo, but we risk losing all our previous hard-fought gains.

The Caeser Act and Syria


Caeser Act - Featured

War photographer “Caesar” and his work constitute one of the cornerstones of evidence that have revealed the atrocities Syrian Dictator Bashar Al Asad has inflicted on the Syrian people and the Middle East.  Caesar’s work and what it has revealed needs to be fully acknowledged by the international community. President Trump’s Caesar Act officially recognizes Asad’s atrocities, and seeks to make progress toward helping fix the catastrophe in Syria.

The Caesar Act does several things to attempt to help stop Assad’s atrocities and war crimes.  The act puts additional sanctions on anyone who would do business with Assad’s regime. These additional sanctions are a much more forceful augmentation to sanctions and restrictions already in place.  Previously, business with persons connected to Assad’s government was prohibited. Now with the Caesar Act, sanctions could be put in place on citizens of any country that work with Assad, as reported by foreign policy researchers.

These new sanctions will most heavily impact Iranian and Russian backors of Assad’s regime.  Iran and Russia’s financial and military assistance to Assad over the past years have been crucial in keeping Assad from falling from power.  More specifically, Iranian militias and mercenaries from Russia have been providing support to the dictator. The Caesar Act will provide the capability to clamp down on these international supporters.

The atrocities captured by Caesar’s daring reconnaissance into the unfolding Syrian tragedy reveal a depth that many leading foreign policy experts say the international community doesn’t fully acknowledge.  Some of the photos of events and death counts begin bring up a catastrophe that has an eery similiarness to the massive loss and suffering of the Holocaust in World War II, argued by Middle East policy experts at the FDD.  

The United Nations has has not been as helpful as it could be in attempting to alleviate the suffering of the Situation in Syria.  U.N. efforts to provide aid to Syria have done little more than provide resources to Assad and help prop up his regime. The U.N. has done nothing substantive to try to mitigate this, and may be causing more harm than good. Leading international diplomacy researchers have indicated severe problems with the U.N.’s aid programs.

Trump has made it known that in the case of Iran, he is on the side of the Iranian people against their authoritarian leaders.  It would be helpful for him to make the same declaration in the case of Assad’s subjects, to help further isolate the rogue regime, as argued by foreign policy think tanks like the FDD.  The act of making it clear that U.S. efforts in Syria are aimed at bringing down Assad, not people in Syria would help steer perceptions of initiatives like the Caesar Act in the right direction.

The Caesar Act is a valuable step in the direction toward helping bring down Bashar Al Assad.  But more needs to be done in the international community as many Middle East policy experts agree.  The United Nations and its donor states’ complacency with the unintentional subsidizing of Assad’s war efforts needs to be addressed.  The U.S. could take the lead the limiting its own donations to U.N. aide unless certain reforms are met. The U.N. providing subsidies to Assad should not continue to be given passive consent.

Was Turkey’s Invasion of Syria Driven By Russian Recommendation?


While Turkey has been a member of NATO since 1952, it has also had on-and-off relationships with nations that NATO has opposed. Considering Turkey’s geographical location one can certainly understand its need to maintain peace in the region, and yet, members of NATO often question the sincerity of its participation in the alliance. With this understood perhaps we ought to drill down into Turkey’s recent decision to move into Syria.

 In October of 2019, Turkey announced it was going into Syria. Its goal was simple; to push the Kurdish forces (PKK – Partiya Karkerên Kurdistanê or Kuristan Working Party) out of the region just South of the Turkish border in Syria. Prior to this time, Turkey had an understanding with the U.S. not to conduct offensive military activities in Syria while the U.S. was fighting ISIS. Everything appeared to be going well. Turkey defended its territory from incursion and even shot down a Russian fighter-attack jet aircraft in 2015 that flew over a piece of its Southern territory with air-to-air missiles according to the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.

 What changed? Why did Turkey decide to go on the offensive? Well, it appears Putin convinced Turkey’s President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, to go after the Kurdish forces in Northern Syria. This is of benefit to Putin since ISIS is now defeated and the Kurdish forces working with the United States are one of the last threats to Putin’s dual-control of Syria with Bashar Hafez al-Assad, Syria’s President. Russia has long had a warm water naval port in Syria, and now has two more military airbases in Syria.

 Essentially, Erdogan has chosen a new relationship with Russia over its alliance with NATO and relationship with the United States. Russia is also delivering an advanced S-400 missile defense system to Turkey. The U.S. Congress has voted to stop the importing of F-35 fighter-attack aircraft into Turkey. Russia has responded by offering to sell the Turkish military Su-35 and Su-57 fighter jets. Is NATO going to lose Turkey completely? Is Turkey going to voluntarily leave NATO?

In a news conference, Erdogan told Putin that the war in Syria was creating a huge humanitarian and migrant flow crisis into Turkey. Further, Erdogan is concerned that the Kurdish rebel fighters in Syria are too close to its borders and those Kurdish rebels will join other Kurdish factions in Turkey causing terrorist acts. The Kurds want to establish an area in Syria that they can have, as they have no country, rather have concentrated in Turkey and Northern Iraq.

If you look on a map, you can see why they’d like a piece of Northern Syria, as they are land-locked in Northern Iraq, and disfavored in Turkey, where there is an on-going conflict between the Turkish government and the 10-15 million (estimated 18% of Turkey’s population) Kurds who live there. Turkey sees the Kurds or a small percentage of them as their domestic terrorists, reported by researchers at FDD. This is why Turkey doesn’t want any more trained and battle-hardened Kurds in their country as the war in Syria draws down.

As the Syrian forces pushed back the Kurdish rebels to the Turkish border and surrounded them as reported by experts at the FDD. The Syrian and Russian Military realized that since the Kurds were being supported by the U.S. Military, they couldn’t risk a larger conflict. Additionally, even as the U.S. drew down its involvement, if Syria and Russia wiped out the remaining Kurdish forces there could be hell to pay on the international stage. So, Putin convinced Turkey’s Erdogan to move his military in to snuff them out. Thus, Turkey ends up looking like the bad guy, and Putin gets what he wants, all for a few defensive missiles and promise to sell Turkey some military jets.

Erdogan has been played by Putin, and while he may rid himself of some Kurds, in the end, Russia and Syria aren’t going to give him any slack until he’s out of NATO, and if Turkey leaves NATO, it in essence, becomes a client-nation for Russia, a situation that never seems to end well, notes leading non-partisan researchers.


What Are Human Rights?

Human Rights.jpg

Some might say there is no such thing as ‘human rights’ and the concept itself is merely a made-up human construct. After all, humans, like any other animal on the planet evolved with the law of the jungle, a view most commonly cited by atheists. Most people now believe there are certain human rights, although what is considered and not considered a human right varies widely. 

Here in the U.S., our very wise founding fathers came up with the concept of ‘inalienable rights’ and reasoned these rights were granted not by government, but by the creator and a birthright to all. At the time this was considered a brilliant innovation for the cornerstone of our government, a guiding light for us to aspire. Today, we have grown accustomed to freedom, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. In fact, we expect and demand it.

Human Rights and U.S. Foreign Policy

When it comes to human rights and U.S. foreign policy pragmatism is more commonly practiced rather than sticking to any sort of straight definition. This was recently noted in a well-penned Op-Ed on ‘where human rights come from’ in the Wall Street Journal. Although we often perceive that the countries we trade with or align with have common values when it comes to human rights, all too often we allow exceptions when it is politically expedient in achieving a different goal such as winning a war, preserving peace, improving economics, acquiring resources, or involving issues of national security.

There are endless examples of the United States letting human rights violations slide in order to negotiate a peace accord, secure oil, or bring a somewhat rogue nation back into the fold of the international community. Still, our record on human rights has been pretty strong overall, comparatively speaking.

What Are Human Rights, Who Decides and Why Does It Matter

Recently, Secretary of State Pompeo asked about Human Rights. He put forth a number of questions. He explained the problem in making policy without any clear definitions, explaining that it gets complicated when there is such a diverse view of just what ‘human rights’ is actually supposed to mean. The definition varies greatly between nations and amongst human rights’ organizations, or organizations parading around as human rights groups.

What is included and not included in these definitions are also often contradictory and puzzling. Even more problematic is the ever-changing nature of what human rights encompass, and how fervently politics come into play when the topic comes up.

Should the United States take a leadership role in fostering a set of standards for human rights around the world? Should the U.S. focus on this now? If not the U.S. then whom, if not now, then when? One of the biggest challenges in international diplomacy is that when the United States makes a stand against human rights violations, we often test the strength of our alliances. All too often we end up making an enemy, and other nations who could care less about human rights go out and make a new friend of that nation or nation’s leader which we’ve inadvertently alienated.

Walking the Talk

 Standing on the moral high-ground can serve our nation well and do a great service to all of humanity. Are we up for the challenge or will this latest push for human rights come across as a threat to the leaders and cultures of other nations far and wide? Is it possible to get everyone on the same page? Is it a fool’s errand to try? Clifford May of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies analyzes human rights and breaks down the politics, conflicts, and reasoning behind how we got here and how we must proceed.  

The leading researchers on human rights aren’t just looking towards the past for answers to humanity’s future. Now they are also focusing on better-defined definitions void of political agenda and based on discussions from human rights experts.  There appears to be a good opportunity here. That is ‘if’ we can get everyone on the same page and ditch some of the dark political agendas behind the scenes.

According to the latest news on foreign policy and human rights, the Trump Administration’s Mike Pompeo is serious about taking this dialogue to a higher level. Considering the past failures on human rights issues at the United Nations, it is about time the pendulum swung back in favor of humanity. All too often the biggest abusers of human rights violations were enabled by the very groups claiming to uphold those values. Maybe it is once again time to start calling out these abuses when and where they occur.