GCN Security Brief: Ceasefire in Syria, US National Security and more
Lead Story: Syria’s Ceasefire
Last Monday a ceasefire came into effect in Syria. The hope was that this ceasefire would bring much needed humanitarian aid to civilians while the fighting stopped. The ceasefire would also be a chance for the rebel groups to delineate themselves from terrorists that operated in the area.
The ceasefire was a colossal failure, to say the least, with both Russia and the United States exchanging accusations of double dealings. The ceasefire reached its low point as an “accidental” U.S. air strike killed 62 Syrian soldiers eastern Syria’s Deir al-Zour province. The U.S. claimed that this was an “intelligence failure” and immediately ceased its attack when they were informed by Russia.
The Russians and Syrians have not done much better at keeping the terms of the ceasefire. Humanitarian aid intended for the city of Aleppo has still not crossed the Turkey border and fresh. And warplanes, presumed to be Russian or Syrian, dropped bombs in rebel-controlled Aleppo and Daraa.
The ceasefire will be discussed in the General Assembly session of the United Nations this week.
There are two important ‘take-aways’ from this. The first is that the ceasefire which has taken months to broker has failed and that peace is nowhere in sight. The second and more import is the reason why it failed. This happened because there still exists a large amount of mistrust between both sides and this will hamper any semblance of bringing about a lasting peace. This is mistrust is taking on a public form which is spiraling out of control.
Take for example Russian spokesperson Maria Zakharova who said, “We are reaching a really terrifying conclusion for the whole world: that the White House is defending Islamic State. Now there can be no doubts about that.”
I desperately hoped that I would be writing a more optimistic assessment of the ceasefire this week but unfortunately politics got in the way.
Worlds Apart: New York, Minnesota and US National Security
A blast took place over the weekend in Chelsea, New York injuring 29 people. Another unexploded pressure cooker filled with shrapnel was found a few blocks away. These bombs were similar to the ones used in the Boston Marathon bombings. Pipe bombs were later found in New Jersey on Sunday at another train station. Several essential facts about these incidents are unknown such as the who, and the why. Those facts will emerge in the coming days.
Another shocking incident occurred in St Cloud, Minnesota this weekend when nine people were stabbed in a shopping mall. The attacker is a confirmed member of the ISIS wing.
New York and Minnesota are different in almost every conceivable way. New York is large, heavily-populated, diverse and cosmopolitan. Minnesota is a Midwestern state which is significantly less populated and tends to be relatively homogenous in composition and expression of ideas.
The fact that these attacks happened in such disparate contexts will bring the issue of security closer to home for most Americans. No longer are these threats something that happen only in the “big city”. They could just as easily occur in the local shopping mall, just around the corner. This weekend proved that security is something that needs to be taken seriously in today’s context.
With this story likely to dominate the news cycle for a few more weeks as new facts are uncovered, and the start of the UN General Assembly on Tuesday, National Security will rise to the top of the campaigning agenda in the last weeks of this election cycle.
Trump is seen as being tough but impractical when it comes to Security issues while Clinton is depending on her tremendous foreign policy experience to prove to voters that she is the right person to keep the country secure.
This weekend could be as significant to the 2016 elections as the 2008 financial slowdown was to the 2008 elections which led Barak Obama to the Presidency. The problem is that this year when things have been anything but predictable, it is hard to say who will be able to convince Americans that they (along with their foreign policy advisors) would be the right person to be trusted with the nation’s security.