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  1. Another day, another diplomatic crisis for the Biden administration. U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin worked the phones with Turkish officials in Ankara, trying to stave off a full-scale incursion by Turkish forces into northern Syria. And separately, James Jeffrey, a former U.S. ambassador to Turkey, was in Ankara to meet with Hulusi Akar, Turkey’s defense minister, in person. Having a Pentagon chief dial up his Turkish counterpart hasn’t exactly stopped the United States’ NATO frenemy from wreaking havoc on Syria before, where around 900 U.S. troops are still based to help the Pentagon-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) (most of them Kurdish) fight off the remnants of the Islamic State. See 2019, when U.S. troops stood aside at the order of then-U.S. President Donald Trump, allowing a Turkish incursion into Syria. “An invasion into the Kurdish areas of Syria and the direct targeting of elements of the [Syrian Democratic Forces] will do just that,” said Mick Mulroy, a former deputy assistant secretary of defense during the Trump administration. “Turkey has an absolute right to defend itself, but if it is attacking our partner [by] force, it needs to produce evidence that they were involved. If they cannot, the U.S. should insist they cease those operations.” It’s already clear how disruptive another Turkish attack into Syria could be. Last week, a Turkish airstrike hit less than 1,000 feet from where U.S. forces are based in al-Hasakah. But stopping a Turkish incursion at the same time as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan faces a sagging lira, skyrocketing inflation, and a war on the other side of the Black Sea with Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine could be a different matter from three years ago. “There is no doubt that [the Islamic State] will benefit more than anyone else from this Turkish offensive,” SDF commander Gen. Mazloum Abdi said on Monday, as the group prepared to reposition forces away from the Islamic State fight to deal with the possibility of a Turkish onslaught. Erdogan already used a rally of his Justice and Development Party to brag about the strikes into Syria that Turkey has carried out in recent days and a possible ground invasion to follow, making former officials worried that the window for diplomacy may be closing. “I think we’re late to it,” said Jonathan Lord, a senior fellow and director of the Middle East security program at the Center for a New American Security, a Washington think tank. “He has already politically walked himself out onto the branch.” If the Turks do push for an incursion, then it might look a lot like the combination of airstrikes and ground invasion from 2019. The only difference, with strikes already wounding guards at the embattled Islamic State prison camp at al-Hol and knocking out power stations, is that it could be even more devastating, experts said. “The stakes are a little bit higher,” Lord said. “Already, we’ve seen Turkish strikes target in and around al-Hol and killing guards. A breakout from al-Hol would be incredibly problematic. The strikes, by displacing people, by destabilizing the area, create problems on their own.” https://foreignpolicy.com/2022/12/01/turkey-syria-invasion-attack-us-kurds/
  2. A major new report about the Syrian war raises the question of whether Washington ever cared about it in the first place. https://foreignpolicy.com/2019/10/03/the-united-states-is-done-caring-about-syria/
  3. EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini urged the international community to press ahead with Syria peace talks at the Syrian aid conference in Brussels. According to her statement, it has become even more urgent after a suspected chemical weapons attack left more than 70 dead in a rebel-held town. “We need to give a push, a strong push to the political talks in Geneva. We have to unite the international community behind these negotiations,” Mogherini said as she went into the Syrian aid conference in Brussels. || What do you think of this statement and the current situation around Syria?
  4. After Astana talks where the Syrian gov't and opposition representatives met for the first time Russia provided a draft constitution for Syria. Nevertheless, all sides of conflict refused to accept the document and intended to use it as a basis for their own projects. So, the next meeting of the warring sides is scheduled on late February in Geneva. What should we expect from the next round of talks there? Are the sides expected to propose their own constitution drafts?
  5. Do you really think the syrian Kurdish issue is one of the “key” factors in maintaining Syrian statehood and contributing to the stabilization of the situation in the entire Middle East?! http://www.mo4ch.com/moscow-mediates-talks-between-assad-syrian-kurds-russian-fm-2/
  6. What should Canada's role be in fighting terrorism and ISIS in Iraq and Syria? I suggest that Canada's role should not be a military one, and we need to think creatively about how to effect change in the middle east without contributing to the perpetual cycle of violence that military action invites and contributes to. I suggest Canada's role could be focused on fostering bottom-up internal change within those nations. One means to foster this sort of internal change is to advocate international oversight of judicial reforms that will help to stem the proliferation of local and regional violence. It is apparent that the justice system is broken in Iraq: https://www.hrw.org/ne…/2013/…/31/iraq-broken-justice-system and corrupt in Syria: http://www .daoonline.info/…/BACCI%20-%20The%20System%20Of%2… If we want to "fight ISIS" our efforts are better spent in bottom-up development of internal systems of justice. This is obviously a complex and expensive problem. However, given: 1. the billions that are allocated to bombing campaigns and military responses that seem only to generate more resentment and violence; and 2. the billions that are invested in humanitarian and medical aid that are obviously necessary, but yet short term with little affect on fundamental societal issues that include distrust and disaffection at many levels, I am suggesting a creative alternative with long term implications for change in the region. Let Canada be part of a dialogue on justice reforms in Syria and Iraq, and coordinate an international review of how justice reforms can be encouraged and in some cases imposed if necessary (rather than imposing bombs!). Canada can play a role in promoting international cooperation to improve systems of justice in those countries while reducing the need for direct military intervention.
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