2017-04-09

US Airstrike on Syria

Stratfor:
The United States has opted to send a message to the Syrian government that it will not tolerate chemical weapons attacks. Washington launched approximately 50-70 precision-guided missiles April 6 at the Shayrat air base. The base, located southeast of Homs city, houses the two squadrons of Syria's Su-22 ground attack aircraft that carried out the April 4 attack in northern Syria — an attack that killed at least 88 civilians.
U.S. President Donald Trump said the targeted strikes were in the "vital national security interest" of the United States. He gave the statement at Mar-a-Lago, where he is meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping. U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson later said in a statement that Russia failed in its 2013 promise to dispose of the Syrian government's chemical weapons, saying that Moscow was either incompetent or complicit. Syrian state media responded to the U.S. strikes, called them an act of aggression. ...
Lee Smith at the Standard:

...That is, the Trump administration enforced the redline against the use of chemical weapons that the previous White House ignored. Further, by citing the possible "spread" of those unconventional arms, Trump was alluding to the organization that is the likeliest recipient of Syria's chemical weapons arsenal—Hezbollah, Iran's praetorian guard in the eastern Mediterranean. ...
Genevieve Casagrande at ISW:
The U.S strike against an Assad regime base in northern Syria on April 6, 2017 opened the door to a reorientation of American strategy in the Middle East. President Trump’s action could reset the terms of America’s confrontation of other hostile states, such as North Korea. President Trump may be shifting away from a narrow focus on the Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS) as the strategic priority in Syria and toward a new approach. It remains unclear whether he will take additional action against the Assad regime, but his statement after the strike appeared to signal an emerging anti-Assad policy. Responses from major international powers and key regional actors indicate that these parties perceive the strike represents a possible strategic inflection rather than an isolated incident. President Trump has the opportunity to exploit the effects of his limited action to pursue America’s strategic goals.
Regional actors responded as if a wider American reorientation against Assad is possible. Traditional U.S. partners in the region like Saudi Arabia and Jordan supported the strike. Turkey also praised the strike and called for additional U.S. action against the Assad regime. These reactions indicate that the strike created an opportunity for President Trump to repair America’s relationships with traditional partners, which had begun to reorient toward Russia or to act unilaterally in dangerous ways in the absence of American leadership. European states under Russian pressure also supported the strike ...

2017-04-02

World Today: 2017-04-02 Sunday

Russia:  Navalny-inspired protests more widespread than expected.  Economist:
And yet on March 26th, 17 years to the day after Mr Putin was first elected, tens of thousands of Russians took to the streets in nearly 100 cities to demonstrate against corruption, in the largest protests since 2012.The protests began in Vladivostok and rolled across the country to Moscow and St Petersburg, which saw the largest crowds. Riot police arrested more than 1,000 people in Moscow alone. ... The marches came in response to a call from Aleksei Navalny, an opposition leader and anti-corruption campaigner who wants to run for president next year. Despite the government’s crackdown on activism, Mr Navalny has doggedly continued publishing exposés of corruption on social networks and YouTube, and expanding his volunteer organisation. His latest target is Dmitry Medvedev, the prime minister.
Stratfor

There will be more demonstrations this weekend in Russia, following protests last week that were the largest in five years. As details emerge about the demonstrations and their organizers, a new picture of Russian discontent is materializing. Unsurprisingly, the Kremlin is choosing to respond with crackdowns rather than by addressing the underlying issues causing the dissent.  Last weekend's protests were organized by opposition heavyweight Alexei Navalny, who traveled through half a dozen Russian cities to promote his anti-corruption campaigns against Kremlin elites....

Both articles cite the broader geographic range of this year's protests as compared to previous years, the focus on corruption and economic issues, the role of social media, and the youth of the participants.

Africa / USA:  Security issues likely to dominate Africa relations under Trump.   Reed Kramer at AllAfrica:  'On 30 March, the Pentagon announced President Donald Trump's approval of revised combat rules for U.S. forces fighting the Al Queada-affiliated Al Shabaab in Somalia, reducing protections for civilians as the U.S. military launches an intensified assault in east Africa. Earlier this month, the White House announced a budget blueprint that includes a $54 billion rise in overall military spending, alongside deep cuts for the State Department and international assistance.'  Kramer also notes that White House National Security Adviser H. R. McMaster has chosen Rudolph Atallah to be the National Security Council's Senior Director for Africa.

Germany:  Government probes suspected Turkish spy network.  Patrick Poole at PJM reports that investigations into the Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (DITIB) reveal Turkish intelligence activities through Turkish-controlled mosques in Germany.  German authorities have raided the homes of DTIB officials.

History:  US enters the Great War.  One hundred years ago, President Wilson asked Congress for a declaration of war against Germany.

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