FOCUS on Pariah Leaders: Bashar al-Assad

In early October, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad received a phone call from King Abdullah II of Jordan, their first since Abdullah called for Assad to step down in 2011 during the Arab Spring, according to Al Jazeera. Jordan is not alone in normalizing relations with their estranged Arab neighbor—Egypt and the UAE have both contacted the Syrian government. Jordan and the UAE have come to agreements to improve economic ties and resume trade with Syria, despite U.S. sanctions.

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Turkey-U.S. Relations Deteriorating as Turkey Seeks Russian Alliance

On September 24, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that Turkey will consider buying a second S-400 missile system from Russia, drawing international scrutiny. This announcement concerned United States defense officials, particularly following the events of 2020, in which Turkey was kicked out of NATO’s F-35 program for similar actions, reports ABC News.

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Denmark Revokes Residency of Syrian Refugees

Denmark has recently come under international criticism for its decision to revoke Syrian refugees’ residency permits. It is the first European country to do so. This is especially surprising given that Denmark was the first country to sign the United Nations Refugee Convention in 1952, according to VICE.

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FOCUS on Separatist Movements: Kurdistan 

Among global separatist movements, the Kurds stand as the largest nation without an independent state and make up the fourth-largest ethnic group in the Middle East, according to BBC News. There is an estimated population of 30 million Kurds scattered across the mountainous regions within the borders of Armenia, Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey. The Kurds often say that they have “no friends but the mountains.” The Economist also reports that “internal division has been one of their worst enemies.”

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The Biden Administration Must Make Amends for Trump’s Middle East Policy

As the first half of President Joe Biden’s 100 days passes by, many are now beginning to analyze the trajectory of his term. The most recent airstrikes in Syria on February 25, 2021 against Iranian backed militias, have seemingly set the tone for his Middle Eastern policy. Many Americans and foreign policy analysts now wonder where the Biden Administration will go moving forward. 

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President Biden Orders Airstrikes in Syria

The U.S. resumed its counterterrorism efforts under President Joe Biden, who ordered a targeted airstrike in Syria against Iranian-backed militia groups on February 25. CNBC reports that the controversial action was solely directed by the President without conferring with Congress While  congressional leadership was briefed by the Pentagon a day before the airstrikes were launched, they did not pass an authorization for the use of force in Syria.

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The Arab Spring One Decade Later

In 2020, 26 journalists were imprisoned by the Egyptian government, the Committee to Protect Journalists reports. This past November, a prominent women’s rights activist was executed in broad-daylight in Benghazi, Libya, one of many targeted that year, Human Rights Watch adds. Just this month, a protestor was killed after Tunisian police, who were cracking down on protesters demanding social justice, fired tear gas.

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Syria Turns to Russia for Aid Under Crippling U.S. Sanctions

President Bashar al-Assad of Syria has stated intentions to expand business ties with Russia in response to new, crippling U.S. sanctions under the Caesar Act, according to Reuters. The Syrian economy has suffered enormously under these sanctions, as its economy was already struggling prior to implementation of the Caesar Act. According to Reuters, this has resulted in the Syrian lira losing 80 percent of its value. Most citizens are experiencing extreme poverty.

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