A Delayed Bloodbath in Syria

A Delayed Bloodbath in Syria

On Monday, Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan agreed to establish demilitarized zones around rebel-held territory in Syria’s Idlib province. If you haven’t been following closely, Idlib, located in northwestern Syria along the Turkish border, is home to thousands of rebels and foreign fighters who have taken up arms against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad during the country’s six-year civil war. It’s also home to about three million civilians—many of them refugees from other war-torn parts of Syria—who risk getting caught in a bloodbath as Assad, with Russian help, seeks to crush one of the last bastions of organized resistance to his regime.


With the UN warning that the battle over Idlib could be a humanitarian catastrophe, Erdogan wants to avoid any more refugees crossing into Turkey, which already hosts 3.5 million Syrians. Putin, for his part, is happy to play the strong statesman in this intractable conflict, as it helps to advance his own country’s interests in any post-war settlement.

The good news: The agreement to create a 15-25 kilometer buffer zone that will be patrolled by Russian and Turkish troops should put any incursion by Syrian forces into Idlib on hold for now. Assad won’t attack without the green light from Putin, and Syrian forces had already suspended most airstrikes in recent days. In theory, it should also give millions of civilians a safe place to hunker down instead of forcing them to seek uncertain refuge in Turkey.

The bad news: Any respite may only be temporary. There is no guarantee that thousands of battle-hardened jihadists and other rebels will agree to retreat from the buffer zone under vague terms set by Erdogan and Putin. And even if they do, civilians elsewhere in Idlib will still be in danger when Assad makes his move. A humanitarian disaster in Idlib has been delayed, but it hasn’t been averted.

The bigger picture: What’s more, as Syria’s horrific civil war grinds towards its conclusion, the country will remain a battleground of competing geopolitical interests, with Russia, Iran, Turkey, the US, Israel, the Syrian government, the Kurds, and foreign-backed jihadists all jockeying for position ahead of any peace settlement. With so much military hardware rolling, shooting, sailing, and flying around a patchworked warzone, the risk of a miscalculation that blows up the powder keg are high: consider that on Monday a Russian reconnaissance plane was shot down by a Syrian missile that was actually aiming to hit an Israeli jet that had attacked Iranian forces. Untangle that and you see the problem.

Read more → Syria’s Final Battle

This week, the market value of Tencent, China's biggest video game company, nosedived after a state media outlet suggested that online gaming was as addictive and destructive as opium. Tencent immediately pledged to cap the number of hours people can play, and to keep minors off its platforms.

It's the latest example of a months-long crackdown on major Chinese technology firms that until recently were viewed as some of the world's most powerful and successful companies, as well as a source of national pride. Beijing's about-face on its own tech titans could have big implications for China, and beyond.

More Show less

Whenever Burkina Faso is in the news, it's often about how the crisis-ridden country has got caught up in the crosshairs of horrific jihadist violence plaguing the Sahel.

But this week, the nation of 20 million was celebrating because Hugues Fabrice Zango won its first-ever Olympic medal after finishing third in the men's triple jump in Tokyo.

More Show less

Should people get COVID vaccine booster shots? Not yet, says the World Health Organization, which is pushing for rich nations or those with access to jabs to hold off until at least the end of September so all countries get to fully vaccinate at least 10 percent of their populations before some jump ahead with boosters. But the WHO's call has fallen on deaf ears in nations like Israel, France, Germany and Russia, which are already planning to offer boosters, in part to better protect people against the more contagious delta variant. What's more, mRNA vaccine makers Pfizer and Moderna are recommending supplemental doses for the same reason. The problem is that, beyond the obvious moral imperative for equal access to vaccines, if the rich continue hoarding jabs while vaccination rates stay low elsewhere, the virus will continue to thrive — and mutate into new, potentially even more infectious variants that sooner or later will reach every corner of the planet.

More Show less

80: If polar ice caps continue to melt at their current pace due to climate change, 80 percent of all emperor penguins will be wiped out by the end of the century because they need the ice for breeding and keeping their offspring safe. American authorities want to list emperor penguins, which only live in Antarctica, as an endangered species so that US fishing vessels will be required to protect them when operating in their habitat.

More Show less

Jon Lieber, Managing Director of the United States for Eurasia Group, shares updates on recent COVID-19 policy developments:

The Biden administration extended an eviction moratorium even after the Supreme Court said they couldn't, what's next?

Well, the CDC imposed a nationwide eviction moratorium in light of increased risk from evicted people because of the coronavirus pandemic. The Supreme Court in June ruled that they (CDC) overextended their authority in doing so and mandated that the moratorium expire on schedule in July. A group of progressive activists weren't happy about this and raised a huge stink in Congress, but Congress recessed for their August vacation before they could solve the problem, putting big pressure on President Biden to extend the moratorium even though he said he didn't think that it would pass constitutional muster. The CDC did it anyway, extending the moratorium until October 3rd, which is a time that's short enough to probably avoid it being overturned by lawsuits, but long enough that Congress has time to figure out how to either extend it on a bipartisan basis or put more money into a rental assistance fund that few people have taken advantage of so far. This whole incident shows the power of progressive activists in the Biden administration who were able to elevate the profile of this issue and potentially prevent millions of people from losing their homes this summer.

More Show less

On GZERO World, Ian Bremmer takes a look at the yin and the yang of alcohol's role in high-level diplomacy and society at large. Alcohol can bring people together just as easily as it can tear them apart. From a 1995 Clinton/Yeltsin Summit where a drunk Yeltsin almost derailed Bosnian peace talks, to Obama's Beer Summit and the recent G7 Summit, booze plays a part in how world leaders interact. Globally, alcohol consumption has been steadily increasing, by over 70 percent between 1990 and 2017, according to one report. . Low and middle-income nations like Vietnam, India, and China are a driving force behind that trend, with drinking in Southeast Asia rising by over 34 percent between 2010 and 2017. And yet, amidst this global booze boom, the world has only grown more and more divided.

Watch the episode: The (political) power of alcohol

Equestrian jumpers, and their horses, are disciplined species. They don't appreciate surprises very much.

But many participants were caught off guard during this week's individual jumping qualifiers in Tokyo by a very daunting statue of a sumo wrestler on the hurdle course (which is dotted with statues paying homage to traditional Japanese culture, like geisha kimonos, cherry blossoms, and taiko drums).

More Show less

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter, Signal

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal

Does alcohol help bring the world together?

GZERO World Clips

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal