Weekly Round Up 14 – 20 May

Welcome back to the weekly round up! After a short hiatus we are back with our picks of three important stories you might have missed in last week’s news:

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Crushing the Resistance

Who?
Syrian Military

What?
Crushing the last pockets of rebels

Where?
Al-Hajar Al-Aswad District, southern Damascus, the Syrian capital

Why is it important, relevant, worth consideration or keeping an eye on?
Having cleared the Al Ghouta Enclave in April, the Syrian military faces the last rebel held enclave in greater Damascus.
Although this will make for a significant victory for Bashar al-Assad, much of the country remains outside of the Damascus’ control.
The fighting in recent months has been the fiercest faced by Syrian forces so far in the conflict that is entering it’s eighth year.
As for Assad’s desire to take back every last inch of Syrian soil, there are three areas that the Syrian forces could clash with other state actors in the region

The first of these is the United States whose forces are situated in eastern and north-eastern Syria to support the Kurdish Forces there. The United States has long supported various rebel factions during the course of the conflict.
In the north-west, Turkey has deployed troops to combat the Kurdish rebel forces in that region, which Ankara regards as terrorists, and simultaneously create for itself a buffer zone.
Despite many open statements of withdrawal of many of its combat forces, the Russian Federation still maintains a sizeable contingent of forces in its two bases: The airbase in Hmeimim, and the naval station that is being expanded in Tartus. The Russian Federation continues to support the Assad regime in Damascus and has seemingly withdrawn its support for the Kurdish rebel groups.
Finally, in the south-west of Syria, Israel has launched strikes into Syria against Iranian backed forces that are stationed too close to the border for Israel’s comfort. The potential for conflict between Israel and Syria or a proxy conflict with Iran is high, and the situation merits further observation as it develops in the coming weeks.

Article by the Reuters Staff:
https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-syria/syria-seeks-to-crush-insurgent-pocket-denies-evacuation-deal-idUSKCN1IL06X

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Deadly Virus outbreak

Who?
World Health Organization and other International Health groups

What?
Attempting to contain Ebola outbreak

Where?
Democratic Republic of Congo

Why is it important, relevant, worth consideration or keeping an eye on?
In late 2013 a deadly virus broke out in West Africa that would become known as the West African Ebola Epidemic (More info about the epidemic http://www.who.int/csr/disease/ebola/one-year-report/virus-origin/en/) The epidemic had been contained by June of 2016.
According to the World Health Organization the most recent outbreak has killed 25 people already in the DRC since early April. This week the first vaccinations have begun in Mbandaka. Mbandaka is a sizeable city in western DR Congo, and sits on the confluence of the Congo and Ruki rivers.
In response to the outbreak experts from Guinea have come to the region to help administer the vaccines.
One of the biggest difficulties faced by the authorities is the logistics of delivering the vaccines to the remote ares of DR Congo and keeping them at the required temperature of -80 Celsius.

To read more:
https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-ebola-congo/congo-to-begin-ebola-vaccinations-on-monday-idUSKCN1IL0EV

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Political Progress for Iraq?

Who?
Muqtada al-Sadr

What?
Anti-foreign intervention bloc wins parliamentary election

Where?
Baghdad, Iraq

Why is it important, relevant, worth consideration or keeping an eye on?
Al-Sadr is famous for his role in leading the insurgency in Iraq against coalition forces after the 2003 invasion. This warrior turned politician has won as resolute victory in the recent parliamentary elections for himself and his Sa’eroun political bloc. In a statement by one of his spokesmen, their guiding principle will be the sovereignty of Iraq.
One of the biggest challenges faced by Al-Sadr will be courting the pro-Iran faction in order to form a coalition government.
This new change in political direction for Iraq could be the dawn of a new era of much needed stability for the conflict torn country. Balancing the influence and interests of Iran in the country will be a deciding factor however.

For a more detailed explanation find the AP Story by Qassim Abdul-Zahra and Philip Issa: https://apnews.com/74241a074cf0459180178e83739606e5

And the Reuters take on the creation of a coalition by Raya Jalabi:
https://www.reuters.com/article/us-iraq-election/cleric-sadr-meets-iraq-pm-abadi-hinting-at-coalition-idUSKCN1IL071

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