Ceasefire in Aleppo: Is It Really Over?
Since Tuesday, December 13th there has been a supposed ceasefire in Aleppo, Syria, resulting in the outing of rebel forces in the area and the Syrian government regaining control of the city. However, since the ceasefire was declared there have been numerous accounts of explosions, executions, and civilian attacks by the Syrian government and rebel leaders.
While the fighting in Aleppo may be coming to an end, this likely does not mean that the conflict itself is over. The outcome of this war will depend upon all the outside actors' contributions and actions as well. Russia and the United States will have to come up with issues to resolve conflict brought on by their involvement, and the focus of the nation of Syria will now likely shift to maintaining government control and rebuilding the country torn apart by civil war.
However, typically when there is any form of uprising against a totalitarian government, even if one period of rebellion fails, there is almost always more to follow. And this is likely what we'll see in Aleppo and throughout Syria in the months following the supposed end of the conflict.
Evacuation of Aleppo Begins
After the declaration of a ceasefire in Aleppo, vehicles began transporting hundreds of civilians out of the war-ravaged city. At the start of the evacuation, 53 buses, ambulances, and other vehicles brought more than a thousand citizens from the Rebel held section of Eastern Aleppo.
Civilians are allowed to choose whether they leave or stay in Aleppo, where staying would mean living under regime control. Many are leaving due to fear of massacres that would potentially be carried out by the regime. However, the ecavuation has not been entirely peaceful itself. There have been reports of militias loyal to the al-Assad regime opening fire on evacuees trying to flee the city, with a few deaths being reported as well. Although it might be off to a somewhat rocky start, I think that removing the civilians from Aleppo is the first and most important step that needs to be taken in the humanitarian cause. Nearly half a million civilians have lost their lives to the fighting, with over 50,000 of them being children. Removing them from the area is an incredible step in coming to a solution, and ending the senseless killing taking place in Aleppo.
December 16th marked the third day in the evacuation of Eastern Aleppo--a day which many felt could be the last. Disputes between the sides fighting and those working to make the evacuation work led to a halt in the process. During this pause there have been reports of civilian deaths, while civilians and workers trying to evacuate them have not been allowed to leave the city. This could potentially mean the end of the peaceful ceasefire agreement,
Hopefully the evacuation resumes without any further conflict. These civilians want to leave the war torn city and hopefully begin new lives away from all the chaos. I feel that there should be some sort of monitering taking place by an outside entity, like the United Nations or other humanitarian organizations.
I try to keep domestic stories out of this page, but I feel as if this is news worth sharing. Donald Trump has officially selected Exxon Mobil C.E.O. Rex Tillerson as his Secretary of State. Tillerson has several ties with Moscow in oil investments, which could potentially cause a conflict of interest for the Trump administration and Russian government. I'm not claiming to be an expert in this type of thing by any means, but to me this looks like a step in the wrong direction for foreign policy.
Rex Tillerson has no shortage of business skills, which is what got him into the world of global politics in the first place. Running an oil company requires lots of investments and relations with foreign countries. But doesn't it seem odd that someone who owns one of the largest companies in the world will now be in charge of foreign affairs? Are we going to question the possibility of shady backroom business negotiations sliding their way into our foreign policy simply for this man's own financial gain?What makes me question the choice even more is the fact that ExxonMobil, the eighth largest corporation in the world, is also the largest direct descendent of the Standard Oil Company, which is the company responsible for the government's actions against large corporations controlling politics in the early 1900s.
So, the man in charge of a company that came directly from one of the companies responsible for the United States completely shifting its attitude towards business and the role it plays in politics, will now be in charge of all our foreign affairs? It's definitely an interesting choice. I don't doubt that Tillerson will do well in the position. But I'm a little more doubtful about his motives and intentions while holding office.
Ten people were killed and thirty-four were injured in a terrorist attack in Karak, Jordan on December 18th. Gunmen reportedly opened fire on police officers and proceeded into a 12th century castle, a popular tourist destination in Karak.
Inside, ten people were killed, including seven security guards, two Jordanian civilians, and a Canadian tourist. There was a standoff that lasted for about an hour and ended in all four terrosits involved being killed, according to officials.
After the attack, security and police forces combed the building and founde several automatic weapons and explosive devices.
Jordan is in a region of the world that is plagued by numerous terrorist organizations, but the U.S. ally has maintained fairly stable security against terrorism, both domestic and foreign, and attacks are rare in the country. But when you're in a region of the world where several neighboring countries are home to terrorist organizations it isn't always possible to keep everyone out.
Perhaps other nations in the area, as well as other global powers with the ability to fund such programs, should adopt similar security means. This could help contain terrorism and eventually help crack down on different terror groups.
Monday, December 19th marks the beginning of a new agreement for Aleppo. Russia, France, and other nations have reached a compromise that will allow the United Nations to monitor the evacuation of Aleppo's civilians.
I think this is one of the best things the world can do to ensure that humanitarian aid in the war-torn city is sufficient and that those trying to leave are able to do so safely. For citizens here, and much of the rest of the world, Aleppo has become synonomous with hell. I feel that allowing UN monitoring of the process will make it much safer and will ultimately help keep things peaceful in the region for the time being.
In the mean time, all we can hope for is a safe journey out for those who are still there.
On Monday, December 19th a truck was driven into a crowd of shoppers at a Christmas market in Berlin in what is an apparent act of terror. Twelve people were killed and fourty-eight others were injured in the attack.
Though ISIS did not claim direct responsibility for the attacks, they are claiming infuence in the methods used. The Islamic State frequently encourages the use of vehicles as weapons of mass destruction and terror, and have used this method before. This attack was one of several that occured over the week, some of which were allegedly enacted by the Islamic State.
I feel that in order to prevent and/or work to solve the issue of terrorism, we need to reevaluate how our world leaders are carrying out their terrorism policies. All too often we see violence being countered with more violence, which only furthers the problem. I'm not saying that we should try to befriend Islamic State extremists, or any other terrorist group, or any group trying to cause harm to others... But I do feel that working to create policy that focuses on nonviolence is a key step in truly fighting this battle.
Monday night in the Turkish capital of Ankara, Russian ambassador Andrey Karlov was assasinated at an art exhibit.
The gunman was a 22-year-old off-duty police officer who shot Karlov from behind several times. He then proceeded to cry out "God is great!" and "don't forget Aleppo, don't forget Syria." The apparent terroristic attack ended with a shootout with police in which the assailant was killed.
This was perceived undoubtedly as an attempt to disrupt relations between Turkey and Russia, which have been fragile since a falling-out last year. However, the attack seemed to have the reverse effect, with Russia and Turkey both vowing to work on investigating the case together and working together to fight terrorism as a whole. It makes one wonder if that is perhaps what the assailant was really striving to achieve. Though it was clear that he was upset about what was happening in Syria, he may have also been trying to call out Russia and Turkey on their involvement in the conflict, and attempting to bring both countries into perspective. Unfortunately, we will likely never know what his true intentions were.
On Tuesday, December 20th, a fireworks market near Mexico City burst into flames caused by an unknown explosion that set off a chain reaction of fireworks. When the flames were finally extinguished, there were thirty-two total fatalities with more than seventy people suffering injuries. Authorities are unsure of what caused the explosion, and prosecutors are saying that many of the bodies recovered are too charred to identify.
Many of the survivors, including severely burned children, are being brought to U.S. hospitals due to better treatment being available. I feel that the U.S. and nations that have the available resources to help in situations like this should take a more proactive approach in giving aid to those who need it. Incidents like this happen often, but can be especially devastating if there is loss of life that could have been prevented with better medical coverage. We should actively seek to help those who need it when things like this happen, especially as a nation with better medical treatment availability than much of the world.
Police began a manhunt following the attack in Berlin on Monday, detaining one suspect who was later released. Now, the manhunt is continuing as German authoritites pursue 24-year-old Anis Amri, a native of Tunisia whose identification papers were later found in the truck used in the attack.
Authorities are warning that Amri is potentially armed and dangerous, and anyone who comes into contact should not try to detain the man themselves.
It's interesting to me that his I.D. papers were found in the truck; it almost seems too good to be true. Could they have been planted to send authorities on a wild goose chase?
Amri has a previous record, having been arrested in August with forged documents. That gives cause to suspect that perhaps these documents could also be faulty? Not necessarily fake or forged, but not there because Amri was there.
Amri has been known to be in contact with radical Islamist organizations, according to German officials. However, it still seems fishy to me. You would think that someone who has been arrested with fake documents and is on a watch list for terrorism (he was also being watched after attempting to purchase a firearm) would know better than to lose his identification papers at the scene of the crime. Maybe he's just really bad at his job? I guess we'll have to keep following the story.
The Syrian regime now says it has full control over Aleppo, which marks a major turning point in the Syrian Civil War. They have taken control over all areas in which the rebels previously held control.
Heavy snowfall in Aleppo is causing delays in the evacuation of civilians from Eastern Aleppo as well, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross. Though Syrian control may mark the end of the conflict, Syrian regime control over the country is what caused the rebel uprisings that began the war in the first place.
Ties with Russia are also cause for alarm in the situation, considering Russia was responsible for a large amount of civilian deaths in its airstrikes in Aleppo. I think that we need to keep a close watch on regime activity to ensure that there is not a totalitarian imposition as there was back in 2011, which is what caused the war. Hopefully U.N. officials will be able to monitor activity in Aleppo and the rest of Syria until relations settle down a bit with Syria, Russia and its allies, and the rest of the world.