World roundup: March 29 2023
Stories from Israel-Palestine, Sudan, Colombia, and elsewhere
In today’s global news:
Worldometer is tracking COVID-19 cases and fatalities.
The New York Times is tracking global vaccine distribution.
Another apparent Israeli missile attack wounded at least two Syrian soldiers near Damascus early Thursday, according to state media. There may be more to say about this strike tomorrow.
The Arab Center’s Gregory Aftandilian outlines the de facto negotiation that’s currently under way regarding Syria’s political reintegration into the Arab world:
Such meetings and visits apparently produced a joint Arab plan for Syria’s reintegration. In mid-March, it was reported that several Arab nations led by Jordan have proposed to help rebuild Syria. Substantial sums of money in the billions of dollars would be provided to Syria (presumably from the Gulf states), and these states would then use their influence to persuade the United States and European countries to lift their sanctions against Damascus. In return, Assad would have to engage in talks with the Syrian opposition, accept Arab troops in the country to protect Syrian refugees wanting to return home, crack down on drug smuggling, and reduce Iran’s involvement in Syria.
This plan, however, seems to have little chance of being fully accepted by Assad. He is reportedly opposed to having any troops from Arab states inserted into Syria, even for the purpose of facilitating the return of refugees. Moreover, various talks between the Assad regime and the opposition have taken place during the ill-fated Geneva process, but with little to show for them. Assad thus has little reason to be conciliatory now, given the fact that most of the country is now back in his government’s hands. In addition, it seems doubtful that Assad would significantly reduce the Iranian role in Syria given that Tehran’s assistance to the regime was one of the factors that allowed it to eventually win the civil war. And Iran remains an important source of weapons and advisors for both the Assad regime and its proxy forces, namely Hezbollah in Lebanon. Meanwhile, drug smuggling, particularly of the synthetic amphetamine known as Captagon, which is the drug of choice for youth in the Gulf states, is reportedly a major money maker for the Assad regime, despite the regime’s supposed efforts to oppose the drug trade.
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