Syria will take center stage at the UN this week when world leaders convene for the UN General Assembly. Recent Russian moves in Syria, the fight against ISIS, and the refugee crisis in Europe brought about by the turmoil in Syria have combined to push all non-Syrian matters off the table. With the weekend drawing to a close, now is a good time to take a brief look at what has been happening in and around Syria over the past few days in preparation for what promises to be a busy week in New York.
Obama And Putin To Meet Monday
In the midst of increasing tensions between the United States and Russia, President Obama and Vladimir Putin will meet on Monday in New York when both leaders are in town to address the UN General Assembly. The two sides appear to be at odds as to what the main topic of discussion is going to be. The White House has stated that the primary subject will be events in eastern Ukraine. Moscow, on the other hand, insists that the discussion will revolve around Syria. Neither side can seem to decide who called the meeting either. The Russians insist the meeting was set up by “mutual agreement” while the White House has said it is being held at “Putin’s request.”
It remains to be seen just what fruit the meeting will bear for Washington, if any. The US will likely attempt to advance talks on Syria at some of the General Assembly meetings next week. Russia will probably look to do something similar. Through the diplomatic activity and meetings though, military steps continue to be taken. Russian combat aircraft are continuing to arrive in Syria. The amount of activity around Latakia suggests that the Russian military contingent will be ready to begin conducting combat operations soon. Whether those operations are against ISIS or anti-government forces remains to be seen.
France Begins Air Strikes In Syria
For the first time in the conflict against ISIS, French jets have gone into action against ISIS targets in Syria. Up to now, France has restricted its military involvement to Iraq. Great Britain has held back from flying missions over Syria too, although last month a drone strike was launched against two UK citizens in Syria.
The French air strikes indicate a change in policy for Paris. Thus far, France has resisted flying missions against ISIS targets in Syria because it could indirectly help Bashar al-Assad and his government forces. Now the priority is shifting from getting rid of al-Assad to combating ISIS and France appears to be accepting this.
The EU and the Refugee Crisis
In spite of emergency summits, inter-state diplomacy among EU members, and countless behind-the scene meetings in European capitals, the EU has still not constructed a collective response to the throngs of refugees streaming in from Syria and Iraq. In all likelihood, a united front will never be put forth by EU members. Too much has happened now.
Internal backlash is beginning to be felt in Germany. Angela Merkel’s popularity has taken a major hit. Her decision to open German borders to a large number of refugees is not being embraced by many Germans. Fears and concerns are increasing on the part of German citizens, and cementing into political opposition.