Watchlist: SDF Fight to Retake Last ISIS Stronghold

Week of February 25th, 2019

Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) announce the Deir Al-Zor offensive in 2017 (Source: Wikimedia Commons)


Bashir Declares State of Emergency in Sudan as Protests Continue

Since mid-December, Sudanese protestors have been demanding that President Omar Al-Bashir, who has been in power for 30 years, resign. However, in response to these protests, Bashir today declared a state of emergency. Many predicted Bashir would do this, and protests continued and even grew as he made the announcement. The main opposition party, the Umma National Party, encouraged protestors to continue protesting until Bashir steps down. In declaring a state of emergency, Bashir dissolved the government and banned public protests, and added regulations on carrying gold and foreign currencies. With protests unlikely to stop soon, Bashir’s future as Sudanese leader seems high precarious. ZACK BLUMBERG


Kim Jong-un En Route to Vietnam

The Supreme Leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea Kim Jong-un is chugging along, by train, to Hanoi where he and US President Donald Trump will meet for their second round of diplomatic talks. At the first summit last June in Singapore, the leaders signed an agreement that offered a path to denuclearization. The document is vague and little action has been taken since its signing. The two leaders are set to meet Feb. 27 and 28. While many pundits believe that further talks of denuclearization would be moot, small and concrete concessions are expected. Such concessions, which may be in the form of cultural and social exchanges, are increasingly advocated for in Seoul. This round of talks may hold tremendous consequences for Asia and more immediately, for the East Asia countries of China, South Korea and Japan. WILL FEUER

Kim Jong-un Heads to Hanoi

(Source: Wikimedia Commons)


Cuban Voters Head to Polls, Approve New Constitution

On Monday, Cubans went to the polls and decided to adopt a new constitution which would enshrine private property, promote foreign investment, and impose presidential term limits. This vote is historic in the fact that the Cuban people have rarely been allowed to voice any opposition to the government’s position. In this case, the government is advocating for the people to vote for the constitutional modifications. Throughout the process of drafting this new constitution, the Cuban government sought to preserve the core of governmental processes but also sought considerations and suggestions from the people, holding sessions to hear their concerns. The constitution was overwhelmingly approved but there was some opposition resulting from a sizable anti-status quo contingent in Cuba. According to the Cuban government, 86.85 percent of voters (6.82 million) ratified the constitution and 9 percent (706,000) cast “No” votes. Nevertheless, the fact that Cubans are going to the polls in the first place, with many unafraid to voice opposition, is a major step forward for the Communist country. BENJAMIN MILLER

Campaign Poster from the 2019 Constitutional Referendum (Source: Wikimedia Commons)


Parliamentary Elections in Moldova Yield No Majority

After what many consider the dirtiest campaign in Moldova’s history, Sunday’s elections yielded no clear majority party. The country’s political scene is split between Russian sympathizers, like the Socialist party, and pro-Western groups, like the ruling Democrats and the ACUM. Just two days before the elections, two officials of the ACUM claimed authorities attempted to poison them and submitted toxicology reports showing elevated levels of mercury in their blood. While there is otherwise no proof of foul play, ACUM officials believe this is just the next step in an already vicious parliamentary race. Accusations of vote buying, Russian election meddling, and ties to organized crime have circulated throughout the election season, with no side left unscathed. Third-party election monitors find little evidence that corruption infringed on fundamental voting rights, but have backed up claims of vote buying by state officials. As the EU continues to put distance between itself and the allegedly corrupt Moldovan government, the country’s leaders will need to form a ruling coalition or risk losing their positions in another election cycle. ANNA HAYNES

Middle East

SDF Continue Fight Against Last ISIS Stronghold in Syria

Over the weekend, US-backed and Kurdish-led fighters of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have been nearing the end of their last territorial battle against the Islamic State. In 2014, ISIS territory stretched from Western Syria to Eastern Iraq as the extremist group controlled an area nearly the size of the United Kingdom. Nearly five years later, the Islamic State now controls less than half a kilometer near the village of Baghouz on the Syrian-Iraqi border, in Deir Al-Zor province. A spokesman for the SDF said on Friday that there are nearly two thousand civilians left in Baghouz, with an estimated one thousand Islamic State militants remaining who have not surrendered. As of February 24, the SDF have evacuated more civilians, but these evacuations remain slow, delaying an official announcement of the Islamic State’s territorial defeat in Syria. While territorial defeat of the extremist group is imminent, most analysts are certain that this win—and the likely US withdrawal of troops—is not the final victory in the war against ISIS and Islamic extremism worldwide. CHRISTINA CINCILLA

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