October 2018 — CANVAS

Weekly Report: 12 October 2018

Supports of the 21F referendum gathered in Santa Cruz, Bolivia (paginasiete) Syria In 2015, there was a closure of a vital trade route named the Nassib crossing. The route is along the border between Jordan and Syria and previously played a crucial role in transporting goods between Turkey, the Gulf and Lebanon. As of this week, Assad has claimed that there have been talks between Syria and Jordan to reopen the Nassib, but Jordan states that more talks need to be held between the two countries before any final decision can be made. If it reopens, neighboring countries such as Lebanon would then have access to millions of dollars worth of exports and imports. While this may be a positive step for neighboring countries, some diplomats and officials say that the reopening would help Damascus show that the Syrian war is coming to an end, and thus give President Assad a major win. This week, there were talks between Russia and Syria about potentially reconstructing gas transportation infrastructure, underground gas storage facilities, oil and gas production, along with oil refineries in Syria. According to the RIA news agency, Syria must first come up with the sufficient funds necessary to undergo these projects. After Russia and Turkey made a deal last month to create a buffer zone and demilitarize rebels in Idlib, reports say it is complete. This means that heavy weapons such as rockets, mortars and missiles have been removed as of Monday. Further, transit traffic will be restored on the M4 and M5 highways by the end of 2018. Bolivia This week, former president, Carlos Mesa, who is running...

A Small Spark of Hope for Democracy in the Indian Ocean

Maldives President-elect Ibrahim Mohamed Solih participates in celebrations after winning the presidential elections on Sept. 29. (Ahmed Shurau/AFP/Getty Images) From the genocide of the Rohingya, to the violent crackdown on peaceful protesters in Nicaragua, to the surprising success of right-wing populism in Brazil, to the increasingly virulent strains of isolationist nationalism that have been taking root in eastern Europe, it’s a grim time for democracy around the world. But an unexpected source of hope has emerged from the Maldives, an island nation known for little more than its idyllic beaches and long history of authoritarian rule. Since 2013, the reign of President Abdulla Yameen brought mass abuses of human rights to the Maldives: the jailing or exiling of opposition leaders, increased control over state institutions, withdrawal from Commonwealth, and widespread corruption are only the tip of the iceberg for the small, tropical country. But on Sept. 23, over 90 percent of Maldivians voted in the first general elections since Yameen came to power five years ago—and voted overwhelmingly for the opposition, Ibrahim Mohamed Solih of the Maldivian Democratic Party, who won after receiving 58 percent of the votes. But while a celebration is in order, it’s worth remembering that the Maldives has been here before. When two of us first came to work with Maldivians in 2006, we were impressed by the brave and committed Maldivian people, who acted time and time again with courage and talent to defend democracy within their country. And though both of us spent more than a decade with brave Serbian activists fighting the Slobodan Milosevic regime, and years after that training and educating democracy defenders from Kiev, Ukraine, and...

Weekly Report: 5 October 2018

Protesters in Vietnam waving flags. (Asia Times via Facebook) Syria After a terrorist attack left 25 people dead in Iran on September 22nd of this year, Tehran launched 6 missiles in Syria at Islamic State militants. Iran has accused U.S.-backed Gulf Arab states on causing the attack in Iran last month and thus decided to target “takfiri terrorists,” which are backed by Washington. The Guards of the Islamic Republic (Iran’s most powerful military) stated that “Our iron fist [missiles] is prepared to deliver a decisive and crushing response to any wickedness and mischief of the enemies,” making it clear that Iran is willing to fire back after any attack from enemies. It is not recent news that the administration plans to keep troops in Syria until they have ‘defeated’ ISIS, but just recently, it seems there is another motive for the U.S. to stay in the war-torn country. This week, James Jeffrey, the representative for Syria at the State Department mentioned that there will be a continued military mission in Syria until Iranian forces are out of the country. It is believed that Assad’s government is backed by at least 10,000 fighters who follow orders from Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps. They are believed to be the ‘backbone’ of Assad’s accomplishment in gaining back territory from rebels. Further, it is unlikely that Iran will stop aiding the Assad government any time in the near future, meaning that U.S. troops are likely to be in Syria for an extended period of time. Although Syria’s government has claimed that it is now ready to accept refugees’ return, the United Nations have urged...