China and the Philippines withdrew their ships from the Scarborough Shoal after a tense standoff in contested fishing waters. Wars have started over lesser disagreements. There’s no end sight to the cycle of provocation and pushback. ASEAN has failed to act – non-claimant states are loathe to risk their economic relations with China by siding with their southeast Asian counterparts. And China is quick to react to perceived slights using import bans including Norweigan fish after a Dalai Lama visit (no more smoked salmon from you, literally). Philippine fruit was the latest during the recent stand-off. The Chinese government also banned tourist travel (yes, travel agencies still need government approval to organize trips from China to other countries).
The civil war in Syria continues to worsen as the international community largely sits by and watches while civilians are massacred. Opposition forces took the fight closer to the capital Damascus. Underfunded and lightly armed their tactics shift heavily towards guerrila urban warfare. Improvised explosive devices and pipe-bombs are already in production. Syria’s bold shoot-down of a Turkish fighter jet (did it stray or was it still outside of Syrian air space – a fact obscured) was a decidedly non-proportional response to a sometimes Middle East leaning Erdogan administration. That is until Turkey wanted NATO reassurance which they received in a yawning generic response from Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen. This will largely be a war of attrition rather than a regional conflict.
U.S.-Russian negotiations have gone nowhere. Not a surprise considering Russia’s long standing ties with the Assad regime, including arms sales and a military base. The great game of influence continues. Syria is no Libya as regional analysts like to opine. From a Pol-Mil (political-military) perspective that is certainly true since Syria’s armed forces are much better equipped and backed by Iran. It pays to have powerful friends. A “surgical strike” on Syrian defenses and establishing an air corridor/no fly zone won’t stop old fashioned tanks from shelling concrete buildings.
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