Yesterday’s exchange of missile and air attacks between Iranian forces stationed in Syria and Israel was the most violent and overt exchange so far between them in their “secret war”. In this shadowy conflict, Tehran is making strenuous efforts to consolidate its military foothold in Syria, gained by being the military savior—along with Russia and with proxy Shiite militias—of the Assad regime, into a permanent presence. The Islamic Republic also hopes to improve its strategic capabilities there, especially surface-to-surface missiles, unmanned aerial vehicles, and air defense. Israel is determined to prevent such an eventuality: Since the beginning of the Syrian Civil War, it has carried out, without taking credit until the last few weeks, over one hundred airstrikes against the Hezbollah and Iranian strategic capabilities in Syria.
Over recent weeks, events involving North Korea have been dramatic, to say the least. In rapid succession, we have gone from Pyongyang’s surprise participation in the Winter Olympics to a highly choreographed and visually compelling meeting between the leaders of the two Koreas. This is all prelude to an imminent Summit between Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump. All of this represents a sudden break in a narrative that began with the Korean War, followed by 70 years of deep hostility and hair-trigger military preparations on both sides of the DMZ, and culminating in Pyongyang’s threats to attack the US mainland.
The astonishing moments were too many to count during the summit on Friday, April 27 between North Korea’s Kim Jong-un and South Korea’s Moon Jae-in. Kim pulling Moon over to the northern side of the border in an unscripted move, Kim and Moon marching down the red carpet to the tune of traditional Korean music, Kim’s team of bodyguards running alongside his Mercedes Benz when he went back into the north—it’s almost impossible to pick out one moment as more astounding than other.
After 11 consecutive days of peaceful protests dubbed “Merzhir Serzhin” (Reject Serzh), Armenians have finally managed to dethrone Prime Minister Serzh Sargsyan. Widespread jubilation across Armenia’s cities followed the announcement of his resignation. Sargsyan’s ouster on April 23 does not mean that democracy or economic prosperity will immediately arrive for the nation in the South Caucasus. However, it does mean that there is a renewed prospect for political openness and growth.
Yesterday, Thomas P. Bossert, the President’s Homeland Security Advisor, abruptly resigned from his post. It came as a surprise to homeland security observers and to Bossert himself. Speaking at the Cipher Brief’s 2018 Threat Conference in Sea Island, Georgia, Bossert gave no hint that his departure was mere hours away. What the Bossert exit represents is a rapid move by Bolton to put his own imprimatur upon the National Security Council.
Recent concerns over Russian aggression have led countries all around the Baltic Sea to take their security more seriously. Poland certainly has; Sweden has, too. Those concerns have also driven Sweden closer to Finland. A country well-accustomed to the threat from Russia, Finland fought two major wars against the Soviet Union, Russia’s twentieth-century incarnation. Despite pulling off many incredible battlefield successes, Finland lost both the Winter War (1939-1940) and the Continuation War (1941-1944). And after each Finnish defeat, the Soviet Union annexed territory whose terrain could present natural obstacles to a future Russian invasion, leaving Finland in an ever more vulnerable position.
Over the course of the past two years, onlookers have been confounded at the speed with which Poland, a darling of shock therapy economics and liberal institutionalization, has spiraled towards illiberal democracy. Since the 2015 parliamentary election, the country has made a dramatic political U-turn, which has hurt its diplomatic efforts and eroded goodwill as it now faces the possibility of EU sanctions.
At a time when “ordinary” doesn’t seem to exist in Korean affairs, Kim Jong-un’s recent visit to China affirmed that for all the change, some fundamentals remain the same on the Korean peninsula. Not that the trip was clearly or easily foreseen. The visit was Kim’s first public one to a foreign country since he came to power in late 2011. The first concrete signs that a high official was travelling from North Korea to China came in the shape of added security along the railway route from Pyongyang to Beijing, at Dandong station in China, across from the North Korean border town of Sinuiju. Both North Korean and Chinese authorities kept the visit secret, and it was only confirmed when the countries’ media outlets reported it after it happened.