WEEKLY ROUNDUP (19-23 September)

This roundup includes our latest podcast, publications, interviews and stories of interest for the week of 19-23 September

Publications & Podcasts

The Russian-Turkish Rapprochement (20 September)

We have published an article on by advisory board member, Dr Jonathan Ludwig, on his analysis of recent developments in Russian-Turkish relations. Click here to read

Duterte’s Philippines (21 September)

Our latest STRATEGIKON podcast Episode 16 on the Philippines and President Duterte is now available. In this podcast, our CEO Dr John Bruni and SIA Associate David Olney discussed the Philippines under Rodrigo Duterte. Is the Philippines in danger of becoming a narco-state? Are Duterte’s Dirty Harry-style methods effective on his ‘war on drugs’? What’s up with Duterte’s colourful language on the diplomatic scene? Who is he really pitching to and why? Click here to listen

In the Media

Australia’s Involvement in the Syrian Air Strike and the New York/New Jersey Bombings (20 September)

John Bruni was interviewed by Matthew Pantelis on Adelaide’s FIVEaa’s on Australia’s involvement in the airstrike against Syrian government soldiers and the Ahmad Khan Rahami terrorist attempts in New Jersey and New York. Click here to Listen

Attack on Aid Convoy in Syria (21 September) 

John Bruni was interviewed by The Wire’s Jordan Curtis on the attack on the Humanitarian Convoy in Syria on 19 September, allegedly by Russia. Click here to listen

Stories to Watch

The New York & New Jersey Bombings  (19 September)

A bomb went off in the Chelsea District of New York City, lightly wounding 31 people. The perpetrator, a 28-year-old Afghan-born US citizen, Ahmad Khan Rahami, was caught by authorities the following day, and was discovered to be the same person responsible for a failed timed detonation in New Jersey, targeting a US Marine Corps charity run on September 18.

Interestingly, while investigations suggest that Rahami was radicalised and his family is largely sympathetic to jihadist views, Islamic State did not publicly claim responsibility for Rahami’s terrorist attempts; nor did any other jihadist group as far as is known. What is interesting is that terrorist groups are sensitive to their ‘branding’ and carefully calibrate their support for ‘home-grown’ terrorists. This is important because if terrorist groups are brand-sensitive, then it is critical for political figures, such as heads of state, not to heighten the terrorist threat. This is exactly what Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull did the previous week when he compared the act of a deranged individual, who randomly attacked an elderly man in Western Sydney, with organised jihadism.

People with mental health disorders are not necessarily the kind of recruits jihadist groups seek to embrace, since these people generally do not have the capacity to pull off highly organised mass casualty events with strategic effect. Their usefulness comes into play only insofar as to keep the levels of public fear and anxiety high.

The ‘Accidental’ Coalition Strike on Syrian Army (19-22 September)  

In the fallout of the ‘accidental’ Coalition strike on Syrian Army forces in the eastern city of Deir al-Zor (18 September), the Australian government apologised for the participation of Royal Australian Air Force planes in the assault that killed approximately 90 Syrian government soldiers. The US government also expressed regret over the mistargeting. US and Coalition planes apparently mistook Syrian Army personnel for Islamic State fighters.

On 19 September, an airstrike attacked an aid convoy moving into rebel-held areas of the besieged city of Aleppo in northern Syria. Eighteen trucks were destroyed and some 20 civilians (including aid workers) were killed. Some international media argued that this was Russian retribution for the Coalition attack on the Syrian Army. Both Moscow and Damascus deny involvement in this attack.

However, irrespective who was responsible for this attack, one thing did happen and that is, the temporary suspension of aid deliveries to Syrian civilian population centres. Also, the US-Russian brokered ceasefire that came into effect on 12 September, is now over.

Why this sequence of events is important is that it demonstrates the level of animosity between the Russian-backed Syrian government and the US-backed collection of Syrian rebels. It also spells the end of any near-term ceasefire arrangements because such arrangements can only be put into place and actualised when all parties to the conflict come to the table. As yet, this threshold has not been passed and peace – whether temporary or of a more permanent nature – will remain elusive in Syria.

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