Weekend Roundup: A New Cold War or Russia’s Quagmire?

Much to the chagrin of NATO, Gulf countries and others, Russia this week ramped up its military campaign in Syria, in what has become a war with global implications.

Some say it is now a proxy war between former Cold War foes because Russian airstrikes have reportedly hit some U.S.-backed rebels. But U.S. President Barack Obama ruled out a proxy war and is reportedly scaling back his arming of rebels, possibly in an effort to “deconflict” with Russia.

Has Russian President Vladimir Putin succeeded in his oft-stated goal of reasserting Russia as a great global power by filling a geopolitical vacuum in Syria? It may appear so in the short term, but Syria could end up being his quagmire as Afghanistan was for the Soviet Union. He may end up stuck in a war that drags on, at great economic, political and human cost.

If wiser heads prevail, it is still possible that leaders will set aside both East-West and Sunni-Shia tension to work together to fight the Islamic State and to end Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s slaughtering of his own people. A Syrian political transition could then curb the flood of Syrian refugees currently overwhelming Europe as it has already overwhelmed Syria’s neighbors.

Complicating matters further, Russian jets violated Turkish airspace this week, prompting NATO and Turkey to express concern. Writing from Istanbul, Behlül Özkan explains that although Ankara wants Assad gone and Moscow’s fighting to keep him in, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan hasn’t pressed Putin because they are linked by crony capitalism.

From Beirut, former MI6 agent Alastair Crooke makes the case that Russia’s aim in Syria is to defeat ISIS and al —> Read More

Tanzania Arrests The Notorious ‘Queen Of Ivory’

Tanzania took an important step this week to combat the ivory trade and save the African elephant.

The country’s National and Transnational Serious Crimes Investigation Unit on Thursday arrested a string of high-level ivory traffickers accused of illegally smuggling elephant tusks from East Africa to East Asia. Among those arrested was Yang Feng Glan, a 66-year-old Chinese native known as the “Queen of Ivory.”

Tanzania has accused Yang of smuggling 706 elephant tusks, weighing about 4,200 pounds and worth about $2.5 million, according to The Citizen, a local newspaper. She faces up to 30 years in prison, the U.S.-based watchdog Elephant Action League reported.

BREAKING: #Tanzania, “Queen of #Ivory” arrested, most important trafficker ever busted http://t.co/kyjU6nxpW7 pic.twitter.com/9dJXKMgNT3

— ElephantActionLeague (@ElephantLeague) October 7, 2015

For centuries, elephants have been slaughtered for their tusks, which are then made into jewelry, ornamental carvings and chopsticks. The worldwide ivory trade has largely been responsible for a dramatic decline in the number of elephants. In 1800, there were an estimated 26 million of them in Africa, according to National Geographic. By 2007, the population was down to roughly half a million.

In 1989, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species classified the African elephant as an endangered species and banned the trade in elephant ivory in certain countries. Some African nations saw fewer elephant killings after the ban, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service noted, although the war against ivory poaching and trading was hardly won. In 2012, s0me 35,000 African elephants were destroyed for their tusks, the Humane Society International reported. Between 2009 and 2014, the number of elephants in Tanzania fell by a whopping 60 percent, from 109,051 to —> Read More

1 2 3 4,284