Weekly Snapshot
29 July – 4 August

1. Peace on the horizon in South Sudan

The South Sudanese foreign minister has announced that President Salva Kiir and the rebel leader Riek Machar have, on some points, come to an agreement. This is a big first step in ending the five-year civil war between these two factions.

Some of the concessions include a rebel representation in the government of South Sudan. The rebel leader Machar has requested a 48-hour window to consult others within the rebel operation before signing a draft peace agreement.

This is the first time since 2013 that South Sudan may actually find lasting peace. With a struggling economy since the beginning of the war, a peace agreement is what the country needs to get back on its feet and start becoming active on the international stage.

2. Shake up in Chinese Bureaucracy

President of China, Xi Jinping, is expected to announce the appointment of a new chief of the Communist Party’s International Propaganda Department. In the past, this bureau of the Chinese government has been labeled as “tyrannical” and “shameless.” Beijing has even cast blame on the party for overhyping Chinas future economic prospects which ignited a trade war between China and the US.

All of this led President Xi to change the leadership. It is rumored that Xu Lin will take over as the Communist’s Party’s International Propaganda Chief. Xu, notable in the Chinese government, was the head of the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) until 2016.

This is another government official that has proven to be devoutly loyal to President Xi and the Communist Party rather than the country itself. The image of a country can control or limit how it is able to interact internationally. It will be interesting to see what effect this new leadership has on the United States relationship with China.

3. Syrian refugees are returning to their homes

Over a thousand refugees from the Syrian conflict are set to return to their homes in the coming week. Buses of refugees that have been living in Lebanon are on their way back to Syria as fighting in many areas has been winding down.

Over a million refugees fled Syria in the past seven years due to the extensive fighting all across the country. The United Nations is not yet satisfied with the conditions in Syria, but this is a small step in the grand undertaking to reunite these refugees with their homes.

The fighting is far from over in Syria, and a lot still needs to be changed. There will be no peace under the Assad regime as long as he continues to direct attacks on his own people. The refugees returning home will continue to face hardships and turmoil. They will have to continue to fight, but this time they are fighting for their own homes.

4. The Future for the Middle East

Throughout the past year, there has been a silent push from the Trump Administration to create an alliance with six of the Gulf Arab states. The plan has been called the Middle East Strategic Alliance (MESA). This has been likened to an attempt to create a NATO of the Arab world. This new alliance would help better military and political ties between the Gulf Arab states and the United States. This is in big part a measure to stop Iran’s expansion in the middle east.

This new alliance would push for a regional missile defense system in the Middle East, more training for the militaries in the region, countering terrorism and state sponsorship of terrorism, along with issues such as economic development and stronger relations.

Around the world, countries are stepping up their defenses and becoming more self-reliant in the realm of state security. This new proposal of an alliance will be beneficial to the United States in that it will add a great level of security to the region and for the most part, cost the US only its knowledge of operations and experience.

There is still a long way to go before any official alliance is announced. However, there will be more talk about MESA at the summit between the United States and some of the Arab nations, set for the middle of October. With this plan, partnering with the Sunni Muslim world, it will likely continue to grow the tensions between the United States and Shiite Muslim Iran, but could, in the end, lead to more stability and prosperity for the Middle East.