A rescue worker holding a child after the alleged chemical attack in Douma
Renaud Girard


PARIS — The Syrian population continues to endure various armed conflicts. Despite all the attention this war gets from international, political and humanitarian organizations, it is now more than seven years since it began — and Syria is suffering from three open wounds.

On April 9, at dawn, the Tayfur air base, located between the cities of Homs and Palmyra, was hit by missiles, most probably fired by the Israeli army. This military airfield is used by Iran's Revolutionary Guards and their friends from Lebanon, Hezbollah. The Israel Defense Forces fear that troops from a Shia axis operated from Tehran will settle along the Golan Heights, which Israel has been occupying since its victory in the Six-Day War in 1967.

Between 1982 and 2011, Israel put up very well with the Baathist regime in Damascus, then a guarantor of stability both inside and along its borders. Since 2012, the civil war in Syria has fostered the emergence on its territory of two new Islamist threats to the north of the Jewish state: the Shia one, employed by Iran, and the Sunni one, of ISIS and al-Qaeda.

Israel has a bad memory of the 33-day war it waged at its northern border against Hezbollah in the summer of 2006. Despite inflicting considerable destruction on the Lebanese population, the IDF failed to annihilate the militia of the "Party of God." It had even offered a hand to Hezbollah politically, consecrated in Beirut as the "resistance party." If Trump was to rip up the July 14, 2015, nuclear deal with Tehran, if the Iranians were to decide to resume their pursuit of atomic weapons, and if Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was to consider striking their uranium enrichment facilities, Hezbollah (and its tens of thousands of missiles ready to strike Galilee) would play a crucial deterrent role.

Syria has become the great battleground of ideologies, religions and powerful states.

The second open wound in Syria is the ancient oasis of Eastern Ghouta, 10 kilometers east of Damascus. The rebel enclave has just been recaptured by the regime, after a making a deal to evacuate the last remaining fighters. On Saturday, April 7, 2018, images of suffocating civilians reached the West after what looks like a chemical attack. Is it the Syrian regime's doing? Is Damascus taking the irrational risk of riling the U.S. up again? Or is it a provocation from the Islamist rebels, who, in the past, have also used mustard gas? At this time, we don't have an independent source of verification.

Finally, the third open wound: the exodus of the Kurdish populations from the northeastern city of Afrin, which continues after its capture by the Turkish army, with the support of Sunni Islamist rebel militias protected by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The Syrian territory has become the great battleground of ideologies, religions and powerful states of the Middle East. There are more than 10 different groups taking part in the fighting: the Baathist Syrian Army, the deserters of the Free Syrian Army, ISIS, al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, the U.S. Army Special Forces, the Syrian Democratic Forces (mainly Kurdish), the Israeli Air Force, the Turkish Army, the Russian Army. The former prime minister of Qatar said that Islamist rebel groups had received more than $100 billion from the Gulf. Civilians are the first to be affected, with more than 100,000 reportedly killed, and nearly 10 million displaced. The Pope spoke of "extermination."

Protest in London demanding an end to the invasion of Afrin by Turkish forces — Photo: Peter Marshall/ZUMA

Why didn't the West stop this carnage? It had begun in the summer of 2011 with the bloody repression of peaceful demonstrations in the aftermath of the respective neighboring Arab springs — and continued as Islamist forces supported by Turkey and the Gulf's petrol-monarchies entered the fray, alongside the pro-democracy rebels.

Westerners have demonized Bashar al-Assad's regime, without going so far as to unseat it with force. They were traumatized by two failed experiences of "regime change" in Afghanistan and Iraq. In both countries, with the help of weapons and by spending hundreds of billions of dollars, they created new institutions and held elections. But the transplant of Western-style democracy never worked. The hardliners won instead.

In 1885, French statesman Jules Ferry praised the "civilizing mission of colonization." It is clear that Westerners no longer have that kind of know-how. Without an iron hand, no one can rule in the land of Islam, the religion of the sword rather than of forgiveness. If, when they entered Baghdad in 2003, the Americans had hung a dozen random looters high on cranes, the Iraqi population would have taken them seriously. If they had chosen a governor who could speak Arabic on television and included the Iraqi army in their proposed renovation of the country, it might have worked.

After World War II, the West decided to let Muslim peoples administer themselves. It will now be very difficult to try to reverse that strategic turning point.

Support Worldcrunch
We are grateful for reader support to continue our unique mission of delivering in English the best international journalism, regardless of language or geography. Click here to contribute whatever you can. Merci!

Thousands of migrants in Del Rio, Texas, on the border between Mexico and the U.S.

Hannah Steinkopf-Frank, Bertrand Hauger and Anne-Sophie Goninet

👋 Сайн уу*

Welcome to Friday, where the new U.S.-UK-Australia security pact is under fire, Italy becomes the first country to make COVID-19 "green pass" mandatory for all workers, and Prince Philip's will is to be kept secret for 90 years. From Russia, we also look at the government censorship faced by brands that recently tried to promote multiculturalism and inclusiveness in their ads.

[*Sain uu - Mongolian]


• U.S. facing multiple waves of migrants, refugees: The temporary camp, located between Mexico's Ciudad Acuña and Del Rio in Texas, is housing some 10,000 people, largely from Haiti. With few resources, they are forced to wait in squalid conditions and scorching temperatures amidst a surge of migrants attempting to cross into the U.S. Meanwhile, thousands of recently evacuated Afghan refugees wait in limbo at U.S. military bases, both domestic and abroad.

• COVID update: Italy is now the first European country to require vaccination for all public and private sector workers from Oct. 15. The Netherlands will also implement a "corona pass" in the following weeks for restaurants, bars and cultural spaces. When he gives an opening speech at the United Nations General Assembly next week, unvaccinated Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro will defy New York City authorities, who are requiring jabs for all leaders and diplomats.

• U.S. and UK face global backlash over Australian deal: The U.S. is attempting to diffuse the backlash over the new security pact signed with Australia and the UK, which excludes the European Union. The move has angered France, prompting diplomats to cancel a gala to celebrate ties between the country and the U.S.

• Russian elections: Half of the 450 seats in Duma are will be determined in today's parliamentary race. Despite persistent protests led by imprisoned opposition leader Alexey Navalny, many international monitors and Western governments fear rigged voting will result in President Vladimir Putin's United Russia party maintaining its large majority.

• Somali president halts prime minister's authority: The decision by President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed marks the latest escalation in tensions with Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble concerning a murder investigation. The move comes as the Horn of Africa country has fallen into a political crisis driven by militant violence and clashes between clans.

• Astronauts return to Earth after China's longest space mission: Three astronauts spent 90 days at the Tianhe module and arrived safely in the Gobi desert in Inner Mongolia. The Shenzhou-12 mission is the first of crewed missions China has planned for 2021-2022 as it completes its first permanent space station.

• Prince Philip's will to be kept secret for 90 years: A British court has ruled that the will of Prince Philip, the late husband of Britain's Queen Elizabeth who passed away in April at 99 years old, will remain private for at least 90 years to preserve the monarch's "dignity and standing."


With a memorable front-page photo, Argentine daily La Voz reports on the open fight between the country's president Alberto Fernández and vice-president Cristina Kirchner which is paralyzing the government. Kirchner published a letter criticizing the president's administration after several ministers resigned and the government suffered a major defeat in last week's midterm primary election.



An Italian investigation uncovered a series of offers on encrypted "dark web" websites offering to sell fake EU COVID vaccine travel documents. Italy's financial police say its units have seized control of 10 channels on the messaging service Telegram linked to anonymous accounts that were offering the vaccine certificates for up to €150. "Through the internet and through these channels, you can sell things everywhere in the world," finance police officer Gianluca Berruti told Euronews.


In Russia, brands advertising diversity are under attack

Russian sushi delivery Yobidoyobi removed an advertisement with a Black man and apologized for offending the Russian nation, while a grocery chain was attacked for featuring an LGBTQ couple, reports Moscow-based daily Kommersant.

❌ "On behalf of the entire company, we want to apologize for offending the public with our photos..." reads a recent statement by Russian sushi delivery Yobidoyobi after publishing an advertisement that included a photograph of a Black man. Shortly after, the company's co-founder, Konstantin Zimen, said people on social media were accusing Yobidoyobi of promoting multiculturalism. Another recent case involved grocery store chain VkusVill, which released advertising material featuring a lesbian couple. The company soon began to receive threats and quickly apologized and removed the text and apologized.

🏳️🌈 For the real life family featured in the ad, they have taken refuge in Spain, after their emails and cell phone numbers were leaked. "We were happy to express ourselves as a family because LGBTQ people are often alone and abandoned by their families in Russia," Mila, one of the daughters in the ad, explained in a recent interview with El Pais.

🇷🇺 It is already common in Russia to talk about "spiritual bonds," a common designation for the spiritual foundations that unite modern Russian society, harkening back to the Old Empire as the last Orthodox frontier. The expression has been mocked as an internet meme and is widely used in public rhetoric. For opponents, this meme is a reason for irony and ridicule. Patriots take spiritual bonds very seriously: The government has decided to focus on strengthening these links and the mission has become more important than protecting basic human rights.Russian sushi delivery Yobidoyobi removed an advertisement with a Black man and apologized for offending the Russian nation, while a grocery chain was attacked for featuring an LGBTQ couple, reports Moscow-based daily Kommersant.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com


"Ask the rich countries: Where are Africa's vaccines?"

— During an online conference, Dr. Ayoade Olatunbosun-Alakija, of the African Vaccine Delivery Alliance, implored the international community to do more to inoculate people against COVID-19 in Africa and other developing regions. The World Health Organization estimates that only 3.6% of people living in Africa have been fully vaccinated. The continent is home to 17% of the world population, but only 2% of the nearly six billion shots administered so far have been given in Africa, according to the W.H.O.

✍️ Newsletter by Hannah Steinkopf-Frank, Bertrand Hauger and Anne-Sophie Goninet

Support Worldcrunch
We are grateful for reader support to continue our unique mission of delivering in English the best international journalism, regardless of language or geography. Click here to contribute whatever you can. Merci!