The Clown of Aleppo dies, Thailand has a new king, and Putin signals willingness to work with Trump.
The news coming out of Syria rarely has positivity to it. And, given the moral ambiguity and shifting progress and alliances on a daily basis? That seems fairly well a given. The situation has turned even darker this week, though. Government forces continue their attacks on rebel-held portions of Aleppo and reports confirm no functioning hospitals remain and food stocks have been drained to naught.1 In response rebels are banding together to face off against Syrian government forces claiming the city.2 The sense of unity among rebel groups is new and mounting in the face of Syrian forces taking new portions of the city. The question of how effective this unity will be, and how long it will hold, remains to be seen.
Continuing in Aleppo there is some additional tragic news: multiple news outlets are reporting that Anas al-Basha (the Clown of Aleppo) is dead.13 Mr. Basha volunteered to comfort traumatized children, of which Aleppo holds no shortage, in the aftermath of war. He acted as an agent of hope and change in a dangerous time and place, but he did it to help children facing the horrors of war. While his death is tragic, it perhaps draws a light on the dire circumstances many still face and the pressing need for international cooperation to end the conflict.
Looking elsewhere in the world: Thailand is still in a period of official mourning following the death of King Bhumibol on October 13th.4 King Bhumibol embodied stability for his people, and the mourning is felt sincerely by many. Still – life and politics proceed, and the Crown Prince (Maha Vajiralongkorn) has now been proclaimed Thailand’s new king.4 More specifically, the Prince was offered (and, just today, accepted) the throne by Thailand’s Parliament.45 While the Prince accepting the offer of the throne from Parliament confirms his ascension to King, the coronation itself will be delayed until 2017 following the cremation of King Bhumibol.5
While there is a hope that the new King will be a figure to offer continued authority to the government and stability to the country, his popularity falls short of what his father commanded.4 How well his success will playout will depend on a myriad of factors: his acceptance by the people, the competence of the government and stability of local markets, and the ever-present political in-fighting. Still – the ascension of a new leader always offers new beginnings, and one hopes this to be true for the new King and his people.
And, lastly, out of Russia we have Putin nodding to his willingness to work with a Trump administration.6 More specifically, Putin spoke of a renewed hope of working together with the US and moving forward. Given Russia’s present involvement in Syria, it’s recent & continuing actions in Ukraine, and that Russia is offering asylum to Edward Snowden – cooperation may seem far from likely. However, Trump has been open about his willingness to work with Russian leadership towards common goals, and this appears to have been well-received. The question of how this relationship between Trump & Putin will play out with traditional conservatives with a lingering mistrust for Russia remains the prudent question of the moment, though.