What American Millennials want from politicians

[Kyle is an undergraduate student who has just completed an internship and "semester in Washington". Shout! interviewed him.]

Shout! (SH!): Are you a Democrat?

Kyle McHugh (KM): Independent.

SH!: How did you vote?

KM: Voted for both Democrats and Republicans. It depended on who it was.

SH!: I know you dislike many things about politics, but what do you like?

KM: [Laughter] I like many things. Politics are interesting. I follow politics a lot, more than most people my age. It’s interesting because we elect the people that make the laws and rules that we must follow, it’s a way of governing everyone. It follows what society deems good or bad.

SH!: Are you optimistic about the political situation in America?

KM: I guess you could say yes because we don’t have anywhere to go but up. Look, Obama was elected 2008 and then 2010, the Democrats lost their majority so the Republicans just wanted to stall Obama and wait until he was gone to overturn everything he did.

And now the Democrats are doing the same. They're just obstructing everything.

SH!: Are they being hypocritical?

KM: No, because politicians are supposed to work together. It’s not what they used to do; what happened to going across party lines. Coming together for the good of the people?

SH!: Who’s the one to blame for this?

KM: Uhm, I think both because neither one are trying to come together, it’s becoming more polarizing. They think their side is right.

SH!: I’ll ask you about some controversial topics. Let’s begin with abortion. What should the Democrats and Republicans do? And what do you think personally?

KM: They have completely polarizing positions on the issue. I feel that the bigger issue is when you define what a human life is. Because [it's] a fetus, the Democrats would say [it] is not a human, where the Republicans believe it is a human.

My personal belief is that yes, some abortions should happen in case of health of the mother or rape. But also there’s a point where you shouldn’t just use abortion as birth control.

SH!: So it should be legal?

KM: Yes. But people should be educated before they get the abortion.

SH!: So you’re pro choice but anti-abortion?

KM: Yes, that’s basically my stance on it. I don’t think it’s right to do it, but I’m not the woman and the decision should come from the women.

SH!: You are a registered Democrat. Why?

KM: I’m truly an Independent, but in the state I’m from, we have closed primaries. Independents cannot vote, so I registered as a Democrat so I could have a say in the primaries.

SH!: But why not have a say in the Republican primaries?

KM: Because the Democratic primary was much more closer than the Republican. Hillary and Bernie [Sanders] were very close, while Trump had a good lead over [Ted] Cruz and [John] Kasich at that time.

SH!: How do you feel about Bernie?

KM: I disagree with his policies. I’m for universal healthcare. Government should go all the way in or just stay away from it. Now, they don’t have a choice because they have their noses in, there’s so much money involved now.

I think some time in my lifetime there will be a single payer system in the U.S. As the way things stand right now, I would say it’s a better option. It’s like the entitlements, you can’t take them away.

Another thing I agree with Bernie is Citizens United.

SH!: Why?

KM: Citizens United was about giving to much power to corporations and they have more money than 99% of Americans.

SH!: What about the electoral college?

KM: It’s an outdated system.

SH!: Who did you vote for? And why.

KM: Former Secretary [Hillary] Clinton. It was just like most Americans, we had two flawed candidates, they were shitty candidates. Clinton had problems because of her long career, and Trump had no experience.

Honestly, I still don’t know why. I just thought that she was the lesser of two evils. They were pretty close.

SH!: How do you grade the Obama Administration. Would you have voted for him against Trump?

KM: I liked him. I would say that with this Republican majority in Congress, Obama would have accomplished very little.

SH!: Gay marriage? Should it be legal?

KM: Honestly, I don’t give a fuck. Yes, they can do whatever they want. They should be treated as equals, adopt, everything.

SH!: What about the death penalty?

KM: I’m for the death penalty, but it’s impossible to execute somebody, it costs a lot of money. But on the flip side, what’s the point of keeping someone in jail without the possibility of going out.

SH!: Sessions recused himself from the investigation, so did Devin Nunes, Mike Flynn resigned as National Security Adviser and now FBI director [James] Comey was fired. What do you make of all this?

KM: It’s looks like they’re hiding something. The Russian thing should be investigated, obviously. But, personally, the whole Russia and Trump conspiring together is bullshit.

Trump and the Russians had the same goal, that Clinton didn’t win the election. But just because you have the same goal, it doesn’t mean you colluded.

SH!: Then why are they being so suspicious?

KM: I feel like part of the problem with the Trump administration is that the way their relationship with the news media, or fake media as he calls it, is so damaged that he might feel like if he opens up everything, that stuff like that could be easily be taken and misconstrued by the mainstreams media and they would demonize him.

His distrust of the media makes him think of them as a rival.

SH!: Is it a legit scandal?

KM: I’d say it’s both. If you look at Trump and Russia colluding together I say no. But Russia hacking and influencing our election is a scandal.

SH!: Did the fact that Clinton is a woman influence the outcome?

KM: No. Some people probably didn’t vote for her solely because she’s a women but other voted for her just because she was a women. She was a flawed candidate. A guy in the same situation, going against Trump, would have had a hard time.

The way [Trump] went after people, the way he destroyed them in the primary, people saw him as a fighter for their cause.

SH!: What do you think about his presidency so far?

KM: He’s better than I expected him to be. You can’t listen to everything he says, but judge him on what he does, and I know that’s a terrible policy for a president.

SH!: How do you feel about immigrants?

KM: Immigrants are good. They bring new ideas, they make a country diverse and diverse ideas are good for a country to succeed.

SH!: Do you support a path to citizenship for undocumented people?

KM: I want to say yes, but the problem with that is that it could encourage people. If it is a one time thing, I’m okay with that. If I had to make the decision, I would say yes.

SH!: What is your position on the guns issue?

KM: I’m all for having the right to have a gun, but I’m for reasonable gun control. You don’t need a big machine gun.

SH!: What about legalization of marijuana and other drugs?

KM: Recreational marijuana, yes. I’m a pragmatist, if it’s practical I’m for it. People are going to smoke weed, they want to have fun and relax.

The one thing that everyone should love about making weed legal is that the government could tax it, and the government loves that. It’s terrible that a society wants to legalize a drug for monetary benefit.

I’ve never done any illegal drugs myself so I’m no expert. But smoking weed is not the same as doing heroin.

SH!: It seems that you agree with the Democrats on most of the big issues. Would you say you lean left or right?

KM: Social issues I lean left, but economic issues I lean right. The government should not just hand stuff out for people without them having to contribute something to society.

Part of the problem is lack of opportunity and part of it is lack of will to do something. You look at successful entrepreneurs, they’re self motivated, they want to achieve. Whereas I’m sure we all know someone that’s lazy and doesn’t care. My problem with socialism is people not contributing to society. People take advantage of the system.

SH!: How do you feel about president Trump?

KM: His whole political campaign, I thought, was almost genius. I think the Donald Trump you got in the campaign isn’t actually him, there’s some issues with his views and treating of women, but I don’t know if he’s actually a racist. I think he sees women as objects, he thinks that, as a man, he can claim a woman.

SH!: What do you make of his first 100 days?

KM: I approve of his pick for the Supreme Court. I don’t approve of the travel ban. I get it if you want to suspend it for 60 days, but permanently banning a country is not smart.

The [American Health Care Act] didn’t succeed because you can’t pass a health care bill without support from both parties. I would have voted no.

SH!: What about the missile strikes in Syria?

KM: I would hate it if they sent troops to Syria, but the missile strikes are just sending a message. It shows that Trump is not messing around and will take action if necessary.

SH!: What should be the role of America be in the world?

KM: I’m all for a strong and effective military, but it’s too much. There’s a ridiculous amount of military bases. You want to be the most powerful, but it’s too much.

The question is do we want to spend more in military or social stuff. But the thing is: everybody wants to avoid war. And the best way to avoid one is by having a strong military presence. I feel like America has a strong military presence on steroids, where we have a great big strong military but is overkilling us.

If I was running the show, I would take some out of the military and some out of the social and some of the money would go to the deficit and the rest to cut taxes. The deficit is a terrible issue. It’s all about helping the middle class.

Government should be all the way in or all the way out. When government gets involved, it usually ends up in disaster. They’re not efficient.

SH!: You’re a millennial and politicians want to know, what moves you to the polls?

KM: My biggest feeling is that I’ve always been business oriented, and every American makes so much money and they have to manage their budget to use it. But Congress just borrows more money. They should only spend the money they collect, they shouldn’t run into deficit, they have to balance the budget.

SH!: That’s the most important issue for you?

KM: I know it’s not sexy, but the entire deficit is almost 20 trillion dollars. It should be a big issue for everyone, because if you have a big deficit, it will affect what you’re able to do. If you don’t have a deficit, you can solve the rest of the problems much easier.

That’s an issue that politicians can fix.

Another big issue is more of a cultural issue: racial tensions. A xenophobic attitude towards some groups. The whole Black Lives Matter movement or anti immigrant movements are becoming, in general, a divisive tool where it’s us against them. There’s so much animosity between the two groups.

But that doesn’t move me to the polls. I don’t think politicians can fix a social issue like that one. They can help but it has a lot more to do with how people are influenced from an early age.

SH!: What drives you for a specific person?

KM: A candidate that shows he cares about what the people tells them, represent the person and not the party.

SH!: Who do you like?

KM: I like Jake Tapper and Bill O’Reilly. They’re both fair, well versed and informed. They’re not afraid to speak their minds and call it like they see it.

SH!: Would you have voted the same way?

KM: It was always a hard choice, I went back and fort between both. I decided when I was standing in front of the machine. Originally, even before Trump announced, I thought “I can get behind him” and then he came out with his anti immigration comments and that turned me off.

Here’s the thing: Hillary ran as Barack Obama 2.0. And he was great in 2008 as a change, and he did a great job but I feel like he could’ve taken a harder stance on some issues, held his ground. He could’ve been more vocal and not put to much emphasis on being likeable.

SH!: What does a successful first term looks like for Trump? Are you tired of winning?

KM: It depends on your definition of winning. If you’re going to establish a Trump win for his first term, what is that going to be? Repeal and replace Obamacare, having his new tax plan, replace Antonin Scalia? If he does those three things, I think that would be a success.

The wall is a sticky point for him. The wall is stupid. I get the point of a wall, but you want it to stop illegal immigration and people are still going to come. People that are here illegally are not criminals.

I think much of the [Trump] campaign was pandering to his voters. I’m okay if he doesn’t make good on the bring coal back jobs promise, for example.

SH!: What’s the problem with both political parties?

KM: I feel like Republicans pander too much to business and the Democrats pander more to your socially impoverished classes, they pander not only to poor people but also the leftist extremists. They pander to the minority just like Republicans pander to the minority of business.

No one panders to the middle class, which is the problem, and was the reason Trump succeeded. The Democrats forgot about the middle class, that’s why they went [for] Trump. It’s not that people thought Trump was the best choice, but he actually recognized they existed. A lot of it was hope.

SH!: So the election was about hope?

KM: Yes. He was kind of a Republican Barack Obama, they both wanted change and were outsiders. Trump didn’t have any political experience and Obama was a first term senator from Illinois. They both were political novices with a message of hope.

SH!: Who do you want in 2020?

KM: Both parties will need someone with political experience after Trump. Someone who can offer a hope and change but has some experience so they show they can actually get it done.

SH!: Which Democrats could beat Trump in 2020?

KM: I think [California Attorney General] Gavin Newson will run in 2024. I’m trying to think if there’s a Democrat from Texas or Florida. If they get a Latino guy from one of those states it would be interesting.

SH!: What about Elizabeth Warren?

KM: Elizabeth Warren has the same issues as Bernie, they are great in their states because they’re from very liberal states but they can only win in a handful of states. They won’t get national appeal.

SH!: Who else, then?

KM: I would say Gavin Newson, or maybe Al Franken or Chuck Schumer.

Al Franken is kind of like a Donald Trump-ish with some political experience. I think he would be a solid choice. Elizabeth Warren would be a huge mistake, it would prove that Democrats didn’t learn anything from 2016. Franken is down to earth, people can relate to him.

SH!: And Chuck Schumer?

KM: He and Al Franken are kind of the same, they both have political experience, they are the leaders and face of the party. I like that Schumer is standing up to Trump.

SH!: But that’s so easy for Democrats right now.

KM: Yes, but that’s what their voters want to see, they want to see Trump fail, just like Republicans wanted to see Obama fail. Politics became so polarizing. They put party above country.

SH!: Would you vote for either one of them over Trump?

KM: I can’t say right now. If it was today, I would probably stick with Trump. The Democrats would love Trump as a Democrat because they just look at the color.

Please contact team@byshout.com if you have any questions regarding this interview or would like to share your opinion. 

Interview has been edited for clarity. 

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Pope Francis attends an audience with President of Iraq Barham Ahmed Salih at the Apostolic Palace on November 24 2018 in Vatican City Vatican (Franco Origlia/Getty Images)

Pope Francis to plan first ever papal trip to ​Iraq

Pope Francis said on Monday he wants to travel to Iraq next year, which would be the first ever papal trip there, Reuters reported.

Why it matters: Iraq's conflicts since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003 and the spillover from the Syrian war have led to a dramatic decrease in the country's Christian population.

What's happening: Iraqi Christians trace their presence back to Christianity's founding, and they preserve ancient customs including the Aramaic languages, which some Christian villages in Iraq and Syria still consider their mother tongues. Caught between repressive, apathetic or hostile governments and a Sunni Islamist insurgency, Iraq's Christians have suffered persecution, death and exile.

  • Before the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, there were 1.5 to 2 million Christians living in Iraq.
  • Today, the number is about 200,000, according to the documentary Christian in the Mirror, which premiered in Washington, DC on June 10, 2019.

Between the lines: The first papal trip to Iraq is all but certain, despite Pope Francis' willingness. In 2000, the late Pope John Paul wanted to visit the ancient Iraqi city of Ur, traditionally held to be the birthplace of Abraham. But negotiations with the government of then Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein broke down and he was unable to go, Reuters reported.

What's next: If Iraqi Christians all but disappear, the loss for Iraq goes beyond the immediate loss of life to the identity of the country. Iraq will no longer be seen as a culturally diverse society, home to ancient religions and rich cultures.

Go deeper: Syrian Christian Perspectives on the War

A general view shows the Syrian flag flying in front of the Syrian Saint Sarkis Church for Armenian Orthodox as Armenians celebrate Christmas in Damascus on January 6, 2015. (Louai Beshara/AFP/Getty Images)

Exclusive: Syria war is driving Armenians back into exile

The Associated Press reported yesterday that Armenia sent a team of experts to Syria to help clear mines and provide medical assistance. That this team will be based in Aleppo in northern Syria is no coincidence. Before the war, Aleppo was home to 110,000 ethnic Armenians, one of the world's largest Armenian diasporas.

The big picture: About 22,000 ethnic Armenians have moved to Armenia since the start of the war in 2011. An additional 12,000 headed to Europe, America and Russia. Most are from Aleppo and some from the area controlled by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces in northeastern Syria, Alexandre Goodarzy, the chief of mission for Syria at SOS Chrétiens d'Orient, a non-governmental organization providing relief services in Syria, told Shout! News.

Details: The neighborhood where ethnic Armenians live in Aleppo is called Midan. While in the Syrian government-controlled western Allepo, during most of the war Midan sat on the front line with rebel-controlled eastern Aleppo. But the territorial demarcation of Midan was also disputed by Kurdish armed forces on the northwest side of the neighborhood and by al Qaida's affiliated Jabhat al Nusra on the northeast side. Therefore, Midan's inhabitants were being shelled by both Kurdish forces and Jabhat al Nusra.

As a result, from all the Christian communities in Aleppo, ethnic Armenians suffered the most from shelling and bombardments.

Why it matters: Ethnic Armenian numbers decreased considerably because of the war. Their presence in Aleppo dates back many centuries. But Midan's Armenians came as a result of the genocide that took place during last century's two World Wars. There presence increased Allepo's population by 25%.

The impact: Bringing ethnic Armenians back to Syria will be a challenge, Goodarzy from SOS Chrétiens d'Orient said. They will likely not return, and those in Armenia might not stay either, because of the catastrophic economy there, he said.

A veiled woman living in alHol camp which houses relatives of Islamic State group members sits next to her child in the camp in al-Hasakeh governorate in northeastern Syria on March 28, 2019. (GIUSEPPE CACACE/AFP/Getty Images)

These are the latest countries to repatriate their Islamic State-affiliated citizens

It is estimated that the Syrian Democratic Forces have custody of more than 9,000 foreign citizens affiliated with the Islamic State. They are from around 60 other countries.

United States

Two American women who were detained for Islamic State links in Syria have been repatriated to the U.S. together with their six children, the second such transfer between the two countries since the defeat of the terror group's caliphate, the Independent reported.


Last month, France repatriated five young children from camps in northern Syria, which are home to tens of thousands of Islamic State families, French media reported.

Why it matters: Repatriation of women and children affiliated with the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq has been the least controversial. Children of foreign Islamic State fighters in Syria are "among world's most vulnerable" and should be brought home, says the United Nations.

Yes, but: Government officials from the Islamic State-affiliated citizens' countries of origin worry about the security risk these children can pose. For example, the British government has so far refused to repatriate any of its citizens who went to join the Islamic State, citing security fears. Shout! News learned of similar security concerns from a Belgian diplomat, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the matter.

Clockwise from top left, French nationals Vianney Ouraghi, Salim Machou, Mustapha Merzoughi, Brahim Nejara, Leonard Lopez, Yassine Sakkam, Kevin Gonot and Fodil Tahar Aouidate, all sentenced by a Baghdad court to death for joining the Islamic State. (Agence France-Presse/Getty Images)

Iraq condemns French Islamic State supporters to death

Iraqi terrorism courts sentenced 11 French citizens and one French resident to death for support of the Islamic State, the New York Times reported. The French government claimed it reiterated its opposition to capital punishment to the Iraqi government. However, prominent French defense lawyers signed a letter that blasted the government, saying it violated the constitution by risking the execution of its citizens.

Driving the news: The fate of citizens from France and other Western countries in Iraqi courts where they face the death penalty for joining the Islamic State is under scrutiny. Should those Western countries that ban capital punishment pressure Iraqi courts to try to get death sentences commuted?

Why it matters: There could be more cases to come. There are some 450 French citizens in camps in Syria who joined the Islamic State, according to France's Foreign Ministry.

What they're saying: Judge Ahmed Mohamed Ali, who heard all 12 cases, said that the French who joined the Islamic State played a special role by legitimizing the organization in the eyes of the world, and that what it did in Syria reverberated in Iraq. "[The Islamic State] wanted to be an international organization and thousands of Syrians and Iraqis joined it," Mr. Ali said. "That had an impact on Iraq." "The foreigners — the Belgians, the French — they came and created legitimacy for this organization."

Go deeper: What will the President do?

Home Secretary of the United Kingdom Sajid Javid (Getty Images)

As the Syrian conflict drags on, UK bans its citizens from Syria

Under a new law, British citizens going to terror hotspots face 10 years in jail, The Guardian reported. The Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Act 2019 creates a criminal offense of entering or remaining in "designated area" overseas.

The designated areas: So far, the British government has yet to identify designated areas. Asked by the House of Commons which areas were being considered, Home Secretary Sajid Javid said his designation will be subject to parliamentary debate and approval:

"Of course we are [looking at designated areas]. In anticipation of the Bill becoming an Act, we had already commenced some work on that. It would not be appropriate at this point for me to say which areas we looked at specifically—for an area to be designated, it has to come before the House and it has to be the will of the House to designate that area, and I do not want to prejudge that."

Sajid Javid

The Home Secretary later mentioned Syria, with a focus on the city of Idlib and the north-east region. It is not clear whether areas controlled by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces will be included or not.

Details: In an explanatory note, the Home Office said that the act will not be retrospective, but a person already in a designated area at the time of designation will have to leave the area within one month. The law also contains a number of exempted purposes for traveling to designated areas, such as humanitarian aid and journalism.

The big picture: 900 individuals of national security concern from the UK have travelled to engage with the conflict in Syria, the Home Office said. About 40% of these individuals are still in Syria.

Radwan Ziadeh, a Syrian democracy and human rights advocate, exits the Canadian embassy on August 8, 2011 in Washington, DC. (Amanda Voisard/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Interview: The Syrian Army disappeared completely

Radwan Ziadeh, a scholar and human rights activist who founded the Damascus Center for Human Rights Studies in Syria told Shout! News that only a liberal democracy can work for Syria and accommodate the country's various religious and ethnic communities.

Mr. Ziadeh is a critic of what he sees as the current Syrian Kurds leadership's "imagined identity." Syria's 8% Kurdish minority can't replicate northern Iraq's self-governance, where the Kurds make up one third of the country. From the late 1960s onward, Mr. Ziadeh said, Syria's Kurds went through persecution, indiscriminate Arabisation and an extreme policy that forbade the use of their language and the celebration of their holidays. Yet, they have significantly contributed to Syria's political life, notably by providing seven presidents and prime ministers. There will be no room for identity politics if Syria's Kurds are granted full rights.

Highlights from the interview:

  • The international community is lacking a common response to the 5 to 6 million Syrians displaced by the war. In this vacuum, recipient countries have come up with their own policy, which is adversely affected by the rise in populism and is beyond the capacity of any country.
  • Syrian refugees who return home are not safe. Out of the 400 refugees who recently returned to Syria from Germany, 35 are missing, for example. In addition, studies show that refugees settle in their host country past the third year.
  • Only a liberal democracy can accommodate the religious and ethnic communities that make up Syria, such as the Druzes, Armenians, Kurds and Assyrian Christians.
  • There won't be any successful mechanics the international community can design to attract the Syrian government to deal with the opposition. Why would the regime negotiate now when it never negotiated in hard time. There isn't any rationality in its approach anyway.
  • The Syrian Army disappeared completely. In 2015, 2016 and 2017, local militias leaders where given full power to suppress the opposition by any means and at any cost: barrel bombs, siege, crimes based on gender and ethnicity. This policy empowered local leaders. They have proven that they could suppress the opposition and will not accept to negotiate their power away.
  • The U.S. has become irrelevant in the resolution of the conflict. The kind of U.S. strategy required for Syria right now can't be developed by the Trump administration. The Secretary of State can't initiate a long-term strategy without the risk of being reversed or challenged by the president's tweets. As a result, the U.S. strategy continues to be in limbo, leaving the initiative to Russia and Iran.
(Yasin Ozturk/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

U.S. to leave a residual military force in Syria

Trump administration's special envoy for Syria James Jeffrey claimed at a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing that the president had never intended a comprehensive troop withdrawal, but instead to leave a residual force in northern Syria.

Why it matters: Jeffrey's statement is another departure from President Trump's order, announced in December, that all 2,000 U.S. troops in Syria would leave, since their mission to destroy the Islamic State caliphate, in his view, had been achieved.

  • Jeffrey claimed since the U.S. could not get other members of the U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State to agree to replace all of American forces in northeast Syria, the president decided to slow down the withdrawal and leave a residual force.
  • Yet, Jeffrey also said the administration wants other coalition members to bear the cost of stabilizing Syria: "We are shifting the focus from an exclusively American funded largely American boots on the ground to a more balanced one...It is burden sharing."

The big picture: Both the Obama and Trump administrations have sought to prevent its Kurdish partners from establishing an independent state in Syria. They also have had to take into consideration the position of Turkey, another ally in the fight against the Islamic State, for whom Syrian Kurdish forces are one and the same with the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, a group designated as a terrorist organization by both Ankara and Washington. Nevertheless, Jeffrey said in the hearing that the United States would stand by its Kurdish allies in northern Syria, as evidenced by the residual U.S. force to remain in Syria.

Go deeper: Interview: Trump left a tripwire military presence in Syria

A young Yazidi student attends a class in the Newroz refugee camp in Syria, near the Faysh Kabur border with Iraq. May 18, 2015. Tens of thousands of mainly Yazidis have fled to Syria since Islamic State militants captured Sinjar and other northern Iraqi towns in August 2014. (Flavius Mihaies/Shout! News)

Children of Yazidi women raped by ISIS men banned from community

1. The offspring of Yazidi women captured, raped and impregnated by Islamic State fighters have been barred from joining the community in Iraq, the Media Line reported. Islamic State fighters murdered thousands of Yazidi men, forced young boys to join their ranks and abducted Yazidi women to use as sex slaves. Those children born to female captives have been the subject of fierce debate in the community, which recognizes children as Yazidis only if both parents are members of the sect.

2. Both prisoners Israel set to release, following the return of the body of Israeli soldier, ask not to be returned to Syria, Haaretz reported. One of the two, an accused drug smuggler, refuses to go back to Syria where he says authorities persecute him, while the other, a Fatah operative, requested to be placed in Hebron where he wishes to get married.

3. Astana process: Syria talks end without deal on key constitutional body. The Syrian government and armed opposition groups have failed to agree on the makeup of a constitutional committee during two-day talks in Kazakhstan that were led by Russia along with Iran and Turkey, Al Jazeera reported.

Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters stand by a pick-up truck near the village of Baghouz in eastern Syria. February 11, 2019 (Reuters)

The stakes of Syria's gas shortage

Syria's acute gas shortage is a stark sign of the daunting challenges the country will face in post-war reconstruction. A step up in economic sanctions imposed by the United States are partly responsible for the crisis.

Details: A Shout! News source in Damascus describes unprecedented scenes of cars and people waiting for petrol in lines spilling into the streets. The wait has been counted in days with drivers leaving their cars in the line at night to sleep and coming back to take their spot in the morning. This energy crisis is even worse than what the country experienced during the war, the source says.

The big picture: The U.S. dialed up its sanctions against Iran and the Syrian regime lost access to supply from the oil field captured from the Islamic State by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

  • The Trump administration aims to drive Iran's oil exports to zero by ending sanctions waivers on May 2. It also asked the Sissi government in Egypt to close the Suez Canal to Iranian oil tankers supplying Syria.
  • Concurrently, the Syrian regime lost access to oil supplied by the Islamic State when the jihadist group lost access to oil field captured by Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) backed by American and coalition's airpower. It is unclear whether the SDF will resume supply to Damascus, which the U.S. will most likely oppose.
  • The source in Damascus does not exclude the Syrian government's role in exacerbating the gas shortage, as a mean to enrich those close to the regime.

So far, Iran found a way around the increased economic sanctions by supplying oil from Iraq through trucks at the Baghouz border crossing, Shout! News learned. Freed from the Islamic State last month by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the village of Baghouz sits along the Euphrates River at the Iraqi border in eastern Syria. Iran is considering building a railroad on that supply route.

Questions? Comments? Feedback? Please email team@shout.news

Sri Lankan local people pray near to St Anthony Church on April 23, 2019 evening in Colombo, Sri Lanka. At least 321 people were killed with hundreds more injured after coordinated attack on churches and hotels on Easter Sunday rocked three churches and three luxury hotels in and around Colombo as well as at Batticaloa in Sri Lanka. Based on reports, the Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attacks while investigations have shown that the attack was carried out in retaliation for Christchurch mosque shootings last month. Police have detained 40 suspects so far in connection with the suicide bombs, which injured at least 500 people as the blasts took place at churches in Colombo city as well as neighboring towns and hotels, including the Shangri-La, Kingsbury and Cinnamon Grand. (Atul Loke/Getty Images)

Islamic State 2.0: A global platform

Today's news roundup

1. The Islamic State relaunches as a global platform and the Sri Lanka bombings were a preview of its future, Charlie Winter and Aymenn al-Tamimi say in The Atlantic. In fact, Winter and al-Tamimi argue, the Islamic State has been ideologically strengthened by its failed proto-state, which the jihadi group claims was a way to build a global platform that would ensure the movement's future by mobilizing tens of thousands of supporters.

2. Syria's gas shortage has worsened. A Shout! News source in Damascus describes unprecedented scenes of cars and people waiting for petrol in lines spilling into the streets. The wait has been counted in days with drivers leaving their cars in the line at night to sleep and coming back to take their spot in the morning. This energy crisis is even worse than what the country experienced during the war, the source says.

3. Amnesty criticizes U.S.-led coalition's 'indiscriminate' actions in Raqqa, against the Islamic State, which killed about 1,400 more civilians than the U.S. military has acknowledged. Amnesty International produced names of more than 1,000 people reported killed from June to October 2017 in the northern Syrian city, NPR reported.

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