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. 

Show Comments ()
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 editorial@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.

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

Heatmap of allegedly recent Islamic State's attacks published by the jihadi's group supporters on messaging app Whatsapp. April 24, 2019 (Shout! News)

Heatmap of recent Islamic State's attacks

Under the rallying cry of baqiya ("remaining", in Arabic, one of the most common adjectives associated with the Islamic State, says analyst Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi), Islamic State's supporters on social media are circulating a heatmap of what they claim are the jihadi group's attacks in Syria, Iraq and neighboring countries in the last three months.

Note that it includes the Palestinian territory's Gaza Strip.

The militarily defeated group fans are also claiming there were other attacks outside the region, especially Africa.

Go deeper:

Israel's Syria map

Interview: "ISIS wives" want to go to Turkey instead of home

Fighters purportedly from the Syrian Democratic Forces' newly formed Armenian unit (Syrian Civil War Map)

Syrian Democratic Forces to announce an Armenian unit

Today's news roundup

1. The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) will announce the formation of an Armenian battalion. The unit is to consist of 50 fighters, Massis Post, an Armenian-American community newspaper, reported. The region under SDF control in northern Syria includes an Armenian community.

The new unit's insignia features an Armenian National Flag (Red-Blue-Orange} and Mount Ararat:

2. Jordan-Syria ties stumble over fate of Jordanian detainees, Al-Monitor reported. The two countries exchanged parliamentary visits in what was seen as a positive sign of a warming of bilateral ties, late last year. This recent development reflects the reality that Jordanian-Syrian ties have a long way to go before normalization.

3. Islamic State kills regime fighters across Syria, Reuters reported. These attacks reflect that although the Islamic State lost its last territorial enclave in Syria at Baghouz near the Iraqi border last month to U.S.-backed forces, it still has fighters holding out in the remote central desert and capable of striking.

A U.S. Army base outside Manbij, ,Syria. June 21, 2018 (Flavius Mihaies/Shout! News)

Interview: Trump left a tripwire military presence in Syria

Michael M. Gunter, a professor of political science who has written extensively on the Kurds told Shout News in an interview that the small remaining American military presence in Syria serves as a tripwire to deter any hostile intents toward the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces in control of northeastern Syria.

Highlights from the interview:

  • "The U.S. will not leave the Kurds like Nixon and Kissinger did." American forces left in Syria serve as a deterrent should Turkey, Syrian regime forces and their Iranian allies backed by Russian airpower attempt to sweep through the territory that the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces control in northeastern Syria. A situation akin to the Cold War tripwire, where a small U.S. military force in Europe signaled America's commitment to an armed response to a Soviet attack.
  • A miscalculation in Turkey's high risk adventure in Syria could reverberate in President Erdoğan's presidency. While there are no serious contenders today, a Turkish military embarrassment by in Syria could create an opening and lead to President Erdoğan's removal from power.
  • "Syria's Kurds are much more noticeable today, and in a much better position than they were ten or twenty years ago, in a brighter position than they have ever been in modern times."
  • "Turkey is the power Syria's Kurds will need to get along with", despite a rhetoric that portrays Turkey "as evil" relayed by the media in the West. Historically, in the region nobody is 100% enemy with each other. Today's loss are tomorrow's wins. This long view of the conflict is largely absent in the media coverage of the war in Syria, but key to understand the conflict.

Go deeper: Syria's 2000 American troops: Strength is not in numbers

Syrian Pound exchange rates at a currency exchange office in Damascus, Syria. August 12, 2015 (Flavius Mihaies/Shout News)

Syria's Assad is at risk of winning the war but losing the peace

As the Syrian civil war enters its ninth year, the news media is abuzz with stories about President Bashar al-Assad's victory on the battlefield. Yet, Syrians in government-controlled territory are increasingly expressing discontent with the president as living standards in the country continue to deteriorate even as the conflict winds down, the Washington Post reported.

Why it matters: Syria's president is at risk of winning the war but losing the peace if he fails to address a crippling shortage of fuel and electricity, provide jobs for the men returning from the front lines, and stabilize the Syrian currency. These challenges are compounded by inefficiencies and corruption amongst his government.

What Syrians are saying:

A Damascus-based worker for a non-governmental organization in an interview for Shout! News claimed that Syrians feel they have been betrayed by their government. They acknowledge, however, that the central government's control of territory outside the capital has weakened due to the partial devolution of state and military power to local authorities as a measure to fight the war. Local warlords emerged as a result.

"Military men don't behave like military anymore," the man said, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. Access to public services, as water, has been privatized by local strongmen and offered for a fee, he complained. He mentioned the example of a village he visited recently where public access to water is now run by someone close to the local strongman.

"Today's living standards are worse than during the war," but Western countries' sanctions against the Syrian regime are also responsible for their deterioration, the man said.

Illustration: Shout! News Visuals

Programmatic propaganda in action in Syria's conflict: #OperationOliveBranch

The ongoing conflict in Syria blends conventional warfare with social media manipulation operations to influence public opinion, according to research.

The backstory: In January 2018, Turkey launched a military operation, code-named Olive Branch, in an around the northern Syria's city of Afrin.

Key findings: There is a social media manipulation dimension to Turkey's war in Syria. The Turkish state or pro-Turkish state elements sought to influence public opinion on the conflict, backing up the Turkish state message in a computer automated manner and orchestrated campaign connected with the Twitter hashtag #operationolivebranch.

The details: Research identified two ways the Turkish state or pro-Turkish state elements sought to influence audiences perception on Twitter.

  • Automated Twitter accounts that pose as journalist and political account: Two high-volume automated accounts, one that poses as a journalist/blogger @PelinCiftek, and the other a political profile AkPartiNet. At the time of the research these two accounts were tweeting at a rate of 465 tweets per day (on a seven day average) and sharing the same content from twenty two other accounts. These two accounts at first glance have nothing in common nor appear to be connected. Yet, research found they were operating in concert with the identical volume, timing and tweets themselves. These two accounts were created within one month of each other, and have nearly an identical tweet to like ratio, and following to follower ratio.
  • A network of automated amplifiers. These seemingly two unrelated (not directly connected) accounts are highly programmatic, and serve as the hubs of a tightly connected network that is amplifying the Turkish government message on the war in Afrin and other issues. This serves as an example of computation propaganda in action. Our research highlights how this network operates in a computer automated manner. Additional automated Twitter accounts amplifying the Turkish government's message about the war in Afrin and other issues. Research concluded these are likely government approved proxies or messengers (if not, it's highly improbable this content and network would exist) whose tweets are relayed by the two accounts above. At the time of the research it was noted that these ten accounts have a daily tweet average to classify them as cyborgs.

The big picture: Turkey's military operation in the conflict in Syria is the first invasion by Turkish ground forces into a sovereign nation since the Cyprus conflict in 1974.

Go deeper: A recent study by Oxford University shows widespread use of social media tactics by governments to shape public discourse and spread misinformation.

This analysis was first posted on Medium, including research findings and methodology.

A man standing in a church in Kobane, Syria. April 3, 2019 (Reuters)

Islamic State's violence drives Syrians toward Christianity

Today's news roundup

1. Christianity grows in Syrian town once besieged by Islamic State, Reuters reported, referring to Kobane, in northern Syria. The Evangelical movement is the beneficiary, not the traditional Eastern churches. Converts say the experience of war and the onslaught of the Islamic State claiming to fight for Islam pushed them to distance themselves from Islam.

2. Astana process moves forward: Kazakhstan will host new peace talks on Syria, backed by Iran, Russia and Turkey in effort to reach a political settlement for the conflict on April 25 and 26, The New Arab reported. The United Nations and Jordan are expected to attend as observers.

3. Gas shortage plagues Syria. U.S. sanctions are partly in blame, this thread on Twitter discussed. Yet, Reuters pointed to the halt in Iranian credit. Tehran is itself the target of U.S. sanctions reimposed since President Donald Trump withdrew from a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and several world powers.

Lebanese Cardinal Bechara Rai, patriarch of the Maronite Catholic Church, and Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan share Christmas greetings on December 24, 2018 in Bkerke, Lebanon. (CNS photo/ Mychel Akl, courtesy Maronite Catholic Patriarchate.)

Lebanon's Maronite Church deplores U.S. recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan

Roundup of top Syria conflict news - April 18, 2019

1. British taxpayers will pay for legal aid to Islamic State's bride Shamima Begum. The 19-year-old, who left east London in 2015, was stripped of her citizenship in February, after she was found in a Syrian refugee camp, the BBC reported. Ms Begum played an active role in the Islamic State's reign of terror as a member of the "hisba", which punishes those found flouting the group's laws on how to dress and behave, The Independent reported.

2. Associated Press published a map of the military campaign against the Islamic State from the group's greatest territorial gains in 2014. Gray shows areas occupied by the IS and allied groups.

3. Maronite bishops in Lebanon deplored the U.S. recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan in a statement released at the end of the Bishops' monthly assembly, the Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation reported.