This is a monthly roundup of news articles and other materials related to other countries` foreign policies toward the Middle East. It does not reflect the views of the Foreign Polices Roundup Editors of Jadaliyya. You may send recommendations for inclusion in the Foreign Policies Media Roundup to firstname.lastname@example.org, mentioning "Foreign Policies Roundup" in the subject line
Rift in Obama Administration over Putin (14 October 2015) Certain anonymous advisers to President Obama have told Politico that the president’s decision to not intervene in Syria has demonstrated Washington’s weakness. These officials believe Obama should either match Putin in Syria or use diplomacy to stand up to the Russian leader.
U.S. Support for Saudi Strikes in Yemen Raises War Crime Concerns (15 October 2015) A U.N. panel for human rights has suggested that America’s support for Saudi airstrikes in Yemen is a war crime.
In Reversal, Obama Says U.S. Soldiers Will Stay in Afghanistan to 2017 (15 October 2015) Despite prior statements and promises, President Obama announces that US forces will remain in Afghanistan until the end of his term in 2017.
The Drone Papers (15 October 2015) The Intercept publishes a number of previously classified documents and other media regarding the US drone program in Afghanistan, Yemen, and Somalia. The documents detail how an individual is selected for targeted killing by US drone strikes and raises further questions about the “collateral damage” of US drone warfare.
Israel, U.S. signal security ties back on track after Iran feud (18 October 2015) Despite numerous diplomatic breakdowns between Israel and the United States over efforts to close a deal with Iran, the United States and Israel return to talks to ensure the continuation of their defense-aid relationship.
Qaeda Cell Leader Killed in Airstrike in Syria (18 October 2015) A U.S. drone strike in Syria killed the leader of the Khorasan group, an al-Qaeda affiliate. This is fifth Khorasan group leader killed in four months.
Syrian Rebels Say They Receive More Weapons for Aleppo Battle (18 October 2015) Syrian rebels have received more weapons from the “anti-Assad” countries. These weapons are supposed to help the rebels in the upcoming fight for Aleppo.
U.S. Agrees With Russia on Rules in Syrian Sky (20 October 2015) Russia and the United States recently reached an agreement regulating drone flights over Syria. This is done to decrease the odds of close contact between Russian and American warplanes.
U.S. Set to Sell Fighter Jets to Pakistan, Balancing Pressure on Nawaz Sharif (21 October 2015) The United States will sell eight new F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan in an effort to facilitate upcoming negotiations with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif about the continuing US presence in Afghanistan and Pakistan’s nuclear program.
U.S. Commando Killed in Raid to Free Hostages of ISIS in Iraq (22 October 2015) The United States Special Operation Forces conducted a raid that freed sixty-nine hostages of ISIS who were going to be executed. During the raid, however, one member of the U.S. forces was killed.
There are still a lot of questions around the U.S. bombing of the MSF hospital in Kunduz (26 October 2015) Investigations into the US bombing of a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan suggest that US forces knew it was a hospital but believed that the hospital had been occupied by Taliban forces despite assurances from the hospital otherwise.
Saudi-led Military Ops in Yemen `Coming to Close` (28 October 2015) Saudi Arabia’s airstrikes in Yemen are nearing their end as focus shifts to political talks. Nearly five thousand people have died in the conflict.
U.S. Weighs Special Forces in Syria, Helicopters in Iraq (28 October 2015) Following recent gains by ISIS, the Obama administration is weighing sending a small contingent of troops to Iraq and Syria. The administration is opposed to placing troops in direct combat roles, however, non-combat troops are a high possibility.
The Pivot to Tehran (29 October 2015) For a long time the United States believed the only way to solve the Syrian conflict was by Bashar al-Assad ceding power. In recent months, however, the US relationship with Iran has resulted in Washington softening on their “Assad policy.” Colum Lynch and John Hudson examine the evolution of this policy.
U.S. To Send Special Forces To Syria (30 October 2015) Up to fifty U.S. special operation forces will be sent to Syria in a non-combat role. Defense Secretary Ash Carter claimed that if the mission is successful more maybe sent in the near future. The operation will begin in Northern Syria during early November. This follows a U.S. special ops mission one week earlier that freed sixty-nine ISIS hostages. Moreover, the U.S. leadership made it clear they will not be cooperating with Russia.
Russia and US Planes in Safety Test Over Syria (4 November 2015) US and Russia have successfully conducted an air-safety test over Syria. This is occurring after a recent agreement between the two countries to prevent contact from the respective countries’ airplanes.
U.S. Accuses Moscow of `Dangerously` Worsening Syria War (4 November 2015) The United States has claimed Russia’s bolstering of Assad over fighting Jihadist is worsening Syria’s war. The US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, Anne Patterson, claims that eighty-five to ninety percent of Russian attacks are targeting the “moderate opposition” and not ISIS.
Kurds, Backed by U.S. Air Power, Try to Regain Sinjar From ISIS (11 November 2015) Kurdish forces, aided by thousands of Yazidi troops and U.S. airpower have attempted to regain the Sinjar province from ISIS. The aim is to pressure Islamic State forces who are being pressed in northeast Syria and Iraq.
U.S. Steps Up Its Attacks on ISIS-Controlled Oil Fields in Syria (12 November 2015) Washington and its allies have vastly increased attacks on ISIS-controlled oil fields in Syria. This is follow-up on the same strategy that American policymakers feel was successful in Iraq: i.e., disrupting ISIS revenue flows.
Egyptian-American Enterprise Fund (EAEF) to Increase Investment in Egypt to One Billion Dollars (12 November 2015) The America-founded EAEF plans to use a new Egyptian investment deal to increase its investment in Cairo by one billion dollars. The goal is to increase overall foreign and domestic investment in Egypt.
U.S. Military Aid For Egypt Seen Continuing Despite Rights Concerns (13 November 2015) The United States is set to provide more than one billion dollars to Egypt, even in the face of the Egyptian government’s crackdown on free speech. This is partially due to the U.S. Republican Party’s view that al-Sisi is a powerful opponent to “terrorism” and “radical Islam” in the Middle East.
`High Degree of Certainty` that US Strike Killed Mohammed Emwazi (13 November 2015) U.S. and British intelligence have confirmed an attack against “Jihadi John,” the former ISIS commander. He was killed in Raqqa, Syria.
Islamic State Leader in Libya Killed in U.S. Airstrike (14 November 2015) A U.S. airstrike on Libya has killed ISIS’ leader in the latter country. The Pentagon said this will degrade ISIS’ ability to expand into Libya.
Volume of Trade Exchange Between Egypt, US was Nearly Eight Billion Dollars in 2014 (16 November 2015) During 2014 Cairo and Washington continued their friendly trade relations and plan to increase the amount during 2015.
Obama Says Strategy to Fight ISIS Will Succeed (16 November 2015) Following the Paris attacks and mass-American frustration, President Obama claimed that Washington’s anti-ISIS strategy will be successful. The President’s goal is to choke out the Islamic State’s social and economic base, thus leading to the group’s demise.
Governors Who Want to Ban Syrian Refugees are Predominantly Republican (17 November 2015) Over half of the U.S. states have claimed they will not accept anymore Syrian refugees. While few American Democrats have joined the list, the grand majority are Republican. Thus, the refugee issue has become divided on party-lines in the United States.
Obama Says Syria Settlement Needed to Eliminate Islamic State (19 November 2015) U.S. President Barack Obama says it may take some months for Iran and Russia to realize there can be no end to the Syrian civil war or ISIS without Assad and the ruling elite abdicating power.
U.S. Eyes Russia-Iran Split in Bid to End Syrian Civil War (19 November 2015) The Obama administration and its European allies are attempting to coax Russia away from Iran’s pro-Assad policy in Syria. Washington views Assad as an ingredient prolonging the civil war and needs Russian support to force the Syrian leader to cease power.
John Bolton Argues Creating a Sunni State is the Best Way to Counter ISIS (24 November 2015) Famed neoconservative John Bolton argues that, to counter ISIS, the United States should establish a clear Sunni state in the Middle East. Per usual, this ignores the geopolitics of the Middle East, the oil states, and agency of actual people living in the region.
Following Kurdish Capture of ISIS Soldiers, Torturing Occurs (29 November 2015) US-backed Kurdish forces recently captured a squadron of ISIS troops. The Kurdish forces, in violation of international law, are illegally torturing the six capture ISIS soldiers.
Islamic State Conflict: U.S. To Deploy Special Operations Force To Iraq (1 December 2015) The United States, in an effort to fight the Islamic State, will send a special operations force in order to aid Kurdish forces in Iraq. These forces will carry out raids, free hostages, and target ISIS leaders. Some of these operations will be conducted unilaterally.
Obama Urges Turkey and Russia To Drop Row and Focus on Common Enemy in ISIS (1 December 2015) Following the rift between Russia and Turkey, that was caused over the latter’s blasting of the former’s jet, Obama urges peace and diplomacy. He argued that the two countries should be focusing on their similarities in wanting to defeat ISIS, not their differences.
Pentagon Seeks to Knit Foreign Bases Into ISIS-Foiling Network (10 December 2015) The Pentagon has proposed establishing more special operations bases in Iraq and Syria aimed with the goal of defeating ISIS. This is following mild success of such forces in Ramadi.
John Kerry Visits Moscow to Prepare for Talks on Syria (15 December 2015) Kerry met with Putin on December 14th in an attempt to work on resolving disagreements between Moscow and Washington over Syria. This meeting was resolved by agreeing that both countries will work towards representing a united opposition and help them reach an agreement with Assad.
Pentagon Weighs Cybercampaign Against ISIS (20 December 2015) The Pentagon believes a more aggressive cyber-campaign against ISIS could work to prevent the group from having successful trade-schemes and weaken its revenue-stream. Opposition to this plan, however, is centered around the fact that a cyber-campaign could also harm people in need of humanitarian aid in Iraq and Syria because it would harm transportation lines and humanitarian organizations.
In favoring Middle East ally, U.S. glossed over human rights record (21 December 2015) Despite indications that Oman’s human trafficking situation has not gotten better and the government has not made much effort to change it, the State Department’s Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report did not reflect the status of human rights violations in Oman.
U.S. Preparing Sanctions on Iran Over Ballistic Missile Program (30 December 2015) These new sanctions will target twelve Iranian companies. These companies are those that have aided Iran in development of ballistic missiles.
U.S. Says Iran Tested Rockets Fifteen Hundred Yards From American Carrier (31 December 2015) Following an announcement that Washington will increase sanctions against Iran, the United States has identified an Iranian rocket launch fifteen hundred yards away from an American carrier.
Russian Military Uses Syria as a Proving Ground and West Takes Notice (14 October 2015) The Russian military has been using the Syria intervention as a way to prove to the west its strength. This is reflective of years of Russian military modernization. Most unfortunately, it is Syrians who are paying the cost of this geopolitical rivalry.
Egypt Imports 240 Thousand Tons of Russian, Romanian Wheat (16 October 2015) Egypt’s General Authority for Supply Commodities has purchased a significant amount of Russian and Romanian wheat. This will be sufficient to cover Egypt’s wheat needs until April.
Egypt`s Shokry, Putin Envoy Agree on `Activating Political Solution in Syria (17 October 2015) Egypt and Russia recently held extensive talks in order to discuss the compatibility of their respective outlooks on Syria. Egypt said Russia’s airstrikes are consistent with the anti-ISIS policy espoused by the United States. Moreover, Cairo hopes Moscow can reach a political solution between Assad and the rebels.
Russia to Outfit Egypt`s Mistral `Tin Can` Warships (20 October 2015) Russia is going to send up to one billion dollars to Egypt in order to outfit Egypt’s naval warships.
Forty-five Killed in Russian Air Strikes in Syria`s Latakia (20 October 2015) Forty-five people were recently killed in Russian airstrikes in Syria. The Russian government has claimed the majority were from ISIS, however, the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights suggests that some were indeed civilians
Putin Uses Assad Visit to Talk Up Kremlin Role As Syria Broker (21 October 2015) Assad flew to Moscow on Tuesday in order to personally thank Vladimir Putin for his military support. This was the first overseas visit made by the Syrian leader since the start of the conflict in 2011. This conversation is overlapped by Moscow’s plans to reach out to Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Egypt in order to extend its influence throughout the Middle East.
Assad Comes to Daddy in Moscow (21 October 2015) The Daily Beast’s Michael Weiss speculates what was discussed in the recent meeting between Assad and Putin. He posits that, as evidenced by Russia’s recent change in foreign policy, the eventual intervention by Syria and Russia in Iraq is a possibility.
Group Cites Seven Attacks on Hospitals Across Syria (22 October 2015) At least seven Syrian medical facilities have been bombed by Russia since the country began its intervention in Syria. Throughout the war 679 medical workers have died, and per Physicians for Human Rights, ninety percent of attacks against hospitals were conducted by the Assad regime.
Syrian Rebels to Russia: Stop Bombing Us (26 October 2015) An alliance of the Free Syrian Army claimed it was skeptical about a Russian proposal to help rebels who are willing to fight ISIS. Moreover, the group claimed that in order to trust Moscow, the country would need to end its bombing of the rebels.
Lavrov: Russia in Contact with Egypt on Forming Syrian Opposition Delegation (27 October 2015) Russia’s Sergei Lavrov has maintained contact with Egypt to host and create a Syrian opposition delegation. This is consistent with Russia’s political statements that Middle Eastern countries need to be involved in the Syria resolution as well as the west.
Russia Opposes UN Draft Resolution to Ban Barrel Bombs (29 October 2015) Spain, France, and Britain have supported a UN resolution that would ban the usage of barrel bombs in Syria. Russia, however, opposes the resolution claiming that it has the ability to “threaten peace efforts” in the war-torn country.
Russian Soldiers Geolocated by Photos in Multiple Syria Locations (8 November 2015) This contradicts Putin’s claims that ground troops would be used. Moscow has responded by claiming these troops are solely for “training purposes.”
Putin vows payback after confirmation of Egypt plane bomb (17 November 2015) After concluding that a bomb was responsible for taking down a Russian passenger plane over the Sinai Peninsula in October, Putin declares that he will seek revenge.
Turkey has Shut Down a Russian Jet Flying Over Syria-Turkey Border (24 November 2015) Putin has condemned Turkey for its actions. Moreover, he called Turkey “accomplice of terrorists” and is clearly frustrated over militant actions from Ankara.
Russia Says It Has Proof of Ankara`s Involvement In ISIS` Oil Trade (2 December 2015) Moscow has stated that it has proof that Recip Erdogan has actually benefited from ISIS’ oil trade. This would mean that, even though Turkey has claimed it is fighting ISIS, they are actually helping the organization.
Putin Weighs Use of Nukes Against ISIS (9 December 2015) In an interview with Russian Times, Vladimir Putin claimed that he is not opposed to using nuclear weapons to fight ISIS. Though, he did mention he hopes this measure is unnecessary.
Putin Bogging Down In Syria (10 December 2015) Israeli and U.S. intelligence sources suggest that Russia’s efforts against ISIS have been less than ineffective. Russian airstrikes have not been a game changer in the fight against ISIS, and more importantly, the Assad regime can still not maintain control over areas Russia has bombed.
Russian Ship in Aegean Sea Fires Warning Shots At Turkish Vessel (13 December 2015) Following a week-long stalemate between Russia and Turkey, the former has fired a militant warning shot at the latter for crossing into Moscow-held territory. The relationship between the two countries has been “testy” at best and reflects each one’s individual roles in the Syria conflict.
Russian Airstrikes Force a Halt to Aid in Syria (14 December 2015) Liz Sly reports for the Washington Post that aid agencies cannot bring supplies into Syria due to Russian airstrikes. Russia is bombing border crossings, highways, and hospitals to purposefully make it impossible for the injured to receive any aid.
Iran to Match Stance with Russia in Push for Syria Deal (18 December 2015) Iran has agreed to work with Russia for a political deal to solve the Syrian war. More specifically, Iran has eased its stance regarding Assad, and is willing to support a newly installed regime that would result in the ousting of Bashar.
Iran Ships Twenty-Five Thousand Pounds of Low Enriched Uranium to Russia (28 December 2015) A ship carrying twenty-five thousand pounds of uranium was sent from Iran to Russia as part of the nuclear agreement. This is a sign of compliance by the Iranian regime.
France Signs Deal Worth Eleven Billion Dollars with Saudi Arabia (15 October 2015) France signed a new aid agreement with Saudi Arabia worth eleven billion dollars. The deal is meant on strengthening business and political ties between the two countries.
Refugee crisis: EU leaders approve deal with Turkey to help millions of people fleeing from Syria (16 October 2015) Angela Merkel alongside other EU leaders agree on an action plan to stem illegal refugee flow to Europe through Turkey. The deal includes aid for Syrian refugees in Turkey as well as a promise to revisit Turkey’s relationship with the bloc at large.
David Cameron Seeks Chinese Support to Bomb Syria (18 October 2015) During China’s upcoming visit with Britain, the British Prime Minister plans to ask Xi Jinping for assistance in bombing Syria.
Learning the Truth About the Iraq War (18 October 2015) The Chilcot Inquiry has revealed that, in a meeting between David Blair and Colin Powell, the former committed to Iraq nearly one year prior to the actual war.
NATO nations to keep presence in Afghanistan, officials say (19 October 2015) In accordance with Obama’s decision to extend the deadline for US troop withdrawals from Afghanistan past the 2016 deadline, NATO forces are poised to remain on the ground as well.
French Airstrikes in Syria Target Terrorist Training Camps (19 October 2015) French President Francois Hollande explained that French airstrikes in Syria do not target individual terrorists, but rather, focus on attacking camps. This is different than U.S. airstrikes which are focused on killing individual terrorists.
Britain Unveils Plans to Fight Extremism in Young Muslims (19 October 2015) Britain, in a counter-extremism brief created by the government, has created plans to fight extremism in young Muslims. Part of this plan includes limiting what can be posted on the internet, bar anyone who wants to commit extremist crimes from working with children, and to ensure schools are prepared to fight the infiltration of extremists. This stems from David Cameron’s continuing fight against Islamism, which he believes is one of his generation’s “greatest struggles.”
Tony Blair Makes Qualified Apology for Iraq War (25 October 2015) Tony Blair has moved to prepare the ground for the Chilcot Inquiry -- a British inquiry into the Iraq war -- by apologizing for the conflict. Amongst other things, on Fareed Zakaria’s CNN television show, Blair apologized for incorrect intelligence on the Iraq war and admits it led to ISIS. Yet, Blair declined to apologize for the war itself.
Assad Accuses France of Support (28 October 2015) Syria’s Bashar al-Assad renewed claims that the west, including France, support terrorist groups. He then claimed that terrorism was the main reason the Syrian people are suffering.
Saudi blogger Raif Badawi awarded Sakharov human rights prize (29 October 2015) The European Parliament awards Saudi activist Raif Badawi--currently in jail in Saudi Arabia for “insulting Islam”--their Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought and urges Saudi Arabia to release him to accept the award.
Ministers in Tony Blair`s Government `Told to Burn Legal Advice Warning Iraq War Could Be Illegal` (1 November 2015) A thirteen page legal note from Lord Goldsmith -- the attorney general during the time of the Iraq war -- explained that ministers in Tony Blair’s government were told to burn legal advice suggesting that the Iraq war was illegal. These claims were revealed following Sir John Chilcot’s reveal that his report will be released in June/July 2016.
Egypt`s Sisi UK Visit Puts Spotlight on Human Rights (3 November 2015) President Sisi will be making his first trip to the United Kingdom and the main discussion will be human rights, and more specifically, freedom of speech in Cairo. Egypt and Britain tend to do significant amounts of business together, and therefore, the United Kingdom will most likely be lenient on Egypt’s human rights policies.
UK`s Hammond Backs More Saudi Arms Sales (3 November 2015) The United Kingdom’s Foreign Secretary claimed that Britain should sell more arm sales to Saudi Arabia despite Riyadh’s intervention in Yemen. Despite the humanitarian concern, John Hammond claimed that arm sales to Saudi Arabia create British jobs.
France Launches Fierce Assault on ISIS Targets in Syria (15 November 2015) Following the Paris attacks, France has launched a significant air-raid against ISIS in Syria. In Raqqa, these strikes completely knocked out electricity for nearly two-hundred-thousand people.
Paris Attacked by ISIS, French Police Launch Raids (16 November 2015) 129 citizens were killed in ISIS’ attack against Paris. Following this, French police and military have launched domestic raids, which have seized weapons and arrested at least nine civilians
Call to Arms in France Amid Hunt for Belgian Suspect in Terrorist Attacks (16 November 2015) French President Francois Hollande claimed France is at war against ISIS. The President called for parliamentary action that would allow French police forces to conduct raids at a much quicker, more efficient pace.
Paris Attacks `Ringleader" Abdelhamid Abaaoud Killed in Raid (19 November 2015) The leader of the Paris attacks was killed in a raid in St. Dennis. The cousin of Abaaoud was also killed in the raid. French police went five thousand rounds of ammunition.
French Prime Minister Valls Says Chemical Warfare Risk Not Ruled Out (19 November 2015) The French Prime Minister claimed that there is a significant possibility of ISIS engaging in a bio-terror attack against France.
Paris Attacks Spur Emergency Edict and Intense Policing in France (23 November 2015) The New York Times reports that, since the Paris attacks, policing against Muslims has dramatically increased. Few have been protesting this new step towards a police-state in France.
Merkel Cabinet Backs German Role in Military Campaign Against ISIS (1 December 2015) Germany has agreed to join the fight against the Islamic State; however, the country will not aid the Assad regime in said fight. The backing of the coalition is meant to fight against IS in Germany.
France and Germany Move to Block ISIS` Cash Flow (2 December 2015) France and Germany have released a new plan that seeks to choke off the cash flow to ISIS and they are hoping other European countries will join as well. This new strategy will include stronger bank regulations and a crackdown on money laundering.
German MPs Vote to Join Anti-ISIS Coalition (4 December 2015) Germany, in the face of an increased ISIS presence, has voted to join the U.S. anti-ISIS coalition. Most of what Germany is sending to the region is for humanitarian concerns, however, some are military as well.
In Iraq`s Shadow (5 December 2015) The Economist reports on differences between British operations in Iraq and Syria and those from the United States and France. More specifically, Britain is avoiding mistakes made by the U.S. military invasion of Iraq in the early 21st century. The British forces will only seek to aid the operations of the United States and France, and not engage in their own support of Assad or the Syrian rebels.
UK and Russia Agree to Work Together in Fight Against Islamic State (9 December 2015) Following a decision to send aid to help defeat ISIS, the United Kingdom has agreed to work with both the Russians and United States. This occurred after a phone conversation between David Cameron and Vladimir Putin on December 9.
China Repeats Opposition to Force in Syria (16 October 2015) China has repeated its opposition to using any force in Syria. Beijing has continuously claimed a political solution, not force, is necessary to solve the Syrian conflict.
State Information Services Chinese Envoy to Middle East; China Trusts Egypt`s Ability to Solve Palestinian Issues(17 October 2015) Chinese envoy to the Middle East -- Gong Xiaosheng -- voiced support of Egypt’s ability to solve the Israel-Palestine conflict. He furthered that peace in this conflict is dependent on support from the Arab world.
Iran, China Mull Oil Refinery in Kazakhstan (18 October 2015) Iran and China seek to trade with the Kazakhs, who are now building an oil refinery in Mangistau Oblast. Additionally, Iran and China are interested in aiding construction of the refinery. Moreover, there would be import swapping between Kazakhstan and Iran within the Northern Iran region if this refinery were to be built.
China, Germany Agree Syria Needs Political Solution (29 October 2015) In a meeting between the two countries, China and Germany agreed force will not solve the Syrian conflict. China’s statement reflected that they desire an open political dialogue between both sides of the Syrian conflict.
China is the Largest Exporter of Non-Petroleum Products to Egypt (29 October 2015) According to the General Organization for Export and Import Control, China has seized fifteen percent of Egypt’s imports between January and June 2015. They were followed by Germany. This signals that Egypt’s relations with both China and Germany, two countries that approach the Middle East from a more isolationist perspective.
China Attends Vienna Meeting on Syria with Proposal (30 October 2015) China told reporters that it attended the Vienna meeting on Syria with a proposal for a political solution. This is reflective of China’s continued non-intervention policy in Syria.
China to Participate in Expanded Ministerial Meeting on Syria (9 November 2015) China will participate in a meeting with the goal of solving the Syrian civil war. This is an interesting, yet expected development because China has remained isolationist on the issue. Beijing believes the only solution is a political one between all of the “moderate” parties engaged in war.
Only Syrian People Should Decide Their Future, Chinese Envoy Claims (13 November 2015) Chinese envoy Gong Xiaosheng claimed that only Syrian people could decide their future during a press conference at China’s embassy. This is reflective of China’s long-standing position on the Syrian conflict.
China Proposes Comprehensive Ceasefire in Syria (14 November 2015) Overshadowed by the Paris terrorist attacks, China proposed a comprehensive Syrian ceasefire in Vienna. The plan is reliant on a leadership continuity based on the Geneva convention and would see Assad abdicate power.
Egypt, China Sign Grant Agreement Greater than Thirty Million U.S. Dollars (19 November 2015) This grant will work to finance bilateral technical and economic cooperation projects. Following this, the Egyptian hailed the relations between the two countries as “distinguished.”
Beijing Fury as ISIS Kills Chinese, Norwegian Hostages (20 November 2015) Following executions of Chinese and Norwegian hostages by the Islamic State, the Chinese government has strongly condemned the terrorist group and vows revenge. This presents a dilemma for Beijing because the country has attempted to remain isolationist in the fight against ISIS.
China and Japan`s Fight Against ISIS (2 December 2015) China views ISIS as a strategic threat to their stability. Moreover, they are concerned that Uighur radicals are going to join ISIS, and thus harm the country. Chinese security forces estimate that up to three-hundred of these Uighur radicals have joined ISIS. Therefore, China is working with Japan -- who does not have domestic terror threats, but is worried about tourism -- in order to fight ISIS cells in Asia.
ISIS Extends Recruitment Efforts to China (8 December 2015) ISIS recently sent a video in Mandarin to Chinese internet services attempting to recruit citizens from Beijing. The oddity is that there are not many Salafi Muslims in China; however, this move fits ISIS’ grand strategy.
Egypt To Receive a Two-Hundred Million Dollar Grant From China (17 December 2015) Egypt recently signed a multi-million dollar grant deal with China. This grant will be invested in the Suez, infrastructure, and healthcare.
Other Countries/Middle East
Iran Ramps Up Troop Deployment in Syria in Run-Up to "Anti-Rebel Offensive" (14 October 2015) Iran has sent hundreds of soldiers from its Revolutionary Guard to aid Assad in Syria. A Kuwaiti newspaper suggests that the real number may be closer to two thousand troops. Iran has been involved since the beginning of the conflict; however, following the beginning of Russian intervention, Iran has stepped up its involvement.
ISIS Inc: How Oil Fuels the Jihadi Terrorists (14 October 2015) ISIS’s oil market has forced its enemies to trade with it. The Financial Times reports that Syrian rebels and traders as well as people that work in the Assad government. It is easy to oversimplify conflicts, which would make something like this incomprehensible; however, when one gives the people in Syria agency it becomes understandable. Traders and oil engineers need to make money, thus, while many may dislike ISIS, the latter’s oil monopoly forces those business deals to happen.
Sudan sends ground troops to Yemen to boost Saudi-led coalition (18 October 2015) In order to encourage support for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen against the Houthi movement, Sudan has sent ground troops to the port city of Aden with a mission to secure the city and restore legitimacy.
Doctors Without Borders Says Yemen Hospital Is Destroyed (27 October 2015) A Doctors Without Borders hospital in northern Yemen was allegedly destroyed by Saudi-led coalition airstrikes despite having the coordinates of the hospital prior to the incident.
Iraq Unseats Saudi Arabia as Top Crude Supplier to India (28 October 2015) Iraq has now overtaken Saudi Arabia as the top crude supplier to both India and China. Iraq is expanding its hold over the oil market, and due to the zero-sum nature of global economics, hurting Saudi Arabia.
Qatar Rules Out Military Intervention in Syria (29 October 2015) Qatar’s Foreign Minister has ruled out a military intervention in Syria. Moreover, he claimed that Ahrar al-Sham has no connections to al-Qaeda and is innocent of committing recent crimes.
Pakistan Gave Iran Four Thousand Centrifuges (29 October 2015) Iran’s former President Rafsanjani claimed that Pakistan provided four thousand centrifuges to Tehran. He did not specify if the centrifuges were supplied by the Pakistani government or a third party. Nonetheless, the Pakistani government claims that any transfer must have occurred from Abdal-Qadir Khan’s network.
Oman: the outlier (29 October 2015) European think tank FRIDE’s foreign policy brief on Oman’s current and future role in the formation of Middle East and Gulf policy in relation to the hostile relationship between Iran and Saudi Arabia.
Turkey Launches Airstrikes on Kurdish Militants in Iraq (3 November 2015) Shortly following Recep Erdogan’s landslide electoral victory, Turkish jets launched a series of airstrikes on Kurdish militants in Iraq. This serves to reinforce Erdogan’s anti-Kurdish policies.
Trouble on Holy Ground (4 November 2015) In light of recent tensions, Robert Blecher discusses the unofficial agreement between Israel and Jordan known as the Status Quo, which has historically governed the right to worship on the Holy Esplanade.
Leaked Emirati Emails Could Threaten Peace Talks in Libya (12 November 2015) Leaked emails provided to the New York Times indicate that the UAE violated an international arms embargo in order to provide weapons to favored factions in Libya.
Arab States Condemn Paris Terrorist Attacks (14 November 2015) Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, Morocco, Turkey, Iran, Egypt, and Jordan are amongst the Middle East and North African states that have condemned the Paris terrorist attacks. This comes in the face of ISIS killing thousands of civilians located in the Middle East as well as the West.
First Syrian refugees to land in Australia (16 November 2015) After agreeing to resettle 12,000 Syrian refugees fleeing the conflict in their nation, Australia prepares for its first group of arrivals.
Emirates Secretly Sends Colombian Mercenaries to Yemen Fight (25 November 2015) The Emirati military allegedly sent hired soldiers from Latin America to aid the Saudi coalition forces in their fight in Yemen, deepening the convoluted nature of the military intervention in Yemen.
Islamic State Prevents Citizens From Fleeing Ramadi (1 December 2015) Iraqi forces are reporting ISIS has locked down Ramadi and is preventing citizens from fleeing.
Air Strike Hits Syrian Water Supply (1 December 2015) There was an airstrike on an Aleppo water treatment facility that provided water to over three million people. The operations of the facility have been partially restored; but, people living in rural areas still lack access to water.
Doctors Without Borders Says Clinic Hit in Yemen Was Known to Coalition (3 December 2015) For the second time in two months, Saudi-led coalition forces strike medical facility run by Doctors Without Borders in Taiz, Yemen. Docotrs Without Borders claims there is no way that coalition forces were not aware of their activities at the targeted location.
Iraq Gives Turkey Forty-Eight Hours to Withdraw its Military Near Mosul (6 December 2015) Iraq recently said that Turkey has forty-eight hours to remove its military near Mosul, an ISIS stronghold. The arrival of these Turkish forces were an assault on Iraq’s sovereignty, coming without the consent of the Baghdadi government, especially when considering the hundreds of troops and tanks parked in the Nineveh province.
Syrian Rebels Leave Homs Under Truce (9 December 2015) Following a rebel agreement with the regime, the Syrian opposition has begun to vacate Homs. Under the agreement, food aid has reached the district for the first time in nearly one year.
ISIL Raises Up To One-and-a-half Billion Dollars From Bank Looting (11 December 2015) ISIS has looted more money from banks that in has from oil sales. Much of this is done through extortion.
First planeload of Syrian refugees arrives in Canada (11 December 2015) Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada greeted the first plane of Syrian refugees to arrive in Toronto. The government plans to accept 15,000 refugees by the end of February.
Saudi Arabia Forms Muslim `Anti-Terrorism` Coalition (15 December 2015) Saudi Arabia has formed a coalition of thirty-four Muslim majority countries with the goal of fighting terrorism and extremism. This comes in the wake of ISIS’ rise.
Islamic State Eyeing Oil Targets Beyond Syria (15 December 2015) According to a U.S. official, ISIS controls over eighty percent of the gas fields in Syria. Moreover, they are planning to primarily use this oil -- instead of what they own in Syria and Iraq -- to make a profit due to the ease of selling petroleum when it is not being bombed.
Iraqi Forces Capture Main Government Compound in Ramadi (27 December 2015) Iraqi forces have claimed that they have liberated Ramadi from ISIS’ control. Backed by U.S. airstrikes, the Iraqi forces were able to defeat ISIS. This is important because, first, Ramadi has been under siege for a long time. But secondly, it is located eighty miles from Baghdad, and thus the city has political value.
Treaties, Agreements, United Nations, and Statistics
UN Says Thirty-Five Thousand Displaced By Syrian Aleppo Offensive (20 October 2015) Since the regime offensive began in Aleppo, the United Nations calculates that thirty-five thousand Syrians have been displaced. Most of the displaced are living further west with others.
Iran is Invited to Join U.S., Russia and Europe for Talks on Syria`s Future (27 October 2015) Iran has been invited to a conference in Vienna in order to work with Russia, the United States, and other European countries seeking to end the Syrian conflict. This flies in the face of blatant U.S. opposition to Iran’s actions in Syria.
As Talks on Syria Begin, the Future of Assad Will be Set Aside - For Now (28 October 2015) The previously mentioned Vienna talks will approach the resolution of the Syrian conflict. Yet, from the perspective of the United States, the goal of these talks should not be to solve the Syrian crisis; rather, it should be to get all major powers involved in the conflict in the same room.
Rancor Between Saudi Arabia and Iran Threatens Talks on Syria (29 October 2015) The American goal of creating a transition that slowly eases Bashar al-Assad safely out of power has been disrupted by the Saudi-Iranian rivalry. This rivalry is also the biggest obstacle to having successful talks regarding Syria in Vienna.
Aid Rushed to Yemen Island After Cyclone Displaces Forty Thousand (4 November 2015) The United Nations has rushed significant aid to Yemen following a devastating cyclone that displaced forty thousand citizens.
Refugee Crisis Country Aid Contributions (6 November 2015) Following an escalation in the refugee crisis, the United Nations have released individual country contributions to aiding refugees. Based on economics, two superpowers, China and Russia, are near the bottom of the list, contributing .0002% and .0013% of their GDPs respectively. The United States is steadily the world’s largest provider.
Russia `Peace Plan` Revealed Ahead of Key Summit (11 November 2015) Following an established “Syria summit,” Russia’s proposed peace plan has been unveiled. The central goal is to have elections in eighteen months. Syrian opposition groups have opposed the plan as they believe it will allow for a continuation of the Assad regime.
Global Anti-ISIS Alliance Begins To Emerge (17 November 2015) Following the Paris attacks, the United States, France, and Russia have begun to discuss the possibility of a unified, anti-ISIS coalition. Moreover, France and Russia have begun to coordinate airstrikes in Syria. The Syrian opposition leaders are weary this will mean Assad gains significant leverage in the conflict.
NATO and UN Seek Calm Over Turkish Downing of Russian Jet (24 November 2015) The United Nations has called for calm diplomacy following the Turkish drowning of a Russian jet. The international community believes that peaceful discussions are the best way to solve this dilemma.
Syrian Opposition Seeks Unified Front at Riyadh Conference (8 December 2015) Syrian opposition groups, in a first-time move for most of them, are joining peace talks with the Assad regime. Noticeably absent are the Kurds, who were not invited to the talks.
Syrian Opposition to Meet Government For Talks in Early January (10 December 2015) Following a successful talk that led to an agreement over the city of Homs, the Syrian opposition and Assad regime agreed to future talks. Thus, there will be another meeting to plan the exact date.
Syrian Rebels Form Bloc for New Round of Peace Talks (11 December 2015) An array of Syrian opposition groups agreed in Riyadh to form a new, more inclusive body in order to negotiate with Assad. This is following a set of previous meetings that resulted in a compromise around the city of Homs.
U.N. Council to Adopt Sanctions Against ISIS (16 December 2015) Following a meeting between John Kerry and Vladimir Putin, the United Nations has agreed to increase sanctions against countries that support, and do not attack ISIS.
Yemen Peace Talks Struggling in Switzerland (17 December 2015) U.N. peace talks over Yemen are at a halt because the Yemeni government is increasing its demands over the Houthi rebels. Direct talks between the two sides have been suspended for a number of days over a debate regarding the release of hostages.
United Nations Endorses Syria Peace Plan in Rare Show of Unity Among Big Powers (19 December 2015) The United Nations agreed on a Syrian peace plan that will roadmap the conflict’s resolution. This plan provides the United Nations with a two year timeline to establish a new regime in Syria.
Yemen Peace Talks End With No End to Conflict (20 December 2015) The Yemeni peace talks have ended with no resolution in sight. Conversations regarding hostages, as well as ceding governmental power, removed any chance of successful peace talks from occurring.
United Nations Demands Immediate Humanitarian Access Across Battle Lines (22 December 2015) Following blockades of humanitarian organizations and their modes of transportation in Iraq and Syria, the UN Security Council has demanded open access for all humanitarian groups.
Syrian Peace Talks Set For January 25 (26 December 2015) The United Nations has set the date for Syrian peace talks - when the regime will meet with a coalition of rebel groups - for January 25. This occurs during the backdrop of the ongoing Syrian Civil War; but nonetheless, is a sign of progress in a resolution to the conflict.
Wounded Syrian Fighters and Civilians Evacuated Under UN Deal (29 December 2015) Following the United Nations agreement many Syrian civilians, rebels, and others have fled Syria and arrived in Lebanon. This is a result of the aforementioned peace agreement.