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.
US Barrels Towards Lifting Iran Sanctions (9 January 2016) Following a peaceful month where Iran continued to move towards denuclearization the United States is signaling ending sanctions. This comes despite harsh criticism of the plan in Washington.
Neglect May Do What ISIS Didn`t: Breach Iraqi Mosul Dam (10 January 2016) President Obama has warned Iraqi government that neglecting the Mosul Dam will cause the infrastructure to collapse. This comes in the face of necessary repairs occurring. Moreover, the U.S. State Department suggests that, if the dam were to collapse, nearly five-hundred thousand people would die.
Iran Seizes U.S. Sailors Amid Claims of Spying (12 January 2016) Iran seized two U.S. Navy ships and ten sailors amidst claims of spying. Shortly following the detention, though, the U.S. State Department received word that the sailors would be being released.
Pentagon Considers Turkish Plan to Train Fighters in Syria (12 January 2016) Washington is weighing a request by Turkey to train Saudi fighters in Syria. This program would be part of the long-standing dialogue between Ankara and Washington regarding the closing of the Turkish border. The train-and-equip program, according to politicians in Turkey, would result in a more diversified rebel coalition to fight ISIS.
Intense Diplomacy Between Secretary of State Kerry and his Iranian Counterpart to Secure Sailors’ Release (13 January 2016) Washington-Tehran diplomacy has resulted in the speedy release of captured sailors. Secretary of State John Kerry thanked Iranian officials and claimed the nuclear deal led to these types of discussions being able to occur.
Missing Americans in Baghdad Taken From Apartment (18 January 2016) Three Americans were kidnapped in Iraq from their apartment. This has resulted in American and Iraqi officials scrambling to find the missing people. No other details are currently available, however, this is added to the history of Americans being abducted in Iraq since the 2003 invasion.
U.S.-Iranian Prisoner Swap Pits Compassion Against Geopolitics (18 January 2016) A recent prisoner swap between Washington and Tehran has resulted in five imprisoned U.S. citizens being released and seven Iranians - some of whom were accused of being terrorists - also being allowed to return home. Peter Baker explains how, for both countries, this decision has pitted compassion against geopolitics. Nonetheless, this swap is indicative of slowly improving relations between Iran and the United States.
Airdrops Called "Too Risky" A Way To Help Starving Syrians, Per U.S. Government (19 January 2016) American officials do not seem to believe the harms faced by starving Syrians outweigh the risks of airdropping food. American officials have noted that aidrops are way “too risky,” and consequently, they will not engage in the practice.
Iranian Supreme Leader Khamenei Warns Iran`s Government Against U.S. "Deceptions" (19 January 2016) Iran’s Supreme Leader, Khamenei, has cautiously accepted removal of international sanctions. Nevertheless, he also warned against a potential deception by Washington.
Iranian Hard-Liners Reassert Influence on Election Slate (19 January 2016) Following the removal of U.S. sanctions, hard-liners in Iran who are frustrated by the nuclear agreement have attempted to stack the election slate. Over two-thirds of the twelve-thousand candidates who chose to run for election were disqualified, and only one percent of those who favor more rapprochement with the west were approved. This continues a trend since the 2009 Green Party of sidelining the more “moderate” voices in Iran.
U.S. Offers Turkey Technology to Block Islamic State (20 January 2016) Joe Biden is set to meet with a Turkish delegation to decide what Ankara will need to block its border from Islamic State militants. This will include transfers of new weapon technology and the possibility of training anti-ISIS militants.
Obama Losing Credibility With Syrian Opposition Leaders (27 January 2016) Various think tanks who work with Syrian opposition leaders are claiming the Obama administration is losing credibility within the opposition. The opposition feels that the Obama administration will not push for a transition from Assad.
Pentagon to Hike Spending Request to Fund Fight Versus Islamic State (1 February 2016) The fiscal year 2017 Pentagon budget will call for more than $7 billion for the fight against Islamic State, a roughly 35 percent increase compared with the previous year`s request to Congress, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Inside the Kurdish Fighting Forces (2 February 2016) Thomas Gibbons-Neff describes the “deeply entwined” relationship between US troops and their peshmerga counterparts. He furthers that, while the Kurds work closely with the United States, they are not beholden to them, and have opted to work with Russia, too.
Turkey`s Erdogan Lambasts United States Over Support For Kurds (10 February 2016) Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan criticized U.S. support for Kurds, as the latter recently seized an airport near Aleppo and attempted to strengthen ties with Russia. Turkey is frustrated with Washington’s lack of identifying the Kurds as a terrorist group.
Aleppo is a Rebuke on American Policy (10 February 2016) The Guardian argues that U.S. failed policy in Syria is being reflected in Aleppo. The rebels, who Obama has claimed to support for a long time, are currently in need of anti-tank weaponry and not receiving them. To some extent, The Guardian argues, the United States has left the rebels and citizens in Aleppo to die, and Russia’s promise to stop bombing on March 1st does little to assuage these concerns.
John Kerry to Push for Ceasefire at Syrian Meeting (11 February 2016) At a meeting in Munich, Secretary of State John Kerry is seeking to achieve a ceasefire to the five-year conflict. Kerry believes that Russia’s actions are making it increasingly difficult to reach peace agreement. Hence, if one does not occur soon, it will never happen.
World Powers Agree to Cease-Fire in Syria (11 February 2016) Post-Kerry’s request for a Syrian ceasefire, and following negotiations between all available parties, an agreement to “cease hostilities” has occurred. This is not technically a ceasefire, but hopefully a cease in killings in the Civil War. Additionally, this deal has led to further discussions of humanitarian airdrops.
Iran Aims to Hurt the U.S. by Dumping the Dollar (12 February 2016) Tehran has declared that it is moving away from the U.S. dollar in trade. Iranian officials believe one of the reasons for U.S. hegemony is the petrodollar, and thus by moving away from the dollar, could harm Washington’s interests.
Kremlin Report That Obama Called Putin To Discuss A Syrian Ceasefire (14 February 2016) President Obama and Putin have escalated discussions to end the fighting in Syria. Per the Washington Post, this is because Obama wants to ensure humanitarian aid delivery to Syrian citizens.
U.S. Support For Syrian Kurds` "A Strategic Mistake," Per Turkish Envoy (16 February 2016) Tensions between Turkey and the United States have escalated with the Kurdish advance into Aleppo. This frustrated the Turkey-backed Syrian rebels as well as the Russian backed Assad forces. Both sides have condemned U.S. backing on numerous occasions.
Turkey Blames Kurdish Militia For Ankara Attack, United States Says Not To Be Quick To Blame (18 February 2016) Turkey has blamed the U.S. backed Kurdish militia for a bombing in Ankara. The United States, though while claiming empathy for Ankara, has argued for Turkey not to rush to a conclusion about who conducted the bombing.
John Kerry Says Partition Of Syria Could Be Part of "Plan B" (23 February 2016) John Kerry has argued that, if the current round of Syrian peace talks fail, a partition of the country has an increased likelihood to be the overall solution. The U.S. Secretary of State claimed that “it may be too late to keep it as a whole Syria if we wait much longer.” This thus continues the long legacy of Western imperialism in the region.
U.S. House Foreign Relations Committee Finds Assad and Russia Guilty Of War Crimes (2 March 2016) House lawmakers, frustrated by Barack Obama’s inability to curb Russia’s involvement in Syria, have found Putin and Assad guilty of war crimes. They further by asking President Obama to institute an international tribunal with the goal of punishing the Syrian and Russian governments.
Israel To Launch One Of The Most Advanced Missile Defense Systems In The World With U.S. Aid (3 March 2016) Israel, with significant funding from the United States, will launch one of the most advanced missile defense systems in the world. This is a multibillion dollar project and is far more advanced than any country in the region, and will likely surpass even that of the United States. This increases the potency of the Israeli missile shield while making combat against its enemies easier.
U.S. Strikes in Somalia Kill 150 Shabab Fighters (7 March 2016) US drone strikes in Somalia allegedly kill one hundred and fifty Shabab militants as they gathered for a “graduation ceremony.” The Pentagon says there were no civilian casualties, but there is no independent way to verify their claim.
Obama Seeks To Pave Way To Israel-Palestine Solution (8 March 2016) Following a stabbing attack in Tel Aviv, President Obama is considering a U.N. resolution to solve the conflict between the two regions.
The Obama Doctrine (10 March 2016) Jeffrey Goldberg conducts a series of interviews and combines it with his experience covering the Obama foreign policy cabinet. He writes a masterful - if albeit uncritical - analysis of the Obama Administration’s foreign policy towards the Middle East. Amongst others, Goldberg analyzes Obama’s realism, decision to arm and not intervene in Syria, and why the president invaded Libya.
Russian Intervention Emboldens Syrian Kurds (14 January 2016) Recent Russian military policies and successes in Syria have provided the Kurds with reason to move towards Moscow. The Kurdish Workers’ Party has used Russian bombing of Turkish fighter jets as an excuse to ignore Ankara’s anti-Kurdish policies. Moreover, if Russia is successful, the Kurds have less use for the United States, as Moscow can help the Kurds develop their own state.
Russian Airstrikes Are Working in Syria (19 January 2016) Ahead of the incoming Syrian peace talks, Russia has increased their airstrikes, resulting in a situation where it is unlikely that Assad’s government will fall. This has resulted in thirty-three rebel groups refusing to cooperate in peace negotiations.
Russian Airstrikes in Syria Have Killed More Than One Thousand Innocent Civilians Since They Began Four Months Ago (20 January 2016) Per the Observatory For Human Rights, Russian airstrikes in Syria have killed 1,015 civilians and two-hundred children since they began four months ago. On the other hand, the strikes have killed over eight-hundred ISIS members and over one-thousand Syrian rebels. Thus revealing the value Russia places on human rights.
Lavrov: Russia Won`t Stop Syria Strikes Until `Terrorists` Are Defeated (3 February 2016) Following the beginning of Syrian peace talks in Geneva, RUssia has announced it will not stop bombing until all “terrorist” groups are defeated. Consequently, even if a peace is agreed to, Russia won’t stop bombing until they believe all terrorist groups, or rebel groups are defeated.
After Four Months, Russia`s Campaign in Syria is Proving Successful for Moscow (3 February 2016) The Russian government believes its war in Syria has paid back any initial costs. There has been a minimal monetary cost and an even lower human cost to the war. In exchange, they’ve all but guaranteed a government who will align, even somewhat, with Moscow.
Russian Bombs Triggering Mass Aleppo Exodus (4 February 2016) Increasing Russian airstrikes in Aleppo are creating migration outside of the city. This bombing signifies the end of the once promising Aleppo rebel government as well as Assad’s control of the important city.
Russia Accuses Turkey of Preparing to Invade Syria (4 February 2016) In a cruel twist of Irony, Russia has accused Turkey of preparing to invade Syria. This exchanging of statements is a further sign of a Cold War between the two countries.
Russian Diplomat Sees no Swift Solution to Yemen Crisis (8 February 2016) A Russian diplomat recently stated that he believes the Yemen crisis will not be resolved anytime soon.
The Moscow-Jerusalem Axis Over Syria (9 February 2016) Geoffrey Aronson details how Russia and Israel have begun coordination over Syria. Aronson states that Russia’s acknowledgement of allowing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights has resulted in coordination between both countries.
Russian-Backed Aleppo Offensive Kills Hundreds (10 February 2016) According to the Observatory for Human Rights, Russia’s monthlong Aleppo offensive has killed at least five-hundred, including eighty-nine civilians. Additionally, tens of thousands have fled and are currently waiting on the Turkish border.
Russia Calls Turkey Strikes on Syria Absolute Lawlessness (17 February 2016) Russia has stated that recent Turkish strikes on Assad forces and the Kurdish rebels absolute lawlessness. They also accused Turkey of supplying “terrorists” with money.
Russia Is Launching Twice As Many Airstrikes As The United States In Syria (23 February 2016) Russia’s indiscriminate bombing campaign is heavily tilting the Syrian war in Assad’s favor. Throughout February, Russia has launched twice as many airstrikes as the United States and is using them to overtake Deir Ez Zor, Daraa, Homs, Hama, Latakia and Aleppo.
Syrian Government Retakes Town Near Aleppo Road From Islamic State (25 February 2016) With aid from Russia, troops loyal to the Assad government have retaken a key strategic area near Aleppo. It was recently captured by the Islamic State but, since then, the terrorist group has been kicked out and defeated.
As Bombs Hit Syrian Hospitals, Medical Workers Fear They Are The Target (25 February 2016) Syrian medical workers are saying they are the direct targets of Russian bombing campaigns. Doctors Without Borders corroborates this fear saying that hospitals indeed are the targets of Russia and Assad.
Russia "Steps Up Airstrikes" Ahead Of Truce (26 February 2016) Ahead of the ceasefire, Russia is heavily increasing airstrikes against areas opposed to Bashar al-Assad.
Sweden Stands Firm on Probe of Palestinian Deaths (13 January 2016) Sweden is convinced to investigate extrajudicial killings of Palestinians by Israeli security forces since October, despite the potential damage it could do to relations between the countries. The country claimed that, while it wants to have good relations with Israel, it still must investigate what occurred to Palestinians since October.
Israel Closes Doors to Sweden (14 January 2016) Following Sweden’s continued investigation into supposed Israeli war crimes, the former has ended relations with the latter. Israel has announced they would not allow Sweden’s Foreign Minister to stay in Tel Aviv.
Europeans Line Up To Do Business With Iran While America Waits (17 January 2016) Following the recent opening of Iran’s economy to the world, many Europeans compared this development to the opening of the Eastern Bloc following the Cold War. This follows the lifting of sanctions against IRan, and should improve the country`s economy with new tax revenue. Meanwhile, most European countries - sans Russia - will have cheaper oil prices due to this opening.
European Foreign Ministers Slam Israeli Settlement Policies (18 January 2016) Following Israel’s blocking of Sweden and increasing settlement-building activity, other European nations have castrated Tel Aviv’s policies. Countries including Greece, Hungary, and Poland have stated that Israel’s global policies are unacceptable to the rest of the world.
France Doubles Arms Sales in 2015 (20 January 2016) France has doubled its arms sales over the past year. A big part of this increase is its selling of Rafale Fighter Jets to Egypt and Qatar.
US, France Condemn Russia`s Role in Syria (20 January 2016) France has joined the United States calls for Russia to stop bombing in Syria. This provides Washington with more leverage against Moscow in the upcoming peace talks.
Iranian President to Visit Italy and France (25 January 2016) Iran’s President Rouhani plans to sign a multi-billion dollar oil exchange deal with Italy and France. This is part of the President’s current Europe trip.
Deals and Warm Words Flow as Iran President Visits Europe (26 January 2016) President Rouhani is visiting Europe with the goal of expanding Iranian business ties with several countries. Italy, for example, will sign up to seventeen billion Euros worth of deals from energy to infrastructure with the Iranian regime. Amongst deals expected to be signed are deals with SAIPEM (oil), Danieli (steel), Eni (oil, and FIAT automobiles.
France Sees Role for Iran in Ending Syria War (27 January 2016) “French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius says the visit of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to France is important for both geopolitical and economic reasons. In an interview today with The Associated Press ahead of Rouhani`s arrival, Fabius said: ‘This visit, which we hope is successful, will allow us to address the international situation and regional crises where we hope Iran can play a positive role notably in Syria and Lebanon and our bilateral relations, particularly economic.’”
Rouhani Hails `New Chapter` In Iran-France Relations (29 January 2016) Iranian President Rouhani claims that promises of intel-sharing, new economic ties, and a joint concern to fight terrorism will signify a new page in Iranian-French relations.
Britain Accuses Russia of Trying to Carve Out Mini-Allawi State (2 February 2016) British Foreign Secretary Phillip Hammond said he believed Russia’s bombing and propagandizing of the Syrian war is designed to create an Assad-run, Allawi mini-state in Syria.
France Accuses Syria, Allies of Torpedoing Geneva Peace Talks (3 February 2016) France joins the United Kingdom in criticizing Syria, Iran, and Russia for their role in ruining any chance of a successful peace conference.
UK Trade Envoy Arrives in Egypt to Strengthen Economic, Trade Relations (8 February 2016) The United Kingdom is hoping to greatly increase trade-ties in the Middle East, namely with Egypt. Over the next week, an English trade envoy will be in Egypt working out deals to improve trade ties.
France`s Fabius Says U.S. Syrian Policy is "Ambiguous" (11 February 2016) France’s outgoing Foreign Minister Fabius claimed that Obama’s desire to not become entangled in another Middle Eastern war resulted in an “ambiguous” and ineffective Syrian policy.
France Calls Airstrikes on Syrian Hospital "War Crimes" (16 February 2016) France has claimed that recent airstrikes on Syrian hospitals constitute war crimes. Further, after being joined by Turkey, France has claimed that these crimes should be investigated by the United Nations.
China`s Xi to Visit Saudi, Iran in New Diplomacy Push (15 January 2016) China will meet with Saudi Arabia and Iran in order to work out deals regarding the price of oil. This is the first time a Saudi minister will visit Saudi Arabia since 2009.
China Offers Support for Yemen Government (20 January 2016) China has sided with Saudi Arabia and supports Yemen’s current government, who are fighting against the Houthis, per a Reuters news source. This follows up a Chinese visit to Saudi Arabia where the two countries attempted to strengthen their relations.
India`s Waning Upper Hand Could Give China Edge in Post-Sanction Iran (21 January 2016) Following the lifting of sanctions, China will be able to overtake India in Iran’s oil market. This is because India, for a long time, traded for Iranian oil utilizing the low international prices. Now, though, with the rise of prices post-sanctions, China looks to eat up India’s shares of Iran’s oil market.
Xi Signs Egypt Deal as China Looks to Boost Mideast Clout (21 January 2016) Chinese President Xi Jinping announced billions of loan deals from Beijing to the Middle East. In total, China offered fifty-five billion U.S. dollars of loans to the Middle East, an extra ten billion dollars to industry projects, and fifteen billion dollars of industry projects in Egypt.
Iran-China Sign New Maritime Partnership (1 February 2016) Iran and China recently agreed to a six-hundred billion dollar agreement post-sanction lifting. Part of this deal surrounds maritime trade that will create new oceanic relations between the two countries.
China and Saudi Financial Support to Egypt Increases (1 February 2016) “The recent pledges for financial support by Saudi Arabia and China to Egypt are credit positive for the country as they ease the recent balance of payments pressures, said international credit agency Moody`s in a statement on Monday.”
China to Donate Ten Thousand Tonnes of Food to Syrian Refugees (5 February 2016) China will donate ten thousand tonnes of food to Syrian refugees in order to help ease humanitarian concerns. China has stated this will be a continued policy until the conflict reaches its conclusion.
Egypt`s Central Bank Receives Nine-Hundred Million Dollars Credit From China (8 February 2016) China has sent nine-hundred million dollars worth of credit to Egypt, significantly raising Cairo’s dollar reserves. This improves Egypt’s import strategy, as it strengthens the country’s heavy-import based economy.
China Irate as U.S. Targets Iran Trade (7 March 2016) PressTV reports that China is angry that U.S. commerce laws are making regional trade difficult. China’s Foreign Minister has vocally expressed anger and this is expected to affect relations between the three countries.
China`s New Headache: Uyghur Militants in Syria (8 March 2016) The Diplomat contends that the amount of Uyghur militants in Syria could result in governmental opposition when they come home. Thus, China is updating its internal security operations to prevent such a problem.
Other Countries/Middle East:
ISIS` Ran Sophisticated Immigration Operation`s on Turkey-Syria Border (10 January 2016) Documents obtained by The Guardian suggest that ISIS was running a sophisticated immigration operation. In said operation, ISIS would bring new fighters in from all over the region. Moreover, David Phillips at Columbia University suggests that Turkey new about said operation.
India, Syria Hold Talks on Situation in the War-Torn Country (12 January 2016) India and Syria held wide-ranging talks focused on rehabilitating the country.
Israel Quietly Courts Sunni States (14 January 2016) Following rising tensions between Gulf Arab States and Iran, Israel has begun to court the former into greater alliances. Amongst other issues, Netanyahu has reached out to Saudi Arabia to form opposition to Iran’s Yemen policy.
Saudi Arabia Alarmed in Private at Iran`s Sanctions Relief (18 January 2016) Saudi officials fear that releasing of sanctions in Iran could result in more subversive activity by the clerical regime. Additionally, private businesses in Riyadh fear that the opening of Iran will hurt their companies. This all magnifies the currently volatile Iran-Saudi relationship.
Israeli Defense Minister Says He Would Choose ISIS Over Iran (19 January 2016) Speaking at the Institute for National Security Studies` (INSS) conference in Tel Aviv on Jan. 19, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya`alon made a bold statement: If he had to choose between Iran and the Islamic State, he told the audience, he`d "choose ISIS." He argued that the Middle East was facing the pinnacle of the “clash of civilizations” and that Israel would side with the Sunni Muslims.
Saudi-Iranian Proxy War Over Syria Spreads To Davos (23 January 2016) Saudi and Iranian leaders talked to each other at an organized meeting at the World Economic Forum in Davos. The meeting was noted to be “a meeting for the deaf,” and is widely considered to have been ineffective, which is problematic in the lead-up to upcoming Syrian peace talks.
Saudi Arabia Sees Yemen Intervention as Defense of "Backyard" (27 January 2016) Saudi Arabia has based the legality of its military intervention in Yemen on a United Nations’ rule regarding restoring the sovereign government of Yemen.
Saudi Arabia Offers to Send Ground Troops to Syria, Cite Progression in Yemen (4 February 2016) Saudi Arabia, in coordination with Turkey, has offered for the first time to send thousands of troops to Syria. Saudi Brigadier General Ahmed al-Asiri has stated that recent Saudi success in Yemen has freed up troops for Syria.
Turkey Warns of Another Flood of Syrian Refugees Following Assault on Aleppo (9 February 2016) Following a Russian/Syrian mixed assault on Aleppo against Syrian rebels, civilians, and possible Turkish militants, the Ankara government has warned of over one million new refugees. This has resulted in Turkey lashing out at Russia and Assad.
Trapped Between Airstrikes and Locked Gates (10 February 2016) Liz Sly notes the contradictory rhetoric in Syria. On one hand, Ankara is claiming that Assad needs to stop humanitarian abuses; but on the other, they are refusing to let refugees into Turkish borders.
Syria Lacks Oil and Energy Resources to Effectively Rebuild (11 February 2016) According to Joel Parker, who is a Syria historian, the country lacks energy resources to effectively rebuild itself. He argued that “Since few countries would want to invest in Syria for economic benefit, the likely scenario is that only countries with a strategic interest in having influence over Syria will play a major role in the clean-up and rebuilding of Syria.” Therefore, he continued, it is “likely that Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Iran, will continue to vie for influence in whatever form of rebuilding effort is taken,” though they are unlikely to cooperate.
Turkey Pledges Ground Support To Fight Islamic State (13 February 2016) Turkey will begin aiding the coalition with ground support against the Islamic State. This represents an escalation in Turkish military policy towards Syria.
Syrian Hospitals Hit As Battlefield Grows (15 February 2016) Kurdish forces led an assault into Aleppo infuriating Turkey. This has pitted the Kurds against the Syrian Arab rebels and both sides against Assad and the Russians. This has caused a vast escalation of civilian deaths with four hospitals being bombed in one day.
Turkey Vows To Stop Kurdish Militia Gaining Border Foothold (17 February 2016) Turkey has begun intense bombing of U.S. backed Kurdish forces in Syria. Ankara is refusing to allow the Kurds to gain control over the Syria/Turkey border.
Radioactive Material Stolen in Iraq Raises Security Concerns (17 February 2016) The Iraqi Prime Minister has claimed that radioactive material stolen in Iraq may have wound up in the hands of ISIS. The material stolen is classified as a Category 2 Radioactive Material, meaning it could cause longterm damage to people who are exposed.
Turkey Accuses Syrian Kurds of Deadly Bomb Attack in Ankara (18 February 2016) Turkey has accused Syrian Kurds of a bombing that killed and injured somewhere around eighty people. In a strategic claim, Turkey’s Prime Minister’s accusation of the Kurds fits the nationalist narrative.
Is The Islamic State Losing Its Grip On Fallujah? (20 February 2016) ISIS has now lost multiple clashes near its Fallujah stronghold. This is resulting in a reconsideration of military plans by the anti-ISIS coalition to overtake Fallujah.
Turkey Claims Right To Launch Operation In Syria (21 February 2016) Turkey has claimed the right to launch any kind of operation in Syria, per Agence France-Presse. This could result in a further escalation in bombings by the Turkish government.
Iraq`s Abadi Keeps Iran At Arm`s Length In War Against Islamic State (22 February 2016) In an attempt to settle ethnic tensions, Iraq’s Prime Minister is keeping Iran’s support at arm’s length. This is being done to avoid inflaming ethnic tensions in the country.
Tunisia Is The Largest Source Of ISIS Recruits (25 February 2016) Per the Wall Street Journal, nearly six-to-seven thousand people have fled to Tunisia to join ISIS, and many more have been stopped before they could join.
Rivalries Stall Push To Retake Mosul (6 March 2016) Rivalries between the U.S. backed Kurdish forces, Iranian backed Shi’a militias, and Iraqi soldiers has stalled efforts to retake Mosul. The troops have overtaken forty percent of land held by ISIS in Mosul, however, the sides cannot agree on how to rule the area after ISIS is defeated.
Fighting Breaks Out On Tunisia-Libya Border (7 March 2016) Fighting recently broke out between Libyan militants and Tunisian police forces on the border between the two countries. Many fear the militants were actually members of the Islamic State.
Foreign Governments Press Saudi Arabia on Workers` Delayed Wages (7 March 2016) The Philippines, Bangladesh, and France among other nations have begun criticizing Saudi Arabia’s treatment of construction workers, who have had their salary payments delayed as a result of shrinking oil revenues.
European Parliament Condemns Killing of Giulio Regeni in Egypt (10 March 2016) The European Parliament passes a non-binding resolution condemning security cooperation with Egypt after Italian PhD student Giulio Regeni was found murdered on the outskirts of Cairo, possibly at the hands of Egyptian security forces.
Treaties, Agreements, United Nations, and Statistics:
U.N. Aid Convoy Reaches Besieged Syrian Town of Madaya (11 January 2016) Following a recent Assad siege on the town of Maday, which resulted in citizens of the city being forced to eat leaves and stray cats and dogs in order to stay alive, recently ended. Following the end, the U.N. has sent much needed food to the town. However, only 10% of requests for U.N. food aid have been approved.
France Plans Coalition Meeting on Islamic State (14 January 2016) Members of the U.S.-led coalition opposing the Islamic State will meet in Paris. Amongst the issues being discussed will be Russia’s war “against ISIS” and how Moscow has not actually targeted ISIS’ strongholds.
Syrian Opposition Figure Does Not See January 25 Talks As Realistic (14 January 2016) George Sabra, a member of the council trying to create a Democratic Syria, believes that the supposed January 25 peace talks will not happen. He argues that, because there are still towns under siege, we are very far away from any productive peace talks.
At Least 18,800 People Were Killed in Iraq Between January 2014 and the End of October 2015 (19 January 2016) The United Nations says that “staggering” and “increased” violence in Iraq, due to the fall of Maliki and the rise of ISIS, has resulted in over more than eighteen-thousand deaths and 3.2 million internally displaced citizens. This is the highest number since 2007.
U.S. and Russia Fail to Agree on Syria Talks Invite List (20 January 2016) The United States and Russia have failed to agree on the invite list for the upcoming Syria talks. This is devastating, as the talks are soon and the two biggest geopolitical countries involved in said discussions.
U.N. Seeks Syrian Peace Talks This Week, Opposition Threatens To Boycott (25 January 2016) Opposition groups are signaling they will not participate in U.N. peace talks regarding the future of Syria. The original planned date of January 25 looks unlikely, due to the rebels anger regarding continued Russian airstrikes. Moreover, the rebels are frustrated in starvation of their citizens in the lead-up to peace talks.
Kurds Won`t Attend Syria Talks, Saudi-Backed Opposition Take Lead (27 January 2016) Syrian Kurdish officials will not be invited to the upcoming Syrian peace talks. According to France, this is because the Kurdish PYD party was causing many problems, and thus neglected Kurdish participation
Syria Rebels Set Conditions For Joining Peace Talks (27 January 2016) Syrian rebels set conditions for peace talks, these include: Assad regime ending bombing and starvation of rebel-held locations; and moreover, a transitional government will take the place of President Assad.
Syria Peace Talks Derailed as Opposition Stays Away (28 January 2016) Following a lack of what the opposition deems “acceptable concessions,” those opposed to Bashar al-Assad have refused to enter peace talks. This has derailed a meeting in Geneva long-awaited by foreign powers and the Syrian government.
Syria Peace Talks Inch Ahead as Bombings Near Damascus Continue (31 January 2016) After the Syrian opposition originally opted to not attend peace talks, a reluctant oppoistion group chose to go, while at the same time Assad’s barrel bombing of opposition-held areas continued.
Syria Talks Are Suspended (3 February 2016) Following a series of failed conversations, the United Nations suspended the Syrian peace talks. This will affect donations held in London serving to raise money to feed starving Syrians.
Donor Nations Pledge $10.7 Billion For Syria Relief (4 February 2016) Donor nations pledged over ten billion dollars of relief to Syria.
Iran Says It Won`t Let Assad Opponents Regroup in Syria (15 February 2016) Iran’s foreign minister has claimed stark opposition to peace agreements in Syria. Iran argues that what it agreed upon is a cease in hostilities, not a pause in the fighting.
U.N. Says Aid Delivery Near in Syria For Five Towns (16 February 2016) The United Nations have claimed that the aid delivery, originally agreed to weeks prior, is close to being received by civilians in Syria.
Syrian Opposition Supports Idea Of Two-Week Ceasefire (25 February 2016) The United States has convinced Syrian rebel groups to agree to a two-week ceasefire. Russia and Syria will thus allow aid to be delivered into Syrian cities. Unfortunately, the Saudis and certain rebel leaders do not believe Russia and Syria will hold up their end of the bargain.
Syrian Opposition Says Government Wrecking Truce Deal (1 March 2016) Syrian opposition groups are claiming that Assad’s government has continued to bomb them, even after agreeing a two-week truce. This consequently directly threatens the peace agreement. Part of this, per the government, is caused because the truce does not cover those allied with terrorist groups in the region.
Syrian Government Forces Open New Battle With Rebels In Northwest (2 March 2016) Following a failed ceasefire where both sides accused each other of violating the agreement, the Syrian government has expanded its bombing campaign into the Northwest part of the country.
U.N. says aid ship docks in Yemen after diversion to Saudi Arabia (2 March 2016) The United Nations confirms that an World Food Programme aid vessel was finally allowed to unload its cargo in Yemen after being diverted to Saudi Arabia for search due in February.