Foreign Policies Media Roundup (March-April) – Jadaliyya
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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.
New Talks Are ‘Moment Of Truth” Says U.N., Kerry Responds (14 March 2016) As Syrian Peace Talks began in Geneva, John Kerry has called out the Syrian regime for being obstructionist and “trying to disrupt the process.”
U.S. Considers Emergency Aid for Peshmerga in Islamic State Fight (14 March 2016) The Obama administration is in discussions to send military aid to Kurdish fighters in Peshmerga. The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) are cash-strapped due to declining oil prices and the high cost of absorbing refugees. Lacking money means being unable to pay fighters for their military.
Citing Atrocities, John Kerry Calls ISIS Actions Genocide (17 March 2016) The statement made by the Secretary of State is the first time Washington has recognized atrocities have been committed by the terrorist group.
Two Americans Killed in Suspected ISIS Bombing in Turkey (20 March 2016) A bomb detonated by alleged Islamic State militants killed more than thirty people in Turkey, two of which were Americans. The United States and Turkey have both responded to the growing “terrorist threat” in Ankara.
U.S. Deploys Marines to Iraq (20 March 2016) Following the bombing in Turkey the United States had declared more marines will go to Iraq to fight the Islamic State.
Military Setbacks, Financial Strains Pressure Islamic State in Home Territory (22 March 2016) Bombing raids conducted by the United States, U.S.-backed militants, and Russians have harmed the Islamic State’s economy. This has resulted in a significant decrease in territory, oil wells, and even fighters. ISIS has lost as much as twenty-two percent of its territory over the past year, harming its ability to hold influence in Iraq and Syria.
U.S. Targets al-Qaeda in Yemen Airstrike that Kills Dozens (22 March 2016) In the midst of the Yemeni Civil War, Washington has continued its airstrikes against members of al-Qaeda in that very country. This strike also reinforces goals of the Saudis in Yemen and their fight with Iranian militias and Islamist who are trying to take control of the Riyadh-backed government.
U.S. Military Officials Expect More Troops Sent To Iraq (25 March 2016) The Joint Chiefs of Staff is recommending Washington send nearly five thousand more troops to Iraq in order to fight ISIS. Most troops, per request, will be for intelligence and maritime operations.
Massive Protests in Sanaa Mark the Anniversary of Yemen’s Civil War (26 March 2016) Tens of thousands protested in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa. Their opposition is to the U.S.-backed, Saudi war in Yemen. Moreover, the U.S. support has resulted in Yemeni rebels having “zero faith” in the United Nations National Security Council to solve the problem.
Barack Obama Facing Pressure to Act on Assad (29 March 2016) The Obama administration is facing internal pressure to force Assad from power in Syria. Moreover, U.S.-backed Syrian rebels are saying that the only way for the war to end is for Assad to cede his hold on power. This is important considering the recent efforts between Washington and MOscow to solve the Syrian crisis.
Leahy Asked State Department to Investigate Israeli and Egyptian Human Rights Abuses (29 March 2016) Democrats in the United States government have demanded the State Department investigate human rights abuses in Israel and Egypt. Senator Patrick Leahy, author of a law that conditions U.S. military aid to a country depending on if it is or is not abusing human rights, has argued that Israel and Egypt are, indeed, committing these abuses. The U.S. State Department, due to its relationship with the two countries, more than likely will ignore Leahy and co.’s request.
U.S., Saudi Arabia Set Aside Spat Over Iran to Sanction Islamist Groups (31 March 2016) The two countries announced a new set of sanctions against four people and two organizations tied to al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and Lashkar-e-Taiba. Individuals include James Alexander McLintock, Abdul Aziz Nuristani, Naveed Qamar, and Muhammad Ijaz Safaras; whereas, on the other hand, the two organizations are Al-Rahmah Welfare Organization and the Jamia Asariya Madrassa. These sanctions represent the two countries working through their disagreement over Iran, which generally means human rights will suffer as a result.
Another Western Intervention in Libya Looms (3 April 2016) As technocrats and other members of the Western-backed unity government arrive in Libya, the United States considers new ways to approach their counter-terrorism operations in Libya after Tunisia and Algeria refused to allow US forces to launch operations from within their borders.
Two Libyan Guantanamo Inmates are Transferred to Senegal (4 April 2016) Two Libyan Guantanamo Bay prison inmates, who were captured in 2001 during the US invasion of Afghanistan, and who have been imprisoned without trial for about fourteen years, were transferred to Senegal. This move has been described by John Kerry as a move towards the long-awaited closure of the controversial prison.
U.S. Seizes Weapons at Sea Meant For Yemen Rebels (4 April 2016) American Navy ships have intercepted an Iranian weapons shipment meant for Houthi rebels fighting in Yemen. Furthermore, U.S. government officials criticized Iran for seeking to destabilize the region for its actions.
Israel’s Unsung Protector (10 April 2016) Obama is the only President since 1967 to not allow a U.N. Resolution that is critical of Israel. Thus, while the Israeli regime denies his support, he has been aggressively supportive of the country in the United Nations.
Saudi Arabia Warns of Economic Fallout if Congress Passes 9/11 Bill (15 April 2016) Saudi Arabia – having fears of Washington’s potential decision to release the hidden twenty-eight pages of a 2002 Congressional Inquiry that may implicate Riyadh in the 9/11 attacks – has threatened to sell millions of dollars in U.S. assets if the report is released. This has prompted President Obama to fly to Saudi Arabia and meet with the kingdom’s leaders. Additionally, if the report is released, two U.S. senators have introduced a bill that would cut military funding to the Saudis because they would be recognized as terrorist sympathizers.
U.S. Feels ‘Overwhelming Frustration’ With Israeli Government (19 April 2016) U.S. Vice President Joe Biden claimed that Washing feels “overwhelming frustration” with the Israeli government’s decision to continue expanding settlements in Gaza and the Palestinian Territories. According to J Street, Biden felt Washington had a responsibility to push Israel to a two-state solution, and these settlements make that impossible, while also allowing for human catastrophe. He concluded that there is no political will between either government to reach a solution in the current state.
US Penalizes Libyan Politician in Effort to Bolster Unity Government (19 April 2016) In line with previous sanctions imposed by the EU, the United States has imposed sanctions on Libyan opposition politician, Khalifa al-Ghwell, in a bid to persuade him to accept the legitimacy of the recently formed and UN-backed Unity Government.
Barack Obama Makes a Swift Trip to Riyadh (21 April 2016) President Obama’s visit to Saudi Arabia was meant to persuade the Saudis of Washington’s desire to maintain their time-tested relationship. During the discussions, Obama suggested the Saudis need to act with more tact and attempt to establish relations with Iran. The King, however, did not agree with Obama’s views on the regional situation. Finally, The Economist suggests that Riyadh is heavily rooting for Hillary Clinton to win the 2016 U.S. presidential elections.
U.S. to Send Two-Hundred-And-Fifty Additional Military Personnel to Syria (24 April 2016) Washington plans to send between two-hundred and three-hundred more troops to fight ISIS in Iraq and Syria. President Obama’s staff believes these extra personnel will allow American-backed forces to extend their gains against ISIS.
White House Poised to Release Secret Pages From 9/11 Inquiry (24 April 2016) Against the wishes of Saudi Arabia, Obama plans to release the hidden twenty-eight pages of the 2002 Congressional Study regarding Riyadh’s role in 9/11.
U.S., Turkey Step Up Border Campaign Against Islamic State (27 April 2016) The United States is sending significant military aid to Turkey in order for the latter country to defend its border from ISIS.
Obama-Netanyahu Rift Impedes U.S. Offer of Record Aid (28 April 2016) President Obama has proposed sending Israel the largest military aid package of all time, however, the rift between America’s and Israel’s leaders have resulted in this offer being undiscussed. In fact, Israel has claimed that the aid offer is not enough money and that they need more to further sustain their military.
Russia Ready To Cooperate With U.S.-Led Coalition In Fight Against Islamic State (14 March 2016) After months of diplomatic disagreements Russia has agreed to work with Washington in their fight against ISIS. The main purpose of this newfound partnership is to defeat the Islamic State’s stronghold in Raqqa.
Putin Orders Start of Syria’s Withdrawal, Saying Goals Are Achieved (14 March 2016) President Putin ordered the beginning of Russia’s withdrawal from Syria. The New York Times suggests that this withdrawal signals increasing stability in Assad’s regime and military.
Russia, With an Eye on the United States, Threatens to Bomb Syrian Cease-Fire Violators (21 March 2016) Russia warned that it was willing to act unilaterally to fight opposition groups in Syria who do not obey the ceasefire. On one end, this is a negotiating gambit to strengthen Assad’s positioning in the ongoing Syrian peace talks. On the other, though, it seeks to force the United States to join Russia’s fight against ISIS and in support of Assad.
Russia Is Flying Israeli Drones Against Anti-Assad Rebels (23 March 2016) The Daily Beast is reporting that Russia has been using Israeli anti-aircraft weapons, funded in part by the United States, to fight anti-Assad rebels in Syria. The article concludes by saying, “without Jerusalem’s help, Moscow would never have been able to pull off its Syrian operation in the way that it did.”
Russia’s Campaign in Syria Leads to Arms Sale Windfall (29 March 2016) Russia’s performance in Syria has vastly increased “arms buyers” interest in trade with the country. Algeria, Indonesia, Pakistan, and Vietnam are displaying early interest. Thus, Russia’s joining of the war in Syria has further increased the military-industrial complex in the region.
Russia, Despite Draw Down, Shipping More to Syria Than Taking Back (30 March 2016) Movements of Russian ships and troops going towards Syria have outweighed the number returning to Moscow since the “end of conflict” announcement in previous weeks.
Kremlin Denies Report of Russia-U.S. Deal on Assad’s Future (31 March 2016) Al-Hayat newspaper recently released a report suggesting that Washington and Moscow have agreed on a deal for a Syrian transitional government and future peace. The Kremlin, though, have categorically stated that this report is false.
Russia to Start Deliveries of S-300 Missiles to Iran in Coming Days (5 April 2016) Russia will begin sending its elite missile defense system to Iran in coming days, a Russian diplomat told a news agency. This is occurring as Iran and the United States are increasing hostilities around the Yemen crisis.
Putin’s War in Syria Have Not Targeted ISIS on a Holistic Scale (5 April 2016) The Atlantic Council has released a thirty page report detailing Russia’s Syria intervention. Amongst its claims are the fact that Russia’s grand strategy was not meant to defeat ISIS, but rather, to ensure stability. To do this, they sought to help the Assad government, even if the end-goal was not to have Assad remain in power.
Syrian Government Plans to Retake Aleppo With Russian Backing (10 April 2016) The Syrian government plans to launch a military offensive that would retake Aleppo from the rebels. The regime has backing from Russian military intelligence and weapons.
Iran Says Russia Delivers First Part of S-300 Defense System (11 April 2016) Following reports that Russia would begin delivering an elite missile defense system to Iran, the Iranian government announced that Russia delivered the first part of its S-300 missile defense system. Previous similar deals, such as one in 2010, fell through due to pressure from the West.
Russia Moves Artillery to Northern Syria (20 April 2016) Russia has been building up military units in Northern Syria, the same location as where the government is currently fighting the bulk of its war. This has also been supported by more Iranian troops and Hezbollah. This contradicts Russia’s recently stated decision to withdraw from Syria.
Russia Pursues Ties With Kurds to Keep Foothold in Region (21 April 2016) The Russian government has sent troops to fight alongside Kurds in Northwestern Syria and is providing weapons to Kurdish fighters in Iraq. In Syria, Russia is focused on aiding the Afrin Kurdish fighters in the country’s west. These fighters, though, have not been backed by America or other western nations. Moreover, certain scholars suggest that this move may goad Americans to increase their arm supplies to prevent Moscow from gaining the upperhand.
Russia Asks UN to Blacklist Syria Rebel Groups (27 April 2016) Russia has asked the United Nations to blacklist two Syrian rebel groups, one of which was involved in the recently dismissed peace talks. Jaish al-Islam, whose leader is the Chief Negotiator for the rebel forces, was stated by Russia to have close connections to al-Qaeda.
Russia Says U.S. Force Deployment Violates Syria’s Sovereignty (29 April 2016) Russian Deputy Foreign Minister, Sergei Ryabkov, has claimed that the deployment of U.S. Special Forces violates Syrian sovereignty.
Brussels Explosions (22 March 2016) Islamic State militants have attacked transportation centers in Brussels. Many have been reported killed and even more injured. The west has responded by increasing discussions on a more expansive military intervention in the Middle East to fight ISIS.
Islamic State Trains Four Hundred Fighters To Attack Europe (23 March 2016) ISIS has begun deploying their “terror cells” throughout the world. This includes in Europe, where they have trained over four hundred Islamists, like those that bombed Brussels.
Steps That Europe Must Take Now After Brussels (23 March 2016) The New York Times suggests that the European Union may significantly tighten its borders following the Brussels bombing. Also, France and Belgium are combining tighter borders with strict counterterrorism policies.
The New Normal (26 March 2016) Following the Brussels terror attacks, The Economist has begun to echo the fears of western media pundits, which suggest that ISIS can mount an attack in the heart of Europe. The Economist, though, does warn overreactions and bigotry in the face of this European crisis will only serve to make the problem worse.
Hollande Drops Plans to Strip Nationality (30 March 2016) French President Hollande has stripped plans that would have changed the French constitution and removed nationality from Islamic militants. While this is a positive step forward for French liberty, it is not because Hollande did not attempt to change the constitution, but rather because he could not win the battle in Parliament.
Islamic State Urges Attacks on German Chancellery (31 March 2016) Recently released ISIS documents urge German Muslims to attack their government. This is in the background of Germany having many citizens leave to join the Islamic State and the terrorist group’s claims that “Germany is a battlefield.”
Transfer of Migrants to Turkey to Start Monday, Says European Union (31 March 2016) Following months of discussions, the European Union will begin sending hundreds of refugees to Turkey, mainly those who are economic migrants, and not those seeking long-term asylum. In exchange, the European Union will pay Turkey several million dollars to accept said refugees.
EU Enforces Sanctions Against Libyan Leaders Opposing Unity Government (1 April 2016) The EU moves forward and freezes the assets of Nouri Abusahmain, Khalifa al-Ghwell, Aguila Saleh, claiming that they played a central role in preventing the creation of a unity government in Libya. The sanctions are intended to give the new unity government an advantage against opposition leaders and competing governments.
Italy Ups Pressure Over Student Murder as Egypt Sends Probe Team to Rome (5 April 2016) Following the torture and murder of Italian graduate student Giulio Regeni in Egypt, Italy continues to apply pressure on Egyptian authorities to make their investigation transparent and conclusive. Following numerous contested reports about the involvement of a street gang and the Egyptian authorities themselves, Italy warns Egypt against fabricating reports.
Italian Foreign Minister Meets New Leaders in Libya and Pledges Support (12 April 2016) Italian foreign minister Paolo Gentiloni visited Libya in a bid to show support for the recently established, UN-backed Presidential Council in Tripoli. The visit marks the first Western diplomatic mission to visit Libya since the Presidential Council took up residence in Tripoli. Italy also delivered food aid and medical supplies to Libya, while pledging to deliver hospital supplies to the warn-torn city of Benghazi.
Iran, France Concerned With Increasing Violence in Syria (13 April 2016) Leading up to ongoing Syrian peace discussions, Iran and France have expressed their concern with increasing violence in the war. More specifically, both countries are worried that neither the rebels or the government actually want an “agreement,” but rather, sole control over the country.
European Union Presses Iran for Help in Syria Peace Talks (17 April 2016) As Syrian peace talks begin to reach a standstill, the EUropean Union has asked Iran to intervene and help negotiate a peace. They argue that Iran’s influence in Damascus and throughout the Islamic world will help achieve a lasting peace.
The United Kingdom’s Parliament has Declared Yazidis and Christians Victims of ISIS Genocide (20 April 2016) A government attempt to prevent Parliament from claiming ISIS attacks on Yazidis and Christians amount to a genocide was squashed, as the Commons voted to condemn said treatment and refer it to the U.N. National Security Council. They now join the United States Congress, Obama Administration, European Parliament, and Council of Europe in calling ISIS’s behavior genocide.
France to Call International Meeting to Revive Israel-Palestine Peace Talks (21 April 2016) Even though U.S. Vice President Joe Biden recently claimed that leaders in Israel and Palestine do not want peace, France is attempting to revive Israel-Palestine peace talks. The French government is worried that tensions between the neighbors are escalating, and peace discussions are needed to assuage the conflict’s escalation.
Germany, EU Leaders Heading to Turkey to Promote Migrant Deal (21 April 2016) German chancellor Angela Merkel and other EU officials are set to meet with Turkish officials near the border with Syria in a bid to promote their widely criticized migrant repatriation deal with the Turkish government. The EU has pledged up to six-billion euros in aid to Turkey over the next five years, in order to create opportunities for its swelling Syrian refugee population.
Britain Urges Saudi Arabia to Speed Up Inquiry Into Yemen Intervention (27 April 2016) Britain has urged Riyadh to make an inquiry into the latter’s role in Yemen and admit any mistakes. This is a rare occasion where Britain has publicly criticized the Saudi government.
Israeli Prime Minister Rejects French Peace Conference (28 April 2016) Israel’s Prime Minister has rejected a French call for a new peace conference. Israel has claimed that it does not want a peace conference, but rather, strict bilateral relations between their government and the Palestinians.
China Appoints First Special Envoy for Syria Crisis (29 March 2016) As a potential peace agreement is becoming increasingly likely – even though that does not say anything significant – China has decided to appoint its first Envoy for the SYrian crisis. Xie Xiaoyan, who has served as a Chinese diplomat to Iran, will serve China’s new role in Syria. China’s previous humanitarian envoys have had mixed results, while they were positive in Africa, their results in the Middle East have not been tangible.
Chinese Envoy to Visit Syria, Iran in Peace Bid (19 April 2016) China’s new Syria envoy will visit Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Russia in the coming days in an attempt to help solve the Syrian conflict. Earlier this month, Xie Xiaoyan had praised Russia’s role in fighting ISIS and helping to resolve the conflict.
Other Countries/Middle East:
Saudi Arabia Seeks $6-8 Billion Bank Loan to Shore Up State Coffers (9 March 2016) In response to low oil prices and the state’s slowly growing budget deficit, Saudi Arabia is allegedly seeking an international bank loan of six to eight billion USD.
“Thunder” in Saudi Desert as Major Military Drill Ends (10 March 2016) Pakistani, Egyptian, Kuwaiti, and Sudanese troops gathered in Saudi Arabia for a twelve-day military exercise dubbed “Northern Thunder.” In line with Saudi Arabia’s increasing involvement in regional security, the military exercise was intended to prepare the nations to work together against the threat of terrorism.
Ankara Bombing: Turkey Strikes Against Kurdish Rebel PKK (14 March 2016) Following a Turkish bomb attack, Recep Erdogan vowed retaliation against those responsible. He has begun conducting arrests of Kurdish rebels in the country. This is combined with a new imposition of a curfew in predominantly Kurdish towns.
Syrian Government Dims Hope of New Openings at Peace Talks (16 March 2016) Syria’s government firmly rejected having direct peace talks with members of the opposition. This comes in the backdrop of a Jabhat al-Nusra attack in Northern Syria that was followed by anti-Nusra front demonstrations.
Brussels Bomber Was Arrested In Turkey And Deported (23 March 2016) A Turkish government official has revealed that one of the Brussels bombers was arrested in Turkey and later deported. This has resulted in massive international backlash from Europe, America, and the Middle East.
Are North Koreans Fighting in Syria? (25 March 2016) Representatives of a Syrian Opposition group are contending that Assad is utilizing North Korean military units to fight the Syrian rebels. This has furthered the decades-long military relationship between Pyongyang and Damascus. For Syria, this allows Assad to maintain his grip on power; whereas, for North Korea, it allows more income to enter the cash-strapped country.
Saudi-Led Alliance Says Completes Yemen Prisoner Swap (28 March 2016) “A Saudi-led military coalition said on Monday it had completed a prisoner swap in Yemen, exchanging nine Saudi prisoners for 109 Yemeni nationals ahead of a planned truce and peace talks aimed at ending the year-long war with Houthi rebels.” This has occurred in the face of recent Saudi air raids against the Yemeni rebels. Certain prisoners that were released, some have suggested, are completely innocent.
Turkey Military Base in Qatar “Completed” in Two Years (30 March 2016) Turkish defense minister Ismet Yilmaz told reporters at Qatar’s Dimdex defense and security fair in Doha that, following a 2014 defense agreement between the two countries, a Turkish military base will be constructed in Qatar over the next two years. The purpose of the military base is to increase coordination on issues of regional security.
Moqtada al-Sadr Is Back, Proving that He’s Still a Force in Iraqi Politics (31 March 2016) Influential cleric and Iraqi political figure Moqtada al-Sadr has returned to the political scene and undertaken a number of non-violent forms of protests from a tent in the Green Zone. His political statements and other forms of protest are intended to force the corrupt Iraqi government to take action and undertake reform.
Biggest Ever Saudi Overhaul Targets $100 Billion of Revenue (4 April 2016) Bloomberg sits down with King Salman of Saudi Arabia to discuss massive economic reform plans, set to diversity Saudi Arabia’s economy and increase non-oil revenues by one-hundred billion dollars a year by 2020.
Migrants Sent Back from Greece Arrive in Turkey Under EU Deal (4 April 2016) As part of a controversial EU deal to discourage perilous migration to Europe, three Turkish ships returned over two hundred Pakistani and Afghani migrants from Greece to Turkey. In return for accepting these returnees, European countries are expected to share in the burden of Syrian refugee resettlement in Turkey and expedite the process surrounding Turkey’s bid for EU membership.
Saudi King Sets Aside Frustrations with Egypt for State Visit (5 April 2016) Despite diverging priorities since 2011, Saudi Arabia’s King visited Egypt to discuss and unveil numerous investment plans, including a development program for Sinai and a twenty-billion dollar petroleum plan. The numerous investments are intended to increase security cooperation between the two nations and prevent the Egyptian state from collapsing under economic strains.
Turkey to Readmit More Migrants from Greece as EU Deal Faces Protests (5 April 2016) Following the transfer of over two hundred migrants to Turkey, the second round of returnees is set to sail from Greece for Turkey. In return, Turkey sent a group of seventy-eight Syrian refugees to Germany, Finland, and the Netherlands. Human rights organizations continue to protest and criticize the deal.
Saudi Arabia Passes Russia as World’s Third Biggest Military Spender (5 April 2016) The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute has released findings that Saudi Arabia has surpassed Russia and occupied the place of the third largest military spender, after the United States and China. Analysts say that low oil prices worldwide have contributed to an increase in arms sales.
More Migrants Return to Turkey from Greece under EU Pact (9 April 2016) Another load of over one-hundred and twenty migrants was returned to Turkey from the Greek islands of Lesbos. In total around three-hundred and thirty-five illegal migrants have been returned to Turkey under the EU deal.
Saudi King’s Speech to Egypt’s Parliament Avoids Controversial Island Agreement (10 April 2016) Highlighting a sixteen billion dollar investment fund to help bolster Egypt’s faltering economy, King Salman’s address to Egypt’s parliament avoided discussing a widely criticized deal to cede the islands of Tiran and Sanafir to Saudi Arabia. The deal sparked protests across Egypt.
Yemen Truce Strained by Reports of Air Strikes and Fighting (11 April 2016) After a year of internal warfare and military interventions led by Saudi Arabia, the shaky, UN-sponsored ceasefire in Yemen is threatened by accusations of “pockets of violence” on both sides of the conflict. Peace talks are scheduled to begin on 18 April 2016 in Kuwait, despite the tenuous ceasefire.
Egypt’s President Defends Giving Red Sea Islands to Saudis (13 April 2016) After sparking widespread controversy among the Egyptian public, President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi defends his decision to cede control of Red Sea islands Tiran and Sanafir to Saudi Arabia, claiming that they are historically Saudi land. He also continues to reject Egyptian authorities’ involvement in the death of Italian PhD student Giulio Regeni.
How Saudi Arabia Plans to Shake Up its Economy (14 April 2016) Reuters discusses Saudi Arabia’s soon-to-be-unveiled National Transformation Plan, a collection of economic reforms designed to decrease Saudi Arabia’s dependence on oil revenue and diversity its economy. Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman will spearhead the economic initiative with help from numerous Western consultants.
Netanyahu Vows That Israel Will Never Give Up Golan Heights (17 April 2016) Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited the Golan Heights and proclaimed Israel will never surrender that land. This occurred because, in the lead up to Syrian peace talks, Syrian President bashar al-Assad signaled his regime wanted to regain control of that territory.
Jordan Recalls Ambassador From Iran (18 April 2016) State-owned Jordanian media has reported that the Jordanian ambassador to Iran has been recalled for “consultations” after talks in Doha regarding a production freeze among OPEC and non-OPEC oil producing nations failed to yield any results.
UN-sponsored Yemen Peace Talks Begin in Kuwait (21 April 2016) After a number of delays and accusations that both sides of the conflict violated terms of a ceasefire meant to pave the way to peace talks, UN-sponsored talks began in Kuwait. The talks brought together members of the Houthi General People’s Congress and supporters of Saudi-backed president Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi. To date, over six-thousand people were killed in Yemen’s conflict.
Turkey Freezes Assets of Yemeni Ex-president Saleh (21 April 2016) In line with UN Security Council resolutions to restrict the mobility and influence of Yemeni ex-president Ali Abdulla Saleh, Turkey has decided to freeze the assets he holds in Turkish banks. Ali Abdulla Saleh has been accused of supporting the Houthi uprising and inciting civil war in Yemen.
Egyptian Police Detained Italian Student Before His Murder (21 April 2016) Reuters published an exclusive report about the murder of Italian graduate student Giulio Regeni, in which the writers claim that six confidential sources within the Egyptian police confirmed that he was, in fact, detained on the day of his disappearance.
Yemen Peace Talks Back on Track Following World Pressure (26 April 2016) Factions of Yemen’s conflict have created an agenda for the upcoming round of peace talks. The five point agenda, outlined by UN special envoy to Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, will be discussed in two parallel committees, and will attempt to come to an agreement regarding the withdrawal and disarmament of Houthi forces, as well as the creation of a unity government.
Iraqi MPs Approve Partial Cabinet as Thousands Protest (26 April 2016) Despite warnings from the US that political reform might hinder Iraq’s fight against the Islamic State, and in light of continuous protests calling for a restructuring of the Iraqi government, Iraqi lawmakers have approved five of the prime minister’s candidates for a new cabinet. In response to popular demand, Prime Minster Haider al-Abadi is attempting to replace party-affiliated ministers with a government of technocrats.
Seeing Shared Threats, Turkey Sets Up Military Base in Qatar (28 April 2016) The Turkish ambassador to Qatar reported in December that three-thousand Turkish troops would be stationed in Qatar at a new military base. Recently, Turkish troops were deployed to to base in Qatar in line with a 2014 security cooperation agreement between the two naitons.
Treaties, Agreements, United Nations, and Statistics:
Key Powers Mulling Possibility of Federal Division of Syria (11 March 2016) Major United Nations powers are working to achieve a Syrian “peace” that would involve dividing the once colonized country. This is supported by Russia, other western nations, and conditionally by Assad; however, is opposed by the remaining opposition because they fear an unequal division.
EU and U.N. Criticize Iran Missile Tests But Take No Action (14 March 2016) The United Nations National Security Council and European Union have criticized Iran’s recent ballistic missile test. Iran has claimed this is not a sign of them developing nuclear weapons, rather, just improving their military preparedness. Consequently there is disagreement amongst the international community regarding how to handle the country.
ISIL and the Myth of the European Jihadist Hordes (16 March 2016) While the common trop is that most ISIL jihadists are coming from Europe, that is far from true. Moreover, out of the near twenty-million Muslims in Europe, Al Jazeera estimates only a miniscule percent (less than .025%) have actually joined the Islamic State.
Assad’s Presidency Not Up For Discussion, Syrian Government States (21 March 2016) During the ongoing peace talks, Russia and Syria have made clear that Bashar al-Assad will remain President of Syria. This makes any agreement difficult, as it flies in the face of goals of the opposition.
Kerry in Moscow to Meet Putin for Talks on Syria (23 March 2016) Russian President Putin and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry are meeting to help resolve the Syrian conflict. Per a State Department official, the purpose of the meeting is to resolve post-war transition in Syria.
U.S. and Russia Want Draft Constitution by August (24 March 2016) Following the adjournment of another conference to “resolve” the Syria conflict, Russia and the United States agreed to creating a draft constitution by August 2016.
Assad, Buoyed by a Win Over the Islamic State, Dismisses Idea of Transitional Government (30 March 2016) The Syrian regime’s recent victories have resulted in Assad rejecting the opposition demand for him to cede power. Assad has accepted the need for peace talks, however, he refuses to step down nor will he work with rebels. This screams that peace is not as close as the world hopes.
Yemen: US Bombs Used in Deadliest Market Strike (7 April 2016) Human Rights Watch has called on the United States, France, and the United Kingdom to halt weapons sales to Saudi Arabia and their coalition forces, which have been carrying out a widely criticized airstrike campaign in Yemen using US arms. This report focuses on the bombing of a market in Mastaba, in which ninety-seven civilians died, including twenty-five children.
Syria Defies Russia In Bid To Keep Assad (11 April 2016) Syria, ahead of the next round of peace talks, is seeking a political solution that results in Assad remaining in power. This defies Russia’s end-goal for Syria. Regardless, the regime’s refusal to work with rebel groups all but ensures no solution lasting a significant amount of time.
Libya: UN Development Programme Launches Initiative to Support Country’s Stabilization (12 April 2016) The UN Support Mission in Libya reports that the United Nations Development Program announced a new initiative called the Stabilization Facility for Libya. The initiative is a partnership between the UNDP and the Libyan Government of National Accord to rehabilitate much of Libya’s critical infrastructure. The initiative will help finance the construction of public infrastructure, such as clinics, hospitals, police stations, water facilities, wastewater treatment facilities, power grids, and stations.
Obama Calls on Putin to Help Reduce Violence in Syria After Peace Talks Stall (18 April 2016) As the Syrian war has begun to escalate, and in the face of failing peace talks, President Obama has met with Vladimir Putin in an attempt to have him convince Assad to lessen his militaristic stance. In response, Putin has suggested that the so-called moderate rebels Assad is attacking must further distance themselves from ISIS and the al-Nusra Front.
Syrian Ceasefire Collapses (19 April 2016) In the midst of peace talks the Syrian ceasefire has collapsed. After the Syrian opposition declared they would no longer participate in peace discussions, the regime and various opposition groups began attacking each other in Maarat al-Noaman and Kafr Nabl. Dozens of people have been killed.
Yemen Peace Talks in Kuwait Stall Over Differences (24 April 2016) Concluding a bad week for peace agreements, Yemeni peace talks have stalled in Kuwait. The Houthis, feeling disrespected by the regime and Saudis, opted to discuss amongst themselves whether they should even stay at the peace conference. Moreover, U.N. officials have claimed the discussions amongst the two diametrically opposed groups went nowhere over the course of four days.
Flow of Fighters to Iraq, Syria to Join Islamic State Has Slowed U.S. Says (26 April 2016) A U.S. military commander has said the flow of western fighters leaving their home country to join ISIS has decreased by nine-tenths. Essentially, before the U.S. military campaign, two-thousand foreign fighters were joining the terrorist group per month. Now, according to the commander, that number is down to two-hundred per month.
Geneva Syria Talks to Resume on May 10 (27 April 2016) Following a collapse of the Syrian ceasefire, where war was again brought to the regions that were safe for a short time, Russia has announced that the Syrian talks will resume in mid-May.
Foreign Policies Media Roundup (March-April) – Jadaliyya