U.S. forces have taken control and are operating from Rmeilan airbase in Syria’s Kurdish-dominated Hasakah Province, near the Turkish and Iraqi borders. The United States secured access to the base under an agreement with the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, which has held Rmeilan for the past two years, and will reportedly use the facility to provide air and logistical support to the Syrian Democratic Forces coalition operating against the Islamic State.
The United States is also working with Turkey to introduce new technology to assist in securing the country’s border with Syria, particularly along the 60-mile strip that has been an access point for the Islamic State. U.S.-supplied measures could include aerostat surveillance equipment, anti-tunneling technology, and methods for detecting materials used in improvised bombs, Reuters reports. U.S. Vice President Joe Biden is scheduled to arrive in Turkey today to discuss U.S.-Turkish cooperation in fighting the Islamic State.
U.S. and Russia Push for Syria Talks to Start on Time
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said yesterday after meeting with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry that both Russia and the United States are continuing to push for peace talks on the Syrian civil war to begin on the scheduled date of January 25. It was unclear, though, if diplomats had reconciled a dispute about the members of the opposition that will participate, and opposition groups threatened to withdraw if the list of participants is expanded. U.N. Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura told reporters that it might not be clear if the talks will proceed on time until the day before.
- In a televised speech, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani criticized the Guardian Council’s sweeping disqualification of reformist candidates for next month’s parliamentary election and appointed Vice President Eshagh Jahangiri to work with the Council toward allowing candidates to re-enter the race.
- Chinese President Xi Jinping continued his Middle East tour in Egypt today, where he signed a series of economic agreements that include infrastructure support and $1.7 billion in loans to shore up the Egyptian banking sector.
- Israel is “in the final stages” of appropriating a 380-acre tract of arable land in the West Bank, near Jericho, drawing criticism from Palestinian groups, the United States, and the United Nations.
- French President Francois Hollande said that French airstrikes against the Islamic State will accelerate in coming months and that 2016 must be a “year of transition for Syria.”
- Armed militants opened fire on a security checkpoint in the Egyptian city of El-Arish, in the Sinai Peninsula, killing five policemen and wounding three soldiers; the Egyptian government is responding with airstrikes and ground operations, BBC reports.
Arguments and Analysis
“Yemen’s Muslim Brotherhood and the perils of powersharing” (Stacey Phibrick Yadav, Brookings Institution)
“Today, much of Islah’s senior leadership is in exile along with other members of the transitional regime. No longer an opposition in any meaningful sense of the word, the party’s Brotherhood leadership has committed to President Hadi’s foundering government, in ways reminiscent of the party’s old role as Ṣāliḥ allies in the 1990s. The Muslim Brotherhood cohort within the party, lacking a strong haraka foundation relative to other factions, is heavily dependent on the legitimacy tenuously afforded it by international agreements and the actors who back them. While the Muslim Brotherhood long disavowed violence as a political strategy in domestic politics, they now depend upon an international coalition of armies that promises to restore their political position through force.”
“Letter to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan regarding academic freedom in Turkey” (American Political Science Association)
“President Erdoğan: On behalf of the American Political Science Association, we write to express our alarm and deepest concern regarding reports of punitive measures, including detentions and criminal investigations, launched against Turkish academics who signed a petition addressing Turkish government policies in southeastern Turkey. We urge you to end these measures against the petition’s signatories, to ensure the safety and well-being of scholars in Turkey, and to ensure academic freedom remains a component of Turkey’s commitment to higher education.”
-J. Dana Stuster
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