The State Department released its annual report on terrorism yesterday. As in previous years, Iran was identified as the leading state sponsor of terrorism on account of its support for designated terrorist groups and proxy militias in Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq; the report also notes that Iran has been implicated in investigations of armed Shia political dissidents in Bahrain. Syria and Sudan were also listed as state sponsors of terrorism. The report states that the Islamic State is a larger threat than al-Qaeda, but that its recruitment and territory in Iraq and Syria have been significantly diminished since 2014. Despite these setbacks, the report notes that the group has expanded its number of affiliates and gained territory in Libya last year.
The report shows a decline in the overall number of terrorist attacks from 2014, the first decline since 2012. In total, there were 11,774 terrorist attacks that killed 28,300 people last year, according to data compiled by the University of Maryland. Though attacks declined globally, the number of attacks increased in some countries, including Egypt, Syria, and Turkey.
Houthis Make Gains in Clashes in Central Yemen
Houthi fighters pushed back pro-government troops in Marib and Shabwa provinces this week in Yemen. Yemeni officials from the government of President Abdu Rabbu Mansur Hadi said their troops were forced to fall back because of a lack of air support from Saudi Arabia, though airstrikes did target Houthi officials in Sanaa. The clashes left 85 soldiers dead. An annual U.N. report on the violation of children’s rights, released on Thursday, singled out the Saudi campaign in Yemen, which has killed 510 children, and noted that the Houthis are “persistent perpetrators” of violence against children. The report cites instances in the Yemen conflict of “killing and maiming and attacks on schools and hospitals.”
- Assad regime forces, backed by Russian airstrikes, have begun a new offensive against the Islamic State, pushing east from Athriya toward Raqqa province.
- The Special Tribunal for Lebanon, the U.N.-supported court investigating the 2005 assassination of Lebanese President Rafik Hariri, issued a decision that it will continue its prosecution of Mustafa Badreddine, the Hezbollah commander reported killed in Syria in March who is accused of orchestrating the 2005 car bomb attack, citing insufficient evidence of his death.
- Turkey recalled its ambassador to Germany and several Turkish officials lashed out publicly in response to the Bundestag passing a bill recognizing the massacre of Armenians after World War I as genocide.
- Egypt’s former top auditor, Hesham Genana, who was dismissed from his position and then placed under house arrest in April after reporting that large-scale corruption had cost the country billions of dollars, has been summoned for trial on charges of “spreading false news to disturb public order” and refused to pay bail because he does not believe he has committed a crime.
- OPEC rejected proposals for a cap on oil production floated by Saudi Arabia, but despite ongoing political tensions, diplomats at the meeting reported more congenial Saudi-Iranian relations at the meeting on account of improving oil markets.
- Egypt received a French Mistral helicopter carrier as part of a $1-billion deal reached last year and a second is set to be delivered in September; the purchase of the warships by Egypt was agreed to after France cancelled their sale to Russia.
Arguments and Analysis
“The Interventionist Turn in Gulf States’ Foreign Policies” (Karen E. Young, Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington)
“The Arab Gulf states are engaging a regional political landscape without a clear ideological or security center of Arab politics. The post-Arab Spring disorder has diminished Egypt’s traditional claim to that role, while the civil war in Syria has permeated Turkish domestic politics and security, weakening President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ability to project an alternative model of (participatory) political Islam to the wider region. The environment is providing a sense of legitimization of the particular Arab Gulf model of political economy: authoritarian governance with liberal economies, often dominated by state-related entities that invest in infrastructure and real estate, subsidized with imported labor and cheap energy costs. This is the logic behind a rising, or emerging, Gulf model of political economy, or at least one that Gulf leaders are keen to project. However, this model is being challenged by the prolonged decline in the price of oil, driven by higher supply from non-OPEC producers and a slowdown by Asian consumers, mainly a decrease in Chinese demand for oil. As much as 70 percent of Gulf countries’ fiscal revenue derives from oil exports, as prices are down from $52 per barrel in 2015 (a low from the boom times of over $100 per barrel in 2013) with forecasts by Moody’s and other energy analysts to remain below $40 per barrel through 2017. This drastic decline in revenue, after a decade of hyper economic and population growth, is creating major structural challenges to government outlays in public services, subsidies, and employment. Some analysts describe this period in Gulf domestic politics as a renegotiation of the existing social contract. At the least, it is a reconsideration of the appropriate role of the state in the economy, including the provision of social welfare to citizens combined with a forward vision of the appropriate economic and social integration of noncitizens.”
“The Aerial Delivery of Humanitarian Aid in Syria: Options and Constraints” (Michael Eisenstadt, Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
“The airfields and roadways around Damascus are used routinely by the Assad regime to bring in troops, equipment, and military supplies from Iran and elsewhere; there is no reason they cannot also be used to bring in humanitarian aid. But an air bridge will not obviate the need for ground convoys to deliver the aid, which the regime has often obstructed as part of its “surrender of starve” tactics, or to incentivize truces in strategic areas. As for airdrops, they are a highly problematic and inefficient means of delivering aid to populations in built-up areas, and are ultimately also dependent on Syrian government assent. To date, ground convoys have reached but a fraction of those in need in besieged and hard-to-reach areas — according to the United Nations, 12 percent in January, 25 percent in February, 21 percent in March, 42 percent in April, and only 1 percent in the first week or so of May. Some besieged areas have not received food aid in years. Moreover, according to the WFP, 4 million people in Syria receive monthly food rations, out of the 8.7 million in need of food assistance. The besieged communities are but the tip of a massive iceberg. If Damascus does not permit food convoys to access besieged and hard-to-reach communities, air bridges will make no difference.”
-J. Dana Stuster
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