Report

Erdogan Reasserts Himself Despite International Criticism

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan boasted that Turkish forces have killed 3,000 Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq and claimed no other nation is fighting the terrorist group like Turkey. Earlier this week, Turkey confirmed that it has been sending commandos into Syria on reconnaissance missions, and it has been engaging Islamic State forces ...

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan boasted that Turkish forces have killed 3,000 Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq and claimed no other nation is fighting the terrorist group like Turkey. Earlier this week, Turkey confirmed that it has been sending commandos into Syria on reconnaissance missions, and it has been engaging Islamic State forces along the border, especially near the town of Kilis, which has repeatedly been shelled by terrorists from the Syria side of the border. Erdogan’s comments come as he is trying to reassert his leadership and put constitutional reform back on the agenda after Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu announced his intention to resign last week. “No one has the right to turn Turkey into a country of lions condemned to a vegetarian diet,” he said yesterday, describing the strength of the government under a new presidential system.

Turkey is facing growing international criticism for its conduct toward Syrian refugees and in its fight against Kurdish insurgency. Human Rights Watch has released a new report identifying instances of border guards shooting or beating refugees as they approached the Turkish border. The U.N. high commissioner for human rights also raised concerns about Turkish operations in the Kurdish southeast this week, calling for an independent investigation to follow up on reports that civilians were deliberately targeted. The Turkish government responded by saying that the U.N. preliminary findings are biased and that Turkey took all necessary precautions.

Deadly Bombing Kills Dozens in Baghdad

A car bomb exploded this morning in a crowded market in Sadr City, a Shiite neighborhood of Baghdad, Iraq, killing at least 45 people and wounding more than 60 others. The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attack.

Headlines

  • The parties to Yemen’s civil war, meeting in Kuwait for peace talks, reached an agreement to release half of the prisoners held by both sides within the next 20 days; the swap will involve hundreds, possibly more than a thousand, detainees.

 

  • U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry responded to frustration expressed by Iranian officials that the nuclear agreement reached last year has not led to expected economic growth; Kerry said the U.S. State Department is willing to clarify what sanctions remain in place for businesses looking to invest in Iran but that the U.S. government is being used as an excuse by companies that are not interested in operating there.

 

  • U.S. prosecutors gave notice that they will not seek the death penalty for Ahmed Abu Khatallah, the senior leader of Libya’s Ansar al-Sharia who is standing trial for the deaths of Amb. Chris Stevens and support for terrorism in the Sept. 11, 2012 attack in Benghazi.

 

  • As it prepares for an initial public offering of less than 5 percent of the company, Saudi Aramco has disclosed new information about about its operations and the size of its oil reserves.

 

  • Egypt will open the Rafah border crossing to the Gaza Strip for today and tomorrow to allow travel for 30,000 people that have been approved by the Hamas government; the Rafah crossing has been closed for most of the past three years since tensions with Hamas escalated after President Mohammed Morsi was removed from office.

Arguments and Analysis

From the Bottom, Up: A Strategy for U.S. Military Support to Syria’s Armed Opposition” (Nicholas Heras, Center for a New American Security)

“With the current state of the Syrian civil war, the conditions are not ripe for de-escalation in the conflict. If the United States is seeking a transition from the Assad regime that does not lead to the enduring rule of ideological extremist organizations throughout Syria, it will need to become the decisive influence that shifts the military balance on the ground in rebel-ruled areas in favor of the politically moderate armed opposition. Therefore, the primary U.S. effort should be on a bottom-up strategy for building cohesive, moderate armed opposition institutions with a regional focus that is tailored for each individual region within Syria. This line of effort depends on providing incentives for the already U.S.-vetted moderate armed opposition groups to join together into larger regional coalitions with genuinely unified command. Over time, as these moderate rebel institutions become the center of gravity in their respective regions and marginalize or defeat ideological extremist organizations, they can be brought together to form larger civil-military structures and govern the predominately Sunni rebel-ruled areas inside of Syria. These regional structures can then interact with the remnants of the Assad regime and its loyalist forces to work toward achieving a long-term political solution to the Syrian civil war, such as a federalized Syria.”

 

The Kuwait talks: Yemen’s last chance for peace?” (Adam Baron, European Council on Foreign Relations)

“It would be foolish to continue to ignore Yemen’s regional actors and the localised nature of the varied conflicts. From the resistance fighters in Taiz and al-Bayda to the secessionists in the south, to the lingering discontent in tribal areas like al-Jawf and Marib, such localised issues and interests must be addressed. That being said, it remains deeply unreasonable to expect the current talks — at least in the current moment — to resolve with this slew of issues. Ultimately, the concerns of local actors cannot be solved until the conflict ravaging the central state is solved. After all, one cannot begin talks on local governance, federalism or decentralised power while the power struggle for control of the central government and state institutions remains unresolved. However, resolving the conflict over state power will be nearly impossible to accomplish as long as the institutions that represent the bedrock of the state remain divided and officials ostensibly tasked with running the country remain in exile.”

-J. Dana Stuster

ADEM ALTAN/AFP/Getty Images

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