Report

Islamic State Claims Responsibility for Yemen Attacks

A Yemeni affiliate of the Islamic State has claimed responsibility for seven simultaneous attacks, including two suicide bombings, that killed 43 people in the southern port town of Mukalla. The city was occupied by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula until the terrorist organization left under an agreement with local groups to avoid conflict with advancing ...

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A Yemeni affiliate of the Islamic State has claimed responsibility for seven simultaneous attacks, including two suicide bombings, that killed 43 people in the southern port town of Mukalla. The city was occupied by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula until the terrorist organization left under an agreement with local groups to avoid conflict with advancing forces backed by the United Arab Emirates in April. Emirati forces responding to the attacks secured main streets and are responsible for guarding the city’s port and airport.

Peace talks to resolve the civil war between Yemen’s internationally-recognized government and the Houthis and their allies remain stagnated despite a roadmap proposed last week by U.N. Yemen envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed. The two sides are reportedly drafting a joint statement to suspend talks until mid-July. The suspension of talks “is meant to save face after reaching a deadlock,” a Yemeni government official said.

Turkey Seeks to Reconcile with Russia

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is trying to renew good relations with Russia and wrote to Russian President Vladimir Putin to “express his regrets” regarding the Russian fighter jet shot down along the Turkey-Syria border in November 2015. Turkish officials stressed that the statement was not an apology, as reported in the Russian press. Turkey will put an individual accused of killing one of the Russian pilots on trial, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said yesterday, but backtracked on previous comments about potentially paying damages to Russia. The Turkish government signed an agreement to restore ties with Israel today and the Israeli government is expected to sign tomorrow despite opposition from far-right members of the government and Knesset.

Headlines

  • The Egyptian government arrested and deported a popular television host, Liliane Daoud, who has been critical of the Sisi administration’s policies, within hours of the network on which her program is broadcast canceling her contract.

 

  • The U.S. military program to train and equip members of the Syrian opposition to target the Islamic State has trained fewer than 100 Syrian rebels since being restarted in March, but those trained have begun to return to units in Syria with weapons and advanced communications equipment, U.S. officials said yesterday.

 

  • The Lebanese government arrested more than 100 Syrian nationals in a security sweep after the town of al-Qaa was targeted by nine bombings yesterday that left five people dead and almost 30 others wounded.

 

  • The Israeli government closed the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound to non-Muslim visitors after clashes erupted again at mosque in Jerusalem today; the closure will stay in effect until the end of Ramadan next week.

 

  • Bahraini police announced last night that they have made several arrests of individuals who were “misusing social media” to “incite people or instigate people to abuse others”; the move continues an ongoing crackdown on political dissent particularly targeting the Shia population.

 

  • Three Iranian park rangers were killed by poachers last week at a national park and an environmental reserve; at least two men were apprehended nearby hunting with unregistered firearms.

 

  • The Iranian government is reconsidering parts of a $27-billion deal to purchase new aircraft from Airbus; citing remaining U.S. sanctions and political motives for the initial arrangement, Iranian officials are considering canceling the purchase of A380 planes or redirecting the $5.2-billion cost toward the purchase of other models.

Arguments and Analysis

How the Kurds Drove Turkey Back to Israel (and Two Other Reasons for the Deal)” (Steven A. Cook, Defense One)

“There are three reasons why the Turks wanted the deal now more than ever. First, the Israelis have a lot of natural gas and Cyprus has a lot of natural gas. There have been signals all year that negotiations to find a solution to the Cyprus problem and reunify the island are promising. It seems that the deal with Israel is connected to the coming gas bonanza in the Eastern Mediterranean. Second, Ankara’s approach to the Middle East has been an utter failure. Its bid to lead the Middle East after the Arab uprisings was based more on the self-reinforcing myths that AKP elites told themselves than their actual ability to drive events in the region. There was also little chance that Saudis, Egyptians, and Emiratis were going to allow the Turks to play the role they sought. Between the summer of 2013 and rather recently, Ankara had bad relations with Riyadh, Abu Dhabi, Cairo, Jerusalem, and Baghdad — in other words, all the major capitals in the region. When Erdogan forced Davutoglu from the prime ministry on May 5, Davutoglu could be made the fall guy for Turkey’s regional isolation with few, if any, political consequences for the president. This is not entirely a stretch; Davutoglu was the architect of Turkey’s grandiose ambitions in the Middle East as an advisor and then foreign minister during the last five years of Erdogan’s tenure as prime minister. Then again, it is not like Erdogan did not embrace the idea of Turkey’s (and thus his own) leadership of the Middle East. The third reason is Syria. This is the failure within the failure of Ankara’s entire bid for leadership in the region.”

 

Want to ease tensions in the Middle East? Science diplomacy can help” (David P. Hajjar, Markaz)

“In the Middle East, opportunities abound for science diplomacy. Not only can this type of approach help solve practical, quality-of-life challenges — from energy to health and beyond — it can bring together expert communities and bureaucracies. In the process, it can contribute to more normalized people-to-people and government-to-government relations. Even at the height of the Cold War, for example, U.S. and Russian nuclear scientists and other experts worked together to monitor each other’s nuclear facilities; even though Moscow and Washington had nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missiles aimed directly at each other, bureaucratic cooperation on technical issues became a normal part of the relationship and helped enhance transparency and trust.”

-J. Dana Stuster

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