Report

Turkey Continues Reconciliation with Israel, Russia after Attack

Turkish efforts to reconcile with Israel and Russia have continued this week amid the fallout from a terrorist attack at Ataturk airport in Istanbul. Yesterday, Russian President Vladimir Putin formally lifted the travel ban he had imposed on Turkey last November, allowing Russian citizens to purchase package tours and charter flights. He has also said ...

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Turkish efforts to reconcile with Israel and Russia have continued this week amid the fallout from a terrorist attack at Ataturk airport in Istanbul. Yesterday, Russian President Vladimir Putin formally lifted the travel ban he had imposed on Turkey last November, allowing Russian citizens to purchase package tours and charter flights. He has also said that he will lift sanctions and normalize trade relations again. Turkey is preparing to launch a ship, Lady Leyla, loaded with 11,000 tons of humanitarian aid to the Israeli port of Ashdod for delivery to Gaza as part of its recent agreement to restore diplomatic ties with Israel.

Turkey has continued to make arrests related to the attack in Istanbul, including 11 more people arrested in early morning raids in the Basaksehir district of the city, according to media reports. Turkish officials now believe that the attack was planned with the knowledge of senior Islamic State leaders and that the attackers entered Turkey after spending time in the Islamic State’s de facto capital of Raqqa. According to Turkish media reports, the terrorists’ initial plan was to take hostages before committing a massacre, but that was abandoned after the large coats used to hide the attackers’ guns drew suspicion.

Assad Claims to Work with Western Governments

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad claimed that his government is clandestinely working with representatives of Western nations in an interview with Australian news channel SBS. “This is the double standard of the West in general: They attack us politically and they send us their officials to deal with us under the table, especially the security, including your government,” Assad told the Australian broadcaster, suggesting that the contacts are secret to not upset the United States, which he said his government does not communicate with directly. Though the Obama administration has no connections to the Assad regime, it is reportedly considering an arrangement with Russia to coordinate strikes against Jabhat al-Nusra, the Syrian al-Qaeda affiliate, in exchange for Russia halting strikes against U.S.-backed rebel forces.

Headlines

  • Estimates of the damage inflicted by U.S. and Iraqi airstrikes on Islamic State forces retreating from Fallujah have grown; the Iraqi military said yesterday that nearly 800 vehicles were destroyed in strikes, including eight car bombs.

 

  • A humanitarian crisis is growing along the Jordan-Syria border where aid workers say they’ve been denied access to more than 60,000 people stranded in Syria after Jordan closed the border in response to an Islamic State attack last week.

 

  • Syrian rebels claim to have shot down a Syrian air force jet and captured its pilot northeast of Damascus, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

 

  • A car was struck by a bomb in southern Bahrain, killing a woman and wounding three children; Bahraini police have declared the incident a terrorist act.

 

  • The Kuwaiti government approved an amendment to the country’s election law that would prohibit opposition leaders and activists who have been convicted of criticizing Islam or the country’s leadership from running for office; the rule will apply to dozens of people including some current and former members of parliament.

Arguments and Analysis

What’s at Stake for the Gulf Arab States in Syria?” (Hussein Ibish, Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington)

“All these challenges notwithstanding, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, along with their allies, especially Turkey, will likely continue relying on funding and supporting armed opposition groups to try to influence the situation on the ground, while simultaneously pressing forward with efforts to convince Russia of the benefits of a post-Assad future in Syria to be achieved by a political agreement guaranteed by Washington and Moscow. But Saudi Arabia will not agree to an outcome if the new political order in Damascus does not significantly weaken the grip of Tehran and Hizballah over the Syrian government. This means that Riyadh and its allies will be attempting to go both over Tehran’s head, by appealing directly to Moscow and Washington, and simultaneously behind Iran’s back through covert programs designed to change the military equation on the ground to ensure that the current regime cannot remain in place if the conflict in Syria is to be resolved. If this cannot be achieved in Geneva or elsewhere through diplomatic and political means, the war in Syria is likely to continue for quite some time.”

 

After Failed 2015 Siege, Sinai State Fights On” (Zack Gold, MENASource)

“Egypt has kept Sinai State from actually resembling a state, but that does not mean eradication of the group is near. President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi recently said terrorism is confined to 2-3 percent of the peninsula — which, if accurate, is still 460-690 square miles in a strategic border area where much of the North Sinai population is concentrated. The regular attacks on police, soldiers, and civilians; the increased harassment of international troops and threats against Israel; and ISIS’s ability to send weapons and Egyptian recruits to the isolated governorate suggest Sinai State is still a threat to Egypt and its international partners. Egypt now faces a paradox: its maneuvers during Operation The Martyr’s Right appear to have put pressure on Sinai State but they have also put real pressure on the local population, cooperation from which both the government and military recognize as necessary to defeat Sinai State. In September 2015 the Egyptian cabinet announced measures for easing civilian life in its comprehensive plan to combat terrorism in Sinai, but it is unclear if the positive steps outlined have been realized.”

-J. Dana Stuster

YASIN BULBUL/AFP/Getty Images

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