Syria (GPA) – The Islamic State released video of militants detonating bombs inside a crucial Hayyan gas facility over the weekend, effectively leaving millions of Syrians without heat for the winter. The gas facility was located in the eastern countryside of…
The New York Times reported on Sunday that US special forces have been deployed in a number of Baltic states in order to ‘counter possible Russian aggression’ and ‘shadowy efforts’ by Moscow to destabilize the region.
This announcement comes amid a tour of Eastern Europe by several prominent US politicians, led by none other than notorious war hawks, Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham. The tour reached a peak over New Year’s weekend with McCain making an appearance with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in the war ravaged Donbas region.
In a recent meeting with Ali Akbar Velayati, a senior adviser to the Iranian ayatollah, Iraqi Vice President and former Prime Minister Nouri al-Malaki thanked Iran for their assistance in fighting jihadists and criticized the Gulf States for colluding with these groups.
Maliki praised the Islamic Republic of Iran during a visit to Tehran to improve diplomatic and military relations. He thanked Iranian officials for the ongoing assistance they have provided during Iraq’s battle against takfiri militants such as the Islamic State (IS). The VP said despite many countries promising to assist in the campaign against jihadists, Iran was the only one to deliver on their promises.
This has been a big week in world events and we here at Geopolitics Alert have covered a few major stories. Here are your key takeaways for the week of December 25th:
Israel Reacts to the UNSC Settlement Decision.
After the United Nations Security Council bite last week calling for a halt to Israeli settlement in Palestinian territory, Israeli officials have been, in the words of some commentators, “throwing a tantrum.”
The Israeli government has released 200,000 documents as a searchable data base for the roughly 1,000 Yemenite families who claim their children went missing after immigrating to the newly formed state of Israel decades ago.
The documents were not intended to be released until 2031, but in light of the recent UN resolution to halt Israeli settlements, the documents were likely released today for PR reasons.
Yemenite families who immigrated to Israel shortly after its formation found themselves in in-take camps with poor sanitation conditions. As a result many children became ill or were hospitalized. For about a thousand of those families, they were told their child had died. But the families say they never received any paperwork, cause of death, and were never allowed to see or bury the body. Many families believed their children had been given up for adoption to elite Ashkenazi couples.
Turkish President Recep Erdogan said in a press conference yesterday that he has proof of the US aiding terrorists in Syria such as the Kurdish YPG and PYD but also including the Islamic State (IS).
Erdogan said it was “very clear” that the US is arming and supporting “terrorist groups including Daesh (IS)” as well as the Kurdish YPG (People’s Protection Units) and PYD (Democratic Union Party). The US is currently at odds with Turkey over whether the YPG and PYD are actually terror groups and the US sees them as “reliable partners” in the war against IS despite Turkish claims of their connections to the PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party). The PKK is agreed to be a terrorist group by the US, EU and Turkey.
The US does work with some Kurdish groups under the umbrella of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) which also includes some pro-Turkish elements of the Free Syrian Army (FSA). State Department spokesman Mark Toner addressed these claims in his daily press briefing saying that the US has “never provided weapons to the YPG.”
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari announced Saturday that the last refuge of the African terrorist organization and Islamic State affiliate Boko Haram has fallen to Nigerian troops.
The remnants of the terrorist organization were surrounded over the weekend in their final refuge, “camp zero” in the Sambisa forest in northern Nigeria. President Buhari congratulated the troops on a “long awaited” victory and the “final crushing of Boko Haram terrorists in their last enclave.”
Although this news means that Boko Haram has lost out on the area of land they held, it is probably not necessarily the end of their dangerous ideology. Much like the Islamic State organization that Boko Haram leaders pledged allegiance to in 2015; taking their physical territory may just prove to make the group turn to more violent tactics of insurgency.
Following the vote on Friday by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) calling for a halt to further Israeli settlements in the West Bank, the Jerusalem Planning Committee has approved hundreds of new settlement homes in East Jerusalem.
The Israeli government began approving new settlements over the weekend that were previously deemed ‘diplomatically sensitive’ by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office prior to the election of Donald Trump. Despite a noticeable slowdown in the construction of settlements over the last few years of the Obama presidency, Israel seems to be banking on further support for their settlement projects from incoming President Donald Trump.
One of the West’s key allies in the Middle East has admitted to what it calls “limited use” of UK-manufactured cluster bombs in Yemen. These types of munitions are banned under international law.
When a cluster bomb explodes, it releases several smaller projectiles which allows the damage to spread to a larger area– potentially putting civilian lives at risk. These sub-munitions can also essentially become landmines. Cluster bombs were banned under international law in 2010– a treaty Britain signed upon its creation in 2008. However, Saudi Arabia and most of their coalition partners– including the United States– have not signed this same treaty.
In one of his final moves in office, president Obama has committed another 2,300 US troops to Afghanistan to help the government curb the resurgence of the Taliban.
After a year of territorial gains by the Taliban in their fight against the weakened Afghani government, the US is sending around 2,300 troops from armor and aviation brigades to assist in attempting to turn the tide. The troops are being sent as part of operation Freedom’s Sentinel to “advise and assist” the Afghan security services in their ongoing fight.
The Afghan forces are also combating the still-active al Qaeda leadership in Afghanistan as well as a new cell of the Islamic State that materialized in the country earlier this year. The US forces have have their work cut out for them judging by the failures of the Afghan government in the past few years as well as the rampant corruption within the security services.
Jets carrying out air strikes missed an Islamic State target and instead hit residential buildings. Dozens of people including women and children are assumed to have been killed.
Witnesses believe the strike was aiming for a Mosque frequently used by IS as a headquarters, but missed and instead hit residential buildings. It is likely that the strike came from the Iraqi Air Force (who are supported by the United States coalition). But it cannot yet be confirmed who is responsible.
What is interesting though is that BBC used the Islamic State’s news agency– Amaq– as a legitimate first-hand source. In fact, they even used a screenshot from a video on the group’s website. Here’s a screenshot from the BBC article:
Earlier today the Syrian government accused Israel of an attack on an important airbase near the Syrian capital.
Reports differ on what kind of strike actually took place but Israel has made no comment. Pro-western media outlets such as Al Jazeera are saying it was possibly an explosion of an ammunition depot that caused the blaze.
The Lebanese news outlet Al Mayadeen claims the attack was carried out by an Israeli jet from Lebanon’s airspace targeting Hezbollah fighters and aiming to further destroy advanced weaponry.
On Monday, Wikileaks released a batch of almost 58,000 emails sent and received by Turkish president Recep Erdogan’s son-in-law Berat Albayrak.
The release, termed by Wikileaks as ‘Berat’s box’ includes thousands of emails detailing Albayrak’s dealings as the Turkish Minister of Energy. The emails encompass a span of sixteen years beginning April of 2000 until September of this year. Wikileaks was given the database of emails by a Turkish Marxist-Leninist ‘hacktivist’ group known as RedHack.
RedHack had initially announced that they had obtained the emails in September but their social media accounts and pages containing news of the hack were taken down. Originally the group threatened to release the emails if the Erdogan government wouldn’t release Alp Altınörs, a member of the Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) and a journalist named Aslı Erdogan. Suspected members of RedHack have been threatened since September by the government and subjected to the ongoing post-coup torture.
A United Nations (UN) special rapporteur has announced the preliminary results of a study on torture in Turkish jails, prisons and extrajudicial sites stating he has found multiple abuses and cases of torture following July’s coup.
UN human rights expert, Nils Melzer conducted interviews with inmates, lawyers and advocacy groups over the course of six days last week. Melzer says the reports of torture are widespread through facilities at all levels and were most likely to occur upon initial arrest and detention of suspects. A recent investigation from BBC discovered that the recent purges and arrests aren’t limited to potential coup-plotters but also include many Kurds and leftists.
According to a report from the European Counter Terrorism Centre (ECTC), European countries who are taking part in the US-led coalition against ISIS are more likely to suffer terrorist attacks at home– and the trend is expected to rise.
France ranked especially high on the list; Belgium, Germany, and the UK are also particularly susceptible to attacks. Ultimately however, the report also states that any country participating in the US-led coalition can expect a wave of “IS inspired attacks” from both organized groups and lone wolves. Attacks on European soil are not only expected to increase, but the ECTC expects attackers to shift away from symbolic targets and focus towards more soft targets with more civilian casualties. They expect the attacks carried out by organized groups to become more complex and could involve more car bomb style attacks similar to those in Iraq.