MESOP NEWS ROJAVA : YES OR NO !? Is Trump Going to Help the Syrian Kurds Win Independence? AN UNCERTAIN TRUMPET !

By Frederic C. Hof On 11/20/17 at 11:20 AM – This article first appeared on the Atlantic Council site.

Regular readers of this column are all too familiar with an argument advanced for well-over two years: ISIS should be neutralized quickly in eastern Syria; an American-led, professional ground force coalition-of-the-willing should be assembled to preempt ISIS terror operations in Turkey and Western Europe and minimize Syrian civilian casualties in complex urban battle terrain; and that a post-combat stabilization plan should be drafted and implemented to keep ISIS dead, one drawing on pre-ISIS local councils and the anti-Assad Syrian opposition.

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MESOP NEWS Syria Daily: Opposition Declares New “Unified” Bloc, Insists on Assad Departure

By Scott Lucas – eaworldview – 24 Nov 2017 – After a conference in Saudi Arabia, Syria’s opposition has announced a unity agreement for a new bloc and maintained its demands that Bashar al-Assad leave power.More than 140 participants elected 50 members to a reformed High Negotiations Committee. On Friday they will name the delegation for the next round of UN-sponsored talks in Geneva.

“The Syrian opposition has sent a message that it is ready to enter serious direct talks over a political transition in Syria and has a unified position and a vision for the future of Syria,” spokesman Ahmad Ramadan said.

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MESOP NEWS INSIDE : Russia-Turkey-Iran Push “People’s Congress” – But Who Will Attend?

By  Scott Lucas – eaworldview – 23 Nov 2017 – Putin: “The congress will look at the key questions on Syria’s national agenda.” President Vladimir Putin, meeting Turkish and Iranian counterparts, has pressed Russia’s tactic of a “people’s congress” to resolve the 80-month Syrian conflict.Hosting Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Hassan Rouhani in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi, Putin said the meeting will bring together Assad regime and opposition figures: The congress will look at the key questions on Syria’s national agenda. First of all, that is the drawing-up of a framework for the future structure of the state, the adoption of a new constitution, and, on the basis of that, the holding of elections under United Nations supervision.Russia is hoping the congress will take place in Sochi ahead of the next round of UN-sponsored talks in Geneva on November 28 — but no details of the date or invitations were released.

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MESOP NEWS : RECONSTRUCTION COSTS BY “MUSINGS ON IRAQ” (JOEL WING)

SOUTH KURDISTAN (IRAQ) –  Cost Of Rebuilding Iraq  – 21 Nov 2017 11:27 AM PST –  Now that the conventional war against the Islamic State is coming to an end the government has to deal with reconstruction. Estimates for rebuilding Anbar, Ninewa and Diyala stand at $60 billion. Half of that is just for Mosul with 70% of the west side destroyed. In Anbar, the deputy governor told Al Mada that 100,000 houses were damaged in the province along with 80% of the hospitals in Ramadi, Fallujah and Qaim and 90% of the bridges were knocked out. Back in the summer, the Planning Ministry thought total reconstruction in the country could stand at $100 billion. The authorities are facing two dilemmas: one where is the money going to come from, and how are they going to use it.

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MESOP NEWS RECOMMENDATION : AUTHORITARIANISM, POLITICS & LITERATURE IN TURKEY

Featuring Ece Temelkuran, Robert Finn, and Soner Cagaptay  – Policy Forum Report – November 21, 2017

Observations from Ankara before and after the 1980 coup offer sobering lessons about authoritarian trends in Turkey today.

On November 16, Ece Temelkuran, Robert Finn, and Soner Cagaptay addressed a Policy Forum at The Washington Institute to discuss Temelkuran’s most recent book, The Time of Mute Swans. Temelkuran is a distinguished Turkish author and journalist. Finn is a former lecturer on Turkish literature at Princeton University who has served as ambassador to Afghanistan and at U.S. missions in Turkey. Cagaptay is the Beyer Family Fellow and director of the Turkish Research Program at The Washington Institute. The following is a rapporteur’s summary of their discussion.

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MESOP NEWS TODAYS SPECIAL DEBATE : Russia is playing ‘good cop, bad cop’ with Syria’s Kurds

Russia’s less-friendly attitude toward Syrian Kurds is an effort to pull the SDF into its orbit and out of its alliance with the US – ALEXANDER SCHINIS – Sunday 19 November 2017 – MIDDLE EAST EYE

the battles against the Islamic State group (IS) in Syria are winding down, but new challenges are appearing for those who brought IS to its knees.

Among these fighters are the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a Kurdish-dominated military force confronting IS in its last Syrian holdouts in alliance with the US-led coalition and US ground forces. For the SDF, the defeat of IS has opened the door for new challenges.On Sunday, 24 September, a conspiracy of collusion between IS and the very forces destroying it – the SDF – appeared on Facebook.The post alleged that drone footage had captured evidence of SDF units passing through IS-held territory without facing resistance. The implication: that IS and those giving their lives to defeat the terror group were one and the same.This accusation would be easily dismissed if not for the source: the origin of these conspiratorial charges was none other than the Russian Ministry of Defence (MOD). The story, once published by the MOD, spread rapidly through Russian state media channels. Russia’s relationship with Syrian Kurds in the recent past was one of benevolence and approval

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MESOP NEWS TODAYS GENERAL DEBATE : BACGROUND SAUDI ARABIA (THE CIPHER LETTER) / A Saudi Purge, or Re-Branding?

Is President Trump right to embrace the Saudi Crown Prince’s unprecedented arrest of 11 princes, dozens of former ministers and business officials, and four current ministers earlier this month?

Haisam and Wesam Hassanein think so: “The oil-rich monarchy finally has a guy who is willing and has the guts to take the massive responsibility of reforming and increasing the popular legitimacy of the House of Saud after decades of encouragement by successive U.S. presidents.”

  • “MbS (Mohammad bin Salman) is doing what former Egyptian and Tunisian Presidents Hosni Mubarak and Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali respectively should have done to avert their downfall…the primary reason behind the anger…that brought down [their] regimes is the perception among the youth of the widespread, unchecked corruption among the ruling families and their cronies.”

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Hariri lands in Paris: Watch the money trail to Riyadh & his business partner Prince Fahd

MESOP NEWS SPECIAL MIDDLE EAST : WATCH THE MONEY TRIAL – BY DEBKA FILES – ISRAEL / A MUST READ STORY

19 Nov 2017 – DEBKA FILES – This sensational Middle East episode has, for once, nothing to do with political or religious rivalries involving either Iran or Hizballah. So why did Saad Hariri step down as Lebanese Prime Minister in Riyadh on Nov. 4 and what is at the bottom of French President Emmanuel Macron and his foreign minister Jean Yves Le-Drian’s active involvement in the case?  The clue to these riddles is to be found on the floor of the lobby of the Ritz Carlton Riyadh, where Prince Abdul Aziz bin Fahd sleeps on a mattress. He was detained there by Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman,with scores of Saudi Arabia’s rich and powerful  in his capacity as Saudi partner in the absconding Lebanese prime minister’s extensive business interests in the kingdom.

DEBKAfile offers an exclusive blow-by-blow account of the events leading up to the Hariri bombshell:

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How the Syrian regime is dividing and ruling Aleppo – By Khaled Al-Khatib, November 2017

MESOP NEWS ANALYSIS BY CHATHAM HOUSE (UK)

17 Nov 2017 : On 22 December 2016, when the Syrian regime took over Aleppo as the last rebel fighter left its eastern districts, the city fell into the hands of three authorities: state security agencies, pro-regime militias and the Baath party. All three authorities are working to extort the people of Aleppo while discriminating between residents of the east and west of the city both in terms of services and treatment at the hands of security personnel.After the takeover, the regime’s security agencies imposed their grip on the city and gave a free hand to loyalist militias, which proceeded to threaten and blackmail residents. The regime also gave the Aleppo branch of the Baath party and its own armed militias wide-ranging powers.

 

The security services

The regime’s security services are now exploiting Aleppo’s residents for military and economic reasons. In the eastern districts particularly, civilians returning to their homes have been subjected to security raids and the regime has arrested many for failing to report for compulsory military service. Since early 2017, many under the age of 40 have also been detained and made to join the army and allied militias as reservists, before being pushed into battles against ISIS in eastern and southeastern Aleppo as far as the Badia desert region. In western Aleppo, residents have become a source of income for security agencies. The Military Security, Air Force Intelligence and Political Intelligence branches have used forced recruitment campaigns to extort the rich, who pay intelligence agencies monthly ‘royalties’ to leave their sons alone, or to facilitate getting them smuggled out of Syria.

The militias

The top militias in Aleppo are Liwa’ al-Baqer, which includes members of the pro-regime Bakkara tribe, and Liwa al-Quds Filistini (the ‘Jerusalem is Palestinian’ Brigade), which includes Palestinian fighters from the al-Nayrab and Handarat refugee camps near Aleppo, along with Syrian fighters from the city. There are also non-Syrian Shia militias such as the Iraqi Harakat al-Nujaba’ and Ansar Allah groups and Lebanon’s Hezbollah, which have kept their military bases on the city’s eastern edge and close to the Artillery College, the Assad district and Hay al-Hamdaniyah.

Members of these militias have killed people and spread fear among the population in Aleppo, which has seen repeated murders and hit and run killings. One of the most tragic was the killing of a child, Ahmad Jawish, on 11 June, by a militiaman.

 

Militias have also been responsible for a rising wave of kidnappings of civilians in order to extort vast ransoms to cover their own financial needs. They are strengthening themselves financially by setting up gangs specialized in theft and hired killings, managing brothels and selling drugs. The interests of the militias intersect with those of the security agencies, allowing the former to seize control of most of the city’s vital productive infrastructure and means of generating wealth. There is increasing harassment of industrialists and traders by both sides and taxes on transportation are imposed by militias that control military checkpoints on various roads in the city and its surroundings. Many attempts by manufacturers to reopen their factories have been obstructed by the three forces that control the city, i.e. the militias, security forces and the local branch of the Baath party. This has forced some to pay monetary royalties and bribes to get their businesses running again.

The Baath party

The third arm of the triumvirate running Aleppo is the Arab Baath Socialist Party. The regime had dissolved the Aleppo branch of the party shortly after it took control of the eastern districts. The party has a new manifestation now headed by a judge, Amin al-Najjar. As soon as he took office, he brought new members into ‘party branches’ in Aleppo and the surrounding countryside, and provided the party’s armed wing, the Baath Battalions, with new headquarters in the city and the eastern Aleppo countryside. Najjar was keen to revive the party’s branches and reshape the spying and monitoring networks made up of Baath party staffers, sending them into various parts of the city and surrounding countryside. He held regular party celebrations and activities in the city, and oversaw several conferences and party events aimed at increasing the party’s dominance and the influence of its members in the city.

Divide and rule

The regime’s three authorities have, since early 2017, imposed a policy of discrimination between east and west Aleppo. The eastern districts, where the regime has been in charge for 11 months, still have no public services despite pleas by its poor inhabitants. These neighbourhoods suffer from almost continuous power and mains water cuts, along with a breakdown of much of the sewerage system due to years of bombing when rebel forces controlled the area. The residents live under the constant shadow of accusations that they had previously embraced rebel forces, and threats that they will pay the price for this. Many who returned to the eastern districts have been arrested, tortured and deprived of their rights.  Over half of the eastern neighbourhoods are destroyed; despite regime promises in the media to reconstruct and repair the damage done by its bombing of the eastern districts, there is no sign of this. At the same time, it provides public services to residents of the city’s west as compensation for their loyalty. https://syria.chathamhouse.org/research/how-the-syrian-regime-is-dividing-and-ruling-aleppo?utm_source=Chatham%20House&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=8897487_CH%20Newsletter%20-%2017.11.2017&utm_content=Syria-Title&dm_i=1S3M,5APCF,NUSN1P,KFPNW,1

MESOP NEWS TODAYS GENERAL ANALYSIS – THE LOSS OF DISPUTED TERRITORIES: WHAT IS NEXT FOR THE KURDISTAN REGION? – A HEIDELBERG TEXT – THE RUBIN CENTER HERZLIYA – ISRAEL

November 12, 2017 By Hawre Hasan Hama and Dastan Jasim (Dastan Jasim is a research fellow at the GESIS Leibniz Institute for Social Sciences and at the Middle East and North Africa chapter of the Heidelberg Institute for International Conflict Research, focusing on the Iraqi and Syrian conflicts. She is currently pursuing a Master’s in political science at the University of Heidelberg.)

The October 2017 clashes between Iraqi and Kurdish forces in the disputed territories of the Kurdistan Region led to the loss of territories previously controlled by the Kurdish Peshmerga, including the city of Kirkuk and Sinjar. This article will discuss the various factions of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) as well as the internal dispute between the PUK and KDP. It will also identify possible scenarios for each disputed area. Last, the wider conflict between the Iraqi central government and the Kurdistan Region will be addressed. The intertwining of these various political, diplomatic, and military conflicts has brought severe impediments to the Kurdistan Region after the Kurdish independence referendum process. The article concludes that a federal solution with a strong judicial arrangement is the optimal scenario. 

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