World powers agree ‘cessation of hostilities’ in Syria

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World powers on Feb. 12 agreed an ambitious plan to cease hostilities in war-racked Syria within a week and dramatically ramp up humanitarian access at talks in Munich aimed at reviving the struggling peace process. Hurriyet – MUNICH, Germany – Agence France-Presse The 17 countries agreed “to implement a nationwide cessation of hostilities to begin in a target of one week’s time,” said US Secretary of State John Kerry after extended talks co-hosted by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. The International ... Read More »

Somalia: Why is Al-Shabaab Still A Potent Threat?

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This year, the armed Islamist extremist group Al-Shabaab has notched up a series of bloody successes against both Somali targets and the African Union peace-enforcement mission AMISOM. ICG – By Abdul Khalif & Cedric Barnes | @CedricHoA Meanwhile, the international community has been busy cajoling principals of the Somali federal and state governments into agreeing on the means by which to hold new elections due in August. Despite four years of “post-transitional” government and a level of international engagement and foreign ... Read More »

NATO boots in Central Europe to tackle Russian threat

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No new bases, but troops to rotate between six frontline NATO countries. Politico – By HANS VON DER BURCHARD NATO will deploy troops to frontline states menaced by Russia’s actions in Ukraine, defense ministers agreed Wednesday, in what the head of the alliance called “the most significant boost to our collective defense since the end of the Cold War.” The alliance will not set up military bases in a bid to counter Russian military aggression, but will instead rotate the troops through six Central European ... Read More »

Iran to upgrade missiles, get Russian defense system: minister

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Reuters DUBAI: Iran will unveil an upgrade of its Emad ballistic missiles this year, the defense minister was quoted as saying, advancing a program that has drawn criticism from the United Nations and sanctions from the United States. The Daily Star The Islamic Republic would also start taking delivery of an advanced Russian S-300 surface-to-air missile defense system in the next two months, Hossein Dehghan added – a system that was blocked before a landmark nuclear deal with world powers. ... Read More »

Yemen: Is Peace Possible?

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Brussels EXECUTIVE SUMMARY Nearly a year on, there is no end in sight to Yemen’s war. ICG Middle East Report N°167 The conflict pits Ansar Allah (Huthi) rebels and military units allied with ex-President Ali Abdullah Saleh against a diverse mix of opponents, including what remains of the government of President Abed-Rabbo Mansour Hadi, backed by a Saudi-led coalition supported by the U.S., the UK and France. Ending the war requires negotiations leading to an interim settlement that must include ... Read More »

Peshmerga needs $300M a month to fight ISIL: Official

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Kurdish peshmerga forces need a short-term emergency fund of $300 million a month from the U.S. to fight the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a Kurdish Iraqi official said on Feb. 8. Hurriyet – WASHINGTON – Anadolu Agency The money is needed “for their salaries, and the logistics and the transportations for these efforts against ISIS [ISIL],” said Hemin Hawrami, foreign policy advisor to northern Iraq’s Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) President Masoud Barzani. Speaking at the Washington Institute ... Read More »

Why the West is standing by amid Russia’s campaign in Syria

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SEARCH FOR A PATH FORWARD – Russia’s airstrikes on Aleppo, Syria, have killed hundreds and sent a fresh wave of tens of thousands of civilians north to the border with Turkey. The Christian Science Monitor – By Howard LaFranchi, Staff writer WASHINGTON — German Chancellor Angela Merkel says she is “horrified” by the impact that Russia’s relentless airstrikes on Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, are having on civilians. And as Russia’s bombing campaign has killed hundreds and sent a fresh wave of tens ... Read More »

Oil Prices and ISIS Ruin Kurdish Dreams of Riches

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The civil war in Syria and Iraq and the rise of Islamic State (Isis) has brought the 30 million Kurds in the Middle East new terrors and fresh opportunities. CounterPunch – by Patrick Cockburn In Syria, the conflict has led to the creation of a Kurdish quasi-state between the Tigris and Euphrates that fields a powerful army supported by US air power. In northern Iraq, the defeat of the Iraqi army by Isis in 2014 enabled the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to seize territory long ... Read More »

Turkish forces accused of ‘massacre’ over Cizre raid

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Conflicting reports about death toll and identities of victims in raid on building by Turkish security forces #TurkeyAtWar Middle East Eye – Alex MacDonald Scores of people are reported to have been killed in the southeastern Turkish town of Cizre following a raid by security services on a building allegedly harbouring Kurdish separatist fighters. State-run TRT reported late on Sunday that 60 “terrorists” had been “neutralised” following the raid on the building in the Cudi neighbourhood of Cizre. News sources in ... Read More »

Dealing With Iran’s Ballistic Missile Program

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A diplomatic effort to cap missile development is the next necessary step. The National Interest – William LuersThomas PickeringGreg Thielmann Building on the momentum from the successful pursuit of the nuclear deal with Iran, the P5+1 should now combine pressure and diplomacy to deal with Iran’s missile program. Missiles became an essential component of Iran’s military posture during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s, in which Iran received intensive Iraqi missile and air bombardments. Tehran started to build a missile arsenal ... Read More »

UN Security Council holds emergency session on North Korea after rocket launch

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Defiant North Korea launches ‘space rocket’ ‘Successful’ nuclear bomb test a strategic move Was North Korea’s hydrogen bomb test a deliberate distraction? New York: The United Nations Security Council began an emergency meeting on North Korea’s rocket launch on Sunday, with diplomats expecting the 15-nation body to condemn Pyongyang and redouble efforts to agree on new sanctions. The Canberra Times – Louis Charbonneau * Speaking to reporters ahead of the closed-door session, France’s UN ambassador, Francois Delattre, described North Korea’s launch of a long-range ... Read More »

Sri Lanka, not Sri Lankans, the OHCHR agenda

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There is a continuum in the unfolding of events in Geneva. If we fail to comprehend the bigger picture, underestimate Sri Lanka’s strategic importance, and refuse to see ourselves as Sri Lankans, we will find ourselves, again, in a fratricidal war that will provide fertile ground for marauding invaders. It is urgent that the people of Sri Lanka regain their sovereign right to govern themselves from those who, in Geneva, betrayed their trust by surrendering the authority accorded to them ... Read More »

Burkina Faso: Freed Australian hostage vows to keep up aid work

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An Australian aid worker who was freed by al-Qaeda-linked militants in Burkina Faso has vowed to continue with her medical charity in the country. BBC – Video Jocelyn Elliott, 76, was released over the weekend after three weeks in captivity. She and her husband Ken, 81, who is still a hostage, had provided services in the town of Djibo since the 1970s. Militants reportedly said the kidnapping was an attempt to secure the release of imprisoned fighters. Africa Live: BBC ... Read More »

Republican debate: ‘I’d bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding,’ says Donald Trump

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Trump booed, Rubio roughed up by rivals Awkward start to debate: candidates fail to respond to name call WASHINGTON: Seven years after the United States banned waterboarding as an interrogation tactic, two Republican presidential candidates say they would revive its use. The Sydney Morning Herald – Ginger Gibson * One of them, billionaire businessman Donald Trump, would go even further. “I would bring back waterboarding and I’d bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding,” Trump said during Saturday night’s ... Read More »

American Aggression Against China

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On January 30th the United States committed a deliberate act of aggression against China when it sent the guided missile destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur within the 12 nautical mile territorial limit of one of the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea. New Eastern Outlook – Author: Christopher Black The islands are claimed historically by China, though Vietnam also has filed claims to the islands under the Law of the Sea Convention. The Americans state that Taiwan also claims the islands ... Read More »

Russia and the Separatists in Eastern Ukraine

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Despite repeated expressions of support for the Minsk process and recognition of Ukraine’s sovereignty over the separatist Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics (DNR, LNR), Moscow’s policy in Ukraine’s east looks more likely to strengthen those entities than prepare for the dismantlement the Minsk agreement envisages. Kyiv/Brussels, ICG – Europe and Central Asia Briefing N°79 OVERVIEW The Kremlin views Ukraine’s European choice as a major security threat and the 2014 overthrow of President Viktor Yanukovych as Western-backed and aimed at isolating Russia. ... Read More »