Lima Charlie News Middle East – North Africa (MENA) Update: A Week Gone By / MENA NEWS BLAST – OCT13
SITREP of the week’s news from Yemen, Iraq, Turkey, Syria, Egypt, Jordan, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Israel, and Afghanistan.
– At 0400 local Yemeni time on OCT13 the USS Nitze launched 3 Tomahawk missiles against strategic targets held by the Iranian affiliated al Houthi movement. The targets were 3 radar installations located near Res Isa, north of Mukha and near Khoka. The missile strikes were in direct response to this week’s attempted attacks against the USS Mason and USS Nitze while they were stationed outside Yemen in the Bag al-Mandeb Strait.
— LIMA CHARLIE NEWS (@LimaCharlieNews) October 13, 2016
– Iran seemingly responded to the situation by sending two of their Naval vessels to the Yemeni coast on OCT13: the Iranian Naval vessels Alvand, a frigate, and Bushehr, a light replenishment support ship. An Iranian news agency, often used by the Iranian government to make statements, claimed the ships were for counter-piracy operations.
– On OCT8 the Saudi led Coalition struck a funeral ceremony killing at least 155 people, and wounding 534 people. The ceremony was being held at the Jalal al-Ruweishan (“The Great Hall”), in the Haddah neighborhood in the al Houthi held capital of Yemen, Sana’a. The airstrikes were carried out by Saudi Arabian Air Force jets, and consisted of 3 air sorties. The attack was met with condemnation from the international community, including the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon. As reported by Lima Charlie News:
– UNICEF has announced that another cholera outbreak has occurred in Yemen.
“Children are at a particularly high risk if the current cholera outbreak is not urgently contained, especially since the health system in Yemen is crumbling as the conflict continues.”
– Julien Harneis, representative for the UN’s children agency (UNICEF) in the country.
The World Health Organization (WHO), citing Yemeni health ministry figures, said that 8 cholera cases, mostly involving children, had been recorded in one neighborhood of the rebel-held capital Sanaa.
– The long-awaited battle over Islamic State held Mosul seems likely to occur within weeks. Extensive preparations by the remaining IS militants have been made to weather the assault. The preparations include an elaborate system of underground tunnels, networks of child spies, and an excavated ring around the city that militants will fill with burning oil to complicate targeting for American aircraft. It is dubious as to the efficiency of such arrangements. The Operation to take Mosul from ISIS is referred to as Operation Conquest, or Operation Fatah, by the CJTF-OIR (US, France, UK) and Iraqi and Kurdish forces. The Iraqi and Kurdish forces have amassed a large number of troops in the area in preparation for the offensive.
– Turkish troops, alongside fighters from the Iraqi militant Popular Mobilization Forces, have been stationed at Camp Zilkan and Camp Bashiqa, located north of Mosul, to participate in the offensive. The Iraqi Baghdad government has protested the presence of Turkish troops before the United Nations Security Council seeking to have the Turkish troops removed from Iraq. Turkey has responded that they have no intent of doing so.
– ISIS has used small booby-trapped commercially available drones recently. The drones have been deployed against Kurdish troops, and during one such attack, 2 French Special Operations members were killed. US Commanders have warned troops to take cover if they see what they might have once dismissed as a surveillance drone. The modus operandi is part of a well-established pattern of booby-trapping, which the group is now doing to Mosul in preparation for the US-backed offensive.
– During the summer at least one team of USMC Raiders from Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command (MARSOC) deployed to Iraq with the new drone RQ-21A blackjack, made by the Boeing subsidiary Insitu. The drone is stated to provide US Command with a broader picture of what’s happening on the battlefield.
– Turkey continues to seek and find dissents in the aftermath of the attempted coup d’etat in JUL-2016. The latest round of purges included hundreds of Turkish military envoys stationed abroad at NATO bases across Europe. This international purge took place while President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has taken steps to improve Turkey’s, as well as his personal, relations with Russia.
– On OCT12 the Turkish government announced it would revive efforts to alter its constitution and further expand the powers of the presidency. This in turn helped send the Turkish lira currency to a record low as investors fretted about renewed political uncertainty.
– In a meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkey’s President earlier this week the two vowed to tighten their military cooperation. The first step was perceived as a suggested multi-billion dollar air defense system sold to Turkey by Russia. A similar deal between Turkey and the Chinese company China Precision Machinery Import-Export Corporation (CPMIEC), worth 3.4 billion, was cancelled in 2015 after NATO leadership voiced concerns. Russia is slated to deliver a written offer of the air defense system next week.
During the same meeting, the two Presidents signed an agreement between their respective countries to build a mutual gas pipeline from Russia to Turkey. This agreement is a revival of a previous agreement that was held in suspension during a period of diplomatic tension between the two countries.
“We will make up for lost time in the coming days,” President Erdogan was quoted saying.
– Somali aid workers stated on OCT9 that the Turkish government had delivered over 8,500 tons of food, including sugar, wheat and oil, to relieve drought-hit areas of the country. According to Turkish statements, Turkey has also delivered at least 11,100 tons of food to the capital Mogadishu, where thousands of displaced people are living.
– Russian and Syrian airstrikes reportedly killed “at least 81 civilians and injured a further 80” on OCT12. Earlier this week, on OCT8, the United Nations Security Council held a vote on a draft resolution that called for the end of military flights over Aleppo. This resolution also called for a truce, as well as the safe passage of humanitarian workers in the area. Russia vetoed the resolution, while also trying to push its own, a call-back to the failed cease-fire agreement brokered with the United States. This resolution failed to pass as well. With both resolutions failing, Syria’s pro-government coalition has continued its aerial bombardment, much to the condemnation of the United Nations and other pro-Rebel countries. As reported by Lima Charlie News:
– The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, continued to push for his proposal to limit the veto power of UN Security Council members in cases related to war crimes. Mr Al-Hussein has called on the United States, Russia, and China to join Britain and France in supporting his initiative. But in light of Russia vetoing the no-fly zone resolution over Aleppo it is unlikely any of the 3 are likely to join the bandwagon.
– The battle in and around Aleppo continues, and reliable current reporting from the area is increasingly difficult to gather.
– Hezbollah reiterated its commitment to supporting the Syrian Government as lead by its current President, Bashar al-Assad, on OCT10. The Iranian-proxy Shia militant group has been part of the pro-Government coalition since 2011. Hezbollah justifies its intervention on sectarian lines, claiming it needs to defend against Sunni extremists and to preserve Iran’s network of Shiite actors in the region.
– Turkey’s military stated on OCT12 that ISIS militants in Northern Syria are putting up “stiff resistance” against their forces. Turkey overtly entered Syria 2 months ago with tanks, air capabilities, and infantry forces:
“Due to stiff resistance of the Daesh (Islamic State, or the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) terror group, progress could not be achieved in an attack launched to take four settlements,” it said, naming the areas east of the town of Azaz as Kafrah, Suran, Ihtimalat and Duvaybik.
– The Uruguayan government has offered to reunite Abu Wa’el Dhiab with his family. Dhiab, a former Guantanamo detainee from Syria, has been on a hunger strike. Uruguay has approved visas for Dhiab’s family and will offer them accommodations, this according to a wire report made by AP. Dhiab began his hunger strike to demand that he be resettled with his family in a Muslim-majority country.
– ISIS confirmed on OCT10 the death of its propaganda chief, Wa’il Adil Hasan Salman al-Fayad, also known as Abu Mohammed al-Furqan. The Pentagon had previously claimed that al-Fayad was killed in a U.S.-led air strike in Syria’s al Raqqa province on SEP7.
– On OCT6 Russia’s lower house of parliament ratified an agreement made with Syria on AUG26 that authorizes the deployment of a Russian air force group at the Hmeimim airbase outside of Latakia for an indefinite period of time. The document was approved by 446 State Duma lawmakers.
Russia began its air campaign against the Islamic State terrorist group in Syria on SEP30-2015, at the request of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
– Egypt has secured alternative fuel imports, to make up for a shortfall caused by Saudi Arabia’s abrupt decision to halt previously agreed shipments, avoiding a potential fuel shortage. The two countries agreed in April that Egypt would purchase 700,000 tons of fuel monthly for five years on easy repayment terms, but Egyptian officials stated this week that Saudi Arabia’s Aramco, the world’s largest oil company, informed Cairo it would not ship any fuel this month.
– Russia and Egypt will hold joint military drills involving airborne troops on Egyptian soil for the first time this month beginning mid-October, the Russian defense ministry said OCT10. The drills, called “Protectors of Friendship-2016”, will include 500 troops, 15 planes and helicopters and 10 military hardware units, and is touted as an “anti-terrorist” exercise.
– A Bedouin woman was injured on OCT8 while walking in al Hamayda village, in Sheikh Zuweid, North Sinai, as someone opened fire against her. The same day, in the al Sakadra village, also part of the Sheikh Zuweid province of North Sinai, an unidentified individual was injured after coming under heavy fire from anonymous militants. Both individuals were transferred to the al Arish hospital for medical treatment. Both attacks were claimed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant – Sinai Province (ISIL-SP) also known as Wilayat Sayna.
ISIL-SP has continued its claim of imposing their particular flavor of Islamic authority on the residents of North Sinai. Photos were published showing group members disposing of huge quantities of cigarettes and drugs. ISIL-SP is believed to be responsible for the reported disappearances of several North Sinai residents. The group kidnaps those it suspects to be “army collaborators” who often turn up dead.
– Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, issued a Presidential decree on OCT9 explicitly allowing the King of Bahrain, Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, to own land and property in the Sinai peninsula. An Egyptian law created by former President Morsi, currently in jail for life, restricts land and property ownership rights in Sinai, allowing only Egyptians who are born to Egyptian parents and have no other citizenship to own. A decree was required to allow the King of Bahrain to purchase three villas which are part of the Movenpick Hotel. The law was created in response to concerns by the Egyptian military that Morsi would sell or give away land in Sinai to Palestinians.
– A SEP25 judicial report issued by the State Commissioners Authority supports the Ministry of Interior’s decision to monitor social networking sites and to use any means necessary to handle any threats to public security in the best interest of Egypt.
– Egypt’s foreign ministry has sharply criticized the US Embassy in Cairo for advising citizens to avoid large gatherings in the capital until OCT9. The ministry referred to the move as “unjustifiable.” The US Embassy’s OCT4 message warned against being in public spaces such as concert halls, movie theaters, museums, shopping malls, and sports venues citing “potential security concerns” but did not specify what they were. This past OCT6 (Thursday) was a public holiday in Egypt in celebration of Armed Forces Day. The Egyptian weekend is Friday and Saturday.
– Jordan will seek to reenergize its national economy by creating an “investment friendly environment” in the Kingdom. At the present, new taxation policies are being discussed as well as a stimulate package. In part, the reform queries are in response recent recommendations made by the Economic Policy Council (EPC), particularly those related to taxation. Deputy Prime Minister for Economic Affairs and Minister of State for Investment Affairs Jawad Anani stated, that while the government is yet to decide on a lower tax rate on goods and services, a team is studying the issue and a policy statement to Parliament is forthcoming next month.
– Jordanian activists marched for the 2nd time protesting National Electric Power Company (NEPCO) importing natural gas from Israel on OCT10. Many residents of Amman, Irbid, Karak, Mafraq, Baqaa and Salt switched off electrical appliances for an hour at 2100 to show their rejection of the 15-year gas deal with US Noble Energy, a Houston-based company that holds the largest share in the Israeli Leviathan gas field, located in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Israel.
– Jordanian officials have stated that the government is willing to again allow regular aid drops from its territory to the tens of thousands of Syrians stranded in the no-man’s land between the two countries. The aid deliveries are to be made by crane.
Jordan closed its border with Syria in JUN-2016 after a deadly cross border attack perpetrated by ISIS affiliated individuals killed seven members of the Jordanian security forces. This in turn left more than 75,000 Syrian refugees stuck between a savage war zone and a sealed border without regular access to food, water, or medicine. The displaced live in two makeshift tent camps in an area where the frontier is marked by two parallel low earthen walls, or berms. Conditions have become increasingly dire, with aid officials reporting the spread of disease, including whooping cough and hepatitis. Days before the border closure aid was delivered from Jordan to the area using a crane, which was at the time described as a one-off shipment to temper a temporary situation.
The Gulf States
– An Indian businessman, Balwinder Sahani, bought a Dubai vehicle license plate for $9 million US Dollars (33 million dirhams) on OCT7. Mr. Sahni, who owns a property management company, bought the ‘D5’ plate during an auction organized by the Roads and Transport Authority.
Auctions of license plate numbers with a low number have become a status symbol in the United Arab Emirates where they are coveted by the wealthy. In 2008, businessman Saeed Al Khouri paid 52.2 million dirhams for the number 1 license plate in Abu Dhabi, a record for the country.
— RTA (@RTA_Dubai) October 8, 2016
– A joint venture between Emaar Properties and Dubai Holding, has just begun construction of the world’s tallest tower in Dubai. The building is to be completed in 2020, but the statement did not specify how high the tower is intended to be once finalized, nor what the cost is estimated to be. Guinness World Records defines a tower as a structure in which less than 50 percent of the total height is useable floor space. At present, the world’s tallest tower is the Tokyo Sky Tree, a 634-metre-high broadcasting, restaurant and observation tower.
– The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has called on Saudi Arabia to repeal laws that allow stoning, amputation, flogging and execution of children. Saudi Arabia has signed a UN treaty to protect the right of citizens under the age of 18, but still allows for executions by people over the age of 15. The methods of execution allowed in Saudi Arabia include stoning to death. According to the UN committee, out of 47 people executed on JAN2 for security offenses, 4 were under 18.
– Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is in talks with Thailand’s Prime Minister, Prayut Chan-o-cha, to boost bilateral trade between the two countries. One of the examples given is Iran’s interest in importing quantities of Thai rice to Iran. Last year, commerce between the two countries was valued at an estimated $300 million US.
– An Iranian judge has sentenced the Iranian writer Golrokh Ebrahimi Iraee to a 6-year jail sentence for an unpublished fictional story. The story is stated to be about stonings to death in Iran. Iraee received a phone call on OCT11 from judicial officials ordering her to Evin prison in Tehran, where her husband, Arash Sadeghi, a prominent student activist, is serving a 19-year sentence.
– Multiple attacks have occurred in the past week against Shiite worshippers in Afghanistan. The important Shia religious holiday of Ashura is currently ongoing, and on OCT12 an attack on the Karte Shakhi mosque in Kabul resulted in the death of 18 people. The attacks have been claimed through official channels by the Islamic State out of the Khorasan province in Afghanistan.
– The American University of Afghanistan will be reviewing its campus security and security contracts in the wake of the August attack that killed 15 people and injured dozens more. More than 700 students were present on the AUAF campus when the attack began on the evening of AUG24. About 600 evacuated in the initial minutes after the explosion that set off the attack. 3 militants reportedly conducted the attack: one drove a car filled with explosives into a university wall, blowing a hole in it, and two others, armed with guns and grenades, ran onto the campus which they held under siege for nearly 10 hours.
The attack killed 7 students, 1 professor, 4 guards and 3 police officers, and came two and a half weeks after the abduction of 2 AUAF professors, American and Australian citizens, respectively, who remain missing.
Lima Charlie Financial Index OCT13 concerning the MENA Desk:
Crude Oil: $49.94 -0.24 -0.46%
Brent Crude: +$51.62 +0.19 +0.37%
Gold: +$1260.40 +6.70 +0.52%
John Sjoholm, for Lima Charlie News, MENA Desk
John Sjoholm is the Lima Charlie’s Middle East Bureau Chief, and the founder of the consulting organization Erudite Group. He is a seasoned Middle East connoisseur, with a past in the Swedish Army’s Special Forces branch and the Security Contracting industry. He studied religion and languages in Sana’a, Yemen, and Cairo, Egypt. He lived and operated extensively in the Middle East between 2005-2012 as part of regional stabilizing projects, and currently resides in Jordan.
Follow John on Twitter: @JohnSjoholmLC
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