ISW Daily Update March 20, 2017
These are the major events from March 20, 2017 in the theaters and from the trans-national groups that ISW monitors: Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Egypt, Russia, Ukraine, and ISIS.
SYRIA: Iran and Lebanese Hezbollah have likely accelerated their development of long-term infrastructure in Syria. Russia summoned the Israeli Ambassador to Moscow on 17 MAR after Israel conducted airstrikes targeting alleged “advanced weapons” transfer to Lebanese Hezbollah near Palmyra. Israel also conducted a strike against a pro-regime commander near the Golan Heights on 19 MAR. Syria later claimed that Russia threatened to end their de-confliction agreement allowing limited airstrikes by Israel in Syria. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu previously met with Russian President Putin to express concern over Iran in Syria on 09 MAR.
IRAQ: Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi sought to strengthen economic ties with the U.S. and international organizations during his official to Washington, DC on March 20. PM Abadi and U.S. President Donald Trump discussed efforts to defeat ISIS, but stressed the need for economic cooperation, particularly in the energy sector. PM Abadi and other Iraqi officials engaged in separate discussions with numerous Arab and Gulf states the previous week. PM Abadi also met with delegations from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank to discuss financial reforms and stability.
AFG: Russia continues to position itself as the dominant guarantor of international order in Afghanistan at the expense of the U.S. and NATO. Russia agreed to host 12-nation talks on Afghanistan in Moscow on 14 APR, including the U.S. Taliban representatives are not currently invited but have expressed interest in participating. Russia may attempt to force the U.S. to choose between attending talks hosted by Russia and allowing Russia to host international talks including Taliban representatives. National Security Advisor Hanif Atmar expressed public approval of Russian contacts with Taliban militants on 18 MAR.
IRAQ: Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi sought to strengthen economic ties with the U.S. and international organizations during his official to Washington, DC on March 20. PM Abadi and U.S. President Donald Trump discussed efforts to defeat ISIS, but stressed the need for economic cooperation, particularly in the energy sector. PM Abadi and other Iraqi officials engaged in similar discussions with numerous Arab and Gulf states the previous week. PM Abadi also met with delegations from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank to discuss financial reforms and stability.
RUS/UKR: Bilateral relations between Russia and Turkey are becoming increasingly strained. The Turkish Foreign Ministry stated that Turkey does not recognize Crimea as part of Russia on the anniversary of the peninsula's annexation on March 18. A Syrian Kurdish militia connected to the PKK announced that Russia is setting up a base in Afrin, Syria to train PKK-linked fighters on March 20. Turkey removed Russia from a list of countries permitted duty-free imports to Turkey on March 20, having terminated intake of all Russian-sourced grain products on March 15. Russia and Turkey's good relations have an expiration date, as their long term interests in Syria and the Middle East region diverge.
EGY: U.S. President Donald Trump will host Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Washington on 03 APR. The meeting will follow recent overtures to Egypt by NATO and ongoing economic and military outreach to Egypt by Russia and set the terms for U.S.-Egyptian relations under the new administration. Talks will likely focus on resuming military exercises between Egypt and the U.S., U.S. aid to Egypt, as well as regional conflicts in Syria, Libya, and Yemen. President Sisi will also likely to propose a way forward on a Palestinian-Israeli peace plan, despite disagreement between the U.S. and Egypt on the terms of negotiations.
ISIS: An additional arrest in Turkey affirms the connection between ISIS fighters in Germany and command and control nodes in Turkey. Turkish police arrested three terror suspects linked to Berlin truck attacker Anis Amri on 20 MAR IVO Ataturk Airport, Istanbul. Turkish police previously arrested a German citizen linked to Anis Amri IVO Izmir Province on 12 MAR. Additionally, ISIS fighters engaged in a one-hour stand-off with Popular Mobilization forces in Salah ad Din, Iraq, demonstrating that ISIS maintains latent capacity to attack in Iraq and Syria during and after the battles for Mosul and Raqqa.