ISW Daily Update March 28, 2017

 These are the major events from March 28, 2017 in the theaters and from the trans-national groups that ISW monitors: Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Egypt, Russia, Ukraine, and ISIS.

SYRIA: Russia and Iran reaffirmed their deepening alignment in the Middle East. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani met with Russian President Vladimir Putin to discuss bilateral economic relations and potential arms sales as well as their cooperation in the Syrian Civil War. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif later confirmed that Russia could use military bases in Iran on a “case-by-case basis” in support of operations in Syria. This developing strategic coalition will prove enduring over the near-term regardless of attempts by the U.S. to drive a wedge between Russia and Iran in Syria.

IRAQ:  Iraq continued to strengthen relations with Sunni Arab countries during the Arab League Summit in Amman, Jordan. Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi notably met with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to discuss economic cooperation, likely including the proposed Iraq-Jordan-Egypt oil pipeline. The Iraqi Cabinet voted to begin construction on the Iraq-Jordan segment earlier in the day. The Egyptian Foreign Minister will visit Baghdad in the coming term. The meetings are a continuation of the mutual outreach between Iraq and the Arab and Gulf States, which PM Abadi intensified during the anti-ISIS Coalition Summit in Washington, D.C. last week. PM Abadi may also be using significant economic deals to build a strong political platform, suggesting that he could be seeking a bid for the 2018 premiership.

AFG: Corruption continues to inhibit security operations in Afghanistan. The Afghan attorney general arrested the commander of the 215th Shaheen Corps in Helmand Province on 27 MAR. The commander was appointed in DEC 2016 following revelations that nonexistent soldiers were registered in the Corps. ANSF operations may be temporarily disrupted at the start of the anticipated Taliban Spring Offensive as the leadership transitions. Endemic corruption within the Afghan government and security forces will undermine the legitimacy of the ANSF among much of the Afghan populace. 

EGY: Egypt reporting will resume on 29 March, 2017.

RUS/UKR: Newly elected President of Moldova Igor Dodon took steps to undermine pro-Western elements of the Moldovan government.  President Dodon signed a decree calling for a referendum to expand the powers of the President to be able to dissolve parliament and call for an early parliamentary elections.  Russia has opposed Moldova’s pursuit of closer ties with the EU and NATO, and actively supported Dodon and his pro-Russian Party of Socialists. The decree places significant pressure on the ruling pro-western coalition and follow month’s of actions reorienting Moldovan society towards Russia.  This action will push pro-western forces within Moldova to confront Dodon or risk ceding control to Russian influence.

ISIS: ISIS clashed with Peshmerga IVO Sinjar, northern Iraq, demonstrating unanticipated strength and control of the local population. ISIS’s prioritization of this front, as it retreats in others including southern Syria and eastern Damascus, demonstrates the necessity of Iraqi-Syrian cross border GLOCs to ISIS’s ambitions. This attack follows a nearby attack on Yazidi Resistance Units (YBS) on 21 MAR.