ISW Daily Update March 03, 2017

 These are the major events from March 03, 2017 in the theaters and from the trans-national groups that ISW monitors: Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Egypt, Russia, Ukraine, and ISIS.

SYRIA: The UN concluded the fourth round of Geneva Talks on the Syrian Civil War without significant progress. The regime secured its demand to include talks on counter-terrorism in upcoming negotiations, while the opposition was not granted discussions on political transition. The Assad regime remains unwilling to make concessions, and the opposition delegation remains unable to control violence on the ground. Conditions are not set for a negotiated settlement to end the war.

IRAQ: Tensions spiked north of Sinjar between Turkey, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). KDP-backed Syrian Kurdish fighters clashed with Yazidi fighters backed by the PKK north of Sinjar. The proximity of competing Kurdish fighters and Iranian proxy militias heightens the risk of both intra-Kurdish and regional conflict. Meanwhile, Sadrists in Baghdad are threatening to escalate weekly demonstrations in response to the government’s failure to implement electoral reforms.

 AFGHANISTAN: ISIS Wilayat Khorasan may be expanding to Kunduz Province in Northern Afghanistan amidst clashes among Taliban, ISIS-linked Jundallah, and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU). ISW previously highlighted the increased presence of ISIS in northeastern Afghanistan in 2017. ISIS may attempt to recruit dissenting Taliban fighters in Kunduz following the death of the Taliban provincial shadow governor on 24 FEB 2017 and in advance of the Taliban’s upcoming spring offensive, anticipated to begin in April 2017.

RUSSIA/UKRAINE: Russia is posturing to recognize the pro-Russian separatist republics in order to increase its leverage over Ukraine. Russia will not likely recognize the two republics in order to avoid further financial or political responsibility for its proxies. Russian messaging coincided with an increase in violence across the ATO, likely linked to the ongoing Ukrainian-activist led blockade of the region which is putting increased economic pressure on the separatist leadership. Russian and NATO leaders held a joint phone call for the first time since 2014. Russia may see an opportunity to gain leverage over Ukrainian and NATO leaders and position itself to exert pressure on Ukraine in order to end the blockade.

EGYPT: The Egyptian Foreign Minister will meet with NATO Secretary General Jen Stoltenberg in Brussels on 06 MAR amidst Russian attempts to bring Egypt under its influence. Egypt has been a NATO partner since the 1990s.  Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin met with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on 01 MAR 2017. Egypt aims to balance the West and Russia, and seeks increased aid from NATO in its fight against terrorNATO seeks to ensure Egypt stems migration.