Yemen by Michelle Ryan

Yemen’s foreign minister, Hisham Sharaf, met with the World Food Program’s executive director in Sanaa to discuss the humanitarian situation in Yemen. The British Ministry of Defence (MoD) announced on 25 January, that it is analysing 252 allegations of humanitarian law violations by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen. The United Nations (UN) envoy to Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, called for an immediate ceasefire in Yemen on 26 January. Ten thousand people have now been killed by the Yemeni conflict according to the United Nations humanitarian coordinator for Yemen. Intense fighting occurred in the port city of Mokha, as Houthi Rebels defend the city from pro-government forces. Five people were killed, including two children, in an airstrike by Saudi Arabia near a primary school in the Houthi controlled district of Nihm in northern Yemen. Counter-terrorism forces in Yemen arrested an Islamic State affiliate in the city of Aden on 18 January. Three al-Qaeda militants were killed by drone strikes carried out by the United States military, the first to be confirmed during Donald Trump’s presidency. Two crew members of a Saudi-led coalition warship died after an attack by Houthi rebels on the boat. The Yemeni government announced on 9 January, that they have resolved the problem of a lack of physical cash in the country after a plane carrying 200 billion newly printed Yemeni riyals was sent to Aden.

Read More

UAE by Michelle Ryan

Following the success of the first Robot Pharmacy in Dubai, health authorities unveiled plans to implement further robotics in hospitals across the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The UAE’s space agency signed a memorandum of understanding with universities across the UAE, to collaborate on research projects. In an effort to increase trade and tourism with Russia, the UAE is offering all Russian visitors visas on arrival to the country. During his visit to the UAE, Costa Rican president announced that Costa Rica will establish an embassy in the UAE to boost relations between the two countries. India and the UAE increased its partnership status to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership. The UAE announced its plans to invest in green energy to reduce carbon emissions. The Emirates Nuclear Energy Cooperation announced that the first nuclear energy complex in the UAE is 75 per cent complete. UAE supported Arab coalition forces in Yemen, to shoot down an Iranian military drone. The UAE and Britain launched a joint military exercise dubbed Sea Dagger 2017. His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum announced that 2017 will be the year of abundance and generous giving for the UAE and its citizens. A Bahraini investment firm has purchased a significant stake in the UAE’s water and utilities company.

Read More

Turkey by Michelle Ryan

Turkish Parliament passed the constitutional reform package set to give President Erdogan expanded power. UK Prime Minister Theresa May visited Turkey on 27 January, to discuss potential trade agreements. May also responded sternly to the actions of the Turkish government following the failed July 2016 coup. The Turkish government called on United States (US) President Donald Trump, to stop supporting Syrian Kurdish forces if the US wants to continue its strategic partnership with Turkey. The government also issued statements threatening the US’s use of a key strategic airbase in Turkey. President Erdogan stated that Turkey will only withdraw troops from Northern Cyprus if Greece reciprocates the move by withdrawing some of its own troops. Russia, Turkey, and Iran agreed to jointly monitor the ceasefire in Syria. Turkey and Russia conducted their first joint airstrikes against Islamic State (IS), marking a highly rare military partnership between Russia and a NATO member. Turkish jets and tanks hit 100 IS targets in Syria. The suspect behind the New Year’s Eve nightclub attack in Istanbul was captured, following a two-week manhunt. The Turkish tourism industry has suffered following a string of extremist attacks and political uncertainty in the country. According to the Financial Times, Turkey is closer to a full-blown currency crisis than at any point since the Justice and Development Party (AKP) came into power in 2002.

Read More

Somalia by Michelle Ryan

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs launched a plan worth $864 million in aid and humanitarian response to the citizens of Somalia. The aid is aimed at alleviating famine warning signals for approximately 3.9 million Somalis in the face of worsening drought conditions. Peter de Clercq, the Deputy Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Somalia, called upon the international community to provide speedy responses in humanitarian aid. A delegation from the European Union visited Somalia to assess the conditions under which African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and Somali National Army (SNA) troops operate. They were notified of a need for additional weaponry to continue fighting the Al Shabaab threat. The Burundian Chief of Defence Forces, in his visit to Mogadishu, paid tribute to the Burundian troops serving under the African Union Mission and acknowledged their role in bringing about political security in Somalia. The British Secretary of State for International Development also visited Somalia and re-affirmed the United Kingdom’s commitment to Somali peace and security, and promised an additional $12 million in humanitarian aid to tackle drought conditions. Al-Shabaab continues to pose a constant threat in Somalia. Recently the group attacked a Kenyan military base in Somalia, claiming to have killed more than 50 soldiers. This claim was, however, refuted by a Kenyan military spokesperson. Al-Shabaab also took responsibility for a suicide bombing carried out at a major African Union base in the capital, which killed at least three Somali officials and damaged the nearby Hotel Peace. After several delays, Somalia is set to carry out its presidential election in February. In January, Somalia elected its speakers for the Upper House and the House of the People. Economically, Somalia is currently facing a drought severe to be trending for famine in 2017. Extreme drought in the Shabelle region has dried up the river in certain parts and has made agricultural activity difficult to carry out. There has also been an increase in cholera outbreaks, which has been cause for concern for the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Ministry of Health. Currently, several organisations are monitoring and treating cholera patients. The WHO plans to administer the cholera vaccine orally in the upcoming months to prevent further spread of the disease.

Read More

Russia by Michelle Ryan

Early in January, Syrian rebels froze talks on a Russian backed peace conference due to ceasefire violations. Russia played mediator between rebel factions and the Assad government, in Syrian Peace Talks taking place in the Kazakhstan capital of Astana. In his first remarks as United States (US) Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson stated that Russia is a threat and should be accountable for its actions on the global stage. According to Ilya Yashin, a Russian activist and active member of Russian government, if President Vladimir Putin’s pressure on Ukraine sees a rise in pro-Moscow politicians, similar tactics would likely be used in the Baltic States. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dimitry Peskov, stated in a press briefing that he believed NATO is a vestige of the past. According to a report by global investment management group BlackRock, Russia has far surpassed expectations despite the impact of Minsk II sanctions and a crashing oil market. According to a report released by the International Monetary Fund, Russia is anticipated to see an average GDP growth of 1.5 per cent over the next five years.

Read More

Pakistan by Michelle Ryan

Pakistani government officials warned the United States (US), that it will reduce co-operation in the fight against Islamist militants if the country is added to President Donald Trump’s visa-ban list. The Supreme Court of Pakistan recommenced the Panama Papers leak case against Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his family. Accused orchestrator of the 2008 Mumbai attacks, Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, was placed under house arrest on 30 January. The Supreme Court of Pakistan ruled to include the option to label oneself as transgender in the sixth national census, to be held on 15 March. Pakistan returned an Indian soldier who had crossed the Line of Control in September 2016 and 219 Indian sailors who had strayed into Pakistani waters. Pakistan successfully launched the country’s first nuclear-capable submarine-based cruise missile, and tested a new nuclear-capable surface-to-surface missile on 24 January. Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for a bombing in the market town of Parachinar, leaving 25 dead. Reports have emerged that Islamic State (IS) are ramping up recruitment in Pakistan. The State Bank of Pakistan decided to keep the policy rate unchanged at 5.75 per cent, and announced that the current account deficit grew to $3.6 billion in the first half of 2017. Pakistan repaid China $500 million that was given as aid in 2009 to help it deal with the financial crisis. The Planning and National Reforms Minister dismissed concerns that Pakistan will fall into a debt trap resulting from Chinese loans related to China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). The government is targeting a 5.7 GDP growth in 2017, and believes CPEC could boost growth to seven per cent in the future. The Pakistan Stock Exchange (PSX) reached a new record high in January.

Read More

Nigeria by Michelle Ryan

President Buhari composed a delegation of officials tasked with ensuring that Yahya Jammeh peacefully step down as President of Gambia. The Committee to Protect Journalists stated that Nigeria’s army chief must stop intimidating news websites and drop defamation charges. The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) has expressed concern about the rise in in the number of Nigerian women travelling by boat from Libya to Italy. Despite the government’s assertions that Boko Haram has been defeated, tens of thousands of displaced people from the northeast of Nigeria are being prevented from returning home. Boko Haram attacked an army base in Yobe state on 7 January leading to the deaths of 5 soldiers and 15 militants. A suicide bombing occurred on 16 January at University of Maiduguri which killed 4, including the attacker. The police commissioner of Borno state announced that on 24 January, suspected Boko Haram fighters killed three people and kidnapped seven women in an attack on Ndagu village. On 17 January the Nigerian military accidentally bombed a camp holding around 43,000 internally displaced people in Raan, near the Cameroonian border. The governor of Borno province accused aid agencies of profiting from funds provided to help those affected by the Boko Haram insurgency. In response to Shettima’s accusations, UN Humanitarian Coordinator Edward Kallon flew to Maiduguri to discuss his damaging comments. Nigeria’s Senate is investigating accusations that government agents are stealing food aid. Oil production in Nigeria fell by 200,000 barrels per day (bpd) to 1.45 million bpd in December. The Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas planned and staged numerous strikes in January. The lack of access to foreign currency, in particular US dollars, continues to be a significant drag on the economy as the black market rate is around 500 naira per dollar. This is in contrast to the official rate of around 315.

Read More

Morocco by Michelle Ryan

Around 1100 migrants from sub-Saharan Africa attempted to illegally enter the Spanish enclave of Ceuta. Morocco rejoined the African Union (AU) on 31 January, after over 30 years of absence. The appointed Head of Morocco’s Government, Abdelilah Benikrane, announced that the new Moroccan government would be formed only of parties who had been part of the previous majority government. King Mohammed Vl ordered the Council of Ministers to extend the duration of residence permits. The Moroccan government banned the import, sale and manufacture of burqas on 12 January. Two Moroccan peacekeepers were killed during an attack on the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA). The Royal Moroccan Air Force purchased advanced electronic warfare threat protection systems from US company Harris Corporation Electronic Systems. Moroccan security forces arrested 7 people for alleged ties to the Islamic State (IS). The Moroccan Central Bureau of Judicial Investigation dismantled an IS cell on 27 January. The World Bank predicted that the Moroccan economy will grow by 4 per cent in 2017. Remittances from Moroccan expatriates increased by 3.6 per cent in 2016. Morocco’s inflation rate for 2016 was 1.6 per cent. Car sales in Morocco rose in 2016.

Read More

Kuwait by Michelle Ryan

Opposition MPs elected in November are beginning to show their opposition to proposed austerity measures. MPs proposed a measure to give the National Assembly the right to regulate and approve any new fees for citizens. Kuwait has been attempting to thaw relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia through the Gulf Cooperation Council. On 25 January, Kuwait carried out its first mass execution since 2013, executing 7 people including a prince of the ruling AlSabah family. On 15 January, a Eurowings flight landed in Kuwait due to a bomb scare. A regional centre of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) Istanbul Cooperation Initiative was opened in Kuwait this month. Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) oil cuts have begun to take effect and a rise in the price of oil was observed in January. Kuwait’s stock market has been the best performer in the world for January, rising for eighteen consecutive days by 29 January. The UK Foreign and Commonwealth office updated its travel advice stating that attacks in Kuwait are “very likely”.

Read More

Iraqi Kurdistan by Michelle Ryan

The question of Kurdish independence continues to be a key topic of debate in Iraq, amongst economic troubles, the care of IDPs and refugees, as well as the ongoing battle against Islamic State (IS). Turkey’s Prime Minister Binali Yildrium met with President of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Masoud Barzani while visiting Iraq, to enhance ties between Turkey and the KRG. The KRG expressed discontent with the involvement of Baghdad backed Shi’ite Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) in the liberation of Kirkuk from IS. Several IS members were arrested which prevented a planned attack on the city of Kirkuk. Germany’s Parliament voted to extend training missions of Kurdish Peshmerga. US President Donald Trump signed an executive order barring citizens from seven Muslim countries, one of which is Iraq, from obtaining American visas. KRG President Barzani attended the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos Switzerland, where he met with various world leaders and discussed ending conflict in Iraq and Syria. Belgium and Japan both signed agreements looking to establish Consulate Generals in Erbil. The Kurdistan Ministry of Higher Education reported dropping enrolment rates at private higher education institutions. It also announced a scholarship program for Hungarian students to study in Kurdistan over the 2017-2019 academic years. Kurdish business leaders and officials expressed concerns over Baghdad imposed taxes on imports of foreign goods into Kurdistan, which has affected Turkish imports in the autonomous region. Norwegian gas and oil operator DNO announced the discovery of oil in Peshkabir-2 well’s Cretaceous Horizon in the Peshkabir field, which is currently being drilled in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. The KRG said it is close to resuming regular monthly payments to international oil companies as their depleted treasury is slowly restored. Truckloads of Kuwaiti medical aid weighing 10 tons arrived in Kurdistan to aid internally displaced Iraqis.

Read More