August

Yemen by Lewis McKinnon

Saudi Arabia failed to provide sufficient proof to be permanently removed from the United Nations (UN) blacklist for killing children in Yemen. Yemeni government negotiators left peace talks in Kuwait after Houthi militia rejected the UN’s proposal to end the war. Doctors Without Borders withdrew their staff from hospitals in northern Yemen. Large numbers of Yemenis gathered in support of Houthi rebels in Sanaa. Yemen’s ex-president Saleh declared he was interested in working with Russia to combat terrorism in Yemen. Official information from medical facilities in Yemen put the new toll of causalities to over 10,000 people. Yemeni government forces launched an offensive east of Sanaa after peace talks were inconclusive. Saudi Arabia intercepted two missiles fired from Yemen. Yemeni army forces pushed al-Qaeda fighters out of two cities and killed 40 suspected militants. An airstrike hit a Doctors Without Borders Hospital in Hajjah. A suicide car bombing claimed by the Islamic State (IS) in Aden killed over 60 people. Exiled-Yemeni government sought to stop central bank officials from accessing state funds held overseas. Yemen resumed production and exports from its Masila oil fields. The cost of damaged infrastructure and economic losses amounted to $14 billion since the beginning of the civil war. 

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UAE by Lewis McKinnon

United States (US) Department of Defence announced the transfer of 12 Guantanamo bay prisoners to the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Reports emerged that the UAE’s intelligence service is actively creating a task force to spy on Emirati citizens. UAE aircraft will fly in the United States Air Force's red flag exercise in the US, alongside Pakistan. The UAE, in collaboration with the US, Saudi Arabia and the United Kingdom (UK), agreed upon a new plan to solve the conflict in Yemen. The UAE agreed to provide a $1 billion deposit to Egypt’s central bank. The UAE’s national bank announced that it expects the loan market to flatline. Utico Middle East, a UAE-owned utility company announced planed investment of $185 million to double its water desalination capacity. 

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Turkey by Lewis McKinnon

August was a tense month as the failed coup crackdown continued. United States (US)-Turkish relations strained as calls for Fethullah Gulen to be extradited from the US were denied. Amidst these calls, police raided 44 companies suspected of financing Gulen. Tension arose between the European Union (EU) and Turkey as well as the visa-free travel has not yet been approved. Austrian and Swedish criticism towards Turkey was answered in kind, leaving relations sour and the migrant deal on thin ice. A boy suicide bomber allegedly linked to the Islamic State (IS) killed 54 people at a wedding in Gazantiep, whilst 12 Turkish tanks entered Syria. Despite calls for Kurdish militia to withdraw, clashes ensued but a ‘ceasefire’ was reportedly established, however, actors on both sides deny this. The US announced it was moving nuclear weapons from Turkey to Romania as a result of deteriorated relations and proximity to the Syrian conflict. In the economy, the interest rate was cut further in hopes to boost lending and thereby consumption-led growth. Two vessels collided in the Bosphorus and the new Yavuz Sultan Selim Bridge was opened. 

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Sierra Leone by Lewis McKinnon

Representatives from Sierra Leone and South Sudan to China met to discuss experiences and the rebuilding process after each country’s respective wars. President Koroma’s Recovery Priorities plan continued with the planting of over a million trees across water catchment zones, which will help ensure water security. Sierra Leone hosted the African Union Campaign to End Child Marriage in Freetown, which highlighted the country’s commitment to end the practice. Sierra Leone’s ambassador to the Republic of Korea met the Brazilian ambassador to discuss agricultural development and economic cooperation. Protesters rioted in Kabal Town over the decision to move a Youth Village, which will have a vocational skills training centre and agricultural facility, from Koinadugu District to Mile 91 in the Tonkolili District. A 7.1 magnitude earthquake hit the Atlantic Ocean about 1,000 km off the shores of Sierra Leone, which concerned officials because of the possibility of a tsunami caused by the earthquake. A group of Mormon missionaries were injured in a car accident in Sierra Leone. The Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources Sector has already made huge gains in 2016 and is expected to exceed its target of 40 billion leones for the 2016 fiscal year. Swedish government officials and members of the board of the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI) visited Sierra Leone to get the government’s permission and support to implement their findings in the country. The EITI is an international organisation that has created a standard to measure how countries manage their oil, gas, and mineral resources and promotes transparency. 

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Russia by Lewis McKinnon

In an unpredicted move, President Vladimir Putin fired long-time chief of staff Sergei Ivanov. On 9 August Putin received a visit from Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan, for the first time since 15 July’s failed coup. Russia stated that it would support a 48-hour ceasefire in the city of Allepo on 18 August, according to the Russian delegate to the United Nations Security Council. According to the Russian Federal Security Service, malware was placed on several critical infrastructure servers by spies. Following Russia’s use of an Iranian military base to launch attacks on Syrian rebel groups, the United States (US) approached the United Nations (UN) to see if this is a violation of a previous Security Council Resolution. Amid tensions over the Crimean Peninsula, both Russia and Ukraine have stepped up their security presence in the region. Following the escalation of military presence in the Crimean Peninsula, the Russian markets were thrown into potential crisis due to an increased belief in continuing European Union (EU) sanctions. According to Economic Development Minister Alexei Ulyukayev, the Russian GDP will begin its rebound in October 2016. 

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Pakistan by Lewis McKinnon

Pakistan’s parliamentary delegation met with President Erdogan on 18 August to demonstrate support for recent incidents in both countries. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif provided an open invitation for Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah to visit Pakistan to discuss combating terror in the region. Muhammad Masood Khan said his oath to become President of Azad Jammu and Kashmir on 25 August. Turkey and Pakistan signed a deal for healthcare cooperation and collaboration in the future, and the former also gifted Pakistan a warship tanker for their Independence Day. A new cyber law received immediate backlash from digital rights activists, who claimed that innocent citizens will be fined or jailed after the law is enacted because of its extensive prohibitions. A suicide bombing in Quetta killed 74 civilians, including many lawyers. The attack was claimed by the Taliban splinter group Jamaat-ul-Ahrar. China announced they will provide Pakistan with eight new submarines by 2028. Seven people were killed by unknown gunmen in Baluchistan province on 25 August, and 7 terrorists were arrested there two days later. One hundred and seventy five terror suspects were arrested in Punjab province simultaneously, in response to the Quetta hospital bombing. Pakistan’s military claimed they killed 14 militants near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, and destroyed nine hideouts. A woman was killed by her husband of 15 years, and a pregnant woman was killed by her former fiancé, on 7 August in Lahore. An employee of former dictator Pervez Musharraf, Mehndi Hassan, was abducted from his home on 28 August. Pakistan strengthened security after a warning of a terror attack by the Taliban at a crossing point on the India-Pakistan border. Hundreds of Pakistanis stranded in Saudi Arabia received cheques from the government as compensation after their identity cards expired. Pakistani MP Abdup Karim Bakhesh warned that Iran is attempting to form a military presence in Pakistan. The Pakistan air force took part in combat training exercises in the United States on 15 August. Ambassador to the United Nations Maleeha Lodhi announced Pakistan’s economy is rapidly strengthening after a positive national environment, in a recent visit to the NASDAQ building in New York City. The Asian Development Bank will provide an $810 million multi-tranche loan to improve Pakistan’s power transmission system and boost the quantity and quality of energy. The Pakistan Stock Exchange (KSE) closed down 0.68 per cent after losses in the cement and fertiliser sectors. On 22 August the KSE fell again to 39,457.95. Pakistan’s foreign exchange reserves settled at $18.1 million. 

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Morocco by Lewis McKinnon

Morocco was accused by the Polisario Front of violating a 1991 ceasefire agreement by sending troops into the Western Sahara. The King of Morocco, King Mohammed Vl, made a speech on 21 August urging Moroccans abroad to defend and uphold a tolerant version of Islam. The President of the Moroccan National Olympic Committee, Hosni Benslimane, called a meeting of the country’s sporting commission leaders on 29 August to discuss Morocco’s poor performance at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. Morocco agreed to support Niger in its military campaign against Boko Haram on 1 August. The Moroccan Interior Ministry announced on 16 August that it had dismantled another Islamic State (IS) cell. Morocco’s Directorate of National Security (DGSN) has ordered all Moroccan security officers to be retrained in firearms techniques. The Polisario Front moved 200 armed troops into the buffer zone between Morocco and Mauritania on 28 August. United States (US) defence company Raytheon won a contract to supply optically tracked wire-guided (TOW) missiles to Morocco. Morocco will play host to a new arms manufacturing plant run jointly by British firm Chemring Military Products (CMP) and Belgian company Mecar. Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in Morocco fell by 34.9 per cent to MAD 12.3 billion in the first half of 2016. The number of Russian tourists visiting Morocco saw a 280 per cent increase in the first half of 2016, according to the Moroccan Regional Council of Tourism (CRT). 

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Kuwait by Lewis McKinnon

The United Nations (UN) sponsored peace negotiations on the Yemeni conflict ended in Kuwait on 6 August with no agreement reached. On 16 August Kuwait’s ambassador to Australia, Najib Abdulrahman Al-Bader, concluded several meetings with Australian officials in the territory of Queensland. The World Bank praised the Kuwaiti government’s decision to cut fuel subsidies and implement new energy reforms as of September this year. The Interior Ministry of Kuwait announced that it arrested several hundred people during a series of security clampdowns between 3 and 10 August. A deal worth EUR 1.1 billion was signed between the French and Kuwaiti governments on 9 August concerning the sale of 30 French military helicopters to the Kuwaiti army and National Guard. Ten Iranian men were arrested by Kuwait’s coast guard on 14 August and accused of being infiltrators who intended to enter Kuwait illegally. The Deputy Prime Minister of Kuwait, Sheikh Mohammed Al-Khaled Al-Hamed Al-Sabah, emphasised the strong relationship between Kuwait and Iraq during a visit by the governor of the Iraqi city of Basra on 15 August. Kuwait’s oil prices fell by $1.04 in one day on 23 August according to the Kuwait Petroleum Corporation. Kuwait and Bahrain signed two new financing agreements worth $1 billion on 23 August. The Kuwaiti Ministry of Electricity and Water announced on 24 August that it intends to scrap plans to build a nuclear power plant in Kuwait. 

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Iraqi Kurdistan by Lewis McKinnon

The President of the Kurdistan region of Iraq met with the Turkish President on 23 August and discussed the Islamic State (IS) and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party. The United Nations (UN) human rights spokeswoman Cecile Pouilly stated that the mass execution of men accused of the killing of soldiers were denied proper legal defence and called for fair trials. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) stated that the agency was struggling to find enough land for camps to house the number of refugees expected to flee the operation against Mosul. The UNHCR released a statement which said that up to 3000 Iraqi villagers may have been captured by IS whilst attempting to flee to Kirkuk. On 15 August the Iraqi parliament approved 5 positions for vacant ministerial positions, including that of the oil minister. The corruption allegations against Parliamentary Speaker Salim al-Jabouri were closed on 9 August with the associated travel ban lifted. On 30 August the head of the US’ military’s Central Command, General Joseph Votel, stated that Iraq would be able to retake Mosul from IS control by the end of this year should the operation be approved. The Iraqi Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmed Jamal stated that Iraq had requested Saudi Arabia to replace its ambassador to Baghdad, Thamer al-Sabhan. On 25 August the Iraqi parliament impeached the Defence Minister, Khaled al-Obeidi. On 22 August an unnamed British national was killed whilst clearing mines laid by IS. On 7 August IS suicide bombers attacked a military base occupied by the US-backed New Syria Army. On 27 August the Iraqi oil minister stated that Iraq is willing to play an active role in in OPEC to support oil prices. On 30 August the Iraqi Prime Minister stated that Iraq would support OPEC’s decision to freeze oil output with the aim of propping up prices. On 11 August the UN Development Program stated that it would hire experts to help Iraq tackle the issue of graft which is affecting the economy. 

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Iran by Lewis McKinnon

The United States (US) government confirmed that it initially withheld a $400 million cash payment to Iran in January in order to maintain leverage over the release of American prisoners. British Prime Minister Theresa May discussed concerns with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani over cases involving British-Indian nationals, including the imprisoned aid worker Nazain Zaghari-Ratcliff. Rouhani agreed via telephone conference that Britain and Iran should take steps to improve their relationship. Abdolrasoul Dorri Esfahani was arrested for suspected espionage involving Iran’s nuclear negotiations but has not been formally charged. The Iranian judiciary released a report confirming the execution of Shahram Amiri, an alleged spy who was convicted of sharing state secrets. Iran announced that it has completed the first phase of a government plan to launch a national internet. Authorities deemed the current system “inefficient” and have been working to limit peoples’ access to different parts of the internet. Uncertainty surrounding the question of how the US Department of Justice will treat banks who engage in business with Iran has prevented the country from reaping the full potential economic benefits of the nuclear deal. Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh will attend a meeting of minister for the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) in Algeria in September 2016. Oil prices have increased since confirmation that Iran will attend. The Swiss Federal Tribunal ordered Israel to pay $1.1 billion to Iran after it lost an appeal in a dispute over the Eilat Ashkelon Pipeline Company. Iran announced that it will hold its first tender of an oil field for development under the new contract model on 21 October. 

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