February

Yemen by Alistair Galloway

Divisions continue to hinder settlement in a new round of peace talks aimed at resolving the Yemeni conflict. The Saudi-led coalition announced the formation of an independent inquiry into war crime allegations against its forces. Britain continued to face increasing criticism for its arms sales to Saudi Arabia. The USA expanded their restrictions for their visa-waiver program to include Yemen, amongst others. Aden airport is expected to reopen within weeks. The residents of Taiz continue to face grave risk of famine. A Human Rights Watch (HRW) report was released indicating the use of American-made cluster munitions, banned by international Treaty, in Yemeni civilian areas by the Saudi-led coalition. Two journalists and their children were killed in a coalition airstrike. An Islamic State (IS) suicide bomber killed 13 recruits in a Yemeni army camp in Aden. Over 30 people were killed in an airstrike northeast of the Yemeni capital. Pro-government forces seized a Houthi camp outside Sanaa located on one of the defence lines of the capital. Though now under government control, Aden continues to face grave security issues. Yemen's Central Bank announced it would stop providing lines of credit for sugar and rice imports. The persisting political and security instability due to the on-going conflict have gravely affected the Yemeni private sector, beyond business closure, financial losses and the energy crisis. Though the conflict has caused major financial and physical losses, certain activities have achieved unprecedented gains, such as the black market.

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UAE by Alistair Galloway

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has pledged $137 million in aid of the Syrian crisis. The UAE's foreign minister visited Buenos Aries to discuss cooperation between the Argentinian government and the UAE. Major changes to the Federal government were announced by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, including the appointment of 5 female cabinet officers and a ‘Happiness and Tolerance’ minister. The Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohammed made a visit to India where he signed nine strategic agreements binding the UAE’s relationship with India. UN human rights experts have called for the immediate release of 5 men whom have been held captive and tortured by UAE authorities. The UAE distributed further relief to the Yemen island of Socotra, following a natural disaster last year. The UAE has declared that it will deport more than 20 Lebanese individuals residing in the UAE in response to policies undertaken by the Lebanese foreign ministry. The UAE has announced plans to provide a $2.5 billion grant to the expansion of the Bahraini airport. The foreign minister of the UAE has riterated the UAE’s position in regards to Islamic State (IS), arguing that it is willing to send troops to fight against the militants.

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Iraqi Kurdistan by Alistair Galloway

The Kurdish Security Council is investigating reports of a chemical weapons attack in the Sinjar area in cooperation with the International Coalition for Operation Inherent Resolve. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has conducted a series of attacks in and around Baghdad killing 61 people. Kurdish special forces rescued a Swedish girl on 17 February from the control of ISIS, following a request from the Swedish government. Canada has announced that it is withdrawing the six jets used in bombing campaigns against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. ISIS executed 12 of its own militants on 27 February on charges of desertion of the battlefield following an accusation that they avoided fighting Iraqi security forces. A prominent Shia cleric told more than 100,000 supporters that the Prime Minister must take action to tackle corruption or risk losing power. On 29 February the United States (US) government stated that it was conducting cyber warfare, alongside missions by commandos. Radioactive material, which went missing in November, has been recovered 15 kilometres from the site of origin. An Iraqi court has sentenced 40 members of ISIS to death for the killing of 1,700 Iraqi soldiers. The three Americans captured from Baghdad have been released safely. A United Nations (UN) staffer has been identified as the body found in November becoming the first UN staffer to die in Iraq since 2010. ISIS has manipulated the exchange rate between US dollars and the Iraqi dinar in an attempt to maximise revenue following coalition attacks on oil infrastructure. Kurdish oil exports through the pipeline to the Turkish port of Ceyhan have been halted since 17 February, with the pipeline not being expected to be switched back on until at least 29 February.

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Russia by Alistair Galloway

The United States and Russia have come to an agreement and will now cooperate in an attempt to achieve peace in Syria. The Kremlin denies any Syrian war crimes claims over military attacks on a Syrian hospital. In an attempt to unify the Christian faith in the Middle East, as well as around the world, Pope Francis has reached out to the Russian Orthodox Patriarch in an attempt to restore the Christian Unity. Despite concerns from the West, Russia voted to uphold and enforce the North Korean sanctions proposed in the United Nations General Assembly. Following a statement that Russia will not forgive Turkey’s transgressions in Syria, reports surfaced that Russia threatened Turkey with a nuclear strike. Russia warns that despite the current security agreement, there is a possibility of a “new World War” breaking out in Syria. Despite multiple accusations from human rights organizations, Russia denies any involvement in bombing Syrian civilians. Saudi Arabia and Russia agree on an oil production freeze in 2016. Due to the freeze it is likely the Russian economy will remain in recession until at least the end of 2016. Due to the impending economic crisis, the Kremlin is discussing a potential stimulus package for the Russian Economy. As a part of the economic recovery, Russia is reportedly cutting its defence budget by 5 per cent over the course of the next 12 months.

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Morocco by Alistair Galloway

In February Morocco ranked 19th globally in terms of prison density, with 76,000 Moroccans in jail. Amnesty International urged the government to make human rights in the country a priority. Frontex reported that cooperation between Spain and Morocco reduced the flow of illegal sub-Saharan migrants into Spain. Morocco participated in military drills this month in northeastern Saudi Arabia, in preparation for a contingency ground intervention in Syria. In other news, the World Bank recommended Morocco create new ID systems to make its citizens less susceptible to identity theft. The Moroccan government signed multiple industrial investment agreements in the automobile, aeronautics and electronic sectors, which will generate 4,100 new jobs. Qatar Petroleum acquired 30 percent of Chevron’s offshore drilling stakes in Morocco. Voltalia, a French renewable power plant operator signed a contract to develop a new hydropower plant in Morocco. Attijariwafa Bank posted a 3.4 percent higher net profit for 2015, reaching $457 million.

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Kuwait by Alistair Galloway

Kuwait celebrated National Day, Liberation Day, and the 10th anniversary of Sheikh Al-Sabah's ascension to the throne this month. Kuwait warned its citizens against travel to Lebanon and is urging its citizens already in the country to leave. The Kuwait Central Blood Bank has announced a new policy to combat the transmission of the Zika virus. Thirty countries sent top military commanders to Kuwait to discuss the campaign against the Islamic State movement. A group of Syrian residents of Kuwait were barred from entry into the country on suspicion of having forged passports. Kuwait and Italy have agreed to finalise Kuwait's purchase of Eurofighter jets. MPs asked the government to exclude Kuwaiti nationals from increases in the prices of fuel and power. A new government plan with six integrated pivots was announced to support the national economy. Kuwait's crude oil exports to Japan grew 4.4 per cent in January over last year. The price of Kuwaiti oil ended on $28.05 per barrel on 27 February. 

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Pakistan by Alistair Galloway

February on the whole was a positive month for Pakistan. Barring, that is, a major strike by the national airline, Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), which was successfully resolved but not before more than 600 flights had been cancelled. Pakistan has been making tangible strides in its battle against terrorism, clamping down on hate speech, disqualifying Sunni extremist Muhammad Ludhianvi from elections and cooperating with India in its investigation into the attack on its airbase. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will attend a summit on nuclear issues in Washington in March, and attended the signing of a treaty with Qatar guaranteeing 15 years and 3.75 million tons of natural gas for Pakistan, potentially reducing power shortages. Pakistan will host the first round of peace talks between the Taliban and Afghan government sometime in March. The President of the World Bank has praised Pakistan's economic reforms and claimed the country is on the path to prosperity. A deal to sell Pakistan F-16's has come under attack in the US, with fears that the jets will be used against India rather than terrorists. 

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Turkey by Alistair Galloway

Turkey continues to be a central player in international politics as the Syrian conflict continues to push people towards Turkey’s borders. Whilst Russian airstrikes and Syrian governmental forces have been gaining ground in Aleppo province, Turkey has lashed out against the Syrian Kurds fighting alongside them. Ankara and Washington have butted heads over the Popular Protection Units (YPG) involvement in Syria, with the former labeling them terrorists and the latter believing they represent a valuable ground force in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). It was also the YPG that were blamed for the 17 February car bomb in Ankara, which killed 28 people. On the same day, 17 February, the group negotiating a new constitution in Turkey was dissolved. Turkey has been crucial for the EU as a $3.3 billion deal was secured, and Turkey is set to receive support from NATO ships in the Aegean Sea. However, tension between Turkey and Russia continues to persist as both conduct air strikes around Aleppo. The tension, and wider security issues have spilled into the economic sphere, as Russian Gazprom cuts gas supply by 25 per cent. Tourism numbers are down in Turkey, but the government has launched a plan to combat it by restructuring tourist companies’ debt.

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Algeria by Alistair Galloway

In Algerian affairs, the Algerian government provided 18 tonnes of pharmaceutical and medical aid to Libyan municipalities. During a state visit the Danish Foreign Minister discussed expanding cooperation between Denmark and Algeria. The Algerian government approved a new constitution which limits the number of terms a president can hold and which recognises Amazigh as an official language within Algeria. The Danish company FLSmidt has signed a contract for the supply of a greenfield cement plant in Algeria. In cooperation with Algerian Transport ministry two Chinese companies have signed a deal worth $3.3 billion to build a new port at Cherchell. The French rail group Alstom has been contracted to provide the city of Setif with 26 Citadis trams. Following a counterterrorism operation Algerian troops killed a militants in the woods of Tizi Ouzou province and seized weaponry. The Algerian energy minister announced plans to establish Algerian-Iranian water management companies. BP confirmed a new start up at its Salah Gas project in Algeria, aimed at increasing its production.

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China by Alistair Galloway

Reports into the 2015 Tianjin Warehouse blasts reveal that more than 120 people, including senior officials, can be held responsible for them. President Xi Jinping stressed his desire for the consistent implementation of domestic reforms. In February, China confirmed two cases of the imported Zika virus. U.S. plans to install a missile defence system in South Korea could threaten regional security. Bilateral links between the U.S. and China were strengthened as they discussed North Korea’s missile programme and activities in the South China Sea. A U.S. think tank has released satellite images showing Chinese radars being installed on the Spratly Islands. The International Monetary Fund confirmed that Indian economic growth out-paced Chinese in 2015, by 0.6 per cent. The Managing Director of the IMF, welcomed the transformation of the Chinese economy from quantity to quality. The People’s Bank of China has confirmed that its foreign currency reserves decreased in January. Apple finalised its alliance with China UnionPay allowing customers to utilise Apple Pay.

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