September

Yemen by Alistair Galloway

Yemen’s Houthi leader accused the United States (US) of providing logistical support and political cover for Saudi-led air strikes. The United Kingdom announced it would increase its humanitarian aid to Yemen, bringing the total to GBP 100 million. Human rights activists were outraged by the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council’s decision to decline the establishment of an independent inquiry into abuses in the Yemeni war. The Houthi offered a border truce to Saudi Arabia, in addition to an amnesty for Yemeni fighters in return for a halt in air strikes and a lift of the near blockade on the country. Over 25 people were killed and 70 wounded in a Saudi-led coalition strike in the port city of Hudaydah. The US killed 13 al Qaeda operatives in three counterterrorism strikes in Yemen. Saudi-led coalition strikes killed over 21 civilians in northern Yemen. Arab central banks supported the exiled Yemeni government’s decision to relocate its central bank to Aden. Yemen’s Aden oil refinery resumed its operations after being shut for over a year. 

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Turkey by Alistair Galloway

September was another month impacted by post-coup arrests and dismissals of public officials. Large numbers of judges and prosecutors were dismissed along with members of the air force and the national security service. The grip is tightened around the Kurds too, as over 11,000 teachers were fired and 20 TV and radio channels were ordered to close due to their alleged ties to the PKK and their views. Fifty people were wounded by a car bomb blast in Van, 12 September. As Turkey announced their border to Syria secure from Islamic State (IS) militants, they opened up for the possibility of having it be a no-fly zone to host Syrian refugees. Needing cooperation with both Russia and USA it seems unlikely, but Turkey has suggested its wiliness to cooperate with Russia in Syria. In economic news Turkey pledged $3.4 billion to reconstruct the Southeast, Moody’s downgraded Turkish sovereign debt rating to ‘junk’ as a result of the post-coup climate and the Turkish stream pipeline moved closer to fruition, as Russo-Turkish relations are amiable.

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Sierra Leone by Alistair Galloway

Kandeh Yumkella, the presidential flag-bearer for the Sierra Leone Peoples Party, travelled to Nairobi, Kenya for the Expert Group Meeting and Workshop and also attended the 38th Energy Seminar in Oxford, United Kingdom. Sierra Leone’s internal affairs minister announced the death penalty would be utilised as punishment once again to curb gang violence. Female genital mutilation re-emerged despite it being banned during the Ebola outbreak. Brussels Airlines threatened to suspend its flights to Sierra Leone over security concerns. Two women were sentenced after pleading guilty to impersonating medical professionals, which highlighted the problems with Sierra Leone’s health care industry. Sierra Leone’s attorney general spoke out against the increased gang violence in the country and highlighted that a murder is reported on average once every two weeks in Freetown. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) undertook a mission to Sierra Leone and released a fairly positive report highlighting the economy’s upward trend, but indicated there were still a number of improvements to be made like controlling debt and increasing efficiency of public spending. Sierra Leone and the European Union (EU) signed a EUR 35 million deal to improve agriculture production, which is part of Sierra Leone’s Boosting Agriculture and Food Security programme. Sierra Leone’s energy minister complained the International Monetary Fund’s suggestions encouraged the government to increase the electricity tariff by 15 per cent and expressed concerns that the price of petrol will increase too much.

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Russia by Alistair Galloway

Despite record low turnouts of 47.8 per cent voter participation, Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party secured a massive majority in parliament holding 343 seats in the 450 member parliament with 54.2 per cent of total ballots being for the party. Concerns following the results of the parliamentary election have caused strife among Russian and Ukrainian citizens, some of whom are calling voter fraud. United States (US) Secretary of State John F. Kerry and senior officials of over two dozen nations met in New York on 20 September to declare that the Syria cease-fire is not dead, though they did point to Russia as to the cause of bombings of a humanitarian aid convoy earlier in the month. War crimes accusations centred on the widespread use of bunker-busting and incendiary bombs on the 275,000 civilians living in the rebel-held east of the city were made by United Kingdom (UK) ambassador to the United Nations (UN) Matthew Rycroft at the most recent UN Security Council session. A nationwide ceasefire in Syria brokered by the US and Russia began at sundown on Monday 12 September, coinciding with the Muslim Eid al-Adha holiday, but there are concerns throughout the international community about whether it will hold. Following a meeting of the G20, President Vladimir Putin announced a cooperative partnership on oil between Russia and the oil superpower Saudi Arabia. Russian Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich asserted that another round of US sanctions against Russia would not have any serious effect on Russia’s economy and business. 

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Pakistan by Alistair Galloway

Relations between Pakistan and India soured after a terror attack in Uri which killed 18 Indian soldiers. Indian Union Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi referred to Pakistan as a ‘factory of terrorism.' Imran Khan, chairman of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party organised a march towards the city of Raiwind on 30 September to assert pressure on the government to investigate Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for his alleged corruption and ownership of offshore companies. Pakistan’s government enacted a long-debated Hindu Marriage Bill at the latest Parliamentary session. The PTI and the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) announced they ‘noticed’ the large protests held by Punjabi farmers’ outside the Punjab Assembly. The European Union (EU) threatened to impose sanctions on Pakistan on 24 September for ongoing human rights violations in Balochistan province. A terror attack on a Sunni mosque on 16 September killed 28 worshippers and injured 30 others. An attack by militants from Pakistan on an army base in Uri, Kashmir, on 18 September killed 18 Indian Army soldiers. Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a report on 26 September that alleged Pakistan police are illegally executing thousands of individuals in ‘encounter killings.' Pakistan became the most recent nation to sign up to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's (OECD) initiative to combat tax avoidance and evasion. On 28 September, an official announced that Pakistan is prepared to launch $500 million in Islamic bonds to raise money for foreign exchange reserves. The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) approved loans of $320 million to energy projects to minimise power shortages in Myanmar and Pakistan, $300 million of which will directly fund the expansion of a hydropower project in Pakistan.

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Morocco by Alistair Galloway

The President of the Conference of the Parties (COP22) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) hailed the ratification by China and the United States of the Paris Agreement, on 4 September. The Moroccan Minister Delegate to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, Nasser Bourita, signed the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (TAC) on behalf of Morocco on 6 September. Morocco will create a regional think tank based on the role of women in peacekeeping operations, as well as their contribution to sustainable development. National elections, which will be held on 7 October in Morocco, will be supervised by 4,000 observers; it was announced on 9 September. A new tripartite partnership to protect the Mediterranean Sea was agreed between Morocco, France and Monaco on 16 September at the Our Ocean conference in Washington DC. The African Union (AU) expressed its concern over tensions in the Guerguerat region of Morocco in a statement on 7 September. Morocco’s General Directorate for National Territory Surveillance dismantled an Islamic State (IS) cell on 7 September. The Head of MINURSO met with the separatist group the Polisario Front on 8 September to discuss tensions over the Guerguerat region of southern Morocco. Six million tourists visited Morocco in the first half of 2016, data released on 8 September shows. Morocco’s trade deficit widened by 13 per cent in the first eight months of 2016 according to new data. Morocco’s Central Bank increased its growth expectations for the country, from 1.2 per cent up to 1.4 per cent on 27 September. Morocco postponed the decision to implement a fully flexible exchange rate system until the second half of 2017.

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Kuwait by Alistair Galloway

During the 71st session of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly, the Kuwaiti delegation gathered support for its campaign to become a non-permanent member of the Security Council in next year’s elections. A member of the Kuwaiti royal family was sentenced to three years in prison by a Kuwaiti court on 21 September after insulting the Emir on social media. The Kuwaiti Foreign Ministry signed a memorandum of understanding with the Costa Rican minister of foreign affairs on 22 September, regarding a visa waiver of diplomatic and private passport holders. Kuwait’s permanent delegate to the UN, Jamal Al-Ghneim, emphasised the need for increased discussion on the recurring human rights abuses taking places in the Occupied Palestinian Territories during the 33rd session of the UN Human Rights Council on 23 September. Tighter security restrictions were put in place in Kuwait this month in order to maintain security during the Islamic period of Murharram according to Kuwait’s interior ministry. Sara Al-Drees, an activist from Kuwait, was detained for 21 days for criticising the Emir, Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah, on Twitter on 26 September. Khaled Al Jarallah, Kuwait’s Deputy Foreign Minister, announced on 27 September that the Kuwaiti government would be willing to hold further peace talks on the Yemeni conflict in the future. Kuwaiti politicians demanded an emergency session of parliament on 22 September to discuss the rise in petrol prices which came into effect on 1 September. Crude oil exports from Kuwait to China rose by 65 per cent compared to August stated Kuwait’s General Administration of Customs on 23 September. Kuwait’s finance undersecretary, Khalifa Hamada, emphasised the detrimental effect the current economic structure of the country is having on economic growth.

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Iraqi Kurdistan by Alistair Galloway

The Iraqi prime minister and the leader of the Kurdistan Regional Government met to discuss territory and the preparation for the battle to dislodge the Islamic State (IS) from Mosul. On 30 September the French defence minister announced that the government-led offensive to retake Mosul would begin soon. On 29 September a United States (US) military spokesman announced that air strikes by the US and its allies had killed 18 IS leaders in the past 30 days. On 28 September US and Iraqi officials announced that 615 new US troops would be sent to Iraq to assist in the operation to retake Mosul. On 21 September a US military official announced that the military is testing material retrieved from an IS rocket attack in Iraq to see if a chemical agent had been used. On 24 September, 18 people died in an IS attack on a checkpoint north of Tikrit. On 28 September the World Food Programme (WFP) announced that food aid had reached civilians in Shirqat, northern Iraq. IS militants lost control of their last oil wells following the recapture of Shirqat by the Iraqi military, the oil ministry announced on 28 September. On 21 September the Iraqi parliament passed a motion of no-confidence against Finance Minister Hoshiyar Zebari. On 14 September the US announced that it was giving Iraq $181 million in humanitarian aid ahead of the operation against Mosul.

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Iran by Alistair Galloway

The United Kingdom (UK) restored diplomatic relations with Iran by appointing an ambassador to Tehran. Iranian Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri expressed concerns over the implementation of the nuclear deal, stating that Iran has fully complied with its agreements and the West has failed to deliver on its promises. The head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organisation, Ali Akbar Salehi, said that in order for the nuclear deal to remain in effect both side have to fulfill their commitments. Former President Ahmadinejad released a statement saying that he will not make a presidential comeback bid in next year’s election. The German Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel will discuss Iran’s role in war in Syria and Iran’s human rights record on his upcoming visit to Tehran. The Vice Chancellor is also leading a large delegation of business executives to Iran to discuss potential business deals. Thousands of Iranians marched through the streets to protest against Saudi Arabia before the annual Hajj pilgrimage. Iranians will not be taking part in this year’s Hajj due to tensions between Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shia Iran. United States (US) resident Nazir Zakka was sentenced to 10 years in jail over allegations of espionage and fined $4.2 million after being detained for one year in Iran. The Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) member states struck a deal to limit crude output in an effort to raise prices worldwide. Iran has decided to decrease output by 700,000 barrels per day. French carmaker PSA Peugeot Citroen plans to sell over 150,000 vehicles in Iran in the remainder of 2016 with a target of over 300,000 sales in 2017. French carmaker Renault signed a deal with Iran to enter into a new joint venture which involves a new manufacturing plant with the capacity to produce 150,000 vehicles per year. Iran urged the US to remove the remaining obstacles to the country’s purchase of passenger planes. Critics in the US Congress argue that Iran could potentially use passenger jets for military purposes such as to battle United States troops in Syria or potentially transfer aircrafts to airlines in Iran still subject to sanctioning by the United States.

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Egypt by Alistair Galloway

At the beginning of the month, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi visited Delhi to discuss relations between Egypt and India. Retired Egyptian army general Maj-Gen. Mohammed Ali el-Sheikh was named Egypt’s supply minister. An Egyptian court froze the assets of five prominent human rights defenders and three nongovernmental organisations. The head of news at Egyptian state television, Mostafa Shehata, was fired after the channel mistakenly aired an old interview of President Abdul Fattah el-Sissi. According to a new Human Rights Watch report, Egyptian authorities at the notorious al-Aqrab prison in Cairo abused inmates in ways that may have led to their death. A Cyprus court approved a request from the Egyptian government to extradite Egyptian hijacker Seif Eddin Mustafa. A boat carrying about 600 migrants and refugees capsized in the Mediterranean near the coastal town of Rosetta, Egypt. A senior assistant to Egypt's top prosecutor, Zakaria Abdel Aziz, survived an assassination attempt on 29 September when a car bomb exploded as his motorcade was passing by. As a result of the weakening of the Egyptian pound and an increase in electricity prices, Egypt’s annual inflation rate accelerated to 15.5 per cent in August. Royal Dutch Airlines’ (KLM) will temporarily suspend flights to and from Cairo from 8 January, citing “economic reasons.” According to a senior government official, Egypt is making very good progress toward acquiring the additional financing required to procure a $12 billion loan accord with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Egypt repealed its ban on imports of grains tainted with ergot, a fungus found in wheat.

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