Fortnightly Review and Analysis: Iran, West Asia, Eurasia, Central Asian Republics (CAR) & Africa (Vol 2 Issue XII)

June 16 - 30, 2017

West Asia

U.S. Fighter Jet Shoots Down Syrian Plane

According to Pentagon, the U.S. fighter jet shot down a Syrian warplane. This it said was in retaliation of that the U.S.-led coalition against the self-proclaimed Islamic State of bombing allies. On the other hand, the Syrian military said the plane's pilot was killed and warned of "grave consequences" for the "flagrant aggression". It also said that the aircraft was carrying out an anti-Islamic State mission. The incident marked the fourth time in a month that the United States attacked pro-government forces in Syria. In retaliation, Russia warned that aircraft operating where the shoot down occurred would be considered "air targets" for its forces in Syria. The Russian Ministry of Defense also called the downing of the plane "a cynical violation of the sovereignty of the Syrian Arab Republic" and "military aggression".

Apart from this, Iran announced it shot several medium-range ballistic missiles at alleged Islamic State positions in Syria's Deir ez-Zor province in response to attacks in Tehran earlier this month that the militant group claimed. The missile launch was the first by the country outside Iranian territory in three decades.

Saudi King Appoints Son as the next Crown Prince

In a momentous move, Saudi Arabia's King Salman has announced that his son, thirty-one-year-old Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (Al Jazeera), as the next crown prince of the country. He will replace the prince's cousin, Mohammed bin Nayef, as next in line to inherit the throne. The new crown prince is expected to continue his role as defense minister. Mohammed bin Salman led the Vision 2030 development project, which seeks to diversify the country's economy away from oil dependence and relax some of the kingdom's religious restrictions. Mohammed bin Nayef served as interior minister and was viewed positively by foreign allies for his work dismantling al-Qaeda networks inside the country. This move leaves the heir apparent with several challenges – internal, regional and international, requiring his attention.

Saudi-led Bloc Presents Qatar with a List of Demands

The Saudi-led bloc that severed ties with Qatar last month has now presented it with a formal list of demands. The list includes reducing ties with Iran, severing relationships with Hezbullah and the Muslim Brotherhood, closing the Turkish military base in their country, closing of the state run media house, Al Jazeera, and its several news outlets. In the same regard, Tillerson met with Qatar Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani. According to the Qatari foreign minister, the Saudi led bloc must be “genuinely willing to negotiate” and show support for the allegations made against Qatar.

Iraqi forces Recapture Mosul Mosque

In the ongoing battle for Mosul, the Iraqi troops have recaptured from the self-proclaimed Islamic State the twelfth-century Great Mosque of al-Nuri, which was almost entirely destroyed by the militant group in fighting over control of Mosul. This is an important development since it indicates that now the government troops are in the heart of the Old City and close to re-taking Mosul. It was from this mosque that Baghdadi had proclaimed the birth of the Caliphate.

CAR

Nothing significant to report

Africa

World Refugee Crisis Growing Fastest in South Sudan

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) disclosed that the number of refugees in the world by the end of 2016 hit record high of 65.5 million. There is an increase of 300,000 people over the previous year as a result of persecution, conflict, violence, or human rights violations.South Sudan, Syrian Arab Republic and Afghanistan produced 55 per cent of all refugees worldwide. South-Sudan is the fastest-growing refugee population with 64 per cent increase by mid-2016 from 854,100 to over 1.4 million. About half of this population was children. Approximately, six million People in South Sudan are expected to be severely food insecure by mid-2017 due to the conflict and the poor economy.

In Africa, Uganda hosts the highest number of refugees, nearly a million. It is followed by Ethiopia (791,631); DR Congo (451,956); and Kenya (451,099). UNHCR is calling for support of countries hosting refugees as the numbers are likely to rise due to ongoing conflicts. The figure illustrates the need for countries and communities supporting refugees and other displaced people to be robustly resourced and supported. This huge imbalance reflects several issues including the continuing lack of consensus internationally when it comes to refugee hosting and the proximity of many poor countries to regions of conflict. The world marked the annual World Refugee Day on June 20, 2017 to reflect on the crisis and to find solutions.

United Nation’s Report Reveals South Sudan as No Longer Famine Hit Nation, Despite Severe Food Insecurity

South Sudan famine was officially declared on February 20, 2017 by President Salva Kiir who promised to take measures to lift the country out of that situation. According to the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) report based on a survey by a working group including government and U.N. officials; South Sudan is no longer classified as a famine hit nation, although a huge population are in a famine-like conditions and the situation is still very critical. Estimated six million people, half the population, are expected to be severely food insecure in the coming months. The country’s humanitarian situation suffered a setback when fresh clashes broke out in Juba between forces of President Salva Kiir and former first Vice President Riek Machar. The clashes resulted in many citizens of Africa’s most youngest nation seeking refuge in UN protection sites whiles others fled their homes for fear of a return to war. Most of them are currently in neighboring countries like Rwanda, Sudan and Ethiopia.

Ghana Signs $10 Billion Bauxite Deal with China

Ghana has signed a $10 billion Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with China to develop its bauxite industry. In 2014, growth in the West African country slowed sharply due to a fiscal crisis and tumbling commodity prices which was followed by years of economic expansion at around eight percent on the back of gold, cocoa and oil exports. To develop the bauxite project with its railway and converting bauxite into aluminum, this MOU has been signed. The money will come from the Chinese Development Bank, the implementation of the project will come from other agencies, infrastructure agencies in China, like China Railway for example. The funds from Beijing would contribute towards building 1,400 km of a planned 4,000 km railway network, which would connect bauxite mines and production sites as well as establish a rail link into neighbouring Burkina Faso.

United Nations Children's Fund Opens Africa’s First Humanitarian Drone Testing Corridor in Malawi

The United Nations Children's Fund has formally opened an air corridor to test the effectiveness of drones in humanitarian emergencies. Malawi is first in Africa to introduce this project to assist in humanitarian and development use. The innovation will help in a number of ways. Apart from delivering, medical samples to testing laboratories, it can also do a lot of mapping, land surveying and several other important activities. The corridor will have a radius of 40 km and is also open to the private sector, universities and could also provide imagery to map out natural environments and other infrastructure. The launch of the testing corridor follows a pilot project in Malawi in March 2016 on the feasibility of using drones for the transportation of dried blood samples for early infant diagnosis of HIV. This study showed that drones are a viable addition to existing transport systems, including those used to help with the diagnosis of HIV.

Seychelles, South Africa Granted Visa-Free Travel to Qatar amid Gulf Row

Seychelles and South Africa have been listed among the 37 countries granted visa-free travel to Qatar as the Gulf nation is blocked by its neighbours in the middle of recent diplomatic row. Among the countries are Argentina, Chile, French Guiana, Latvia, Macedonia, Paraguay, Slovakia, Lebanon, Bolivia, China, Ecuador, Guyana, Seychelles, Malta, Peru, Slovenia, Thailand, Brazil, Colombia, Estonia, Indonesia, Lithuania, Mexico, Romania, South Africa, Uruguay, Bulgaria, Croatia Falk Islands, Kazakhstan, Macau, Moldova, Russia, Suriname and Venezuela. The conditions for obtaining the visa-on-arrival includes a 100 QAR ($27) fee, valid passport of not less than six months, return ticket, hotel reservation and money equivalent to $1,500 or a credit card, the statement added. This move comes days after Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates fell out with the Gulf country after it accused it of supporting Islamist militants and Iran, while Qatar vehemently denies the claims.
Libya, Sudan, Somalia Hard Hit as United States Top Court Partially Lifts Trump's Travel Ban

The Supreme Court of the United States partially lifted an injunction against the travel bans issued by President Donald Trump. The order bans citizens of six Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States. Three African countries were affected by the order. Libya, Sudan and Somalia. The other three were Syria, Yemen and Iraq. Till date, Trump had signed two separate orders, but both had been suspended by lower courts forcing the case to be taken to the apex court.

Partnership Agreement Signed Between the African Union Commission and New Zealand

Partnership agreement has been signed between the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFAT) and the African Union Commission (AUC). It will provide a framework and basis for the establishment and implementation of the ‘New Zealand – Africa Geothermal Facility’. The goal of this facility is to expand access to affordable, reliable and clean energy in Eastern African countries. It also aims to provide responsive, flexible and timely geothermal technical assistance and capacity development support for focus countries of the Africa Union Regional Geothermal Programme including the eligible countries of the Geothermal Risk Mitigation Facility (GRMF). The countries are namely Kenya, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Comoros, Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania, DRC, Burundi, Zambia, Sudan, Eretria, Mozambique and Malawi, with possibility to expand it to all members of African Union in future. The MFAT will provide up to NZD 10.2 million for the facility that will mobilise and make available to African countries the breadth of New Zealand geothermal expertise relevant to country priority needs. New Zealand has extensive and world leading expertise in this field which will be very valuable to ensuring that Africa’s geothermal energy potential is brought to fruition.