21 August 2016   Leave a comment

Ali Abdullah Saleh, the former ruler of Yemen and ally of the US, has offered the use of Yemeni territory to Russia to aid in the fight against Daesh (the Islamic State).  Saleh was overthrown in 2011 and currently leads a political council that champions the cause of the Houthi rebels.  While it is not clear how much power Saleh has to make good on this offer, it represents yet another diplomatic coup for Russia in the Middle East after its overtures to Turkey and Iran.  The move comes two days after the US was pulling out of its support for the Saudi-led coalition that is bombing the Houthi rebels who it regards as Iranian allies.  The bombing campaign has been ruthless, killing more than 6,500 civilians, prompting outrage among many and leading to the American withdrawal of support.

China, Japan, South Korea Foreign Ministers Meeting has been an annual event since 2007, although it was once suspended for three years due to diplomatic differences.  It is an opportunity for the three countries to discuss openly their disputes in hopes of avaoiding misunderstandings that could lead to conflict.  Apparently, the three countries are close to deciding to suspend the meeting yet again due to growing tensions in the East and South China Seas.  South Korea’s decision to deploy US-developed anti-missile systems is also a source of contention.

It appears as if the efforts of the US and its coalition partners, Russia, and the Kurds are close to undermining the territorial basis for Daesh (the Islamic State).  Key cities have been retaken from Daesh control and there is mounting evidence that Daesh forces are becoming less well-organized and effective.  The critical question is what happens once Daesh loses its protected base of operations.  It is unlikely to disappear and it is unclear how the retaken areas will be governed.  It seems likely that Syrian President Assad will be restored to power in Syria, but that leaves key questions about what happens to the Kurds in both Syria and Iraq.  Moreover, Daesh will start its operations in a more decentralized manner–its threat does not require it to control territory or cyberspace.  It does not appear as if much thought has been given to this question, but it will become more urgent as Daesh dissipates.

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Posted August 21, 2016 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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