Syria. Damascus has been the theatre of fierce fighting. Syrian government forces on 20th regained control of parts of the capital that were attacked and captured by al-Qaeda linked rebels the previous day, however clashes has continued in the following days. Syrian government and rebel delegations have confirmed their attendance at peace talks resumed in Geneva on 23rd. On the agenda for this round are issues of governance, a political transition, the constitution and elections, as well as counterterrorism at the request of Damascus. Meanwhile, Russia continues to play a key role and the Kurdish forces in Syria, said that they will be trained by Russian forces. Moreover, investigations of Russian casualties in Syria find that Moscow has suffered more than three times more casualties than it has admitted to in public.
Israel. Last week Israel conduced air strikes in Syria in order to destroy Hezbollah arms warehouse; Syria fired anti-air missiles in a bid to shoot down the aircrafts. This was not a new situation between the two countries; however, it risks opening a new crisis in the Middle East because on 20th March Russia summoned Israeli ambassador.
Iraq. Iraqi Prime Minister Abadi visited Washington and spoke at the United States Institute for Peace saying that the White House had “given assurances that [U.S.] support won’t only continue, but will accelerate” in the fight. He added
that “this administration wants to be more engaged in fighting
terrorism” than the Obama administration. However, he pointed to that
just sending more troops and helicopters isn’t the answer to terrorism.
Libya. Western and African counterterrorism officials say that Islamic State is already regrouping, exploiting the chaos and political vacuum gripping the country. Gen. Thomas D. Waldhauser, head of the Pentagon’s Africa Command, told a Senate panel that “The instability in Libya and North Africa may be the most significant near-term threat to U.S. and allies’ interests on the continent”, General Waldhauser said. “Even with the success of Surt, ISIS-Libya remains a regional threat with intent to target U.S. persons and interests”. As a consequence the United States has maintained a force on the ground able to gather intelligence and to assist ally.
ISIS. ISIS has increasingly used armed drones in Iraq; therefore, Darpa, the Pentagon’s advanced research agency, is working on a new program to preempt this threat. Defense officials are worried that groups like the Islamic State may shift from using commercial drones to drop small munitions to loading them with explosives and crashing them into targets to turn them into crude missiles. Darpa’s Mobile Force Protection Program is looking at ways to protect high value vehicle convoys from these kinds of drone attacks. Meanwhile, senior officials from the 68 member countries of the Global Coalition to Counter ISIS met in Washington on 22nd March, it was the first such meeting. On the one hand, looking at the 68 member countries signed up to fight IS demonstrates just how ineffective this coalition has been; on the other hand, the countries not asked to participate in the anti-IS coalition are also telling: Syria, Iran, and Russia.