Iraq is still in a very volatile situation. On the one hand, the elections in May have not produced a clear-cut result and as a consequence parties are trying to find a solution. On 31 July Muqtada al-Sadr’s Sairoon bloc, which won the elections, seems to have reached an understanding with a handful of political parties regarding the formation of a majority bloc in parliament. Consultations, he said, were still underway between various parties and political blocs. It remains unclear, however, whether the vote recount will dramatically affect initial poll results. On the other hand, protesters, which have been staging rallies and sit-ins in various parts of Iraq since July 8, have once again gathered in the Iraqi capital to demand better services, jobs and an end to government corruption. However, tightened security measures and recent government moves to appease them appear to have succeeded in keeping many people away.
Libya. Armed clashes broke out between the Joint Security Room of Murzuq (JSRM) and gunmen from Qatrun town, southwest Libya, at least one person was killed and two others injured. It has been said that the gunmen are likely to belong to a Chadian opposition group. On August 2 Seoul had deployed a warship to Libya in an apparent show of force to secure the release of a South Korean national kidnapped along with three Filipinos. The three Filipino engineers and a South Korean were abducted in an attack on a water project site in western Libya on July 6.
Egypt. Five Egyptian troops held hostage in Libya were freed on July 30 in a joint operation carried out by Sudanese and Egyptian intelligence services. The soldiers had been seized along the Egyptian-Libyan border and held captive in southern Libya. Although the civil rights in Egypt continue to be at risk the United States has released $195 million in military aid to the country arguably to help it to counter the Islamic State (IS) insurgency in Sinai.
Syria. Delegations from the Syrian government and the political opposition have arrived in the Russian city of Sochi for talks on the war in Syria. Among those attending the 10th round of the Astana-format talks in the Black Sea resort of Sochi are Staffan de Mistura, the United Nations’ special envoy for Syria, and officials from Jordan. The talks will address various humanitarian issues, as well as the latest situation in the so-called “de-escalation zones” that once included four provinces. Meanwhile, government forces are on the brink of seizing the last part of southwestern Syria in insurgent hands. Advancing government forces, backed by Russian air strikes, have seized all but three villages held by the Islamic State-affiliated faction, and widened their offensive to include the region which borders the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights and Jordan. Moreover, in that region Iran-backed forces have withdrawn their heavy weapons to a distance of 85km from the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. Alexander Lavrentiev, President Vladimir Putin’s special envoy to Syria, said Iranian service personnel whom he described as advisors could be among Syrian army forces who remain closer to the Israeli border. In the Idlib province on August 1 rebel groups announced a new coalition: the National Liberation Front merges the alliance of Islamist heavyweights Ahrar al-Sham and Nureddine al-Zinki with four other rebel factions.
Jordan. Jordan’s army says its forces have killed several fighters belonging to ISIL to prevent them from crossing from southern Syria. Military units used “all types of weapons” to shell a group of fighters who had come close to its side of the Yarmouk Valley in clashes that lasted nearly 20 hours. A coordinated attack by ISIL on a busy market street in the city of Sweida last month killed more than 200 people, many of whom were civilians.
Algeria. Four extremists were killed in a violent clash in the Skikda region, some 420 kilometers east of the capital, seven soldiers were also killed in another skirmish that occurred in the locality of Bessi during a search and sweep operation.
Iran. Iran has organized military drills on August 3-4 in the Strait of Hormuz in order to show its ability to control and close the strategic passage from the Persian Gulf to the open ocean.
Russia Focus. The presence of about 500 Russian soldiers has been reported in the Um Dafug area of South Darfur which borders on the Central African Republic (CAR). Witnesses told Radio Dabanga that the Russian forces had 50 vehicles with other military equipment. They said that the forces have constructed a sandy area on the border of South Darfur to receive helicopters. They said government, military, and security officials regularly visit them in the area. According to local sources and witnesses, the exact purpose of the Russian presence on the border with CAR for five months has remained unknown. Western diplomatic sources had previously spoken of a Russian-Sudanese cooperation in the CAR crisis, prompting reservations by France and the USA, which reject any Russian presence in the region.