Iraq. Several Iraqi government officials and activists confirmed the trend, attesting that the Badr Organization, one of the largest PMF militias, which operates in Iraq, has recruited about 30 such fighters in town of Jalaula alone. In addition, Asaib Ahl al-Haq, one of the most radical PMF groups, has recruited about 40 ex-Islamic State members in the same area, which is disputed between the Iraqi central government and the Kurds. For some ex-Islamic State fighters, it is a matter of economics. These were fighters who did not join the Islamic State out of religious fervor but rather because they needed a salary. Since Iraq, like many post-conflict societies, has no official reintegration policies, these men could not join official Iraqi security forces, so they started to look for less official alternatives. The PMF are relatively willing to let former Islamic State members join its ranks. Politically, the PMF wants to increase its influence in the Sunni-majority areas, so it needs Sunni members. From a more geopolitical point of view, given the PMF’s potential ties to Iran, its expansion into Sunni areas is worrisome to the United States and the international community. Iraqi health situation remains worrisome since on 19 October an official source from the Basra Health Department confirmed that there had been a rise in water-borne diseases, and an absence of support from the federal health ministry in Baghdad. The number of cases of poisoning from contaminated water in Basra has reached 100,000, with health officials warning of a resurgent cholera outbreak in the coming months. On 20 Iraqi forces dismantled 40 positions belonging to the Daesh terrorist group in the eastern Diyala province. Two militants were also killed during the security swoop.
Libya. The Libyan Foreign Minister Mohammed Sayala received on 14 the new European Union’s ambassador to Libya Alan Bugeja. The new ambassador stressed the need to have more cooperation between the EU and Libya, saying the High Representative of the EU Federica Mogherini told him to work on resuming the EU’s mission presence in Tripoli as soon as possible. However, the situation remains very volatile, on 15 4 Libyan fighters were killed and 12 others wounded in clashes against Chadian rebels in Umm Al-Aranib town, southwestern Libya. Local media sources said the clashes took place in Wadi Maghani area between Khaled Bin Walid Brigade and a group of Chadian rebels after last week’s abduction of 6 local residents by the rebels.
Egypt. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi will start a three-day state visit to Russia next Monday, 22 October, during which he will hold talks with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin. The two leaders will discuss “ways of enhancing distinguished bilateral relations at all levels”. Sisi will deliver a speech at Russia’s Federation Council where “will be the first time for a foreign head of state to deliver a speech”. On 17 Egyptian security forces said that they have killed 450 armed fighters since the beginning of its eight-month offensive against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in the Sinai peninsula. Army Spokesman Tamer al-Rifai said the large-scale operation, dubbed “Sinai 2018”, has also resulted in the dismantling of some 1,200 explosive devices and the destruction of about 1,900 vehicles and motorcycles. On 18 the Egyptian military has been boosted with the latest global armament systems, including the multirole Rafale aircraft, F-16 fighter jets, Boeing AH-64 Apache helicopters, China’s Wing Loong armed drone. The Egyptian army is one of the largest African armies that use unmanned aerial vehicles, along with Nigeria and South Africa, according to the counterterrorism and national security intelligence firm “Strategic Intelligence Service.” Wing Loong, which is armed with China’s Blue Arrow-7 laser-guided missiles, is set to detect military combat aircraft. China’s Chengdu Aircraft Industry Group first produced it in 2008.
Syria. The BBC has determined there is enough evidence to be confident that at least 106 chemical attacks have taken place in Syria since September 2013, when the president signed the international Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and agreed to destroy the country’s chemical weapons stockpile. Panorama and BBC Arabic examined 164 reports of chemical attacks alleged to have happened since Syria signed up to the CWC just over five years ago. The BBC team determined that there was credible evidence to be confident a chemical weapon was used in 106 of those 164 incidents. The highest number of reported attacks took place in the north-western province of Idlib. There were also many incidents in the neighbouring provinces of Hama and Aleppo, and in the Eastern Ghouta region near Damascus, according to the BBC’s data. On 14 the main border crossing between Jordan and war-torn Syria is to reopen for the first time in three years. The Jaber crossing, known as Nassib on the Syrian side, was a key route for Middle East trade before Amman closed it after the post was overrun by rebels and sealed in April 2015. The reopening comes after Syrian government troops retook their side of the crossing in July under a deal with rebel fighters brokered by Moscow. The crossing was a key link not only for direct trade between the neighbouring countries but also for longer-distance transit, which was a signficant source of revenue. On 19 Syrian President Bashar al-Assad met representatives of Russia’s foreign and defence ministries in Damascus to discuss the development of the situation in Syria.
Russia Focus. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on 13 that his country was eager to work with Egypt to boost airline security. Russia halted civilian air traffic to Egypt in October 2015 after militants detonated a bomb on a Russian Metrojet flight departing from the tourist resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, killing all 224 people on board. Since then Egypt has allowed Russian experts to inspect its airport security arrangements several times and the two countries have signed an agreement covering civil aviation security. Flights between Moscow and Cairo resumed in April, but Egypt hopes to secure the return of Russian flights to its Red Sea resorts. Then on 20 Vladimir Putin affirmed that Russia will resume flights to Egyptian resorts in Hurghada and Sharm El Sheikh. Lavrov said relations between Russia and Egypt were strong, noting a $6.5 billion annual trade between the two countries. Russia last year signed an agreement with Egypt to build a nuclear power plant at Dabaa and another deal earlier this year to set up an industrial zone near the Suez Canal. By early February, Russia had sent nine planes with weapons along with dozens of contractors to train Central African Republic (CAR) soldiers and secure mining projects, marking the start of its highest-profile military foray in sub-Saharan Africa for decades. Since Western nations sanctioned Russia for annexing Crimea in 2014, Moscow has signed 19 military cooperation deals in sub-Saharan Africa, including with Ethiopia, Nigeria and Zimbabwe.