BREAKING NEWS

Iraqi forces push further into northeast Mosul
 
Yemen war claims lives of 1,400 children, says UN
 
Syria regime pounds rebels and jihadists ahead of talks
 

ON THE GROUND


Syrian Kurds left out of Syria peace talks in Kazakhstan

The Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its armed wing, the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), have not been invited to the peace talks on Syria that are expected to be held this month in Kazakhstan, a PYD official said on Tuesday. Turkey, which is backing the talks alongside Russia, views the PYD as a “terror group” for its links with separatists from the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in its territory. Khaled Issa said there is “a veto” on the Kurds’ presence at the talks. The YPG, backed by the US-led coalition, is fighting Islamic State militants in Raqqa.

 

Palestinians seek mobilization against Trump’s embassy move

Palestinian leaders urged on Tuesday mosques across the Middle East to protest against US President-elect Donald Trump’s plan to move the US Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. Senior Palestinian official and member of Fatah’s Central Committee Mohammad Shtayyeh said Trump’s possible move would escalate tensions in the region and undermine the two-state solution. Palestinians consider that East Jerusalem, annexed by Israel, is the capital of their future state.

 

Egypt’s inflation reaches record high level

Figures released Tuesday by Egypt’s Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAMPAS) showed that the country’s annual inflation rate rose to 24.3% in December, the highest rate registered since January 2011. The surging prices of goods came as a result of the Egyptian government’s tough economic measures, including the flotation of the pound and a 60% increase of tariffs on hundreds of imported goods.

 

UAE plans to diversify energy

The United Arab Emirates unveiled on Tuesday its “Energy Strategy 2050” plan to invest $163 billion in renewable energy projects that would provide almost half of the country’s needs. The UAE is highly dependent on oil exports, and is thus seeking to reduce this dependency. Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum said the aim of this plan is “to increase usage efficiency by 40% and increase clean-energy contributions to 50%."

 

At least five UAE officials among dead in Afghanistan bombing

Five officials from the UAE were killed in Tuesday’s explosion in Afghanistan's southern Kandahar province, official state media said today. The officials were accompanying the UAE ambassador in a visit aimed at conducting “humanitarian, educational and development projects," WAM news agency added. President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan announced three days of mourning for the victims killed in the bombing, which left overall about 50 people dead.

 

IS militants destroy two bridges in Mosul

Officials from Iraq’s Defense Ministry announced Tuesday that Islamic State militants blew up two bridges in eastern Mosul to slow the progression of Iraqi troops toward the western side of the city. The two bridges, known as Fifth Bridge and Iron Bridge, link the two sides of Mosul. In the same vein, the US-led coalition against IS announced that militants from the group are taking advantage of public places and service centers in order to avoid coalition airstrikes.

 

Netanyahu and newspaper publisher allegedly plotted deal

Israeli press published on Tuesday details about an alleged deal struck between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Noni Mozes, granting Netanyahu good press in exchange for restricting Yedioth’s competitor freebie Israel Today. According to recent publications, Netanyahu promised to promote legislation preventing the free distribution of Israel Today, while Mozes promised to change the paper’s editorial line with less criticism of Netanyahu.

 

Turkey to reconstruct al-Bab

Turkey’s Defense Minister Fikri Isik announced on Wednesday that his country would ensure the citizens of Syria’s al-Bab were able to return to their hometown. Isik indicated that Turkey would send civil servants to the areas of Syria that had been cleared of terror groups.

“We are currently in al-Bab, Syria, and have cleared 2,000 square kilometers [772 square miles] of land of [the Islamic State]. We cannot tell the people to live in ruins. We are taking steps to normalize life there again," he said.

“We do not know how many people [civil servants] we will need to send. This will be determined as we finalize plans. The more comfortable people [Syrians] are in their homeland, the more pressure is taken off Turkey," the defense minister added.

 

Khamenei hosts memorial ceremony for Rafsanjani

Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is today hosting a memorial for late two-time President Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. The ceremony is attended by the public as well as members of Rafsanjani's family and top officials including the heads of the three branches of power. Rafsanjani passed away on Jan. 8 and was buried at the mausoleum of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini on Jan. 10.

 

THE WASHINGTON CONNECTION


Pentagon says US troops will be needed in Iraq after Mosul falls

Speaking at a  press briefing Tuesday, US Defense Secretary Ash Carter indicated that Washington could leave a residual military force in Iraq after the Islamic State is fully ousted from Mosul. Carter said US officials are discussing the issue with Baghdad, which would need to give approval.

“It'll take some time to consolidate Iraqi security, even after the fall of Mosul, which will occur — like the defeat of [IS] will occur," Carted said. “But there will be other cities and towns in Iraq where the government's control will need to be secured. And there will be an [IS] tendency to go underground and to go to more isolated regions and continue to try to mount operations, and that'll require a sustained effort. And I think the United States and the international coalition, everybody's realistic about that."

 

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