The POMED Wire

Turkey Begins Airstrike Campaign, Motives Questioned

Photo Credit: Nath Paresh

On July 20th, a suicide bombing killed over 30 people in the town of Suruc, a mainly Kurdish town, where a group of youth activists were meeting before traveling to Syria to help rebuild the town Kobani. The attack spurred violent clashes in major Turkish cities as protesters accused the government of complacency in combating the threat of the Islamic State. Kurdish PKK militants claimed responsibility for the killing of two Turkish police officers in retaliation for the bombing, accusing the government of “collaboration” with the Islamic State.

In  the wake of these attacks, President Barack Obama and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan agreed to collaborate to “stem the flow of foreign fighters and secure Turkey’s border with Syria.” This cooperation manifested in the announcement of an agreement to allow U.S. warplanes to carry out aerial attacks on the Islamic State from airbases at Incirlik and Diyarbakir. There are also reports that Turkey and the United States have agreed to create a “safe zone” in northwest Syria, though U.S. officials have been reluctant to confirm, stating the two governments are still discussing how such a zone would be operated and secured. U.S. officials acknowledged the agreement …

Highlights of the 2014 State Dept. Human Rights Report on Syria

The State Department released its 2014 Human Rights Report for Syria, which noted that the majority of the country’s  human rights violations were committed by President Bashar al-Assad in response to “major political conflict” within the country. The Assad regime used “deadly military force” against civilians throughout the country to end peaceful protests calling for political reform and democracy. Air and ground-based military assaults ordered by Assad targeted  cities, residential areas, and civilian infrastructure. The most common attacks were on schools, hospitals, houses, and places of worship. Opposition groups have gained control over different parts of the country, with the most notable terrorist organization in power being the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). More than 200,000 people have died and 3.2 million Syrians have registered as refugees as a result of the current civil war.

Use of excessive force by opposition groups increased significantly. Use of lethal tactics and killings by the Assad regime also increased throughout the year. 32,507 people, including 3,629 children and 131 medical professionals were killed as a result of the government’s increasing attacks on opposition-ruled areas of the country. Despite the UN Security Council calling on the Assad regime to end the …

Inspector General Releases Report on U.S. Embassy in Tunis

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Photo credit: U.S Department of State

On July 16, the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) of the Department of State released the findings of its inspection of the U.S. Embassy in Tunis, conducted from February 17 to March 12, 2015. The report concludes that the embassy’s leadership and institutional processes have hindered its efficiency and productivity. The OIG makes a total of 33 recommendations to Embassy Tunis and various bureaus of the Department of State.

The OIG report begins with an evaluation of the embassy’s leadership. Based in part on OIG-administered questionnaires given to Embassy staff, the report concludes that “the Ambassador has advanced U.S. national interests in Tunisia,” but that his “communication, coordination, feedback, and interpersonal behaviors, as well as his intolerance for dissenting views on policy and management issues, had contributed to low morale.” Furthermore, the report cites “the Ambassador’s failure to involve senior embassy staff members in decision-making processes” as damaging to interagency coordination. It also goes on to  criticize the deputy chief of mission, concluding that her “unwillingness to consider dissenting or alternative views and her inability to provide explanations or feedback for the decisions and instructions she relays to staff from the Ambassador were …

Yemen’s Exiled VP Announces “Liberation” of Aden

Photo Credit: Saleh Al-Obeid, AFP

Yemen’s exiled vice president Khaled Bahah announced on his Facebook page today “the liberation of the province of Aden,” after an offensive by pro-government forces to drive Houthi rebels out of the southern province began earlier this week. Several ministers and intelligence officials from the exiled government of President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi have since returned to the country from exile in Riyadh, “with instructions to prepare for the government’s return.” This government victory marks a turning point in the country’s civil war, where “battle lines seldom changed but more than 3,500 people have been killed and a million displaced.” However, a spokesperson for Houthi forces told Al-Jazeera that the Hadi government is exaggerating their victory, stating that “fighting is still raging at high intensity,” and asserting “we will not give up until we liberate Aden inch by inch from the invading powers.”

According to local residents, pro-government forces had support launching “Operation Golden Arrow” to retake Aden from Saudi Arabia, special forces from the United Arab Emirates, and al Qaeda militants. Western officials are reportedly concerned that al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) is “exploiting the chaos to expand across Yemen,” and the pro-government …

Arab World and Turkey React to Iran Nuclear Deal

Photo credit: AP

Government officials across the Arab world and Turkey responded to the nuclear deal reached between Iran and the P5+1 on Tuesday. While official reactions generally praised the deal, many qualified their comments with a sense of hesitation.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry said that the deal would bolster regional peace and stability, while  the Finance Minister called the deal “great news” for the country’s economy. Even so, Turkey also hopes Tehran will change its policies towards Syria and Yemen. The Palestinian response was positive, although an official in Ramallah said that the Palestinian leadership now expects the international community to devote similar attention to the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In Lebanon, officials seemed hopeful that the deal would promote peace in the conflict-ridden region, and the Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar ran a headline in Farsi that read “Yes We Can.” Iraqi officials also welcomed the deal; Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi lauded the deal as an expression of “a common will to bring peace and security to our region.” The most controversial response from the Levant came from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who praised the deal and expressed his expectation that Iran would increase its support of “just causes.” “We …

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