ISW Daily Update March 14, 2017

These are the major events from March 14, 2017 in the theaters and from the trans-national groups that ISW monitors: Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Egypt, Russia, Ukraine, and ISIS.

SYRIA: Conditions on the ground are not set for a political solution to the Syrian Civil War despite diplomatic efforts by regional powers. The third round of Astana Talks brokered by Russia, Iran, and Turkey opened on March 14 despite a boycott by the opposition delegation. The opposition accused Russia of failing to implement a promised nationwide ceasefire while the regime blamed Turkey for failing to secure the opposition's attendance. The Syrian Civil War will further protract to the continued benefit of al Qaeda in Syria. Meanwhile, Russia began the expansion of its naval base at Tartus on the Syrian Coast.


IRAQ: Human Rights Watch accused the Iraqi Interior Ministry of holding displaced Sunni residents of Mosul in inhumane conditions. Improper treatment of Sunni displaced persons exacerbates locals’ mistrust of the Iraqi government and generates resentment that ISIS and Sunni insurgent groups can exploit to maintain safehaven. Repeated abuses against Mosul residents by Iraqi Shi’a militias, Peshmerga, tribal fighters, and government security forces threaten to undermine security in Ninewa Province and the long-term success of the anti-ISIS campaign. 


AFG: China declared support for the accession of Pakistan and India into the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). China seeks to further the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which provides China access to the Gwadar Port in Pakistan, and to move India away from US influence. Composed of Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, the SCO has increased security and economic cooperation in a regional Eurasian bloc to counter NATO and the EU; and furthered China’s One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative, intended to lessen Chinese dependence on its eastern ports and the ability of the U.S. to block its trade routes.


EGY:  Russia deployed Special Forces and drones to the Egyptian Sidi Barrani airbase on Egypt's border with Libya. Russia will likely send these forces into Libya to support Libyan military commander General Khalifa Haftar. Russian military aircraft previously flew six military units to an Egyptian base in Marsa Matrouh in early February 2017, before it continued to Libya ten days later. Russia intends to establish permanent bases in Egypt and Libya to expand its position in the eastern Mediterranean and deny access to the U.S.


RUS/UKR:  The government of Ukraine took steps to diffuse illegal activist-led blockades of coal and other goods from separatist-controlled territory in Donbas. Ukrainian police temporarily detained numerous participants in the blockade in a show of force while Ukrainian President Poroshenko promised that Ukraine would not trade with separatist-controlled enterprises, a key activist demand. Ukrainian and Russian leadership repeatedly condemned the blockade, which threatens both Ukraine's coal supply and a primary source of income for Russian-backed separatists. The illegal blockade undermines the Ukrainian government's legitimacy as by allowing non-state actors to set security-related policy without authorization from Kyiv.