ISW Daily Update March 15, 2017

 These are the major events from March 15, 2017 in the theaters and from the trans-national groups that ISW monitors: Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Egypt, Russia, Ukraine, and ISIS.

AFG: The government of Afghanistan expressed support for a Russian-brokered peace settlement with the Taliban. The Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs approved Russian contact with Taliban militants to promote peace talks, about a month after Afghan Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow. President Ashraf Ghani previously criticized Russian outreach to Taliban militants. Russia will use this enhanced leverage to undermine U.S. and NATO influence and objectives in Afghanistan. 

EGYPT: Saudi Arabia has agreed to resume shipments of oil supplies to Egypt. Saudi Arabia halted shipments to Cairo in OCT 2016 after Egypt voted against Saudi Arabia on a security council resolution regarding Syria.  The resumption of oil shipments is a continuation of efforts to ease tensions, following Egypt’s movement to validate the sale of red sea islands to Saudi Arabia, per a longstanding agreement. Egypt and Saudi relations will likely remain strained, as the rapprochement will not halt Egypt’s quest to revive its status in the region at Saudi’s expense.

RUS/UKR: The Ukrainian government took steps to increase economic pressure on Russian backed separatists and de-escalate rising tensions with pro-Ukraine activists conducting an illegal blockade of separatist territory. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko announced an official economic blockade of occupied-Donbas. This official blockade will likely accelerate economic pressure on Russian-backed separatists, who rely heavily on trade with Ukraine, and force Russia to provide increased levels of economic support to its proxies in order to maintain the conflict. Russian-backed separatists may use this blockade as justification for increased offensive activity.