Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Sitrep - 9 Sept, 2015

This week US President Barack Obama scored two major victories in his attempt to secure an Iran nuclear deal. A sufficient number of Congressmen, mostly Democratic Party, supported his plan. The deal will now move into the Republican-dominated House, but is likely to pass into force.

The political split on Iran reflects a much deeper battle for influence between Foggy Bottom (US State Dept) and Arlington (Dept of Defense). The two factions of the US government see Mr Obama’s attempts to finalise the Iran nuclear threat very differently.

In Africa, the US reported it will open a diplomatic mission to Somalia, based from its Nairobi embassy. The decision reflects the decreasing capabilities of militant group al Shabaab and the success of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).

AMISOM has chipped away at al Shabaab’s control of Somalia over the years, starting a fresh offensive in July which already appears to have early success. Two men were arrested this week in Kenya this week carrying explosives, potentially linked to the militant group. Nevertheless, al Shabaab is struggling to sustain its control of the broken country.

Further north, an undersea natural gas field – potentially the largest in the Mediterranean – has been discovered in Egyptian waters. Italian energy firm ENI says it could come online in 2017.

Egypt has weathered high energy demands and low production for years, forcing the military government to decrease energy subsidies in 2013. The new gas field could offer the country greater revenue, but will also change its relationship with Israel and potentially the wider region.

In Syria, the UK conducted its first unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) attack on a British citizen fighting for militant group Islamic State (IS). The strike was reportedly conducted near the IS pseudo-capital Raqqah in Syria.

The missile attack highlights the reach of Western governments, the ability to attain exquisite intelligence on militant movements, lack of alternative interdiction options, the growing capability of IS militants in Syria and the incredible utility of UAVs in modern combat operations.

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