Western interventions in the Middle East failed – French PM

Entire cities have been destroyed by seven years of intense warfare in Syria [Xinhua]

French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe has called the West’s method of democratization by force a mistake and said that change must happen over time.

“Military interventions like we have seen in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya to impose democracy through fire failed to achieve their objectives,” Philippe said at the opening of the 2018 World Government Summit in Dubai.

Philippe’s comments are poignant because they fall within the scope of the Summit’s theme – Shaping Future Governments – and come at a time when Syria, Iraq and Libya appearing to be crumbling states after US-led coalition invasions and regime change.

More than a third of Iraq was controlled by terrorist forces like the Islamic State while dozens of militias impose their style of rule today with a weakened central government.

In Libya, different factions backed by different regional states continue to war over control of the country and its vast resources.

In Syria, while the Islamic State has been largely defeated new conflict has arisen with regional players like Turkey and Iran taking military action to protect their interests.

In just these three conflict zones, hundreds of thousands of people have been killed and there has been an exodus of millions of refugees to Europe and neighboring Middle Eastern countries.

Philippe said that democratization cannot be exported. He pointed to the examples of European states which took centuries to progress toward democracy and libertarianism.

The BRICS Post with inputs from Agencies

Assad tells Putin: Ready to move with political process in Syria

Al Assad meets with Putin in Sochi, Russia on Tuesday November 21, 2017 [PPIO]

Russian President Vladimir Putin will call his American counterpart after Syrian President Bashar Al Assad concludes his trip to the Russian port city of Sochi.

“Already a talk is planned with the emir of Qatar and tomorrow—with the President of the U.S. Donald Trump, while afterwards (I will speak) with leaders from countries in the region,” a statement from the Kremlin quoted Putin on Tuesday.

In addition to President Donald Trump, Putin is expected to call the Qatari Emir to discuss resolving the Syrian civil war.

Al Assad had arrived in an unannounced visit to Sochi on Tuesday to coordinate peace initiatives ahead of an expected summit involving Iran, Russia and Turkey in the same port city.

The Syrian State news agency SANA quoted Al Assad as saying that “Russia’s military and economic support to Syria has achieved important results in various fields, such as humanitarian relief and military gains”.

“We still have a long way to go before we achieve a complete victory over terrorists. But as far as our joint work in fighting terrorism on the territory of Syria is concerned, this military operation is indeed wrapping up,” Putin told Al Assad, according to the Kremlin.

SANA said that Al Assad informed Putin that he was ready to move forward with a political process which will put an end to the Syrian civil war.

“We believe that the situation we now have on the ground and in the political sense permits us to expect progress in the political process. We count on the support of Russia to ensure the non-interference of outside players in the political process,” Al Assad said.

Syria has in the past year gained the upper hand against Islamist extremist rebel groups, such as Al Nusra and the Islamic State, largely thanks to Russian air support.

Read more: Alliances Shift in the Middle East as all Roads Lead to Moscow
Russia: Islamic State Routed in Syria

The BRICS Post with inputs from Agencies

Russia: Islamic State routed in Syria

The Syrian army said its soldiers have surrounded Islamic State elements in Deir e Zor along the eastern border with Iraq [Xinhua]

The Russian military says that the Islamic State in Syria has been nearly routed even as the Syrian Arab Army announces that it has retaken yet more territory from the extremist group.

On Tuesday the Syrian Army’s 4th Mechanized Division said it had liberated east Hama city and destroyed the Islamic State’s largest training facility there.

The Syrian Army is now fighting its way into Deir e Zor in the east along the border with Iraq, backed by Russian fighter jets and bombers.

This follows the liberation of the town of Mayadeen, also in the east, from the Islamic State.

Sergei Rudskoi, chief of the Main Operational Directorate of the Russian Armed Forces General Staff, says that the Islamic State now controls less than eight per cent of Syrian territory.

Meanwhile, US-backed rebel group the Syrian Democratic Forces, comprised mostly of Kurdish militia, said it had fully liberated the city of Raqqa from Islamic State fighters.

Raqqa had been the self-styled capital of the Islamic State caliphate for the last three years.

The BRICS Post with inputs from Agencies

Syrian Army declares ceasefire near Lebanon border

The Syrian army is pushing ahead as it begins liberating major parts of rebel-held territory near the Lebanese border [Xinhua]

Syria’s national army declared a ceasefire in the Qalamoun district near the border with Lebanon on Sunday following a number of rapid advances into Islamic State-held territory.

The Syrian army and its Hezbollah affiliate militias have for weeks been engaged in an offensive in this mountainous area of the border.

In the meantime, the Lebanese army has also been defeating IS forces on its side of the border near the town of Ras Baalbak.

This came following the Lebanese Army’s entry into Arsal, a small town on the Lebanese side of the border just south of Ras Baalbak, which had previously been occupied by Islamist rebels – Tahrir a Sham, believed affiliated with IS.

Hezbollah had on July 27 routed Tahrir a Sham in Arsal leading to a ceasefire agreement to have the rebel fighters vacated to the Syrian province of Idlib, now considered the last bastion of anti-government forces.

Hezbollah also carried out an exchange of prisoners with Tahrir a Sham.

Lebanese military sources say they will use Sunday’s break in fighting to find out what happened to their officers who were overrun in Arsal and by IS in 2014 and 2015. In the meantime, they have forced hundreds of Syrian refugees in Arsal back across the border to Syrian territory.

Prisoner exchanges, surrender and relocation of Islamist extremist rebels in exchange for civilians, and the establishment of safe zones have markedly increased in the past 10 months since the Syrian Army routed IS and affiliate forces in the strategic town of Aleppo.

In May, Iran, Russia and Turkey signed the Memorandum of De-Escalation in Astana, Kazakhstan for establishing four safe zones including the Idlib province and some neighboring territories (Latakia, Hama and Aleppo) to the north of Homs, East Ghouta and some provinces in southern Syria (Daraa and Quneitra).

The BRICS Post with inputs from Agencies

Cholera outbreak kills scores in Yemen

Medical sources say that 115 people have died of cholera in the past two weeks, while thousands of children have been killed in the nearly two year conflict [Xinhua]

A cholera outbreak is sweeping through the Yemeni capital Sanaa, the Ministry of Health reported late Sunday.

“This declaration came after the cholera epidemic spreads across the capital’s districts and neighborhoods,” the health ministry said, adding that 115 people had died of the epidemic in the past two weeks alone with an additional 2,567 already infected.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has confirmed the outbreak saying that there are nearly 9,000 suspected cholera cases in the same period.

Yemen’s health system, already battered by two years of civil war, is unable to cope with this latest crisis.

The debilitated health sector has left hundreds of thousands of children at risk of starvation and death. More than 350,000 children are at risk of starvation in Yemen, with some 7 million of the population lacking basic services and health care.

“The conflict has taken a very serious toll on the water supply, the health system, the sanitation system as well as the economy and that all are about to collapse,” said ICRC Operations Director Dominik Stillhart at a press conference in Sanaa.

Debilitating civil war

In January 2015, the Houthis – who are a Shia socio-political movement – seized the presidential palace and forced then leader Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi to resign. They have since sought to consolidate their hold on the country.

Hadi, who was placed under house arrest, eventually escaped and fled to Aden, the former capital of South Yemen.

He then declared Aden the new temporary capital of the entire country, but the Houthis pursued him there and captured that city as well.

The fall of Aden prompted the Saudis and some of their allies to mount military operations to rout out the Houthis, who they accuse of acting as Iranian proxies.

The fight between the Houthis and the government, which was formed in November 2014, has created a security and political vacuum that has been used by Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, as well as the more militant ISIL, to grow their strength and influence.

It also terminated a Yemeni military campaign, which was beginning to bear fruit, against AQAP.

The Sunni AQAP say they are sworn enemies of the Shia Houthis – both groups have clashed several times in the past year.

Government forces recaptured the city of Aden in August 2015; some government officials soon returned there to administer rebuilding the war-battered country.

The capital of Yemen was then relocated to Aden as Houthi rebels continue to hold Sanaa as their main base of operations.

Yemeni Prime Minister Ahmed Obeid Bin Daghr and seven ministers from his cabinet arrived in the country’s temporary capital of Aden in September, asserting that their return was “final”.

Their arrival comes amid a pan-Arab effort to strengthen the government’s hold on provinces in the south of the country.

But Pan-Arab efforts to dislodge the Houthis from Sanaa have so far failed.

The BRICS Post with inputs from Agencies