Xpat Weekly Update: The 5 Most Important Global Stories Of The Week

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1. China Deepens Its Footprint in Iran After Lifting of Sanctions

With the lifting of most US/UN/EU economic sanctions on Iran following the landmark nuclear accord implementation, businesses are moving into Iran hoping to get in on the ground floor of what many see as a vast, untapped market. One nation, however, has been a presence in Iran for some time, and seeks to expand on its headstart.

“Westerners visiting the capital often wonder how we managed to pull off such ambitious projects during the heaviest sanction regime in history,” said Iran’s World Trade Center representative. “Well, we did it with the help of our Chinese friends.”

Thirst for cheap oil and enthusiasm for the Silk Road project, which seeks to unlock China’s isolated western provinces, brought the Chinese to Iran over two decades ago. They plan to stay: on Saturday both countries agreed to increase trade to $600 billion in the coming decade.

New York Times

2. U.S. May Keep Troops in Afghanistan for Decades

After coming into office promising to end America’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, President Barack Obama will leave eight years later having accomplished neither task. After overseeing an “end” to what some now call Iraq War 2.0 in 2011, Obama reinserted American forces back into that country in 2014 for Iraq War 3.0.

Now, in Afghanistan, conditions are such that top U.S. military commanders, who only a few months ago were planning to pull the last American troops out of Afghanistan by year’s end, are now discussing a commitment that could keep thousands of troops in the country for decades, an “enduring presence.” Much of the impetus behind the change in policy is tied to Iraq; fears of a Taliban resurgence following an American withdrawal, as with ISIS in Iraq, frighten policy makers in Washington.

Washington Post

3. U.S. Considering Fresh Military Action in Libya Over ISIS Threat

The 2011 U.S. military intervention in Libya, championed in large part by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, replaced dictator Muammar Qaddafi with a failed state. A limited national government now watches over territory controlled in reality by various militias. The net result of such chaos has been the emergence of a powerful ISIS presence in an area once off limits to them.

The Pentagon is thus considering fresh military action in Libya to stop Islamic State from gaining ground in another oil-rich Mideast nation. Any new steps, such as resuming airstrikes, will represent an overt escalation to the understood covert efforts inside Libya by American special forces and CIA paramilitaries to identify local allies to work with, for what a senior military officer has envisioned as a “decisive” confrontation with ISIS.

The Guardian

4. U.S. Sets Up Airbase Inside Syria

Despite ongoing claims to not commit American “boots on the ground” in the Syria-Iraq war, U.S. troops have seized the Rmeilan airfield in Syria’s northern province, not far from the Turkish border.

The airfield will become the first U.S.-controlled airbase in Syria. “Under a deal with the YPG, the U.S. was given control of the airport. The purpose of this deal is to provide weapons and an airbase for U.S. warplanes,” one source told Al Jazeera.

Such a base inside Syria borders will allow the U.S. to employ attack helicopters, and launch search and rescue missions in support of special operations forces, on short notice. Unlike bases in Turkey and Iraq, no host country government approvals/consultations are needed.

Al Jazeera

5. UK Minister Dismisses UN Report On Human Rights Violations in Yemen

The UK’s Middle East minister has accused politicians of basing their criticism of UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia on “hearsay and photographs.” Tobias Ellwood, a member of the ruling Conservative Party, was responding to questions over the use of UK-made weapons in the Saudi-led bombing of Yemen, which has left tens of thousands dead and millions displaced.

A leaked report, prepared by the UN, found that 119 sorties carried out by the Saudi-led coalition violated international humanitarian law. Ellwood confirmed the government is aware that UK-made equipment is being used in the Yemen campaign, but insisted that concerns be seen in the context of thousands of sorties that have been carried out since the Saudi bombing began in March 2015.

Middle East Eye

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