By Tim Marshall.
Only the fourth week of 2016 and already the 6th ‘Lost’ of the year. There’s a lot going on under the radar. Herewith latest roundup of stories which may have been lost in the maelstrom of the news cycle.
SYRIA/KURDS – Agency reports suggest that Syrian Kurdish forces are planning a major attack to seize a 60-mile stretch of the Syria/Turkey border currently held by ISIS. If suucesful it could lead to Kurdish forces facing off against the Turkish military across the border. Ankara has warned the Kurds not to cross to the west of the Euphrates River. There are reports that Russian military may help the Kurds with the offensive.
IRAN/FATALITIES – Iranian media reports another 12 of its fighters killed in action in Syria. 8 were Pakistani and Afghan fighters belonging to ‘Brigades’ attached to the Revolutionary Guard. 2 were Revolutionary Guard members. The other two were a ‘volunteer’ and a member of the Iranian Basij militia.
SAUDI/MOSQUE ATTACK – A gunman shot several worhsippers dead at a Shiite mosque in the town of Mahasen in the oil rich Eastern Province on Friday. Local reports say worshippers prevented the attacker from detonating a suicide belt. He was then arrested.
LAOS/USA – The communist government of Laos has, according to the AP, assured the USA that it will help America in countering Chinese ‘assertiveness’ in the South China Sea. This year Laos is the chair of the Association of
Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) which has been invited to a summit with President Obama in California next month.
CHINA/SPACE WARS – According to ‘Popular Science’ magazine China is preparing to launch a satellite carrying the world’s most advanced hyperspectral imaging camera. The devices can simultaneously view hundreds of electromagnetic bands from which a single image can be built – thus giving ‘sight’ of objects such as a stealth bomber, or something hidden underground.
THAILAND/ELECTIONS – The military led government in Bangkok has promised that Thailand will hold elections next year.
MALAYSIA/CORRUPTION – The Attorney General has ruled that because the $681 million paid into the private bank account of PM Najib Razak was a gift from the Saudi royal family, therefore corruption had not taken place as there was no crime committed.
RUSSIA/TURKEY – Russia’s state-owned Gazprom has cancelled a 10.25 percent discount on natural gas for 6 Turkish companies only a year after they came into effect. Turkey imports at least 60% of its gas from Russia and the move appears to be part of the hostile relations between the two since the downing of a Russian fighter jet late last year.
FRANCE/RESIGNATION – Justice Minister Christiane Taubira has resigned in protest at the the government’s proposal to strip French nationality from citizens convicted of terrorism-related crimes
ISIS/VIDEO – A new ISIS video featured the 9 IS members who carried out the Paris attacks. It took its title from a passage in the Koran – “Kill Then wherever yoU find Them” Several men stressed that the Paris attacks were carried out on the orders of Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi.
PALESTINE/VIDEO – In a similar vein the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem issued a video featuring its cleric Sheik Abu Taqi Al-Dari who assured worshippers that God wants Islam to conquer ‘Rome, Washington, and Paris’ and the world. He also said that non Muslim countries should be annexed, and non Muslims people who did not accept Islamic rule must pay the ‘jizya’ tax. He seemed very keen on purifying the land ‘from the filth of polytheism’. You can see his remarks here – http://www.memritv.org/clip/en/5269.htm