TURKEY/ISIS – Turkish police have detained 445 people suspected of links to ISIS during raids carried out all over the country. Most of those held are said to be foreigners. 60 of the arrests were in Ankara.
RAQAA/ISIS – The US backed and Kurdish dominated Syrian Democratic Forces have begun the 3rd phase of the assault on the Islamic State held city of Raqqa in Syria. The SDF intends to cut a main highway leading to Iraq which is used by ISIS for supplies. The operation to take the city is now in its 4th month. The SDF is a co-alition of Sunni Arab, Kurdish and Syrian Christian militia. It is advised by US and French special forces personnel
BAHRAIN/BOMB – A bomb exploded on a main road in the suburbs of Manama yesterday. No injuries were reported but several cars were damaged. The explosion may be linked to the execution of 3 Shia Muslim men convicted of killing 3 policemen in 2014. The Shia are the majority in Bahrain but the country is dominated by the Sunni.
The UK’s Brexit bill goes to the committee stage today in which MPs can debate amendments to it. On Weds they vote on it again and it is likely to be passed to go to the Lords. If the Lords amend it, it goes back to the MPs in a process known as ‘ping-pong’ until the text is agreed. Therefore, it is possible that the Bill will have fully approved and sent to the Queen for royal assent at which point it becomes law. If that is the case, then PM May could use the EU Summit in Brussels on Thurs/Fri to formally trigger Article 50 and start the two-year countdown for leaving.
The big international meeting is that between Japanese PM Shinzo Abe and President Trump in the USA on Friday and Saturday. Mr Abe will warn Mr Trump about the dangers of engaging China in a trade war. To put the American in the right frame of mind he’s bringing with him a huge investment plan which could create hundreds of thousands of jobs in the USA.
The visit to Israel of the Turkish Culture and Tourism Minister this week tells us how advanced is the reconciliation between the two countries. Last week the Israelis were in Ankara, now the Minister will attend a Tel Aviv tourism exhibition before going on to Ramallah.
Feb 6 – Iran, Turkey, and Russia meet again to discuss Syrian peace talks ahead of a bigger UN meeting in Geneva on the 20th.
Feb 6 – After last week’s British vote to invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty to leave the EU the legislation goes into committee stage.
Feb 6 – Israeli PM Netanyahu expected in London for talks with PM May.
Feb 6/9 – S Korean President Park Geun Hye to be questioned by prosecutors.
Feb 7/8 – Turkish Minister of Culture and Tourism Nabi Avci in Israel.
Feb 7 – Angela Merkel in Poland to see PM Beata Szydlo. EU and NATO top agenda.
Feb 8 – S African President Zuma gives annual State of the Nation address. Should be fun as the previous two times he’s been heckled and people have walked out. He stands down as head of ANC this year and is increasingly unpopular.
Feb 10 – President Putin hosts his Slovenian counterpart Borut Pahor in Moscow. The charm offensive to get sanctions lifted continues apace.
Feb 10 – Japanese PM Shinzo Abe in Washington to see President Trump. Abe was the first foreign leader to meet Trump when he was president-elect.
Feb 12 – World Marriage Day. Don’t forget.