MOSUL/BRIDGES – Iraqi forces have advanced towards a bridge in Mosul which crosses the Tigris River.  All 5 bridges across the river have been damaged but the Iraqi army hopes to repair the one ahead of them in order to allow re-supply directly from the eastern side of the the city which they now control.

MOSUL/USA – American military advisors have been authorized to directly call in air strikes against ISIS targets in Mosul. This suggests a lowered threshold for air strikes which may have come from the U.S. Defense Dept or even the White House.

NEMTSOV/MOSCOW – Remember Boris Nemtsov? Thousands of Russians marched in memory of the murdered political reformer last night – the 2nd anniversary of his killing. Nemtsov was a deputy prime minister in the Yeltsin years. He was a fierce critic of President Putin.

TURKEY/CONSTITUTION – The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has begun its campaign in support of changing the constitution in a referendum on April 16th.  A ‘yes’ vote will mean a far more powerful President, but reduced powers for Parliament.

ARMENIA/AZERBAIJAN – Armenian troops and Karabakh separatist forces have clashed with the Azerbaijan military in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh area. 5 Azerbaijan soldiers were reported to have been killed.

COMING UP

The big set piece event of the week is probably President Trump’s address to a Joint Session of Congress tomorrow. To watch for – changes to Obamacare, tax reforms, details on border tariffs, and any other grenades he might throw in. This week is also when we should learn more details about Trump’s plan to ‘destroy’ ISIS.  Senior Pentagon staff were in Iraq last week finalizing plans. Drafts of the proposals are said to include more U.S ground troops in Syria to support the U.S. Special Forces already operating there.

Also in Washington this week, for several days, is the Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry. He’s seeing Sec of State Rex Tillerson, among others. The trip is ahead of the official visit by President Sisi in March.  The U.S is considering putting the Muslim Brotherhood on its list of designated terrorist organizations.  If it does, there may be ramifications further afield, for example on the UK government’s attitude towards the Brotherhood.

DIARY

Feb 27 – US, S Korean, and Japanese officials meet in Washington to coordinate policies toward N Korea following recent missile tests.

Feb 27/28President Putin begins visit to Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan

Feb 28th – President Trump gives his 1st address to a joint session of Congress.

Feb 28thJapan’s Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko make 1st overseas trip in a year – visiting Vietnam and Thailand. To 5th March.

Mar 1st – Saudi’s King Salman begins a lengthy visit to Indonesia.  1st Saudi royal visit in 50 years to the world’s largest Muslim country. Entourage of 1,500 going with him.

Mar 1st – Disarmng of FARC rebels in Colombia due to begin.

Mar 1st – Deadline for Defense Sec James Mattis to present his preliminary plan to defeat ISIS.

Mar 1st – Same sex marriage becomes legal in Finland.

Mar 1st – World Compliment Day. Just for you, you charming, sexy, beast you.

Mar 2nd Russia and Iran expected to sign deal for Iran to supply Russia with 100,000 barrels of oil a day.

 

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