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"Russia gives Turkey one last month for solution in Syria"

Mit der jüngsten Einigung zur Einrichtung einer Pufferzone in Idlib habe Russland der Türkei praktisch einen Monat Zeit gegeben, um die radikalen Gruppen in der syrischen Provinz davon zu überzeugen, den Bedingungen der demilitarisierten Zone zuzustimmen und ihre schweren Waffen abzugeben, schreibt Metin Gurcan. Nach dieser Frist könnte demnach eine von Ankara unterstützte russische Kampagne zur Bekämpfung der Gruppen beginnen, die sich diesen Bedingungen widersetzen. "It will be interesting to see how Ankara tries to persuade Idlib radical groups — above all, HTS — to get on board with the Putin-Erdogan agreement. It appears Ankara has offered these options: - If they want to remain in Idlib they will give up their guns and demobilize. - If they don’t want to give up their guns, they will have to leave Idlib. - Those who refuse to give up their guns but still want to remain will then be expected to join the National Liberation Front, fully supported by Turkey in the Jarablus/al-Rai/al-Bab triangle. If there are groups that reject all options, Ankara will then be expected to provide Russia with intelligence and logistics to conduct targeted operations against them. It's now understood that the Idlib operation, instead of being a high-paced, short-term operation, will drag on for eight to 10 months at a low tempo with occasional targeted attacks while negotiations continue."

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"What Putin-Erdogan deal means for Idlib"

Maxim A. Suchkov berichtet über Einzelheiten und mögliche Konsequenzen der Einigung zwischen Präsident Putin und Präsident Erdogan über die Einrichtung einer Pufferzone in der syrischen Idlib-Provinz. "The deal, however, if it indeed can be branded as such, is a significant but just initial serious step in settling the complex matter Idlib has grown into over the last few years. The juice is definitely worth the squeeze here but multiple challenges — military and diplomatic alike — remain. Most important is the question as to how long Moscow can be successful in continuing to restrain President Assad’s attempt to extend his government's control over the territory and whether Ankara delivers on its own commitments that are many, fine and security-sensitive. Finally, there are questions over how politically and militarily 'surgical' both will get trying to separate the 'moderate wheat' from the 'radical chaff' without endangering Syria’s security in the long run, by trying to assimilate the latter into the former, but also without hurting the civilians in the immediate term."

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"Iran eyes major role in post-war Syria via reconstruction"

Iran will seinen Einfluss in Syrien durch eine führende Rolle beim Wiederaufbau des Landes sichern, schreibt Hamidreza Azizi. Dabei verfolge Teheran mit dem Rekonstruktionsprojekt konkrete wirtschaftliche, geopolitische und militärische Ziele. "Economically, it's closely linked to Iran’s plans to overcome the negative effects of the US sanctions that were re-imposed after President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the 2015 nuclear deal. (...) Syria’s reconstruction could provide the Iranian private sector and particularly SMEs with an opportunity not only to get involved in profitable business activity abroad, but also to make new connections with other international firms that may take part in that process. (...) On the geopolitical level, Iran seems to be trying to build upon its influence in Iraq and Syria and its close ties with China to introduce itself as a key component of China’s BRI, providing an alternative route for Beijing to establish a land corridor connecting Asia to the Mediterranean and further to western Europe. (...) As for the military aspect of Iran’s reconstruction plans for Syria, Iran seeks to preserve its military influence without perpetuating its direct military presence in the country, as doing so would prompt a backlash not only from the United States and Israel, but probably also from Iran’s close wartime ally Russia."

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"Why did Putin disregard his Turkish partner?"

Der Türkei ist es bei den Gesprächen mit Russland und Iran in Teheran nicht gelungen, die erwartete Offensive gegen die Rebellenhochburg Idlib in Syrien zu verhindern. Nach Ansicht von Cengiz Candar bestätigt dies den Eindruck der derzeitigen internationalen Isolation des Landes. Nun müsse sich Ankara auf eine neue Flüchtlingswelle und eine Konfrontation mit der dschihadistischen Rebellengruppe Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) einstellen. "The best Putin could do for Erdogan after the Tehran summit was to direct the offensive to Idlib in stages, so his Turkish partner could gain a little more time. However, even for that, the difficulty lies in the area where Hayat Tahrir al-Sham is concentrated. The jihadi organization, with its 10,000 or more fighters, holds ground adjacent to the Turkish border from Jisr al-Shughour to the Bab al-Hawa crossing point between Syria and Turkey. It extends for 35 kilometers (21 miles) and controls the passage of humanitarian aid crossing Turkey and reaching into Idlib. As long as the Syrian regime and its main Russian and Iranian allies are adamant about removing the jihadi element from Idlib, there are the following hard realities: Russia and Iran will impose the Assad regime's control on borders, including Idlib's border with Turkey. This cannot be realized unless Hayat Tahrir al-Sham is removed from Idlib. Refugees will flee toward Turkey, and so will jihadis; a humanitarian disaster would be almost impossible to prevent."

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"Iran readjusts its Syria strategy amid Russia’s changing role"

Hamidreza Azizi von der Shahid Beheshti University in Teheran erläutert die Hintergründe der veränderten Strategie Irans in Syrien. Ein wichtiger Teil der Neuausrichtung sei der Rückzug pro-iranischer Milizen aus dem Süden des Landes. "(...) it seems that Iran itself is in a process of redefining its role in Syria, which has mostly been derived from the impression that the end of the war is close and now is a time to focus on safeguarding Iran's interests through political and diplomatic measures. In this vein, Iran is shifting its strategy from playing an active military role toward more actively participating in the diplomatic frameworks regarding Syria. (...) All in all, it could be said that the recent withdrawal of Iranian and pro-Iran forces from southern Syria has more to do with Iran updating its Syria strategy and adapting it to be in line with the new political and military developments, rather than a decision to leave Syria due to Russian or Israeli pressures."

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"Saudi Arabia’s diplomacy has costs"

Saudi-Arabien hat seit der Thronbesteigung von Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud und dem Aufstieg von Kronprinz Mohammed bin Salman eine ganze Reihe von außenpolitischen Entscheidungen getroffen, die dem Königreich nach Ansicht von Bruce Riedel geschadet haben. "With rare exceptions the Saudis have lurched from one poor decision to the next; the Canada caper is the latest. The erratic diplomacy is hurting the kingdom. The first tough decision of the new leadership is still their worst, to intervene in the Yemeni civil war. (...) The blockade of Qatar was also intended to produce a quick Saudi victory. The Qatari emir was excommunicated from Wahhabi Islam and was then to be deposed. As in Yemen, the Saudi leadership had no concept of how to implement its decision; Riyadh and its allies had a goal but no serious scheme to achieve it. (...) The Saudi decision to expel the Canadian ambassador from Riyadh, freeze trade ties and withdraw 15,000 Saudis from Canadian schools and hospitals in response to the Canadian foreign minister protesting the detention of female critics is another poor call by the Saudi leadership."

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"US hopes new sanctions fuel Iran protests"

Die US-Regierung hofft Laura Rozen zufolge, dass die neuen Sanktionen gegen den Iran die Proteste gegen das Regime weiter anfachen werden. Das Gesprächsangebot der USA erscheine unter diesen Umständen für einige Experten allerdings unglaubwürdig. "Iranian American analyst Amir Handjani also questioned whether the Trump administration would actually be willing to make a new deal with the Iranian regime it is trying to destabilize. 'There is an inherent contradiction in saying we want to sit down with the Iranians and cut a better deal with them, while at the same time encouraging more unrest and havoc inside Iran,' Handjani, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council and a member of the board of directors of RAK Petroleum, told Al-Monitor by email. 'Either it's poorly thought out diplomatic strategy at best or a disingenuous attempt for rapprochement with Tehran at worst,' Handjani said. 'It's doubtful that Rouhani will sit down with Trump unless the administration clarifies its position and then backs its rhetoric with concrete, tangible steps.'"

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"Why is Europe underplaying its hand on Iran?"

Die Bemühungen der EU, europäische Unternehmen davon zu überzeugen, trotz drohender US-Sanktionen weiter Geschäfte mit dem Iran zu machen, haben Axel Hellman zufolge bisher kaum Erfolg. Dies liege zum einen an der Machtposition der USA, zum andern aber auch an der zögerlichen Haltung der europäischen Regierungen. "Take, for instance, the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT), the messaging system that facilitates global cross-border financial transactions. (...) Come Nov. 4, the US Treasury will require the network to once again disengage Iranian banks. This would deal a severe blow to European attempts to salvage the nuclear deal. (...) Yet Europe has much more leverage to protect SWIFT than European officials appear to acknowledge. To begin with, SWIFT — which is located in Belgium — falls under European jurisdiction and, as its management has made clear, answers to European laws. (...) According to one key EU diplomat who spoke with Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity, what is striking about the looming US sanctions is that they do not even need to be enforced — the mere possibility of getting caught in the crosshairs of the US Treasury seems to be enough for businesses to stand back. Businesses, in this sense, often act on a general perception of risk, leading to over-compliance. To credibly respond to such premature moves by the private sector, European governments and the EU need a firmer posture and signaling. On this, SWIFT is case in point."

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"Syria's Idlib emerges as Achilles heel in Russia-Turkey partnership"

Die von vielen Beobachtern erwartete Offensive syrischer Regierungstruppen gegen die letzte verbliebene Rebellenprovinz Idlib würde die Allianz zwischen Russland und der Türkei ernsthaft auf die Probe stellen, schreibt Fehim Taştekin. "Another important factor is that all the anti-Russia Northern Caucasus fighters have assembled in Idlib. Russia was hoping from the outset to settle its accounts with these homegrown enemies away from home territory. (...) Turkey’s claim of sponsorship of armed groups in Idlib is forcing Ankara to choose between bad and worse options. Turkey's sponsorship aspirations in Idlib are also proving difficult to achieve due to the clandestine efforts of the Islamic State to find openings for its affiliates in Idlib; the growing strength of al-Qaeda-associated groups; and escalating clashes between all these factions. (...) The current rulers of Idlib are among the most irreconcilable and fanatic factions of the war, making the likelihood of an operation a strong possibility."

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"Russia zeroes in on returning Christians to Syrian homes"

Russland will den Westen Anton Mardasov zufolge durch einen verstärkten Fokus auf die Rückkehr christlicher Flüchtlinge zur Kooperation beim Wiederaufbau Syriens bewegen. "Russia and the West are already coordinating their efforts to return refugees home and even to start the reconstruction process. For instance, the Russian Orthodox Church and Roman Catholics are restoring Christian churches and monasteries across the country. (...) Up to a point, Moscow has touted the idea of protecting Christians for domestic consumption. Christianity is the largest religion in the country; as much as 75% of the population identify as Christian, mainly Russian Orthodox. Yet once it became clear that the course of the war had tilted toward the Assad regime, Russia began actively voicing the importance of protecting Christians in its foreign relations. (...) Damascus, which publicly guarantees the rights of Christians and other religious minorities, is likely to start relying on the refugee factor more intensively. As for the countries hosting Syrian refugees, Assad will probably push for their participation in the reconstruction. However, it's still not clear whether Syrian Christians actually want to return to their war-torn homeland."

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"Israel prepares for Assad’s return to the border"

Der Vormarsch der Assad-Verbündeten im Südwesten Syriens könnte Ben Caspit zufolge dazu führen, dass die syrische Seite der Golanhöhen bald wieder von Regierungstruppen besetzt werden wird. Sollte der Iran dabei außen vor bleiben, sähe man dies in Israel nicht nur als schlechte Nachricht: "As of this moment, while Israel is not sure if this is really good news, at least it is not bad news either. More and more voices in the security system are saying that Assad even heralds a form of hope for the return of the old order and some kind of stability, along the lines of 'Better the devil you know than the devil you don't.'"

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"US pushes for Plan B in Syria"

Jack Detsch schreibt, dass es in der US-Regierung eine Debatte über die künftige Syrienstrategie gebe. "Plan B" könnte demnach dazu führen, dass die USA Präsident Assad die Einnahme des Südens Syriens erlauben, wenn die Russen sicherstellen, dass der Iran dort keine permanenten Stützpunkte errichtet. "(...) even as diplomats insisted the United States planned to uphold the cease-fire, CNN reported on June 28 that Trump appears willing to cut a new deal with Putin on the de-escalation zone that would allow 2,200 US troops to get out of Syria promptly. The news highlights splits within the administration on how to provide a meaningful counterweight against Iran. 'There’s an element from the American side, a signal to the [Syrian] regime that if it’s not about Iran, it doesn’t matter so much,' said Hassan Hassan, a fellow at the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy. 'What they’re trying to do is create a wedge between the Iranians and the Russians.' Two sources with knowledge of the administration’s talks said the State Department’s Middle East team has signaled interest in a phased departure from the de-escalation policy that would allow Assad to retake rebel-held areas, while Russia denies sanctuary to Iran."

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"Erdogan still faces uphill battle despite electoral victory"

Trotz seines Siegs habe Präsident Erdogan sein Wunschresultat bei den Wahlen am 24. Juni verpasst, stellt Semih Idiz fest. Er sei nun auf eine Allianz mit der rechtsextremen MHP angewiesen. "The MHP is vehemently anti-Western by orientation, which fits in with the leanings of Erdogan and the AKP. This, many believe, will make improvement in Turkey’s strained ties with West more difficult. Ankara's already stalled EU accession process is unlikely to make any headway under these circumstances, given the deep antipathy felt for Erdogan in Europe. Meanwhile, it is expected that Ankara will continue to consolidate ties with Moscow and other anti-Western countries. (...) Erdogan is now allied with the far right, whose own star shined bright in the elections. Bahceli’s post-election remarks indicate that the MHP might not be as pliant as Erdogan would like. The MHP is highly unlikely to use its newfound power in favor of the liberal democratic policies the West wants Turkey to introduce."

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"Iran may become third wheel in Saudi-Russian relationship"

Das Eröffnungsspiel der Fußball-WM zwischen Russland und Saudi-Arabien wurde von Präsident Putin und Kronprinz Mohammed bin Salman gemeinsam im Stadion verfolgt. Yury Barmin schreibt, dass die energiepolitischen Beziehungen beider Länder enger geworden sind, obwohl sicherheitspolitische Differenzen auf anderen Gebieten nach wie vor bestehen. "Russian-Saudi relations appear to have been effectively compartmentalized. The two countries parade issues they easily agree on, but don’t mention problems that are toxic for their partnership. The elephant in the room has traditionally been Iran, but Tehran hasn’t been featured in any official readouts from Russian-Saudi meetings of recent months. However, it’s hard to imagine that Riyadh would avoid discussing what it has labeled as the main threat to Mideast stability."

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"Erdogan's not doing Turks in Europe any favors"

Der türkische Präsident Erdogan habe sich bei bisherigen Wahlen immer auf die Unterstützung der türkischen Diaspora in Europa verlassen können, schreibt Semih Idiz. Die Situation der türkischen Minderheiten in Europa sei dadurch nicht leichter worden, wie z.B. der Streit um die deutschen Fußballnationalspieler Özil und Gündogan zeige. "Politicians in Germany, Holland and Austria — the three countries with the largest Turkish communities — continue to view Erdogan as a major obstacle to integrating their Turkish minorities. Osman Koruturk, a retired Turkish ambassador who also served in Berlin in 2000-2003, said the question of integration features prominently in the minds of German politicians. 'The fear is that Turks in that country will be organized by Ankara and interfere in German politics,' Koruturk told Al-Monitor. 'Erdogan’s approach has increased this concern.' (...) Ayhan Kara, a professor of political science at Istanbul Bilgi University, maintains that many Turks in Europe from disadvantaged backgrounds consider Erdogan to be a paternal figure unafraid to challenge European leaders. (...) The upshot is that Erdogan’s Turkish supporters in Europe have served him well, but as long as Ankara's tone remains bellicose and vitriolic, it is unclear what benefit they stand to receive in return to improve their lot where they live."

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"Fate of Syrian refugees hot election topic in Turkey"

Der Umstand eines Aufenthalts von über 3,5 Millionen syrischen Flüchtlingen in der Türkei spiele im politischen Vorfeld der türkischen Wahlen am 24. Juni eine zentrale Rolle, berichtet Mehmet Cetingulec. "Opposition leaders call for the Syrians to go home as soon as the conditions in Syria allow, while the government maintains its welcoming attitude and even advocates Turkish citizenship for the refugees. (...) CHP leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu has also voiced harsh objections to naturalization. Referring to Turkey’s military campaign in northern Syria, he grumbled in a May interview that young Turks were 'falling martyrs for Syria in al-Bab,' while Syrian youths 'pace the streets with jaunty swagger' in Turkey. 'Is this something that reason can accept? I am not an adversary of Syrians, but I am against the naturalization of Syrians while 6.5 million people are jobless in this country,' he said. 'The civil war in Syria should come to an end as soon as possible, and our Syrian brothers should return home.'"

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"Iran-Israel restraint may hinge on nuclear deal"

Ein offener Konflikt zwischen Israel und dem Iran an der syrisch-israelischen Grenze sei bisher durch die relative Zurückhaltung beider Parteien vermieden worden, schreibt der iranische Journalist Saeid Jafari. Der drohende Kollaps des internationalen Atomabkommens könnte dazu führen, dass der Iran israelische Angriffe in Syrien künftig mit Gegenschlägen beantwortet. "If Iran has so far refrained from responding to Israel’s provocations in Syria, it is perhaps because of the nuclear deal as well as Rouhani still having the upper hand in domestic Iranian politics. It is evident that the potential collapse of the JCPOA will eliminate both inhibiting factors from Iran's regional policy and pave the way for potential future clashes with Israel. (...) With the escalating war of words between Israel and Iran, even a small spark could ignite an inferno in the Middle East, the ripple effects of which will surely reach Europe. Only Europe can prevent such a crisis first and foremost by endeavoring to keep the JCPOA alive. If it fails to do so, the prospect of full-scale war in the region will no doubt significantly increase."

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"How US hawks are boosting Iranian radicals"

Der iranische Journalist Saeid Jafari erinnert an die innenpolitische Situation in Teheran vor über zehn Jahren, als der Kollaps des Verhandlungsprozesses mit dem Westen die Hardliner an die Macht gebracht habe. Die gegenwärtige Iran-Strategie der Trump-Regierung werde zum gleichen Resultat führen, so seine Warnung. "(...) history has proven that the current US strategy will only embolden Iran’s hard-liners and radicalize Iranian foreign policy. In this vein, hard-line media outlets and figures are already increasing their pressure on Rouhani, his administration and the Reformists — criticizing the government for its failure to give the United States a powerful response. (...) If [Iran’s hard-liners] are successful, it won’t be the first time. Ahmadinejad effectively used sanctions and foreign pressures as an excuse to move the government toward political closure and limited freedom of speech. Such a situation will be repeated unless the European signatories to the JCPOA manage to keep the nuclear deal alive. If they fail, one can expect radicals to once again seize power in Tehran and for serious clashes to emerge in the Middle East with the potential of turning into a global crisis."

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"America’s hawkish turn on Iran threatens Gulf alliance"

Die aggressive Iran-Strategie der US-Regierung könnte auch den Spalt in der Allianz der arabischen Golfstaaten vertiefen, schreibt Jack Detsch. "The effort could pit anti-Iran aligned Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain against Qatar, Kuwait and Oman, which favor a less confrontational approach to their powerful neighbor. (...) The Gulf alliance appeared to come undone last year, when only high-level Kuwaiti and Qatari diplomats showed up for a meeting in November. And efforts to hold a Camp David-style summit of the GCC stalled when Trump fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in a surprise tweet. Experts say Pompeo’s speech is a sign that the United States is moving ahead with a policy to hold Iran in check, whether the GCC can patch things up or not. 'The GCC doesn’t exist anymore,' said Theodore Karasik, a senior adviser to Gulf State Analytics, a Washington-based consulting firm. 'That is not in the picture here. What is in the picture is that there are Gulf states divided amongst themselves.'"

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"How Iran and Europe can save the nuclear deal"

Bijan Khajehpour vom Beratungsunternehmen Atieh International in Wien nennt einige konkrete Punkte, bei denen die Europäer dem Iran entgegenkommen müssten, um das internationale Atomabkommen doch noch zu retten. "Beyond symbolic expectations, Tehran will likely benchmark gains against the impact of the harshest sanctions years (2012-15). As such, it can be reasonably assumed that Iran will look for EU guarantees on the following topics: 1. Financial transactions (...) the main mechanism will be the involvement of European governments and potentially central banks in the financing of projects, both to facilitate and also protect companies. (...) The EU will additionally have to protect SWIFT against US sanctions, as the renewed blacklisting of the Islamic Republic from the payment messaging service would choke international banking relations with Iran. (...) 2. Continuation of petroleum sector exports (...) The E3+2 will have limited influence determining whether buyers such as Japan and South Korea will continue their imports. However, what may be feasible is for the E3+2 to guarantee that they will make up for losses that may emerge as a result of reimposed US sanctions. (...) 3. Technology transfer and foreign investment: One of the key motivations for Iran to work toward sanctions relief had been to attract European investment and technology. (...) the EU will have no choice but to stand up to US pressure not just via blocking regulations, but also counter-sanctions and potential action at the World Trade Organization. How far such initiatives will succeed remains to be seen, but Tehran will certainly request guarantees that the EU will facilitate the flow of investment and technology."

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"Iranians may turn to 'military president' as nuclear deal collapses"

Ein Kollaps des internationalen Atomabkommens mit dem Iran könnte Rohollah Faghihi zufolge dazu führen, dass die nächsten Präsidentschaftswahlen in Teheran einen militärischen Kandidaten der Hardliner an die Macht bringen. "While Iranians are fully aware that Rouhani is not responsible for the collapse of the JCPOA, there is a strong argument that his approach has failed, and that it is thus time for a harsher and sterner strategy. In such a scenario, even pragmatic conservatives such as parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani have no chance of being elected, let alone a Reformist such as incumbent First Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri. Given these potentially profound consequences of the collapse of the JCPOA, it is becoming apparent that the only side able to uphold the accord — namely Europe — can play a unique role in helping shape political winds in Iran."

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"Rouhani suggests Europe can keep Iran nuclear deal alive"

Könnte das Atomabkommen mit dem Iran einen Ausstieg der USA möglicherweise überleben? Präsident Rouhani hat Al-Monitor zufolge angedeutet, dass der Iran den Vertrag nach bestimmten Vereinbarungen mit den Europäern auch ohne die USA einhalten könnte. "During a speech May 7, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani suggested that if the United States were to exit the comprehensive nuclear deal between Iran and the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany, European countries could keep the deal alive. (...) According to Iranian political analyst Davoud Hermidas Bavand, Rouhani's recent comments are perhaps the first to suggest that Iran and the Europeans have worked out a scenario in which the United States could exit the deal while the other countries continue to abide by its terms. 'It is likely that the Europeans presented new points that may be somewhat acceptable to Iran,' he told Entekhab May 7 in response to Rouhani’s latest comments."

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"Trump administration sides with Morocco in Western Sahara dispute"

US-Präsident Trump habe sich im Westsaharakonflikt deutlich an die Seite Marokkos gestellt, berichtet Bryant Harris. Der UN-Sicherheitsrat habe auf Betreiben Washingtons eine Resolution verabschiedet, die gegenüber der Unabhängigkeitsbewegung Frente Polisario "überraschend kritisch" sei. "Pro-Moroccan activists applauded the Trump administration’s apparent evolution on the issue, which has been the subject of a Washington lobbying war for years between Morocco and Algeria. Rabat spent almost $4 million to influence Congress and the executive branch in 2016, according to a review of lobbying disclosures by Al-Monitor, compared with less than $500,000 combined by the Polisario and its Algerian patron. The dispute even played a minor role during the 2016 US presidential campaign, where Hillary Clinton was criticized for appearing to favor Rabat while taking Moroccan money for the Clinton Foundation."

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"Pentagon acknowledges US contractor presence in Syria for first time"

Das Pentagon hat in einem Quartalsbericht zum ersten Mal eingeräumt, mehr als 5.500 Angestellte privater Sicherheitsdienste zur Bekämpfung des "Islamischen Staates" in Syrien einzusetzen. "The latest figures from US Central Command indicate that 5,508 US and foreign contractors are working alongside US troops in the two combat zones. That’s an increase of 581, or 12%, over January’s numbers, which did not include Syria. About half of the contractors are US citizens, while the rest are local or third-country hires. (...) The role of contractors in Syria is also under increasing scrutiny after hundreds of Russian contractors died in a battle with US troops and the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces in the oil-rich Deir ez-Zor province, as CIA Director and Secretary of State-designate Mike Pompeo publicly confirmed in his Senate confirmation hearing April 12. Unlike the Russians, however, the US contractors are mostly focused on supporting the 2,000 US troops in Syria by delivering hot meals, gasoline and other supplies. More than 30% of them support logistics and maintenance, according to the quarterly Pentagon report, and another 27% help with support and construction of US military outposts in the region."

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"Deadly Ankara-West fault line cracks open at Syria's Manbij"

Die von Kurdenmilizen gehaltene nordsyrische Stadt Manbij sei dabei, zu einer gefährlichen Bruchstelle des westlichen Bündnisses mit der Türkei zu werden, warnt Cengiz Candar. "The Western world is still in disbelief, unable to see that a confrontational relationship with the United States and the West is a necessary ingredient in Erdogan’s quest to consolidate his nationalist base. Thus, it is highly plausible that Turkey and the United States will collide over Manbij. Erdogan’s recent bashing of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a 'terrorist' is a harbinger of what Washington can expect if it persists on its partnership with the SDF in Manbij."

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"5 reasons Iran is staying out of eastern Ghouta"

Hamidreza Azizi weist darauf hin, dass sich der Iran als enger Verbündeter der Assad-Regierung an den Kämpfen um Ost-Ghouta nicht beteiligt habe. Nach einer Analyse der möglichen Gründe kommt er zu dem Schluss, dass dies nicht als strategische Neuorientierung, sondern als pragmatische Entscheidung betrachtet werden sollte. "All in all, mindful of the bigger picture of developments in and around Syria, it could be argued that Iran’s position on eastern Ghouta has been based on a pragmatic take of the situation to better preserve its longer-term interests and not a result of the Islamic Republic revising its strategy in Syria."

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"Yazidis in Iraq's Sinjar brace for possible Turkish attack"

Im nordirakischen Sindschar fühlten sich nicht nur die Kurden, sondern auch die Jesiden von der aktuellen türkischen Militäroffensive bedroht, berichtet Fazel Hawramy. "For Dezhwar, a young Yazidi fighter in the Sinjar area, the silence of the international coalition against the Islamic State (IS) regarding the all-out Turkish attack on the city of Afrin, home to a sizable Yazidi community, was a bitter reminder that in the game of realpolitik between states, minorities such as the Yazidis have no one to turn to. (...) The news from Afrin is gloomy for many Yazidis in Sinjar who survived IS attacks in the summer of 2014. Reports say that their shrines are being burned in Afrin and that some Yazidi civilians who stayed behind in the area have been forced to convert to Islam by extremist elements of the Free Syrian Army backed and armed by the Turkish government."

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"With Tillerson firing, Trump throws transatlantic Iran talks into disarray"

Die Entlassung von US-Außenminister Tillerson dürfte die Suche nach einem transatlantischen Kompromiss im Streit um das Atomabkommen mit dem Iran zumindest kurzfristig erschweren, erwartet Laura Rozen. Die Ernennung von Mike Pompeo könnte aber auch einen klärenden Effekt haben, da der bisherige CIA-Direktor das Vertrauen des Präsidenten genieße. "Allied diplomats could only shake their heads at the latest chaos emanating from Trump’s Washington. They had already felt under time pressure to try to see if they could come to an understanding to meet Trump’s Jan. 12 ultimatum to toughen policy on Iran or he would not issue the required sanctions waivers at the next deadline on May 12. (...) while in the short term Trump’s firing of Tillerson puts the transatlantic Iran consultations in disarray, ultimately, the appointment of Pompeo as Trump’s top envoy may prove a more authoritative negotiator for European allies because he can speak more reliably for the president."

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"Stakes rise in Syria as Turkey clashes with pro-Assad militias"

Metin Gurcan berichtet, dass die türkische Offensive zur Einnahme Afrins in Syrien bald von Kämpfen in urbanen Gebieten geprägt werden könnte. Die ersten Zusammenstöße türkischer Truppen mit regierungstreuen Milizen seien dabei auch für Russland problematisch, da sie die russischen Deeskalationsbemühungen bedrohten. "Moscow’s vision for northern Syria is clear. On one side of the negotiation table, Assad will sit as the big brother under Russian wings with the Democratic Union Party as the younger brother representing the Syrian Kurds, who must be pro-Russia, staunchly secular and leftist. On the other side of the table facing them will be the Syrian opposition, under the tutelage and control of Ankara. This is why Ankara will have to quickly extract the Sunni opposition from radical jihadist groups, to give the opposition a more moderate outlook. That, in turn, requires eliminating the resistance in Idlib and consolidating the Sunni opposition under a single political and military command controlled by Ankara. There is no place for the United States at this table Russia is setting."

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"US commander says Iraq sovereignty provides ‘legal basis’ for Syria presence"

Das US-Militär ist der Ansicht, dass die amerikanische Intervention in Syrien aus rechtlicher Sicht mit dem Selbstverteidigungsrecht des benachbarten Iraks begründet werden könne. "US Central Command chief Joseph Votel told the House Armed Services Committee that the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), signed by President George W. Bush to go after the plotters of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, remains in effect for the US fight against the Islamic State (IS) in Syria. As US troops hunt down some 2,000 remaining IS fighters in the Euphrates River Valley, the legal core of the US involvement in Syria derives from Iraq’s defense, he said. 'Our legal basis for operating in Syria was largely driven by the collective self-defense of Iraq,' Votel told Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, who stoked controversy by visiting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad last year. 'While we were beginning to address [IS] in Iraq, we knew that we also had to address [IS] in Syria.'"

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