Friday, 04 September 2015
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The King of Saudi Arabia is in Washington to pressurise President Obama to shift his US position on Syria

Already much has been written about HM King Salman bin Abdulaziz's meeting on Friday 4th September with President Barack Obama at the White House. According to media sources they will discuss regional security, including the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) reached between Iran and world powers over Tehran's controversial nuclear program. The discussions will also focus on issues such as the Syrian crisis, Yemen, and Daesh/ ISIS.

Two issues are of particular concern to the Saudis. The future of the Assad's regime and Iran's destabilizing activities in the region. As for the Obama administration how to fight and defeat Daesh, the so-called Islamic State (ISIS) is the most important. To most observers of the Middle East President Obama has adopted the Iranian position lock, stock and barrel. The Tehran funded lobby in Washington and some of Obama's advisors see the Middle East through Iranian eyes. It is doubtful therefore that the visit will mark a major shift in Obama's policies.

The ships tug serenely down the newly built Suez canal expansion, a testament to President Sisi's force of personality. In his first year, this was his showcase project, the achievement that would crown the rebirth of Egypt from three years of turmoil and the craw of an inept Islamist government. But the photos from further away show the half-built concrete blast walls that line the side of the canal, and the 55,000 troops deployed for the Pharaonic style opening tell a different story; Egypt is as close to the precipice as it has ever been, and a vicious cycle of repression and radicalisation unleashed in the course of crushing the Islamist opposition take it closer each day, writes Charlie Pratt.

Shortly after the Suez opening last week, a bomb exploded near an HQ of the internal security services, the NSS, in Northern Cairo. The bomb was claimed by Daesh affiliate IS-Sinai, and comes on the back of previous attacks in and around Cairo, including a bomb outside the Italian Consulate and attacks at Karnak and Heliopolis. International media coverage of IS-Sinai has been muted, perhaps concentrating instead on the more virulent strain of Daesh that has emerged in Libya, with the beheading of 29 Copt Christians at its forefront. But make no mistake; IS-Sinai is the more dangerous, capable big brother, and its movement to Cairo is far more significant for the future of Egypt and North Africa than the dominance of IS-Libya in Sirte.

In a joint statement on the U.S-Egypt Strategic Dialogue the U.S. Department of State noted on August 2nd 2015:
"The two sides renewed their commitment to the strategic relationship and resolved to take practical and specific steps to consolidate it. They further stressed that a long-term and strong Egypt-U.S. partnership, anchored in the common goals of their strategic ties, is vital for the peace, stability and prosperity of the region. The two sides agreed to hold the next round of the Strategic Dialogue in Washington, D.C. in 2016".

According to Aljazeera US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Cairo on Sunday 2nd August for meetings with his Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukry and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi where he said US-Egyptian relations were returning to a "stronger base" in bilateral ties despite tensions and human rights concerns. The development comes two days after the US delivered eight F-16 fighter jets to Egypt as part of a military support package. At the same time, he acknowledged stress in the US-Egypt relationship over human rights and said the US would continue to press Egypt on the arrests of dissidents and journalists and mass trials.

By contrast a few months earlier: a headline in the Atlantic 16th January 2015 read: Is Egypt on the Verge of Another Uprising? The article argued that the regime the Egyptians overthrew 4 years ago after storming Tahrir Square has returned. "In the face of relentless pressure and violence from the authorities, most of the revolutionary movements have been side-lined or snuffed out".

Saudi Arabia and Egypt want to buy the Mistral vessels which France originally agreed to sell to Russia. Stratfor sources in the region have largely confirmed French media reports, indicating that there is at least a preliminary interest in acquiring the vessels. Despite the considerable obstacles that Riyadh and Cairo would have to surmount before they could effectively utilise Mistral-class ships, the vessels could eventually offer these Arab countries increased capability to respond to varying threats in the region. Analysis on next page.

Details on next page

Marking the passing of those who haved served the nation's defences. Contributions from colleagues and families welcome. Details on next page

The Far Right in Ukraine has proliferated at a remarkable rate since Maidan Revolution ousted the old pro-Russian government. These groups became a vital tool in the early phase of the conflict in the East. However, what is most important about such organisations is not so much their comparative effectiveness in relation to the ill-equipped forces of the Ukrainian state. Instead, their importance is their willingness to fight, writes Cory Turner

In an age when a number of Middle Eastern countries have remained in turmoil for years, it can be easy to forget the significance of how ordinary people can quickly be turned into volunteer soldiers; if not employed by the state itself, then by militia or vigilante organisations. In Ukraine though, nationalism has been underlying in the country. Provided with the opportunity to volunteer themselves to fight against a foreign foe - one which has been either Ukraine's de facto or direct master for centuries - the Far Right and neo-Nazi elements in Ukraine were spurred into action.

While Jihad Central is located in the Syria-Iraq, area with the Deash self styled Islamic State gaining ground, other potential hotspots have been forgotten. One of them that has rarely been in the news and would surprise most people is Africa's behemoth: not Nigeria, but rather quiet South Africa Because of the clout of the country not only on the African continent but worldwide, links to terrorism could endanger all of us. In February 2015, the United Nations Security Council specifically warned South Africa that terror groups might use the country as an operational base, writes Olivier Guitta

This should not come as a surprise: since as early as the 1990's the Shia terrorist group Hezbollah had training camps in the country and proof of al-Qaeda's presence date back to 1997. al Shabaab, Boko Haram, Hezbollah, Hamas and al Qaeda have reportedly a presence in South Africa. These groups used the country mostly as a fall-back base with fundraising, recruiting, access to official documents and possibly training as their main activities.Numerous cases of South African passport holders linked to terrorism are highlighting the possible ease by which these documents can be obtained by corruption or forgery.

The UK government will be able to keep to its commitment to spend 2% of national income on defence through to 2020 as a result of both an annual real term increase of 0.5% a year, and significant changes in the UK's calculation of its defence budget for NATO reporting purposes, according to a new RUSI Briefing Paper.

Entitled 'Osborne's Summer Surprise for Defence: Guaranteed Real-Terms Spending Increases', and authored by RUSI's Research Director, Professor Malcolm Chalmers, the paper examines the defence spending announcements made recently in the Budget.

In his Summer Budget on 8 July, Chancellor George Osborne announced that defence would receive annual real-terms increases in its budget of 0.5 per cent a year, to around £38.9 billion by 2020/21. For the first time since 2010, the MOD has become a 'protected' department, with its budget fixed in advance of the Spending Review. As a result, this year's SDSR should be able to avoid the severe capability reductions that were the main feature of the last Review in 2010.

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