After two Japanese nationals, Kenji Goto Jogo and Haruna Yukawa, had been named as the next executed in the name of Islamic State’s (IS) demands, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s diplomatic leadership is strongly questioned by analysts.
According to Japantimes.co.jp’s Eric Johnston, the Japanese Prime Minister’s Middle East policies are being questioned. His own brand of personal diplomacy may spell doom or glory for the country.
Johnston highlighted that the Japanese Prime Minister has a choice in supporting the United States and Arab countries that Japan is a valuable ally that could become an independent broker who retains its honesty in the international arena.
Meanwhile, the IS is demanding that Japan pay $200 million be paid in total for the lives of the two Japanese nationals.
In their latest video, “Jihadi John” had the two Japanese nationals on their knees and demanded that Japan pay $100m for each of the hostages within three days.
“To the prime minister of Japan, although you are 8,500km from the Islamic State, you willingly have volunteered to take part in this crusade,” he says.
In the Middle East, Abe said the lives of the two hostages were of “top priority”. However, he hasn’t made it clear if Japan would pay the ransom.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that Russia will continue to support Syria in suppressing the Islamic State (IS) from invading the state.
Moscow and Damascus agree that “terrorism” is the main threat to stability.
Lavrov said the statement after his meeting with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem. Moualem had talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin. He has resolved to develop ties with Syria and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Meanwhile, US Special Operations freed eight hostages held by the Al-Qaeda militants in Yemen, according to a US Senior Official. The Official added that no American hostages were rescued. He did not elaborate on the report.
According to Yemen officials, the operation began in a deserted area called Hagr al-Saiaar. Local tribes offer protection for al-Qaeda troops in the area near the Saudi border.
US drone strikes continue to target suspected IS militants in Yemen and monitor battles between al-Qaeda and Shiite rebels.
Drone strikes on Islamic State targets in Iraq and Syria hit 17 targets. Operation Inherent Resolve had destroyed four staging areas and six fighting positions. Islamic State units have been hit according to US central command.
Meanwhile, allied forces destroyed vehicles and buildings with air strikes.
Reluctantly, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan allowed 200 Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga fighters to join their Kobane Kurdish comrades to defend the strategic town. According to Kurdistan Presidential Chief of Staff Fuad Hussein, a small group of Peshmerga fighters will be in Kobane within days.
Kobane has been locked between Islamic State (IS) fighters and Kobane Kurdish fighters who intend to defend the strategic town. If the IS conquers the town, it could easily establish its operations against Turkey, Iraq and Syria.
However, Erdogan still considers the Kurds as “terrorists.” The Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) is considered by Turkey, the US and NATO as a terrorist group. However, feeling the implications IS can bring to Turkey, he is left without a choice.
Meanwhile, one out of 27 US air drops for the Kobane fighters have landed into the hands of the Islamic State. The Pentagon has verified a video showing the opening and dismantling of a supply drop revealing a cache of grenades and old and new small arms.US air strikes had destroyed other caches that had missed their landing spots.
Erdogan also considers the supply drop as “wrong.” He said that in the long run, the PKK could use the US weaponry against Turkey in declaring their autonomy within the region.
An al-Qaeda emir had called upon ISIS to stop the execution of Alan Henning, to whom the rival terrorist group said had “genuinely helped muslims” during his aid mission with an Islamic charity from the United Kingdom.
The al-Qaeda, notorious for their September 11, 2001 attack in the United States, found that the execution of an innocent taxi-driver and aid volunteer was taking things too far.
The emir, or local commander, of the Jahbat al-Nusra, an al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria, had visited ISIS commanders in Iraq. According to a journalist who interviewed him, the emir said that ISIS’ actions were “wrong under Islamic law” and “counter-productive.”
US film-maker and reporter from Syria Bilal Abdul Kareem said that any group of any influence, including the al-Qaeda, had appealed to ISIS to release Alan Henning since December of the previous year.
Alan Henning was the only non-Muslim in the Islamic charity group from the United Kingdom. The organisation uses old ambulances to transport medical supplies to al-Dana. He was abducted last year. The al-Dana emir had talked to ISIS about releasing Henning a few days during his abduction, but he was removed from prison and never seen by the emir again.
According to International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation in King’s College Professor Peter Neumann, the al-Qaeda and ISIS share similar roots. However, the al-Qaeda has strategies that will help them gain allies in the region, to which the ISIS are quickly losing theirs, including potential recruits, with consistent beheadings and senseless violent activities.
US President Barack Obama had hailed the re-capture of the Mosul dam by Iraqi Kurds and the Iraq military as a major advance towards finding an end to the invasion of the Islamic State, formerly known as ISIS.
The US military prioritises the safety of the dam on the Tigris River as it can endanger the American Embassy personnel in Baghdad. Providing air support and arms to assist the Kurdish Peshmerga forces fighting against the Islamic State, the joint efforts of Iraq, US and Kurdistan had made significant gains in northern Iraq.
Meanwhile, Canada has offered $5million (£2.9m) in humanitarian aid and two military cargo planes to help ship weapons to the Peshmerga forces.
The UK also announced its participation in the battle against ISIS. It has committed £13m for aid assistance and non-combat air support and surveillance.
The ISIS are an al-Qaeda splinter group operating independently as they broke away from Syrian rebels fighting against the Syrian regime. These groups, hardened by battles in Syria, had taken over several Iraqi towns and imposed harsh Sharia law. They had executed defenceless soldiers and had exiled or executed Christians and Shiite Muslims in regions they invaded.
Iraqi military and Kurdish Peshmerga had found the dam isolated upon arrival. However, teams did not enter at once as they anticipated proximity explosives had been planted around the entire area. Around 170 bombs had been dismantled around the dam so far.
In the previous week, Kurdish Members of Party had withdrawn themselves from Iraq’s Central Government after Iraqi President Nouri Al-Maliki accused the Kurds of helping extremists for personal Reasons. Kurdistan’s Foreign Minister had asked Al-Maliki to step down from office and said that Iraq needed a new, more effective leadership.
The United States Congress said that they viewed Al-Maliki’s policies as highly-sectarian, which drove the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, the militant group threatening Iraq’s government, to gain power and sympathy among Iraqis.
Al-Maliki once accused the Kurds of “stealing” Iraq’s wealth. During the era of Saddam Hussein, Kurdistan had been excluded from the oil trade. Today, it has cut deals with Exxon Mobil, Shell and Chevron. Kurdistan has one of the nine largest oil reserves in the world. The feud between Iraq’s government and the semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan became worse because of this.
Al-Maliki had called on the world to stop the possible division of Iraq as the Kurdish opposition and the Sunni militants continue to apply pressure against Iraq. Al-Maliki pointed out that division will also split people and resources. He also warned Middle Eastern Nations that the division of Iraq could spread towards their countries.
According to UN Human Rights Chief Navi Pillay, the Sunni militant group the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) may have committed war crimes. A photograph and video of the execution of hundreds of disarmed Iraqi soldiers in unspecified locations in northern Syria had the UN and the US alarmed. The systematic execution is tantamount to war crimes.
Observers speculate the execution to have happened in city of Tal Afar. Meanwhile, the ISIS are moving closer to Baghdad, invading some nearby towns along the way. In the last week, they have invaded Mosul.
The Iraqi government had increased the security of the Iraqi capital. The heavily-armed militants have recently brought down a government helicopter in Fallujah city, which is west of Baghdad.
The ISIS have also captured several Iraqi military depots, which house US-grade military equipment. The Iraqi soldiers trained by the US have abandoned their posts, leaving the rebels with formidable equipment to further their cause. The same soldiers may have been the ones killed during the summary execution shown in the photographs
The US is sending 275 military personnel to protect the American interests in Iraq.
Chief Pillay had specified that war crime is tantamount to killing an unarmed civilian or combatant. If an enemy has surrendered, they shall not be killed.
The ISIS also have the sympathy of the Sunni Muslims, which make up a significant fraction of Iraq’s population.
Kurdistan President Masoud Barzani said that his country will not provide support for an authoritarian Iraqi government led by Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. Kurdistan, a crucial Iraq ally because of its economic contribution via oil reserves, is crucial to al-Maliki’s third term.
Al-Maliki’s political rivals find Kurdistan’s disillusionment advantageous for their own political campaigns.
Barzani pointed out that Kurdish parties will discuss negotiations with Iraq’s new government right after the elections on April 30 had announced its final results.
He pointed out that “all options are on the table. It is time for final decisions. We are not going to wait another decade and go through the same experience again. If we boycott the process, we will boycott everything, parliament and the government.”
The source of the disappointment of Kurds in Iraq was the broken promise when they helped al-Maliki win the election of 2010, allowing him to have a second term. They were promised a shared power and help the Kurds find their own territory, which they continue dispute with the Arabs today.
Barzani had attempted to remove al-Maliki from office through a vote of no-confidence in 2012. He also said that the negotiations with the next Iraqi government will require more than just paper agreements.
Increasing tensions between the United States and Russia expand from the Ukraine and Syrian Crisis into the Middle East. Analysts said that there was no possibility of a return to the “Cold War” relationship between the two countries, but that Russia is looking to return its Soviet era dignity as a powerful and diplomatically competitive nation.
Russia’s relationship with different Middle Eastern countries, particularly its support to the Syrian Regime despite the violence in the country today, reflects its footprints all across the region.
Egypt became a focal point when Russia offered to have Egyptian leaders sign an arms sale when the US cut back Egypt’s arms transfers. However, Russia vetoed a US military strike in Syria, showing the diplomatic competition between the two countries. Political analysts scored Russia highly when it successfully brokered a chemical weapons treaty in Syria instead.
According to experts, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s motivation to expand in the Middle East is to be remembered as the Russian leader who had helped regain his country’s legacy and great power since Russia had been politically-absent after the breakdown of the Soviet Union.
However, despite the highly volatile relationship of the US and Russia, experts said that the scenario is far from a return to the Cold War days as both countries are only looking for profit to help their economically-challenged countries.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Iran was fooling the entire world by trying to reduce its nuclear activities in exchange for sanctions after the Israeli Defense Force found mortars, rockets, missiles and other assorted ammunitions onboard a ship with a Panamanian flag.
The Israeli Navy captured the ship coming from the Red Sea. The ship included 40 M302 missiles with a 100-mile range, 181 mortars and 400,000 bullets for AK-47s. According to the Israeli Defense Force, the rockets are capable of striking Israel from the Gaza strip.
The Panama-flagged ship is now held at the southern port of Eliat.
Iran rejected the accusations of the Israeli Prime Minister.
Netanyahu said in a statement that the world “softly” condemned the discovery of the ship despite its capability to provide Gaza the means to attack Israel without much trouble.
He added that the weapons ship arrived in Eliat the time “the world shook hands to an agreement reached for Iran’s reduction of nuclear activities.”
Israel has been very vocal in condemning the agreement between the EU, US and Iran regarding its nuclear enrichment program. In exchange for reducing their nuclear activities, Iran will have a fraction of its frozen assets in oil and other exports
Netanyahu said that the world should “wake up from its illusion just in time to stop Iran from achieving their capability to develop nuclear weapons.”