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Russia’s Military Buildup Focuses on Arctic

A Russian serviceman of the Northern Fleet's Arctic mechanised infantry brigade participates in a military drill on riding reindeer and dog sleds near the settlement of Lovozero outside Murmansk, Russia January 23, 2017. Picture taken January 23, 2017. Lev Fedoseyev/Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation/Handout via REUTERS

A Russian serviceman of the Northern Fleet’s Arctic mechanised infantry brigade participates in a military drill on riding reindeer and dog sleds near the settlement of Lovozero outside Murmansk, Russia January 23, 2017. Picture taken January 23, 2017. Lev Fedoseyev/Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation/Handout via REUTERS

By Andrew Osborn 
February, 2017

A general view shows ships moored in the Northern Fleet's Arctic headquarters of Severomorsk, Russia July 30, 2016. Picture taken July 30, 2016. REUTERS/Oleg Kuleshov

A general view shows ships moored in the Northern Fleet’s Arctic headquarters of Severomorsk, Russia July 30, 2016. Picture taken July 30, 2016. REUTERS/Oleg Kuleshov

MURMANSK, Russia (Reuters) – The nuclear icebreaker Lenin, the pride and joy of the Soviet Union’s Arctic great game, lies at perpetual anchor in the frigid water here. A relic of the Cold War, it is now a museum.

But nearly three decades after the Lenin was taken out of service to be turned into a visitor attraction, Russia is again on the march in the Arctic and building new nuclear icebreakers.

It is part of a push to firm Moscow’s hand in the High North as it vies for dominance with traditional rivals Canada, the United States, and Norway as well as newcomer China.

Interviews with officials and military analysts and reviews of government documents show Russia’s build-up is the biggest since the 1991 Soviet fall and will, in some areas, give Moscow more military capabilities than the Soviet Union once had.

The expansion has far-reaching financial and geopolitical ramifications. The Arctic is estimated to hold more hydrocarbon reserves than Saudi Arabia and Moscow is putting down a serious military marker.

“History is repeating itself,” Vladimir Blinov, a guide on board the icebreaker Lenin, which is named after communist revolutionary Vladimir Lenin, told a recent tour group.

“Back then (in the 1950s) it was the height of the Cold War and the United States was leading in some areas. But we beat the Americans and built the world’s first nuclear ship (the Lenin). The situation today is similar.”

Under President Vladimir Putin, Moscow is rushing to re-open abandoned Soviet military, air and radar bases on remote Arctic islands and to build new ones, as it pushes ahead with a claim to almost half a million square miles of the Arctic.

It regularly releases pictures of its troops training in white fatigues, wielding assault rifles as they zip along on sleighs pulled by reindeer.

The Arctic, the U.S. Geological Survey estimates, holds oil and gas reserves equivalent to 412 billion barrels of oil, about 22 percent of the world’s undiscovered oil and gas.

Low oil prices and Western sanctions imposed over Moscow’s actions in Ukraine mean new offshore Arctic projects have for now been mothballed, but the Kremlin is playing a longer game.

It is building three nuclear icebreakers, including the world’s largest, to bolster its fleet of around 40 breakers, six of which are nuclear. No other country has a nuclear breaker fleet, used to clear channels for military and civilian ships.

Russia’s Northern Fleet, based near Murmansk in the Kola Bay’s icy waters, is also due to get its own icebreaker, its first, and two ice-capable corvettes armed with cruise missiles.

“Under (Soviet leader Mikhail) Gorbachev and (Russian President Boris) Yeltsin, our Arctic border areas were stripped bare,” said Professor Pavel Makarevich, a member of the Russian Geographical Society. “Now they are being restored.”

FILE PHOTO: Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu watches honor guards passing by during a wreath-laying ceremony to mark the 71st anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany in World War Two, at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier by the Kremlin walls in Moscow, Russia May 9, 2016.  REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov/File Photo

FILE PHOTO: Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu watches honor guards passing by during a wreath-laying ceremony to mark the 71st anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany in World War Two, at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier by the Kremlin walls in Moscow, Russia May 9, 2016. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov/File Photo

‘AGGRESSIVE STEPS’

Russian servicemen of the Northern Fleet's Arctic mechanised infantry brigade participate in a military drill on riding reindeer and dog sleds near the settlement of Lovozero outside Murmansk, Russia January 23, 2017. Picture taken January 23, 2017. Lev Fedoseyev/Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation/Handout via

Russian servicemen of the Northern Fleet’s Arctic mechanised infantry brigade participate in a military drill on riding reindeer and dog sleds near the settlement of Lovozero outside Murmansk, Russia January 23, 2017. Picture taken January 23, 2017. Lev Fedoseyev/Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation/Handout

The build-up, which echoes moves in Crimea and Kaliningrad, has been noticed in Washington. U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis told his confirmation hearing this month it was “not to our advantage to leave any part of the world” to others.

Mattis, in a separate written submission, described Moscow’s Arctic moves as “aggressive steps” and pledged to prioritise developing a U.S. strategy, according to Senator Dan Sullivan.

That poses a potential dilemma for President Donald Trump, who wants to repair U.S.-Russia ties and team up with Moscow in Syria rather than get sucked into an Arctic arms race.

The build-up is causing jitters elsewhere. Some 300 U.S. Marines landed in Norway this month for a six-month deployment, the first time since World War Two that foreign troops have been allowed to be stationed there.

And with memories of Russia’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea still fresh, NATO is watching closely. Six of its members held an exercise in the region in 2015.

The Soviet military packed more firepower in the Arctic, but it was set up to wage nuclear war with the United States not conventional warfare. Arctic islands were staging posts for long-range bombers to fly to America.

But in an era when a slow-motion battle for the Arctic’s energy reserves is unfolding, Russia is creating a permanent and nimble conventional military presence with different and sometimes superior capabilities.

Sergei Shoigu, the defence minister, is presiding over the re-opening or creation of six military facilities, some of which will be ready by the year’s end.

They include an island base on Alexandra Land to house 150 troops able to survive autonomously for 18 months. Called the Arctic Trefoil, officials have said they may deploy military jets there. MiG-31 fighters, designed to shoot down long-range bombers, or the SU-34, a frontline bomber, are seen as suitable.

Moscow’s biggest Arctic base, dubbed “Northern Shamrock”, is meanwhile taking shape on the remote Kotelny Island, some 2,700 miles east of Moscow. It will be manned by 250 personnel and equipped with air defence missiles.

Soviet-era radar stations and airstrips on four other Arctic islands are being overhauled and new ground-to-air missile and anti-ship missile systems have been moved into the region.

Russia is also spending big to winterise military hardware.

“The modernisation of Arctic forces and of Arctic military infrastructure is taking place at an unprecedented pace not seen even in Soviet times,” Mikhail Barabanov, editor-in-chief of Moscow Defense Brief, told Reuters.

He said two special Arctic brigades had been set up, something the USSR never had, and that there were plans to form a third as well as special Arctic coastal defence divisions.

“Russia’s military activity in the Arctic is a bit provocative,” said Barabanov. “It could trigger an arms race.”

Atomic icebreakers Russia and Yamal are seen moored at Atomflot (Rosatomflot), the operator of Russia's nuclear icebreaker fleet, base in the Arctic port of Murmansk, Russia December 22, 2011. Picture taken December 22, 2011. REUTERS/Andrei Pronin

Atomic icebreakers Russia and Yamal are seen moored at Atomflot (Rosatomflot), the operator of Russia’s nuclear icebreaker fleet, base in the Arctic port of Murmansk, Russia December 22, 2011. Picture taken December 22, 2011. REUTERS/Andrei Pronin

‘FRIENDLY PEOPLE’

In Murmansk, home to Russia’s icebreakers and just an hour from the Northern Fleet’s headquarters, the prospect of an Arctic renaissance is a source of pride.

The city is steeped in Arctic and military history. The conning tower of the Kursk submarine, which sunk in 2000 after an explosion, looks down from a hill above the port.

And in central Murmansk, scale models of dozens of icebreakers crowd the halls of the Murmansk Shipping Company, while sailors, wrapped in great coats, barrel along its streets.

“These Arctic bases are on our territory. Unlike some other countries we are not building them overseas,” said Denis Moiseev, a member of the Russian Geographical Society.

“Other countries are also very active in trying to push their borders towards the North Pole. Our army must be able to operate on all our territory in extreme conditions.”

One country regularly mentioned as an unlikely Arctic rival is China, a close Moscow ally, which has observer status on the Arctic Council, the main forum for coordinating cooperation in the region, and is starting to build its own icebreakers.

Politicians are keener to discuss a commercial Arctic push.

New roads and a railway are being built and ports overhauled as Moscow expands its freight capacity and, amid warmer climate cycles, readies for more traffic along its Arctic coast.

It hopes the Northern Sea Route, which runs from Murmansk to the Bering Strait near Alaska, could become a mini Suez Canal, cutting sea transport times from Asia to Europe.

But while the route’s popularity inside Russia is growing, relatively high transit costs and unpredictable ice coverage means it has lost some of its lustre for foreign firms.

Grigory Stratiy, deputy governor of the Murmansk Region, told Reuters there was strong interest in sea route from Asian nations however and that new icebreakers would allow for year-round navigation in the 2020s.

“Whatever the weather, the Northern Sea Route will be needed. Its use will definitely grow,” said Stratiy, who said Russia was keen to attract foreign investment to the Arctic.

When asked about his country’s military build-up, he smiled.

“There’s no reason to be afraid I can reassure you,” he said, saying it was driven only by a need to modernise.

“Russia has never had any aggressive aims and won’t have them. We are very friendly people.”

Copyright Reuters 2017

(Editing by Janet McBride)

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Inmates and the Mustang Border Patrol

A full moon rises behind U.S. Border Patrol agent Josh Gehrich as he sits atop a hill while on patrol near Jacumba, California, U.S., November 14, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake SEARCH "WILD HORSE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

A full moon rises behind U.S. Border Patrol agent Josh Gehrich as he sits atop a hill while on patrol near Jacumba, California, U.S., November 14, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake

Photo-essay by Reuters
January, 2017

Long before the desert sun has had a chance to heat the dusty prison yard, some 20 inmates at an Arizona state prison begin quietly tending horses.

The men – many with violent histories – gently manoeuvre bits into the mouths of mustangs still unaccustomed to human touch; they remove caked mud from hooves and tighten girths against bulging bellies. And the horses, which just weeks ago roamed free, mostly comply with what is asked of them.

Both the men and the horses are still learning how to live behind fences.

An inmate trains a wild horse as part of the Wild Horse Inmate Program (WHIP) at Florence State Prison in Florence, Arizona, U.S., December 2, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake       SEARCH "WILD HORSE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.

An inmate trains a wild horse as part of the Wild Horse Inmate Program (WHIP) at Florence State Prison in Florence, Arizona, U.S., December 2, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake 

Prisoners participating in the Wild Horse Inmate Program train mustangs that will eventually be adopted by the U.S. Border Patrol, providing the agency with inexpensive but agile horses, and inmates with skills and insights they hope to one day carry with them from prison.

For Brian Tierce, 49, who has served about five years of his seven-year sentence for domestic violence and assault, the horses have taught him “a lot of things I didn’t know I had in me – patience, perseverance, kindness, understanding.”

“I’ve got to be a compromising person, otherwise I’ll never get this job done.”

Wild horses attempt to escape being herded into corrals by a helicopter during a Bureau of Land Management round-up outside Milford, Utah, U.S., January 8, 2017. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart          SEARCH "WILD HORSE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.

Wild horses attempt to escape being herded into corrals by a helicopter during a Bureau of Land Management round-up outside Milford, Utah, U.S., January 8, 2017. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart 

At least 80 percent of the U.S. Border Patrol’s current stable of 400 horses come from inmate training programs in Arizona, Colorado, Kansas and Nevada. The horses are critical for patrolling the rugged and remote stretches of the Mexican border to detect illegal crossings by migrants and drug trafficking.

And, at $500 to $800 for a saddle-ready horse, the price is right.

Some 55,000 mustangs roam the Western U.S., more than double the number public land can support, said Bureau of Land Management spokesman Jason Lutterman. Those that do not end up in adoption programs face an uncertain future.

U.S. Border Patrol agents from Boulevard Station look out over a ridge after sunset near Jacumba, California, U.S., November 14, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake        SEARCH "WILD HORSE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.

U.S. Border Patrol agents from Boulevard Station look out over a ridge after sunset near Jacumba, California, U.S., November 14, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake 

At the prison in Florence, a cactus-dotted town about 140 miles north (225 km) of the Mexican border, participating prisoners round up their horses before dawn and work all day under the watchful eyes of Randy Helm, the third-generation rancher, former narcotics officer and self-proclaimed “cowboy preacher” who supervises the programme.

Over the course of four to six months, the men train their horses – with names like Billy, Rocky and Patches – to tolerate bridles and saddles, respond to commands to trot and canter and perform footwork that will come in handy on the uneven desert terrain along the border.

U.S. Border Patrol horses Hollywood (L) and Apache roll in the dirt at their patrol station in Boulevard, California, U.S November 12, 2016.  REUTERS/Mike Blake        SEARCH "WILD HORSE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.

U.S. Border Patrol horses Hollywood (L) and Apache roll in the dirt at their patrol station in Boulevard, California, U.S November 12, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake 

Helm, 62, teaches the men not to “break” the horses, but to “gentle” them. The method relies on incremental steps and rewarding the horses for good behaviour. Any inmate that raises a hand to a horse gets booted from the programme.

“It’s more working on us than on them,” said Rick Kline, 32, who has served five years of a seven and a half year sentence for stealing cars. “It’s a new understanding of calming down.”

He hopes to apply that skill of staying calm to parenting his two kids when he gets out of prison.

U.S. Border Patrol agents prepare their horses for patrol at their station in Boulevard, California, U.S., November 14, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake        SEARCH "WILD HORSE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.

U.S. Border Patrol agents prepare their horses for patrol at their station in Boulevard, California, U.S., November 14, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake 

Bret Karakey, 35, who is in prison for identity theft, recently broke his hip when he was thrown from a horse. But he came back without hesitation.

“I kind of need this,” he said.

Most prisoners who apply for the programme don’t have experience with horses, and Helm prefers it that way. They tend to be gentler with the animals.

Florence began its horse training programme in 2012, and while it is too early to assess the long-term effects on participating inmates, of the 50 or so who have gone through it and been released, none has returned to prison, Helm said. The national recidivism rate is about 68 percent within three years of release.

An inmate rides a wild horse as part of the Wild Horse Inmate Program ( WHIP) at Florence State Prison in Florence, Arizona, U.S., December 2, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake       SEARCH "WILD HORSE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.

An inmate rides a wild horse as part of the Wild Horse Inmate Program ( WHIP) at Florence State Prison in Florence, Arizona, U.S., December 2, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake 

Helm says he sees real transformations in inmates who stay with the programme.

“A lot of them haven’t really bonded with a person, let alone an animal,” he said. “It’s been really interesting to observe these guys’ lives change.”

U.S. Border Patrol adoptions are key to the government’s effort to stem the nation’s growing population of mustangs. A federal law passed in 1971 tasked the Bureau of Land Management with managing wild horse and burro populations in the American West, both to protect the animals and to ensure that vegetation was not overgrazed and water sources depleted.

But with the soaring cost of hay and dwindling public interest in horse ownership, the BLM can place only about 2,000 into adoption each year, severely limiting the number it can capture from the open desert and plains, Lutterman said.

A wild horse is herded into corrals by a helicopter during a Bureau of Land Management round-up outside Milford, Utah, U.S., January 7, 2017. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart        SEARCH "WILD HORSE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.     TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

A wild horse is herded into corrals by a helicopter during a Bureau of Land Management round-up outside Milford, Utah, U.S., January 7, 2017. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart 

Fifteen years ago, the BLM was rounding up more than 10,000 mustangs and putting about 6,000 into new homes each year.

Border Patrol is the biggest single purchaser of mustangs from the inmate programs.

On horseback, the agents can navigate desolate stretches land that vehicles cannot. The mustangs are sure-footed on steep terrain, crossing creekbeds without hesitation and stepping spryly over rattlesnakes.

U.S. Border Patrol agents on horseback patrol along a beach just north of the U.S.-Mexico border near San Diego, California, U.S., November 10, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake        SEARCH "WILD HORSE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.

U.S. Border Patrol agents on horseback patrol along a beach just north of the U.S.-Mexico border near San Diego, California, U.S., November 10, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake 

“It really feels like the Wild West out where we patrol for sure,” said Bobby Stine, supervisory agent of the San Diego Sector Horse Patrol Unit. “There’s just not a lot of law enforcement presence, except for us.”

The border is an unforgiving place; just 654 miles of fence exist between the United States and Mexico, accounting for about a third of the border. The rest is defined by mountains, rivers, private ranches and wild country – terrain more suited for horses, which all agents had back when Border Patrol was founded in 1924.

The San Diego border patrol unit has 28 horses, and the Tucson unit more than 130. Fifteen horses from the Florence prison were adopted in 2014 and 2015.

U.S. Border Patrol supervisor Bobby Stine frisks a man a few hundred meters from the U.S.-Mexico border fence near Jacumba, California, U.S., November 14, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake         SEARCH "WILD HORSE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.

U.S. Border Patrol supervisor Bobby Stine frisks a man a few hundred meters from the U.S.-Mexico border fence near Jacumba, California, U.S., November 14, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake 

The task of the Florence inmates who train the horses is, at times, thick with irony: Some are Mexican nationals, apprehended on the border for drug-related offences.

The inmates, though, say they don’t mind that the horses help law enforcement. They are simply happy the animals no longer face thirst and starvation in the drought-stricken West.

“All the ‘inmates against cops’ stuff – that’s not true,” said Kline. “They’re just doing their job. And we’re doing our job. These horses depend on us.”

Copyright Reuters 2017

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Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded by our readers. It is ad-free and spam-free, and does not solicit donations from partisan organizations. To continue we require a minimum payment of .27 for one story, or a sustaining donation. Details here; donate below. Thanks for your interest and support.

F&O’s CONTENTS page is updated each Saturday. Sign up for emailed announcements of new work on our free FRONTLINES blog; find evidence-based reporting in Reports; commentary, analysis and creative non-fiction in OPINION-FEATURES; and image galleries in PHOTO-ESSAYS. If you value journalism please support F&O, and tell others about us.

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Disappearing the Middle East

TOM REGAN: SUMMONING ORENDA
December 3, 2016

An Afghan policeman patrols next to a burning vehicle in the city of Kunduz, Afghanistan October 1, 2015. REUTERS/Stringer

Related story: Security Chief: Europe Must Brace for New Extremist Attacks Above, an Afghan policeman patrols next to a burning vehicle in the city of Kunduz, Afghanistan October 1, 2015. REUTERS/Stringer

Strangely enough, I don’t want to start this column by talking about the Middle East. I start  instead in Afghanistan in Southeast Asia, because its case is a microcosm of what’s happening throughout the Middle East, and a valuable lesson in the way most media covers what’s happening there or — to put it bluntly — doesn’t cover it.

Are you aware that little more than a week ago, the top commander of the US and allied forces in Afghanistan said the Afghan government only controls about 60 per cent of the country? The rest is controlled by insurgent Taliban forces, which are getting stronger and are likely to take over even more territory. This despite the fact that the United States alone has spent billions of dollars in aid to Afghanistan (as of January 1, 2015, the total was $685.6 billion, making it one of the two most expensive wars in American history – the more expensive one is Iraq). This includes training Afghan troops to fight the Taliban, supplying hardware and troops and drones attacks to wipe out Taliban commanders, yet it appears the Taliban is poised to recapture Afghanistan once again.

Do you remember reading about any of this? Or seeing it on America’s nightly news? Or hearing it being discussed on CNN or Fox News or MSNBC? The chances are highly unlikely. While the story was certainly covered by wire services like Associated Press, almost none of the major media outlets in America carried it for longer than about 10 minutes. It probably didn’t appear on cable news at all, a medium that is more fascinated by Donald Trump’s tweets than by America’s longest and second-most costly war.

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Migrants, hoping to cross into Hungary, walk along a railway track outside the village of Horgos in Serbia, towards the border it shares with Hungary, August 31, 2015. REUTERS/Marko Djurica

Migrants, hoping to cross into Hungary, walk along a railway track outside the village of Horgos in Serbia, towards the border it shares with Hungary, August 31, 2015. REUTERS/Marko Djurica

Now let’s look at the Middle East. Are you aware that over 600 car-bombs have been used against Iraqi security forces in their attempt to retake Mosul from the Islamic State (IS)? Are you aware that the battle of Mosul is still happening? Do you know that Lebanon has a new president who is closely aligned with the terrorist group Hezbollah and Iran? Do you know that Libyan forces have almost wiped out IS forces in Libya, isolating the remainder in the Libyan town of Sirte? (The Pentagon claims IS forces now control only about two blocks and 50 buildings in Sirte itself.) Or that the biggest problem may come after the IS forces have been wiped out, because the various groups who came together to fight them don’t get along and could fall to fighting amongst themselves for control of the country? What about accusations that Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia has committed war crimes against its battles against Shia Muslim Houti forces in Yemen? Did you even know Saudi forces were fighting in Yemen? Or that many experts have said the US and the UK may be complicit in some of these war crimes because of their support of Saudi Arabia? How about the recent success of Islamist, nationalist and liberal (strange bedfellows indeed) opposition forces in Kuwaiti parliamentary elections that may throw the country into complete chaos?

The answer to all these questions is … probably not. Because, to all intents and purposes, the Middle East has disappeared from American media. Americans have moved on: the recent presidential elections hardly focused on questions of foreign policy outside President-elect Donald Trump’s promise to block illegal Hispanic, and most Muslim, immigrants, and his claim that China is trying to destroy jobs in the US and so invented the climate-change “hoax” as a way to accomplish that goal.

Since covering Trump generated much, much more money for the news media —  in particular the cable news networks — these very important developments in the Middle East, which have serious implications for the United States and the world, were barely mentioned. Some were not mentioned at all.

The disappearance of the Middle East from American newspapers, radios and TV screens probably has several causes: President Obama’s attempted pivot away from the Middle East to focus on relations with Pacific nations; the non-stop Trump-fest coverage of the presidential election; media fatigue after almost 14 years of covering conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan; dwindling resources that force many outlets to focus on coverage of the Syria conflict (and even that is increasingly dropping off the media radar); and the fact that Americans are just bored and want the whole thing to go away.

But there’s the rub — it won’t just go away. The issue of millions of people displaced by war in the region isn’t going away; it played a role in both Brexit and the US election, and will likely also do so in Italian, Austrian, Dutch, and France elections in the coming months. While the Islamic State has been weakened, it isn’t going away. Iran’s presence in a divided Syria isn’t going away. The Palestinian issue is likely only to get worse under a Trump administration.

The Middle East is still the other elephant in America’s living room (the bigger one is racism). Despite the best efforts of the American media and the US public in general, the Middle East will continue to be a cause for concern. No matter how hard they try to ignore it.

Copyright Tom Regan 2016

Contact Tom Regan:  motnager@gmail.com

 

You might also wish to read:

Security Chief: Europe Must Brace for New Extremist Attacks, by Alastair Macdonald

 Islamic State will attack Europe again, security chiefs warned Dec. 2, and may add car bombs, cyber and chemical warfare to its local arsenal as European militants drift home after reverses in Syria and Iraq.

Related in F&O’s Archives:

Turkey’s Shock Waves Slam Middle EastJONATHAN MANTHORPE: International Affairs, July 30, 2016

The Middle East: Meltdowns, Crises and DaeshBy Simon Mabon, January, 2015  

United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Afghanistan http://www.unocha.org/afghanistan

Further information:

United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Conflict Induced Displacements graphic as of Nov. 27, 2016: http://reliefweb.int/report/afghanistan/afghanistan-conflict-induced-displacements-27-november-2016

 

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Tom Regan Tom Regan has worked for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and with the National Film Board in Canada, and in the United States for the Christian Science Monitor, Boston Globe, and National Public Radio. A former executive director of the Online News Association in the U.S., he was a Nieman fellow at Harvard in 1991-92. He is based near Washington, D.C.

Return to Tom Regan’s page 

 

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Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded only by you, our readers. We are ad-free and spam-free, and do not solicit donations from partisan organizations. To continue we need a minimum payment of .27 for one story, or a sustaining donation. Visit our Subscribe page for details, or donate below. With enough supporters each paying a small amount, we will continue, and increase our original works like this.

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Yemen yearns for peace

By Reuters
May, 2016

Abdussalam Hamad al-Harethi, 39 who sells antiques, souvenirs and silverware, poses for a photograph in Sanaa, Yemen, April 21, 2016. "We are optimistic that we will see the Kuwait negotiations stop the war, especially in light of the decrease in the number of air strikes," al-Harethi said. Anxiety reigns in the Yemeni capital Sanaa, where ordinary people await the outcome of almost a month of peace talks they hope can end a devastating war. REUTERS/Mohamed al-Sayaghi

Abdussalam Hamad al-Harethi, 39 who sells antiques, souvenirs and silverware, poses for a photograph in Sanaa, Yemen, April 21, 2016. “We are optimistic that we will see the Kuwait negotiations stop the war, especially in light of the decrease in the number of air strikes,” al-Harethi said. Anxiety reigns in the Yemeni capital Sanaa, where ordinary people await the outcome of almost a month of peace talks they hope can end a devastating war. REUTERS/Mohamed al-Sayaghi

Sanaa, Yemen (Reuters) — Anxiety reigns in the Yemeni capital Sanaa, where ordinary people await the outcome of almost a month of peace talks they hope can end a devastating war.

Life was already a struggle for many residents of one of the Arab world’s poorest countries, but the onset of the conflict more than a year ago has made mere survival the priority and extreme hardship the norm.

The crump of air strikes, power outages and the deep-seated gnawing fear that their society may never emerge intact have all become part of daily life.

Hope is hard to find, and what little exists lies with the peace delegations representing the armed Houthi movement – which controls Sanaa – its allies, and their enemies in Yemen’s exiled, Saudi-backed government taking place in Kuwait.

Seemingly a world away in Sanaa, the ancient city whose old city is clustered with majestic mudbrick towers, the past looks brighter than the future.

But flickers of hope still shine among some Sanaa residents.

“We are optimistic that we will see the Kuwait negotiations stop the war, especially in light of the decrease in the number of air strikes,” said Abdussalam Hamad al-Harethi, 39, who sells antiques, souvenirs and silverware.

Less upbeat, Ahmed Hizam al-Soudi, 75, who sells traditional Yemeni curved daggers called jambiyas said he hoped wisdom would prevail among negotiating parties in Kuwait.

“We ask God to relieve us from this ordeal, which we were not expecting.”

“God willing, they would agree, because we are exhausted. And if they love the country, they will stop the war that brought devastation and destruction to the people of Yemen.”

The sentiment is widespread.

Muslih Ali Qaid, 59, a bookstore owner, poses for a photograph in Sanaa, Yemen, April 29, 2016. "My message to the negotiators in Kuwait is: 'Don't give up the rights of the people who stood fast for a whole year, because there are deaths and injuries and complete destruction of the infrastructure.'" Qaid said. "I hope that the dialogue will succeed in rebuilding Yemen, there is no hope otherwise." Anxiety reigns in the Yemeni capital Sanaa, where ordinary people await the outcome of almost a month of peace talks they hope can end a devastating war. REUTERS/Mohamed al-Sayaghi

Muslih Ali Qaid, 59, a bookstore owner, poses for a photograph in Sanaa, Yemen, April 29, 2016. “My message to the negotiators in Kuwait is: ‘Don’t give up the rights of the people who stood fast for a whole year, because there are deaths and injuries and complete destruction of the infrastructure.'” Qaid said. “I hope that the dialogue will succeed in rebuilding Yemen, there is no hope otherwise.” Anxiety reigns in the Yemeni capital Sanaa, where ordinary people await the outcome of almost a month of peace talks they hope can end a devastating war. REUTERS/Mohamed al-Sayaghi

Youth activists fed up by the deadly feud among Yemen’s political and military elites that has left 25 million citizens suffering the consequences have warned them on social media: “Don’t come back to Yemen unless with peace.”

Standing amidst her fresh-faced students, Yemen’s future, mathematics teacher Wafaa Mansour shared a view held by many – that the conflict has been infiltrated by so many foreign powers that only diplomatic intervention from the outside can help.

“If all sides do not make concessions, I do not think that there would be a proper solution without the intervention from one of the big states sponsoring the dialogue.”

In the maternity ward of a Sanaa hospital, 28-year old nurse Hindia Abdurabu al-Zubah looks after some of the country’s youngest and most vulnerable citizens and hopes the senior politicians in the land face up to the gravity of their task.

“I’m optimistic that the ongoing talks in Kuwait will unify us again and put an end to a year of war and conflict, and my message to them is: ‘Yemen is your responsibility,” she said.

 

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