Welcome back to the Middle East Thread, 8th edition.
This is a quickie, I had intended to pass on the duty of the OP, but the thread is moving so quickly that didn't happen.
Here's a map of the places we talk about in this thread:
Trump campaigned on a platform of non-intervention, of not calling for Assad's ouster, and of not butting heads with Russia abroad.
Well, that didn't last long!
The Trump administration has already launched an airstrike openly targeting Syrian government forces. This had not been (openly/intentionally) done under Obama, even after his infamous "red line" statement.
What does it mean? Nobody knows! Except that the ever complicated Middle East just got a new fun layer of complexity for the bright men of Washington to deal with.
Other issues of the day:
Erdogan of Turkey just got himself massive new powers.
The Saudi-led war in Yemen continues to be brutal and mostly ignored.
Afghanistan is set for a busy fighting season, watch to see if Trump gets more involved here too.
IS is on the ropes. Mosul in Iraq has been surrounded and is falling block by block.
Raqqa in Syria is a few more SDF pincer movements away from being surrounded as well.
The aftermath of IS will be at least as complicated, and maybe deadly, as their rule. It will take a lot of careful diplomacy and management to keep anything together. This is my vote for the most important ME issue of the next few years.
Rouhani of Iran is up for election this summer. The nuclear deal, and much else, hinges on the result.
Libya is broken, and still receives US airstrikes fairly regularly.
Some more US special forces have been around Somalia lately.
Egypt continues to ineffectually fight IS in the Sinai, while suffering (especially its Copts) periodic bombings.
Plus the refugee issue remains unsolved, with thousands still making the crossing in the Med.
And that doesn't even mention Israel/Palestine! Whew.
Constantly updated map of Syria and Iraq: