US National Security Adviser John Bolton will be visiting Moscow in the coming week to try and lay groundwork for a meeting between President Trump and Vladimir Putin next month. Trump will be in Europe then for a NATO summit in Brussels, and then a state visit to Great Britain. The proposed mini-summit of sorts between the two leaders is the latest attempt by the White House to build a friendlier relationship with Russia. Earlier this month at the G7 Summit in Quebec, Trump tried unsuccessfully to convince the other members to readmit Russia, which was suspended in 2014 following its annexation of Crimea. Relations between the US and Russia have been cold for quite some time, though there has been a large amount of backchannel discussion between the two nations over security concerns, namely Syria.
It is worth noting that there are no plans to include European leadership in a potential July talks. The exclusion of EU members, and NATO allies sends a blunt message to Europe about the reemergence of US leadership on the global stage, and the current state of relations between the United States and Europe. The Trump administration does not intend to be encumbered by European actions and interests, or be bound by a lack of consensus among its European allies. Right now, Washington and Europe have significant disagreements on a host of issues including security, trade, and immigration. There’s little chance an overall agreement could be reached right now on how to approach Russia.
Therefore, the United States sees fit to take the lead.
A New Phase in the Turkish Purge
The Turkish government had dismissed another 10,000 civil servants and shut down 15 media outlets over suspected links with Fethullah Gulen, the US-based cleric who has been blamed by Ankara for being behind the failed coup in July. Since the coup attempt, over 100,000 government employees have been fired or suspended and 37,000 arrested. This latest batch of dismissed employees learned of their fates when two executive decrees were published on Saturday. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has long defended the continued crackdown, citing it as essential to removing Gulen influence from the state government. Opposition parties view the purges quite differently, with one even calling it a coup in itself. Turkey’s Western allies are concerned that Erdogan is using the failed coup as justification to remove eradicate dissent.
Immediately following the failed coup, the Turkish government declared a state of emergency and used it as a blanket to go after Gulen supporters and Kurdish militants, citing both as major threats. The state of emergency has been extended until January, 2017 and could be pushed out even beyond that, as Erdogan has hinted that authorities will need even more time to contend with the alleged threats.
Advance Into Mosul Underway
The battle for Mosul is entering its third week and finally showing signs of significant progress. Today, Iraqi units broke through ISIS defenses in the eastern suburbs of the city and fighting has expanded into the city limits for the first time. Iraqi army Counter Terrorism Service troops are now fighting in the Karama district. The offensive to liberate Mosul started on 17 October and has progressed slowly since then. Peshmerga fighters and Iraqi government forces have taken on the lion’s share of the effort to retake Mosul with US airstrikes supporting them. On Saturday, pro-Iranian militias joined the effort, attempting to cut off the transportation network between Mosul and Raqqa. ISIS has been attempting to slow the coalition offensive down with mortars, sniper fire, car bombs and scorched earth, as well as more conventional defensive tactics. The question now appears to be not ‘will Mosul be liberated?’ but ‘How long will the effort take and how many heavy will the casualties be?’