NYT > Middle East


Russia Says Its Syria Bases Beat Back an Attack by 13 Drones

NYT > Middle East

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, in a surprise visit to that air base on Dec. 11, declared that combat operations were winding down and that the Russian military would stage a "significant withdrawal." It was at least the second time he had made such an announcement since March 2016. Mr. Putin faces a presidential election this March, and although he is expected to win easily, polls indicate that Russians are increasingly disgruntled about the country's military presence in Syria. Please verify you're not a robot by clicking the box. You must select a newsletter to subscribe to.


As Iranian Protesters Dig In, Officials Warn of Harsher Response

NYT > Middle East

On Monday, a crackdown by the government and security services was building, and riot police officers with water cannons were out in full force in Tehran, the capital. The death toll from the clashes was up to at least 12, and in the central province of Esfahan, one police officer was reported killed and three wounded in a gunfight. "An agitator exploited the current situation, and using a hunting rifle, opened fire on police forces," state television reported. In all, about 200 people have so far been arrested in Tehran alone since the protests began Thursday, one security official told the ISNA news agency. There were arrests in provincial towns as well.


Marib Journal: As Yemen Crumbles, One Town Is an Island of Relative Calm

NYT > Middle East

During a recent four-day trip to Marib with a group of Western journalists and researchers, I saw a town struggling for a sense of normalcy -- and even progress -- despite the collapsed country around it. The trip was organized by the Sana Center for Strategic Studies, a research institute focused on Yemen, and led by Farea al-Muslimi, an energetic young Yemeni scholar, who said he worried that the international community was forgetting about Yemen, to the peril of both. "We can't stop the war in Yemen right now, but at least we can cause more conversation about it," he said. "We want to bring the world to Yemen and bring Yemen to the world." Marib's unlikely success is partly a symptom of the near complete shattering of the Yemeni state, which has left regions to fend for themselves in providing life's basics for their people.


Egyptian Concertgoers Wave a Flag, and Land in Jail

NYT > Middle East

In an apparently separate case, a student who attended the Mashrou' Leila concert was arrested hours later after being "caught in the act," the police said. Homosexuality is not illegal in Egypt, but the authorities frequently prosecute gay men for homosexuality and women for prostitution under loosely-worded laws that prohibit immorality and "habitual debauchery." The Arab Spring ushered in a brief period of respite, with a sharp rise in the use of dating apps as gay people socialized openly at parties and in bars. On Monday a court convicted Khaled Ali, a lawyer and opposition figure, for making an obscene finger gesture outside a Cairo courthouse last year after he and other lawyers won a case against the government.


Pentagon Tests Lasers and Nets to Combat a Vexing Foe: ISIS Drones

NYT > Middle East

At the vast, windswept White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico earlier this year, nearly a dozen military contractors armed with laser guns, high-tech nets and other experimental systems met to tackle one of the Pentagon's most vexing counterterrorism conundrums: how to destroy the Islamic State's increasingly lethal fleet of drones. The Pentagon is so alarmed by this growing threat -- even as it routs the Islamic State from its strongholds in Mosul, Iraq, and Raqqa, Syria -- that it has launched a $700 million crash program overseen by two senior Army generals to draw on the collective know-how and resources of all branches of the armed services, Silicon Valley and defense industry giants like Boeing and Raytheon to devise tactics and technology to thwart the menace. The results were decidedly mixed, and underscore the long-term problem confronting the Pentagon and its allies as it combats the Islamic State and Al Qaeda in a growing number of hot spots around the world beyond Iraq and Syria, including Yemen and Libya. "Threat targets were very resilient against damage," the Pentagon agency assigned to help crack the problem, the Joint Improvised-Threat Defeat Organization, said in response to questions from The New York Times about how the contractors fared against mock enemy drones.


Iranian Drone Buzzes U.S. Fighter Jet Over Persian Gulf

NYT > Middle East

An unarmed Iranian drone buzzed an American Super Hornet fighter jet as it circled an aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf, Defense Department officials said on Tuesday. A statement released by the military's Central Command said that despite repeated radio calls demanding that Iran keep the drone clear of American flight operations in the vicinity of the aircraft carrier Nimitz, the Iranian vehicle came within 100 feet of the fighter jet, which had to swerve to avoid a collision. The American military said this was the 13th "unsafe" or "unprofessional" interaction between American and Iranian maritime forces this year. In the Persian Gulf, there have been an increased number of close calls and incidents as the United States has stepped up assistance to Saudi Arabia and other allies fighting Iranian-backed Houthis in Yemen.


Trump Adds Sanctions on Iran After Certifying Its Compliance with Nuclear Deal

NYT > Middle East

The targets of the Tuesday announcement included individuals or groups that the United States said had supported efforts by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps force to develop and produce drones, attack boats and other military equipment. The announcement also criticized Iran for its incarceration of American citizens and other foreigners on what it described as fabricated charges, an issue that has long been in irritant in the estranged relations between the countries. When the United States first imposed nuclear-related sanctions on Iran, he said, the Iranians had 200 centrifuges to enrich uranium, but when the Americans "started negotiating with us in order to remove those sanctions, we had 20,000 centrifuges." "So if you want to see the results of sanctions, just 19,800 centrifuges is the net result of sanctions," he said.


Video Shows Mosul Civilians Trapped in a Fight Clearly Not Over

NYT > Middle East

The civilians crowd together in a narrow alleyway, stranded near house-to-house fighting and surrounded by the stark devastation of western Mosul, where the battle against the Islamic State was supposed to be over. Video taken from a drone on Monday quickly confirmed that the battle to seize Mosul from the Islamic State continues, and that at least 100 civilians were still trapped by the fighting. For days since the government officially declared victory in the city, Times journalists and other witnesses in Mosul had confirmed that the sounds of intense fighting could still be heard from pockets within Western Mosul. Now, these drone images have provided the clearest account yet of a grinding battle that continues against the Islamic State's holdout force.


Critics Say U.S. Is 'Sleepwalking' Into Wider Role in Syria

NYT > Middle East

The contradiction opens a larger question, national security experts say, of what kind of broader strategy the Trump administration plans once the Islamic State -- now on the defensive -- is defeated in Syria. When President Barack Obama first began airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria three years ago, the instructions to the Pentagon seemed clear: Defeat the Islamic State through alliances with Syrians who oppose the brutal extremist group, but do not help them fight President Bashar al-Assad. Defense officials insist that does not amount to a greater United States involvement in the broader war. And with the fight now intensifying in eastern Syria's Euphrates River Valley -- home to oil reserves and water -- defense officials say that they are bracing for Mr. Assad and his backers to go all-out to reclaim that territory from the Islamic State.


american-warplane-shoots-down-iranian-made-drone-over-syria.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

NYT > Middle East

An American F-15E fighter jet shot down an Iranian-made armed drone on Tuesday over southeast Syria that was flying toward American-backed Syrian fighters and their advisers, Pentagon officials said. American officials said that the aircraft was a Shahed 129, the same type of Iranian drone that an American warplane blasted on June 8 after it dropped a bomb near American-supported Syrian fighters and their coalition advisers. Tuesday's episode occurred shortly after midnight local time as the drone approached a so-called deconfliction zone the Americans have declared around the town of al-Tanf, the same place where the first drone had ventured. A garrison of Syrian fighters and their American and allied advisers are based near the town, which is near the intersection of the Syrian, Iraqi and Jordanian borders.