The United States Reevaluates its Relationship with Saudi Arabia

A recently declassified U.S. intelligence report confirmed that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman approved the killing of Jamal Khashoggi.

The release of the report is part of a shift in Washington’s relationship with Riyadh, and highlights the need for the Biden administration to recalibrate relations.

Prominent voices in the United States were, however, dismayed that the Biden administration eschewed a harder stance.

‘Constant fear’: Iraq and Syria face ISIL resurgence

ISIL’s ‘caliphate’ was destroyed in March 2019 but its ideology and socioeconomic fault lines that gave birth to it are still intact in the region.

Rania Najim Abed is terrified that ISIL (ISIS) might return to Tel Eskof, her hometown in northern Iraq, 15km (9 miles) from the armed group’s former stronghold of Mosul.

Biden Administration Strikes Iranian Proxies

The February 25 retaliatory U.S. air strike on Iran-backed militias in Syria sought to deter attacks by Iranian proxies while minimizing escalation.

The strike inside Syria represented an effort by the Biden Administration to avoid enmeshing U.S.-Iraq relations with Washington’s approach toward Tehran.

US: Russia blocks Syria chemical weapons use accountability

The United States accused Syrian President Bashar Assad and his close ally Russia on Thursday of trying to block all efforts to hold Damascus accountable for using chemical weapons during attacks on civilians.

U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield told the U.N. Security Council that “the Assad regime has tried to avoid accountability by obstructing independent investigations and undermining the role and work of the OPCW,” the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons which is the international chemical weapons watchdog.

Belgian children and some women to be repatriated from IS camp in Syria.

The Belgian prime minister said the children in the notorious al-Hol camp could become “the terrorists of tomorrow.” Women will be repatriated on a case-by-case basis.

Belgium has decided to repatriate children and some women from the al-Hol camp for Islamic State (IS) families in northeast Syria.

The European country’s national security council decided Wednesday to repatriate Belgians from the camp. The repatriation for children will be for those 12 years old or younger. Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said mothers will be repatriated on a case-by-case basis determined by national security, Belgium’s public broadcaster RTBF reported Thursday.

In 2019, a Belgian court ruled the government must take back 10 children from Syria who were born to Belgian IS fighters. There was a similar order in 2018, but the state has yet to repatriate any of them. The government’s decision is due to the 2019 order. In addition to the children in al-Hol, there are 13 mothers there. Nine of them have been convicted of crimes and four have arrest warrants out for them, Reuters reported Thursday.

There are also Belgians in the smaller Roj camp in northeast Syria, according to Reuters.

Belgians were among the Europeans who went to join IS in Iraq and Syria in 2014. Several thousand foreigners from Europe, Asia and elsewhere remain detained in parts of autonomous northeast Syria controlled by the US-backed and Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces. Al-Hol is one such detention center.

Northeast Syrian authorities have repeatedly called on foreign governments to take back their citizens from the autonomous part of northeast Syria. There have been several repatriations in recent months. Germany and Finland took back women and children in December, as did Uzbekistan. France and Moldova did the same earlier in 2020.

Conditions are worsening in al-Hol and there were far more deaths there than usual this past January.

De Croo emphasized security in announcing the repatriation. He warned that the children in the camp could become the “terrorists of tomorrow” and said the women will be evaluated for their allegiance to IS.

“If they distanced themselves from IS, they could be repatriated,” De Croo said.

Freedom House: Syria, Western Sahara worst in world for political rights

The think tank also downgraded Jordan to “not free” in its 2021 democracy rankings.

Several Middle Eastern and North African states scored badly in Freedom House’s rankings for 2021.

The think tank, which receives the bulk of its funding from the US government, released its findings on the state of democracy around the world Wednesday. Freedom House ranked Syria as the country with the least political rights in the world, followed by Western Sahara.

Syria has been mired in a harrowing civil war since 2011. There have been numerous reports of human rights violations in government, rebel and Kurdish territory. President Bashar al-Assad has been in office since 2000, having succeeded his late father, Hafez.

Western Sahara is considered a non-self-governing territory by the United Nations. It has been controlled by Morocco since 1975. In 2020, the United States recognized Morocco’s claims to sovereignty there. Many people in Western Sahara reject Moroccan rule. The wider region is divided on the issue. Algeria, for example, supports the pro-independence Polisario Front. Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, backs Morocco’s position.

Freedom House considers both state and nonstate actors in formulating its rankings.

Other countries in the region also became less free last year, according to Freedom House. Algeria received a lower score this year due to the government’s “campaign against prodemocracy protesters.” The country is classified as “not free” by Freedom House.

Freedom House also downgraded Jordan from “partly free” to “not free.” Jordan is a constitutional monarchy and key US ally. Freedom House cited the government’s crackdown on the teachers union and the poor quality of the country’s November elections, which had historically low turnout amid the pandemic, among the reasons for the lower grade.

Freedom House has been criticized by some observers for subjectivity. Russia in particular has spoken out against the think tank’s rankings.

Arabs Warn Biden: We Do Not Want Another Obama

The Biden administration, some Arab writers have said, “has adopted a policy of “antagonizing allies while appeasing enemies.”

[Syrian journalist Abduljalil] Alsaeid said he believed that former Obama administration officials, who are now part of the Biden administration, are intentionally trying to damage US-Saudi relations.

Is it still possible to prevent the collapse of Syria?

Syrian intellectuals and activists from across political and intellectual spheres are busy searching for a way out of the disastrous situation their country has reached after ten years of violent conflict. The issue is not straightforward, and the exit is unclear, with everyone trying to feel their way out in the dark without achieving a result. This is especially true since the Syrians’ ability to influence their country’s future is continuously diminishing with the established foreign presence within it, and with the regime and opposition’s supporters on the brink of collapse.

Palestinian Terrorists to Biden: Do Not Believe the Palestinian Leadership

Who exactly is the Palestinian Authority leadership lying to and why?

Hamas issued a statement on February 25 in which it denied that the group had changed its attitude toward Israel. “Our political and national positions are well known and clear,” Hamas said. “They are expressed in our official documents and publications. We remain committed to the resistance until the liberation [of all of Palestine].”