Week of October 23rd

  • On Monday, Iraq and the United Nations launched a campaign to vaccinate nearly one million livestock in the Mosul area over fears the animals may be carrying diseases, as they have not been vaccinated since Islamic State seized the city in 2014.  The diseases that could spread include brucellosis, a bacterial disease transmitted to humans through contaminated or unpasteurized milk of infected animals, and foot and mouth disease, a highly contagious and sometimes fatal disease affecting hoofed animals but not a direct threat to humans. Some 12 million Iraqis – about a third of the population – live in rural areas and depend on agriculture for their livelihoods with cattle, goats and sheep raised for meat, wool, milk and skin production, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
  • On Tuesday, a security consultancy, the Soufan Group, said at least 5,600 IS fighters from 33 countries have returned to their home countries after spending time in IS-controlled territory in both Syria and Iraq. The potential return of unknown numbers of foreign fighters represents a huge challenge for law enforcement agencies. Furthermore, the extent to which displaced fighters will “wish to regroup, resurge, recruit and recreate what they have lost, is as yet unknown.”  More than 40,000 foreigners flocked to join IS from more than 110 countries both before and after the extremists declared a caliphate in June 2014. It said they included 5,718 from Western Europe, more than 8,700 from the former Soviet Union and 439 from North America.
  • In addition to the June 2018 lifting of the ban on women driving, Saudi Arabia will also for the first time allow women to attend sports events, preparing special sections in three selected stadiums from early next year in another step toward opening public spaces to women. The stadiums in Jeddah, Dammam and Riyadh will be set up to accommodate families from early 2018, said the statement from the General Sports Authority, carried by the state-run Saudi Press Agency late on Sunday.
  • The next round of Astana talks on the Syria conflict  will take place on Oct 30-31 in Kazakhstan, as part of a Moscow-led push to end the six-year conflict. The two-day meeting, which will take place in the Kazakh capital, will be the seventh round of negotiations this year that are co-sponsored by regime backers Russia and Iran, and rebel supporter Turkey. The meeting is expected to call for a cessation of hostilities between anti-government groups and forces fighting on behalf of President Bashar al-Assad, for a period of at least six months. The plan, which has not yet been published, will call for all aircraft to be banned from flying over these areas, rendering them no-fly zones. Sources have said the meeting will also discuss the release of hostages, prisoners, delivery of food and aid to besieged areas, the transfer of dead bodies and the search for missing persons.
  • On Sunday, Israeli officials announced the government has delayed a bill that would connect a number of West Bank settlements to Jerusalem. The bill aims to solidify the city’s Jewish majority, but stops short of formal annexation, making the practical implications unclear. The bill says the communities would be considered “daughter municipalities” of Jerusalem. Israel’s hard-line government has been emboldened by the Trump administration’s more sympathetic approach to Israel and the draft bill is part of a series of pro-settler steps the government has taken in recent months. Still, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has sought to remain in President Donald Trump’s good graces and claimed Israel needs to coordinate the bill with the U.S.: “The Americans turned to us and inquired what the bill was about. As we have been coordinating with them until now, it is worth (to continue) talking and coordinating with them. We are working to promote and develop the settlement enterprise.”
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