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News Article | May 11, 2017
Site: news.yahoo.com

The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces are focused on driving the Islamic State group out of the jihadists' de facto Syrian capital Raqa (AFP Photo/DELIL SOULEIMAN) Beirut (AFP) - With hostilities subsiding on Syria's western battlefronts, President Bashar al-Assad's army is seeking to head off US-backed forces fighting jihadists further east, analysts and military sources in Damascus say. Violence has diminished in parts of central and western Syria after a deal signed last week in the Kazakh capital Astana to introduce four "de-escalation zones" aimed at paving the way for a lasting ceasefire. The agreement, brokered by rebel backer Turkey and government allies Iran and Russia, leaves out valuable border lands in eastern Syria, including the oil-rich province of Deir Ezzor. Observers say Syrian government troops plan to seize swathes of that territory from jihadists -- but also from rival groups backed by the United States. "This truce will allow a part of the Syrian army to redeploy east towards positions held by the Islamic State group, chiefly near the Iraqi border and towards Deir Ezzor city," said Waddah Abed Rabbo, editor-in-chief of the Al-Watan daily. "It's a question of refusing to allow the US and the forces it supports to occupy the country's east," said Abed Rabbo, whose paper is close to the government. Under the Astana deal, "de-escalation zones" will be created in four areas: the northwestern province of Idlib, parts of the central province of Homs, the south, and the opposition enclave of Eastern Ghouta near Damascus. But the eastern Syrian desert, which is not included, is divided between IS, Kurdish militia, the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and an Arab rebel group known as the Maghawir al-Thawra (Commandos of the Revolution). The SDF, an alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters, is focused on driving IS out of the jihadists' de facto Syrian capital, Raqa, but analysts expect they will turn towards Syria's coveted eastern border next. "Once this happens, it's better for the Syrian army to advance east too," said Fabrice Balanche, a Syria expert at the Washington Institute. "If Assad wants to keep Syria united, he also needs the so-called 'un-useful' part of the country too," he added. Indeed, Assad's forces appear to be on alert for a Washington-backed drive for the frontier territory. "The US is pushing the groups it supports to take full control of the Syrian-Iraqi border," a Syrian government official said. A senior military source in Damascus told AFP that, in response, Syria's army would push east in a three-pronged approach. First, troops were working through territory in Hama province, which lies adjacent to the province of Deir Ezzor. Second, government fighters in Homs province would sweep east from the ancient city of Palmyra, which they recaptured from IS in March in a Russian-backed offensive. They would aim for Sukhnah, a key town on the highway between Palmyra and Deir Ezzor. The third axis would focus on Al-Tanaf, a strategic border crossing between Syria and Iraq that lies on a highway linking the capitals of the two countries. The first two assaults would aim to break IS's two-year siege on Deir Ezzor city, where a Syrian military expert says 7,000 government troops are trapped. "At least 15,000 fighters will be needed to lift IS's siege," said the expert, who spoke on condition of anonymity. The third drive for Al-Tanaf, though, would put Syrian troops in confrontation with the US-backed Maghawir al-Thawra. Maghawir al-Thawra's fighters were trained by both the US and Jordan, and have recently captured a series of towns near Syria's southeastern borders with both Iraq and Jordan. According to the military expert, Syria's army "is trying to reach Al-Tanaf in coordination with the Russians to prevent the Americans from spreading further east." Reconquering Syria's east will be a tall task for government troops, whose numbers have been strained by deaths and defections during the deadly six-year war. More than 320,000 people have been killed since the conflict erupted with anti-Assad protests in 2011.


News Article | May 16, 2017
Site: news.yahoo.com

Washington (AFP) - Presidents Donald Trump and Recep Tayyip Erdogan stood side by side at the White House on Tuesday and promised to work through strained ties despite the Turkish leader's stern warning about Washington's arming of a Kurdish militia. Fresh from securing his grip on Turkey with a referendum to enhance his powers, Erdogan came to Washington with a list of complaints about US support for Kurdish fighters and its harboring of the alleged mastermind of a failed coup. But both leaders also wanted to put a brave face on their differences and to renew a key alliance between NATO's leading power and its biggest Muslim member, partners in the fight against the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq. "It is absolutely unacceptable to take the YPG-PYD into consideration as partners in the region, and it's going against a global agreement we reached," Erdogan said, referring to the the Kurdish Peoples' Protection Units (YPG) in Syria. "In the same way, we should never allow those groups who want to change the ethnic or religious structures in the region to use terrorism as a pretext," he added, suggesting that the Kurds are using the anti-IS fight as cover for separatist nationalism. Trump was one of the first leaders to congratulate Erdogan on winning the April 16 vote to strengthen his office, and his Turkish counterpart repaid the compliment on Tuesday by hailing his host's "legendary victory" in the US presidential race. "Of course Mr Trump's victory has led to an awakening of new expectations for Turkey and the region it is in. We know the new US administration will not let these hopes be in vain," Erdogan said. The US leader paid tribute to Turkey's historical contributions to the Western alliance's Cold War battles and promised: "Today we face a new enemy in the fight against terrorism and again we seek to face this threat together." Washington and Ankara are bitterly at odds over US support for the YPG, a Syrian armed faction that acts as the main ground force in the Pentagon's plan to defeat the Islamic State group but that Turkey deems a front for the banned Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). And Erdogan remains angry that the United States continues to host Islamic preacher Fethullah Gulen, a former ally who chose exile in Pennsylvania and who has now been accused of masterminding last year's bloody attempted coup in his homeland. While the pair shared warm words at their joint public appearance, Erdogan again made it clear that he would never accept an autonomous YPG-led Kurdish area in Syria, and that he had "frankly communicated" his expectation that Washington hand over Gulen. After their appearance, the pair headed into meetings and a working lunch with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to dig deeper in to the issues. "We look forward to having a long and productive discussion," Trump said. "We've had a great relationship and we will make it even better." Trump hopes to secure at least grudging Turkish agreement not to oppose the US-led drive by YPG fighters to oust the Islamic State from their Syrian stronghold of Raqa. In return, Trump will have to give Erdogan assurances that Gulen will be closely monitored while the US courts examine an extradition request and that Washington will eventually endorse a Turkish offensive against PKK bases in Sinjar, northern Iraq. "That's the main ask," said Soner Cagaptay, director of the Turkish research program at the Washington Institute of Near East Policy. "He's going to want US support for a Turkish operation against Sinjar." Turkish officials had spoken enthusiastically about Trump's election as a chance to turn a new page. But hopes could have been dashed last week when the Pentagon confirmed that it has increased its support for the YPG by directly arming its fighters ahead of the battle to oust the Islamic State from its de facto capital in Syria. Ankara regards the YPG as simply the Syrian arm of the "terrorist" PKK, which has waged a deadly insurgency inside Turkey since 1984, and Erdogan is worried his deadly enemy will find itself in charge of a US-armed statelet on his southern frontier.


News Article | April 17, 2017
Site: www.prweb.com

Kwesi Oginga’s new book Divinity ($14.99, paperback, 9781498463508; $7.99, eBook, 9781498463522    ) was written for Christians and non-Christians to understand the true power of the Christian personality in today's world. It is an innate empowerment for positive relationships at all levels of the human experience. Divinity offers an understanding of the very foundation of the Christian philosophy and how to spiritually empower a Christian to overcome all life circumstances. Oginga says, “In today's world, many are afraid to admit their Christian persuasion. These poetic expressions will help you to embrace your Christianity, and to boldly express and celebrate it.” Kwesi Oginga became the Associate Pastor of New Life Ministries, in November 2005. Presently, he is located at 800 Randolph Road, Silver Spring, MD 20904. His initial Seminary Training began at the Christian Life Missions Headquarters in New Philadelphia, a little town in the State of Ohio. In 2008, he began studies for a Bachelor’s Degree in Christian Studies at Grand Canyon University, and he graduated Magma Cum Laude, in 2012. Oginga immediately commenced studies for his Masters in Pastoral Ministry at the same university and graduated in 2014. Added to my pastoral duties at New Life Ministries, he is presently an Adjunct Professor at the Washington Institute of Theological Studies (WITS), in Reston, Virginia. Xulon Press, a division of Salem Media Group, is the world’s largest Christian self-publisher, with more than 12,000 titles published to date. Retailers may order Divinity through Ingram Book Company and/or Spring Arbor Book Distributors. The book is available online through xulonpress.com/bookstore, amazon.com, and barnesandnoble.com.


News Article | May 4, 2017
Site: news.yahoo.com

US President Donald Trump to visit Saudi Arabia, Israel and the Vatican in first presidential foreign trip (AFP Photo/SAUL LOEB) Washington (AFP) - Donald Trump on Thursday announced his first foreign trip as president will include stops in Saudi Arabia, Israel and the Vatican -- the spiritual centers of Islam, Judaism and Catholicism. Trump will add the three stops to an already announced visit to NATO and G7 summits in Brussels and Sicily later this month. "My first foreign trip as president of the United States will be to Saudi Arabia, then Israel, and then to a place that my cardinals love very much, Rome," Trump said in a Rose Garden announcement. Aides described the decision to make Saudi Arabia the coveted first presidential stop as an effort to reset relations with the Muslim world. There, Trump will meet with leaders from across in the Gulf and broader Middle East in the hope of curbing jihadi terror groups and Iran's growing regional clout. "Saudi Arabia is the custodian of the two holiest sites in Islam," said Trump, who has frequently been accused of fueling Islamophobia. Trump said in Saudi Arabia he would "begin to construct a new foundation of cooperation and support with our Muslim allies to combat extremism, terrorism and violence and to embrace a more just and hopeful future for young Muslims in their countries." The aim, one senior administration official said, was to reverse a trend "of America's disengagement from the world and some of its biggest problems." During president Barack Obama's tenure, relations with the Gulf States, and Saudi Arabia in particular, were strained over his administration's engagement with Iran. Trump's administration -- which includes many generals who have had bitter personal experience with Iranian-backed militias in Iraq and Lebanon -- has vowed to push back against Iranian influence across the region. Trump's decision to visit Saudi Arabia first is a typically unorthodox move. Although the kingdom is a long-time US ally, Trump will be the first president since Jimmy Carter not to visit Canada or Mexico first. "It seems to me part of a conscious effort to draw a distinction between the Trump Administration and its predecessor," said Eric Pelofsky, a visiting fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and Obama's National Security Council senior director for North Africa and Yemen. "Going there first, rather than Israel or one of our neighbors -- Canada or Mexico -- is clearly purposeful, potentially building a foundation for other moves like in the Middle East peace process, Iran, and perhaps elsewhere." Lori Plotkin Boghardt, a former US intelligence analyst who is also at the Washington Institute, said Trump's decision would send "an important signal to the Saudis that this administration wants to prioritize them as key partners on regional issues and beyond." The visit comes as Trump wades into Middle East peacemaking, trying to reach a deal between Israel and the Palestinians, a goal that has eluded his predecessors and countless diplomats. Trump is expected to meet both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas on the trip. A senior aide did not rule out the possibility of a presidential stop in the West Bank, but that is likely to be contingent on security and Abbas taking concrete steps toward peace. Trump on Wednesday hosted Abbas at the White House, pledging to help end the decades-old conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. "It is something that I think is, frankly, maybe not as difficult as people have thought over the years," Trump said, exuding his trademark bravado. From there Trump will travel to the Vatican, where he will be received by Pope Francis on May 24. Trump's attendance of a NATO summit in Brussels will be closely watched. The new president has demanded allies pay more for collective security, but has backed away from his early declarations that the alliance is "obsolete." A G7 summit in Sicily will offer Trump the chance to sit down face-to-face with leaders of the world's largest economies.


News Article | April 28, 2017
Site: www.prweb.com

Join The Israel Project as Ambassador Dennis Ross conducts an on-the-record conference call with journalists to discuss expectations for the upcoming meeting between Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and U.S. President Donald Trump. This call is on-the-record. If you plan to call in, please RSVP to events(at)theisraelproject(dot)org with your questions. About the speaker: Ambassador Dennis Ross is counselor and William Davidson Distinguished Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP). Prior to returning to the Institute in 2011, he served two years as special assistant to President Obama and National Security Council senior director for the Central Region, and a year as special advisor to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. For more than twelve years, Ambassador Ross played a leading role in shaping U.S. involvement in the Middle East peace process and dealing directly with the parties in negotiations. A highly skilled diplomat, Ambassador Ross was U.S. point man on the peace process in both the George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton administrations. The Israel Project is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, educational organization that provides factual information about Israel and the Middle East to the media, policymakers and the public. Visit http://www.theisraelproject.org for more information.


Ackelsberg J.,Gotham Center | Leykam F.M.,Washington Institute Inc. | Hazi Y.,Health Enterprises | Madsen L.C.,Washington Institute Inc. | And 6 more authors.
Biosecurity and Bioterrorism | Year: 2011

Native air sampling (NAS) is distinguished from dedicated air sampling (DAS) devices (eg, BioWatch) that are deployed to detect aerosol disseminations of biological threat agents. NAS uses filter samples from heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems in commercial properties for environmental sampling after DAS detection of biological threat agent incidents. It represents an untapped, scientifically sound, efficient, widely distributed, and comparably inexpensive resource for postevent environmental sampling. Calculations predict that postevent NAS would be more efficient than environmental surface sampling by orders of magnitude. HVAC filter samples could be collected from pre-identified surrounding NAS facilities to corroborate the DAS alarm and delineate the path taken by the bioaerosol plume. The New York City (NYC) Native Air Sampling Pilot Project explored whether native air sampling would be acceptable to private sector stakeholders and could be implemented successfully in NYC. Building trade associations facilitated outreach to and discussions with property owners and managers, who expedited contact with building managers of candidate NAS properties that they managed or owned. Nominal NAS building requirements were determined; procedures to identify and evaluate candidate NAS facilities were developed; data collection tools and other resources were designed and used to expedite candidate NAS building selection and evaluation in Manhattan; and exemplar environmental sampling playbooks for emergency responders were completed. In this sample, modern buildings with single or few corporate tenants were the best NAS candidate facilities. The Pilot Project successfully demonstrated that in one urban setting a native air sampling strategy could be implemented with effective public-private collaboration. © Copyright 2011, Mary Ann Liebert, Inc.

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