The Middle East Channel

Obama Confirms Islamic State’s Killing of Hostage Peter Kassig

U.S. President Barack Obama confirmed the death of Peter Kassig, a 26-year-old aid worker and former U.S. soldier, after a video was released Sunday seemingly showing he had been beheaded. Kassig, who took the name Abdul-Rahman after converting to Islam while in captivity, founded the organization Special Emergency Relief and Assistance in September 2012 to ...

MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images
MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images

U.S. President Barack Obama confirmed the death of Peter Kassig, a 26-year-old aid worker and former U.S. soldier, after a video was released Sunday seemingly showing he had been beheaded. Kassig, who took the name Abdul-Rahman after converting to Islam while in captivity, founded the organization Special Emergency Relief and Assistance in September 2012 to provide food and medical supplies to Syrian refugees. He disappeared on October 1, 2013 while traveling to the eastern Syrian city of Deir al-Zour. Obama praised Kassig as a humanitarian and condemned his killing as "an act of pure evil." Kassig was the fifth Western hostage to be killed by Islamic State militants. Sunday’s video additionally showed the beheadings of around 14 men identified as Syrian military officers and pilots.

Iraq

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Sunday that the United States would accelerate efforts to train Iraqi forces in the fight against Islamic State militants. Obama is seeking funding from Congress to add 1,500 military personnel in Iraq, which would nearly double the number of U.S. troops. Hagel said the training mission will begin using troops already in Iraq, so that U.S. officials "don’t lose any time." Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin E. Dempsey arrived in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad Saturday for his first visit since the start of the U.S. campaign against the Islamic State militants in order "to get a sense" of how the U.S. contribution is going. Dempsey told U.S. troops that momentum is turning against the militant group, though the battle is likely to take years.

Headlines

  • Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Bahrain are returning their ambassadors to Qatar in efforts to repair relations after an eight-month rift over the country’s support for Islamist groups.
  • President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who has rarely appeared in public since his re-election in April, has returned to Algeria after a two-day stay reportedly at a cardiology unit of a French hospital.
  • A nuclear deal with Iran continues to face opposition as negotiators return to Vienna this week ahead of the November 24 deadline.
  • Israeli forces shot and wounded a Palestinian boy on the Gaza border and an Israeli man was stabbed in Jerusalem as violence escalates and Israel steps up plans to demolish homes of Palestinians implicated in attacks.

Arguments and Analysis

Why the US is Losing Yemen‘ (Adam Baron, Defense One)

"The rising strength of the Houthis portends obvious problems with not just Yemen’s current government, headed by close U.S. ally Abdo Rabbu Mansour Hadi, but the United States’ strategy in the country as a whole. Hadi has proven a malleable ally for Washington, permitting the U.S. not just to launch drone strikes against suspected al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, targets in the region, but actively praising drones despite widespread public opposition to attacks that have left dozens of civilian casualties in their wake in recent years. 

The Houthis, however, refuse to meet with American officials on ideological grounds. In an obvious suggestion of who’s currently in control, placards displaying their slogan-which, in part, reads ‘Death to America’-are omnipresent in Sana’a, including at a check point slap bang in front of the American embassy in Sana’a, which recently cut its staff in response to the ongoing political crisis."

Algeria’s Police Riots‘ (Abdallah Brahimi, Sada)

"Although the Bouteflika government responded to the immediate economic and professional demands of the police force, it ignored the fundamental and more political requests. The government agreed to grant security forces (including police, gendarmerie, military personnel, and firefighters) large retroactive salaries increases and access to new and affordable housing. Other demands, including the removal of General Hamel, however, have gone unnaddressed. The government has thus sought to deter further uprisings by dismissing several local police chiefs accused of orchestrating the rebellion.

The ongoing issue with the police is symptomatic of Algeria’s interminable power struggle between the presidency, the army, and the Department of Intelligence and Security (DRS). Bouteflika’s faction in government has made a series of reforms-including decree 14-183 and other shake-ups before it-aimed at restricting the DRS and the army’s influence in politics. This power struggle prevents any fundamental reforms that could address the security forces’ underlying demands. In the event that Bouteflika-or Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal, who has taken over most duties from the ailing president-does want to negotiate with protesters and reach an agreement on the establishment of a police union and the removal of corrupt officials, the DRS would likely fight back against such measures."

Development plan needed for peace in Yemen‘ (Farea al-Muslimi, Al Monitor)

"The Gulf Initiative succeeded in transferring power and ending armed hostilities in Yemen, but it has failed to instill peace. The cause of that failure stems from the core tenet being legally and in other ways flawed to the extent that it is difficult to rectify. Perhaps this difficulty stems from the unattainable desire to placate all factions at the expense of all other considerations, and irrespective of the Yemenis’ dream to build a true state, or perhaps because the initiative did not include an economic or development plan that could win the Yemeni people’s trust. Furthermore, the regional and international commitment to Yemen’s unity, security and stability was not accompanied by real, long-term plans, but by local anesthesia that numbed the pain here and there."

Mary Casey-Baker

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