Report

U.S. Allies to Send 1,500 Troops for Train and Advise Mission in Iraq

Members of the U.S.-led coalition combating Islamic State militants have pledged to send about 1,500 additional troops to Iraq to help train and advise Iraqi and Kurdish forces.

IRAQ-CONFLICT
Iraqi pro-government forces take part in a major operation against Islamic State (IS) group fighters to retake the areas around the Hamrin dam in the Diyala province, northeast of Baghdad, on November 26, 2014. Iraqi security forces and pro-government fighters retook areas near the Iranian border that the Islamic State jihadist group had held for months, officers said. AFP PHOTO/ YOUNIS AL-BAYATI (Photo credit should read YOUNIS AL-BAYATI/AFP/Getty Images)

Members of the U.S.-led coalition combating Islamic State militants have pledged to send about 1,500 additional troops to Iraq to help train and advise Iraqi and Kurdish forces. The soldiers would add to the 3,100 committed by the United States, according to U.S. Lt. Gen. James Terry, who is commanding the coalition’s operations. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel has arrived in Baghdad to discuss the operation with Iraqi officials. He is the first U.S. defense secretary to visit the Iraqi capital since President Barack Obama ordered the withdrawal of troops in 2011. Speaking to U.S. soldiers, Hagel noted the United States has a role to play in training and assisting Iraqi troops, though he stressed that the Iraqis “have to lead.” Coming off of gains against Islamic State militants in the city of Mosul, Iraqi officials are pushing for a winter offensive in the area months ahead of schedule despite U.S. warnings.

Syria

The United Nations has appealed for a record $16.4 billion to fund humanitarian operations in 2015. Assistance will reach 22 countries, but nearly half will go to victims of the Syrian conflict. The U.N. World Food Program said it will resume food voucher distribution to Syrian refugees by mid-December, after a funds shortage forced the agency to suspend assistance on December 1. The WFP said it has raised $80 million from a fundraising drive. Meanwhile, Lebanese sources reported Syrian warplanes launched airstrikes overnight on the eastern Lebanese town of Arsal, near the border with Syria, killing three people.

Headlines

  • A bombing in Bahrain killed one person Tuesday in the village of Karzakan a day after a policeman, reported to be Jordanian, was killed by a bombing in the village of Damistan.
  • Al Qaeda has claimed responsibility for two suicide car bomb attacks on a military base in the southern Yemeni city of Sayoun Tuesday that killed seven soldiers.
  • Israel’s parliament voted to dissolve itself Monday ahead of early elections set for March 17, 2015.
  • The United Nations has expanded a new round of Libya peace talks, expected to start next week, to include the rival parliament, the General National Congress.
  • The Palestinians for the first time on Monday became an observer at the annual summit of the International Criminal Court.

Arguments and Analysis

The Breakdown of the GCC Initiative’ Stacey Philbrick Yadav and Sheila Carapico, MERIP)

“On September 21, 2014, fighters of Ansar Allah, loyal to the Houthi movement based in the northern highlands of Sa‘ada, conquered Yemen’s capital. Militants occupied the home of 2011 Nobel Peace Prize winner Tawakkul Karman, a leader of the 2011 uprising against the regime of President ‘Ali ‘Abdallah Salih and a member of the Islamist party Islah. When the young men tweeted photos of themselves sprawling on her flowery bedspread with automatic weapons and bags of qat littered around them, the Houthi fighters conveyed a triumphal logic of coercive power, here sexualized for maximum impact. They later apologized, saying that the intent was to ‘guard’ the Nobel laureate’s home. But the takeover of Karman’s house fell into a pattern of attacks on the homes of Islahi leaders, including the villa of the infamous Gen. ‘Ali Muhsin, commander in Salih’s wars against Ansar Allah. Many outside observers reported the advance of a ragtag militia into Sanaa and beyond as a struggle between the “Shi‘i” Houthis and assorted “Sunnis,” among them Islah. More than sectarian animus, though, the autumn turn of events demonstrated the political appeal of key Houthi positions, including critique of the excesses of Yemen’s established elite and rejection of the transitional mechanism advanced by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and Western enthusiasts. It was, as journalist and youth activist Farea al-Muslimi observed, ‘a breakdown of the Saudi-backed order.’”

Militaries, civilians and the crisis of the Arab state’ (Yezid Sayigh, The Washington Post)

“The breakdown of authoritarian control and transition in systems of governance weakened political and legal constraints on the military in the Arab Spring countries. In Egypt and Tunisia, characterized by relatively strong state institutions and highly formal militaries, this enabled the latter to play a major political role. In Libya and Yemen, with their weak states and mutual penetration by strong societal forces, in contrast, the uprisings deepened tribal and regional cleavages within the military, accentuating its paralysis and disintegration. The outcome, in every case, has gone beyond changes in degree, to usher in a qualitatively new phase in civil-military relations.”

Jordan sends message with arrests of MB leaders’ (Osama Al Sharif, Al Monitor)

There are observers, however, who believe that the clash between the Muslim Brotherhood and the government was inevitable for many reasons. The movement, the largest opposition group in Jordan, has boycotted parliamentary and municipal elections and hawks within it have rejected appeals by moderates to engage in dialogue with the government. Furthermore, with Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE banning the movement, Jordan has come under pressure by its regional allies to take action. So far, the regime has resisted such pressures, but with Bani Irsheid attacking the UAE and others, the government felt that a message had to be sent.

Mohammad Abu Rumman, expert in Islamist affairs, agrees and told Al-Monitor that the crisis between the movement and the regime goes back almost 20 years. “Eventually there will be a divorce between the two, but the regime will not be pressed into banning the movement anytime soon,” he said. He added that Jordan is now under pressure by its Arab allies and recently criticism of the policies of these allies had increased. “Bani Irsheid’s attack on the UAE required a strong reply from the government,” he said.

YOUNIS AL-BAYATI/AFP/Getty Images

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