Report

Assad Says Syria is Informed About U.S.-Led Airstrikes

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said third parties are conveying messages to the Syrian government about U.S-led coalition airstrikes against Islamic State militants.

TURKEY-SYRIA-CONFLICT-KURDS
Smoke rises after an airstrike from US-led coalition against IS militants in the Syrian town of Kobane, also known as Ain al-Arab, as it is seen from the Turkish southeastern border village of Mursitpinar, Sanliurfa province, on November 8, 2014. Syrian Kurdish forces backed by rebels and Iraqi peshmerga fighters have been battling to expel IS from the town, most of whose residents have fled. AFP PHOTO / ARIS MESSINIS (Photo credit should read ARIS MESSINIS/AFP/Getty Images)

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said third parties, including Iraq, are conveying messages to the Syrian government about U.S-led coalition airstrikes against Islamic State militants. In an interview with the BBC, Assad mentioned that there is no dialogue, and the messages are general, not tactical. Assad also denied the Syrian army had used barrel bombs, which have been criticized by human rights groups for killing thousands of civilians. The United States pushed for the removal of Assad after the Syrian conflict broke out in 2011, though officials say their priority is now fighting Islamic State militants. The Obama administration is expected to ask Congress by Wednesday for a formal Authorization to Use Military Force in the campaign against Islamic State fighters. On Tuesday, the United Arab Emirates reported its forces launched a series of airstrikes from a Jordanian air base, which were the first since the UAE suspended strikes against Islamic State militants in December. Meanwhile, Kurdish forces in Iraq, supported by coalition airstrikes, retook three key corridors north of Mosul from Islamic State fighters.

Headlines

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived in Egypt Monday for talks with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi focusing on trade and economic ties and regional conflicts.
  • Yemen’s Islah party became the second group to boycott U.N.-brokered talks with the Houthis Monday.
  • Three bombings near police stations in the Egyptian city of Alexandria wounded up to 10 people on Tuesday, meanwhile air raids in Sinai killed 15 suspected militants, according to security sources.
  • Bahrain’s Information Affairs Authority announced the new Al Arab news channel has been suspended for not obtaining “the necessary permits” and for not doing enough to combat “extremism and terrorism.”

Arguments and Analysis

The Battle for Libya’s Oil’ (Frederic Wehrey, The Atlantic)

“This is the battle for Libya’s two largest oil ports at the towns of al-Sidr and Ras Lanuf. It is but one front of a complex and largely forgotten civil war that, since May of last year, has devastated the country. The fighting has opened deep fissures that regional powers and transnational jihadists like al-Qaeda and the Islamic State are exploiting. Over 2,500 people have been killed since last summer. In the grim accounting of the wars in Syria and Iraq, this may seem a paltry figure by comparison. But Libya’s population is three and a half times smaller than Syria’s, and more than five times smaller than Iraq’s. And the war’s persistence is affecting not just Libyans but the security of surrounding African and, increasingly, European nations. ‘We should have no illusion on the fact that we can stay away from Libya. Libya will not stay away from us,’ Federica Mogherini, the European Union’s foreign-policy chief, said recently.”

How Arab world’s newest cable news source made a splash, only to dry up’ (Elizabeth Dickinson, The Christian Science Monitor)

“Whether it was in fact for political or technical reasons, the channel’s disruption makes Al Arab only the latest Arabic cable news station to fall victim to perceptions of political bias – the very thing the new channel had promised would differentiate it among skeptical regional viewers.

The two giants in the Arabic news industry, Qatar-owned Al Jazeera and Saudi-owned Al Arabiya, have lost audience since the Arab Spring began in 2011, when both channels appeared to take their home countries’ sides. The loss in confidence is evident in the gains of a rival station – BBC Arabic – which has seen 15 percent growth in its audience year over year.”

Mutual escalation in Egypt’ (Mokhtar Awad and Nathan J. Brown, The Washington Post)

“Since the overthrow of former president Mohamed Morsi in July 2013, Egyptian political rhetoric has been overheated. But something different seems to be afoot in both camps. Among the Muslim Brotherhood’s supporters, subtle excuses for political violence are giving way to more open calls. On the side of the regime of now-President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi, there is an attempt to move the religious apparatus of the state from acceptance of the suppression of Islamists to enthusiastic support while using the media to direct anger at jihadists to all Islamists.”

Mary Casey-Baker

ARIS MESSINIS/AFP/Getty Images

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