The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration arrested several members of Hezbollah, including Mohamad Noureddine, who was placed under sanctions last week by the U.S. Treasury for laundering money for the terrorist organization. The individuals arrested are believed to include leaders of Hezbollah’s European operations. They stand accused of using millions of dollars from the sale of cocaine in the United States and Europe to buy weapons in Syria.
The arrests were the result of a year-long investigation that included support from seven countries, including France, Germany, Italy and Belgium.
Residents of Besieged Iraqi City Dying of Starvation
Iraqis living in the Islamic State-occupied city of Fallujah are dying of starvation with access to food cut off by a siege implemented by the Iraqi military three months ago. At least 10 people have starved to death in Fallujah; the lack of supplies has driven up the costs what remaining food is in the city and some have resorted to eating grass. Residents say the Islamic State is hoarding the food that makes it past the blockade, which has made the Iraqi military reticent to allow supplies to enter.
- U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is in Rome today for a conference of 20 foreign ministers from nations participating in the U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State; in his remarks, he called for greater contributions to a stabilization fund to rebuild cities recaptured from terrorists.
- Turkish and NATO radar systems detected a Russian Su-34 warplane crossing into Turkish airspace on Saturday, according to Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davetoglu; Russian officials had previously dismissed Turkish claims that the incident had occurred as “pure propaganda.”
- A Saudi military spokesman said yesterday that cross-border attacks by Yemen’s Houthi rebels have killed 375 Saudi civilians, including 63 children; “Now our rules of engagement are: you are close to the border, you are killed,” Saudi Brigadier General Ahmed Asseri said.
- Israelis living in communities near the border with the Gaza Strip are reporting hearing construction noises which they believe are coming from Hamas tunnel construction, though the Israeli government says it has not found evidence of the noises.
- An oil pipeline south of the Libyan port of Zueitina was attacked on Sunday, and though no group has claimed credit, Islamic State militants are known to operate in the area; maintenance crews are working to repair the damage.
Arguments and Analysis
“Hard truths about U.S. relationships in the Middle East” (Sen. Chris Murphy, D-CT, speech at the Council on Foreign Relations)
“But increasingly, there is more and more not to like about the current state of our relationship. The political alliance between the House of Saud and the conservative Wahhabi clerics is as old as the nation, and the alliance has resulted in billions funneled to and through the Wahhabi movement. Those 24,000 religious schools in Pakistan — thousands of them are funded with money that originates in Saudi Arabia. According to some estimates, since the 1960s, the Saudis have funneled over $100 billion into funding schools and mosques all over the world with the mission of spreading puritanical Wahabbism. As a point of comparison, researchers estimate that the Soviet Union spent about $7 billion exporting its communist ideology from 1920–1991. Less-well-funded governments and other strains of Islam can hardly keep up with the tsunami of money behind this export of intolerance. Rightfully, we engage in daily castigations of Iran for sponsoring terrorism throughout the region. But why has Saudi Arabia been largely immune from direct public criticism from political leaders simply because they are a few degrees separated from the terrorists who are inspired by the ideology their money helps to spread? Why do we say virtually nothing about the human rights abuses inside Saudi Arabia, fueled by this conservative religious movement, when we so easily call out other countries for similar outrageous behavior?”
“China’s Stance on East Jerusalem” (Mohammed al-Sudairi, Middle East Research and Information Project)
“For those accustomed to the themes of Sino-Arab diplomacy, Chinese President Xi Jinping’s speech at the Arab League headquarters in Cairo on January 21 was predictable enough. It might not have attracted much attention at all if not for Xi’s statement that ‘China firmly supports the Middle East peace process and supports the establishment of a State of Palestine enjoying full sovereignty on the basis of the 1967 borders and with East Jerusalem as its capital.’ This unequivocal position on East Jerusalem — at odds with the Israeli government’s insistence that Jerusalem is the “eternal and undivided” capital of Israel and with the US willingness to put Jerusalem’s status up for negotiation — was accorded considerable coverage in the Israeli press. In Arab social media, meanwhile, President Xi’s words met with some surprise as they appeared to indicate a shift in China’s position toward avid support for Palestine. Few noted, however, that the Chinese stance on this issue had already been spelled out in the ‘Arab white paper’ issued on January 13, a week before Xi left on the tour of Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Iran during which he gave his speech. Unacknowledged, moreover, is the fact that this posture has been the de facto official position of the Chinese government for the last two decades or so, although it has only become truly evident over the last few years.”
-J. Dana Stuster
GEORGE OURFALIAN/AFP/Getty Images