Report

Iraq Prepares to Retake Mosul

The U.S. military told reporters Monday that the next phase of the fight against the Islamic State will be the fight to retake Mosul. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr. said that the United States and partner forces have isolated the city, and that the capture of Shaddadi, Syria, ...

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The U.S. military told reporters Monday that the next phase of the fight against the Islamic State will be the fight to retake Mosul. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr. said that the United States and partner forces have isolated the city, and that the capture of Shaddadi, Syria, last week, severed the last significant line of communication between Mosul and the Islamic State’s de facto capital in Raqqa. The United States is also using cyberattacks to disrupt the Islamic State’s communications. U.S. officials cautioned that it could be a months-long fight including Iraqi forces that have yet to be tested in combat, and that the composition of the force to take Mosul has not been decided. In particular, U.S. officials said the role that Kurdish peshmerga will play is still undecided, and that they hope Iraqi Prime Minister will allow U.S. close air support from attack helicopters, which he has refused so far.

In comments to the New York Times, the Iraqi military suggested that they are ready to proceed. According to the head of Iraq’s Counter Terrorism Service, the Iraqi forces for the Mosul assault force, including Sunni tribal fighters, have been chosen and are being positioned near the city. Last week, it was reported that Turkish troops are also in the area and have been shelling Islamic State positions near Mosul.

Autopsy of Italian Student Killed in Egypt Shows a Week’s Worth of Torture

The autopsy of Giulio Regeni, the Italian graduate student who disappeared and was found dead in Cairo a month ago, showed that Regini had been tortured for as long as a week before dying. Sources in the Egyptian prosecutor’s office told Reuters that the pattern of the wounds suggest “that whoever is accused of killing him was interrogating him for information.” Suspicion for Regini’s death has fallen on Egypt’s secret police, but Egypt’s Ministry of the Interior has denied the accusations and has not commented on the autopsy findings.

Headlines

  • Syrian President Bashar al-Assad called the current ceasefire a “glimmer of hope” and said the Syrian government would “do our part” to ensure its success in an interview with a German television station; he also suggested amnesty for rebels who voluntarily give up their arms.

 

  • Four Islamic State suicide bombers disguised as soldiers infiltrated an Iraqi military base near Haditha, in Anbar Province, and killed an Iraqi general and five other soldiers.

 

  • Newly released documents from the cache of materials seized from Osama bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound include bin Laden’s will and letters that show the growing paranoia of the organization from 2008 to 2011 — in one, bin Laden discusses the wrongful execution of four members of the group he thought were spies.

 

  • A group of reporters were nearly struck by artillery shelling in a northern Syrian town near the Turkish border, though no casualties were reported; the Russian military blamed the shelling on Jabhat al-Nusra, which is not part of the ceasefire.

 

  • The United States has issued another urgent warning about the potential collapse of the Mosul Dam; the dam is undergoing repairs to prevent flooding that could kill as many as 500,000 people in the event of a catastrophic failure.

Arguments and Analysis

How We Can Still Fix Libya” (Ben Fishman, Politico Magazine)

“Ultimately, establishing a stable, unified and secure government should be the goal of a long-term Libya policy. But if the government takes several more weeks to form and even more time to request and shape counter-Islamic State support, is that a risk we can afford to take given the possibility of continued threats against Tunisia, or to European or American interests abroad? By striking an Islamic State training camp west of Tripoli on February 19 and apparently killing a top Islamic State leader responsible for planning the Tunisia attacks, the Obama administration signaled that it would not wait for a unity government to establish itself before taking at least some action. It did so against the advice of many Libya watchers who argue that any outside intervention could pose a devastating setback to the unity government formation process. An initial anti-Islamic State campaign that is scoped carefully and involves the right mixture of local forces, regional actors, with key contributions of U.S. air, intelligence, and Special Forces assets, is far superior to letting the Islamic State continue to expand with impunity.”

 

Is the Houthi-Saleh Alliance Cracking?” (Jillian Schwedler, MENASource)

“Between the Houthis and Saleh, there is more than enough hubris to go around. Each seems convinced it can dispense the other with ease once the Saudi-led campaign ends. But with no signs of that happening soon, will the coalition endure? The Houthis may be exploring options for a Saleh-less future. Their representatives are involved in ongoing mid-level talks with the Saudis, who are adamant that Saleh cannot be part of Yemen’s future. It is possible to imagine the Houthis providing some guarantees that their limited relations with Iran — which the Saudi regime knows full well are not extensive, notwithstanding public rhetoric — in exchange for some role in determining the makeup of a post-war Yemen. The Houthis and Saudis share an interest in seeing Saleh retired, whether the latter chooses Tunisia’s Ben Ali route (exile) or Libya’s Qaddafi route (execution). At least two high-level GPC leaders have defected from Saleh’s camp and currently reside in Riyadh, working with Saudi encouragement to peel away support for Saleh from GPC ranks in order to preserve a role for the party in a future Yemen.”

-J. Dana Stuster

AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images

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