Report

U.S.-backed Forces Enter Strategic City of Manbij

The Syria Democratic Forces, a U.S.-backed coalition of Kurdish and Sunni Arab groups, reportedly entered the strategic Islamic State-held city of Manbij this morning. A U.S. official said yesterday that the city had been successfully cut off from supply networks, but that military planners expected strong resistance from Islamic State militants. The presence of large ...

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The Syria Democratic Forces, a U.S.-backed coalition of Kurdish and Sunni Arab groups, reportedly entered the strategic Islamic State-held city of Manbij this morning. A U.S. official said yesterday that the city had been successfully cut off from supply networks, but that military planners expected strong resistance from Islamic State militants. The presence of large numbers of Kurdish fighters in the attack on the Sunni Arab-majority city has raised tensions within the coalition of U.S.-supported groups fighting the Islamic State. Those tensions have spilled over into direct conflict in recent weeks between Kurds and the Free Syrian Army in Aleppo. At least 3,000 residents of Manbij have fled ahead of the fighting.

Four U.S. soldiers were wounded on June 9 when an anti-tank round believed to have been fired by Islamic State fighters exploded near them during operations in northern Syria, CNN reports. The U.S. Department of Defense, despite discussing U.S. casualties in other incidents, has declined to verify the report. The men’s wounds were reportedly mild and they have since returned to combat. The Islamic State asserted responsibility for killing three Russian soldiers in a roadside bomb attack outside of Raqqa. Russian officials have not yet commented on the claim.

AQAP Returning to Yemeni Towns, Say Residents

Yemeni residents say members of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula are starting to return to the cities of Jaar and Zinjibar, which AQAP occupied until negotiating a withdrawal with local tribal leaders as an Emirati-backed offensive against the terrorist group approached. The AQAP fighters are reportedly driving through the cities in technicals (pickup trucks with mounted guns) during the day, but do not remain in the cities at night.

Headlines

  • Members of the Egyptian Parliament say they have the authority to disregard a recent court decision on the legality of transferring two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia when the issue comes up for debate next month.

 

  • Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman met with U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon yesterday to discuss the Saudi intervention in Yemen, which Ban criticized in a recent report on child rights; bin Salman did not respond to the criticism of the intervention but the men discussed “concrete measures that could improve the situation on the ground” to protect civilians, according to a U.N. statement.

 

  • President Bashar al-Assad has removed his prime minister, Wael al-Halaki, who has been in office for nearly four years, and replaced him with Minister of Electricity Emad Khamis, who he tasked with forming a new government.

 

  • On Tuesday, the United States and Israel signed a declaration of intent to expand cooperation on cybersecurity issues, including establishing real-time cooperation between “Computer Emergency Response Teams.”

 

  • Kuwait filed a $1-billion lawsuit against the International Olympic Committee in protest of a ban on the country’s participation in the Olympic games because of Kuwaiti laws that allow “government interference in sports”; FIFA, the international soccer organization, has taken similar measures against Kuwait to those of the IOC.

Arguments and Analysis

Is the Iranian-Saudi cold war heating up? How to reduce the temperature” (Sultan Barakat, Markaz)

“To head off outright confrontation, Saudi Arabia and Iran need to identify potential areas of shared interest. Both states’ economies are dependent on oil, and both are working to reduce that reliance. To some extent, each country’s economy depends on the other’s success. Both are targeted by the same terror groups, including al-Qaida and the Islamic State. And the countries face similar environmental threats, including oil spills, challenges related to accelerated industrialization, and water shortages. In all of these areas, Iran and Saudi Arabia can work together. It won’t be easy, but there are helpful historical examples. Seventy years ago, no one could have imagined France, Germany, and Britain overcoming their regional rivalries to become close political and economic partners.”

 

A New Role for Jordan’s Government” (Kirk H. Sowell, Sada)

“King Abdullah II’s May 29 appointment of Hani al-Mulqi, head of the Aqaba Special Economic Region Authority, to replace outgoing prime minister Abdullah Ensour comes at a turning point for Jordan. Though the office has limited inherent power — especially since a set of constitutional amendments announced in April enhanced executive authority and, specifically, the power of the king — it signals a shift toward a more technocratic government, even if not an independent one. These changes, which coincide with the king’s dissolution of parliament, should leave the next parliament with the unhappy role of forming the budget and managing an unpopular process of cutting fuel and electricity subsidies while Mulqi, with his technocratic experience, becomes the public face of a painful austerity program. These changes coincide with rhetoric about Jordan’s need for a ‘parliamentary government.’”

-J. Dana Stuster

DELIL SOULEIMAN/AFP/Getty Images

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