The Middle East Channel

U.S. Leads First Strikes Against Islamic State Targets in Syria

U.S. Leads First Strikes Against Islamic State Targets in Syria

The United States has expanded its campaign against Islamic State militants, for the first time targeting positions in Syria. According to the U.S. military, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan also "participated in or supported" the strikes. The air and cruise missile strikes hit Islamic State targets including training camps, command and control facilities, and storages sites in several areas in and around the Islamic State stronghold of Raqqa, as well as several other provinces in Syria. According to the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the strikes also hit bases belonging to al Qaeda affiliate al-Nusra Front, in Idlib and Aleppo provinces. Acting alone, U.S. forces launched attacks west of Aleppo against al Qaeda-linked Khorasan group, which the United States Central Command (Centcom) said was plotting "imminent" attacks against the United States and Western interests. Meanwhile, for the first time in three decades, the Israeli military reported it shot down a Syrian warplane, which it claimed had "infiltrated into Israeli airspace," over the Golan Heights.

Headlines

  • Israeli troops killed two Palestinians, suspected of kidnapping and murdering three Israeli teenagers in June, in a gunfight as forces surrounded a house in the West Bank.
  • Islamic State militants have released a second video of British hostage John Cantlie, who criticized Western governments for "marching towards all-out war in Iraq and Syria."
  • A federal jury has found the Jordan-based Arab Bank liable for supporting terrorist efforts, in the first terrorism financing civil suit to go to trial under the U.S. Anti-Terrorism Act.
  • A militant group, seemingly supporting the Islamic State group, has kidnapped a French tourist in Algeria threating to kill him if France does not halt airstrikes in Iraq.

Arguments and Analysis

How the U.S. fragmented Syria’s rebels‘ (Jonah Schulhofer-Wohl, The Washington Post)

"Last week’s votes in Congress brought the Obama administration one step closer to taking military action in Syria as part of its new strategy for confronting the Islamic State (formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, ISIS). American failure to take early, decisive action to prevent a power vacuum in Syria was a significant factor in the rise of ISIS. Such action could have been taken far earlier. One of the main sources of U.S. reluctance to do so has been the fragmentation and radicalization of the armed Syrian opposition. But this concern over acting in Syria mistakenly identifies the character of the opposition as the source of that fragmentation and radicalization."

Yemen’s Bloody Weekend Leaves Hundreds Dead And Rebels On The Rise‘ (Gregory D. Johnsen, BuzzFeed)

"Over the past two years the Houthis have moved far beyond their narrow sectarian origins. They have broadened their appeal beyond their traditional power base of Zaydi Muslims – a branch of Shiite Islam that is relatively close to Sunni Islam – and in the process become Yemen’s primary opposition group. They are also, as the latest agreement makes clear, the closest thing Yemen has to a kingmaker. The Houthis may not have enough power to impose their will upon the rest of the country, but they now have enough supporters and weapons to act as an effective veto on Yemen’s central government.

This is a remarkable turnaround for a group that once believed itself to be on the verge of political and religious extinction in Yemen. From 2004 to 2010 the Houthis fought six separate wars against a wide coalition of forces led by the central government in Sanaa, but which also included Salafi and tribal fighters."

— Mary Casey