The Middle East Channel

U.S.-Led Forces Intensify Strikes on Militants in Kobani

U.S.-led forces have dramatically increased airstrikes against Islamic State militants in the predominantly Kurdish Syrian town of Kobani (Ayn al-Arab), near the Turkish border. On Monday and Tuesday coalition forces carried out an estimated 21 strikes in the area. The White House said there is evidence the efforts were succeeding, though they were constrained by ...

ARIS MESSINIS/AFP/Getty Images
ARIS MESSINIS/AFP/Getty Images

U.S.-led forces have dramatically increased airstrikes against Islamic State militants in the predominantly Kurdish Syrian town of Kobani (Ayn al-Arab), near the Turkish border. On Monday and Tuesday coalition forces carried out an estimated 21 strikes in the area. The White House said there is evidence the efforts were succeeding, though they were constrained by lack of ground forces. Witnesses in Kobani reported the strikes seem to have helped push Islamic State fighters back to a degree, though they are believed to control about half the town. U.S. President Barack Obama met with military leaders from 22 countries on Tuesday outside Washington, where he noted "important successes" though predicted a "long-term campaign" to counter Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He particularly expressed concerns over the situation in Kobani and Iraq’s Anbar province. On Tuesday a suicide bomber killed 24 people in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, including a Shiite member of parliament, Ahmed al-Khafaji. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack, implying it was targeting Khafaji.

Headlines

  • A New York Times report found that several U.S. soldiers and Iraqi police officers were wounded by remnants from Saddam Hussein’s chemical weapons program.
  • A Saudi Arabian court has sentenced prominent Shiite cleric Sheik Nimr al-Nimr to death over charges of "sowing discord" and "undermining national unity."
  • A U.S. court has brought new charges on Ahmed Abu Khattala, the suspected leader of the 2012 attacks on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya.
  • Saudi Arabian authorities have detained a Saudi-American man suspected of shooting and killing a U.S. security contractor and wounding another in the capital of Riyadh.
  • Algerian police officers marched through the capital of Algiers Tuesday in a rare protest expressing solidarity with security forces in the southern town of Ghardaia demonstrating against violent working conditions.

Arguments and Analysis

Security and Resilience Among Syrian Refugees in Jordan‘ (Denis Sullivan and Sarah Tobin, MERIP)

"Beyond the sheer number of people, more than 80 percent of Zaatari residents could be classified as ‘vulnerable’: 56 percent are children (boys and girls under 17) and 25 percent are women aged 18 and older. Some 15 babies are born every day in the camp. Protecting these people in the camp — and their livelihoods — is paramount. While Zaatari has become synonymous with chaos and violence, especially inside Jordan, legal complaints and formal reports of assault, including sexual and gender-based violence, are extremely hard to come by, as are exact figures about the number of violent incidents. Despite widespread fear of violence, refugees are not reporting such incidents to the Jordanian police for a variety of reasons, not least of which is that the camp is a newly established conurbation without a durable, formalized security apparatus. Jordanian Lt. Gen. Husayn al-Majali told Julie Bindel of Standpoint, ‘There are assaults, burglary, homicides in Zaatari. It’s a town. These things happen.’ The lack of information, combined with statements like this one from a senior member of the formal security apparatus, raise fundamental questions about who is in charge of policing and how the security of this new community is being safeguarded. It is exactly this context that creates a space for men like Abu Muhammad to step in."

Why the Islamic State is losing‘ (Michael Knights, Politico)

"The reality is that ISIL and its forerunners have always been in Baghdad. The Iraqi capital and its rural exurbs – the ‘Baghdad belts’ – have been a desperate battleground since 2003.

True, ISIL has been posing much more of a direct threat to Baghdad since the beginning of 2014, when the movement took control of Fallujah, a city of 300,000 that is located just 25 miles west of Baghdad International Airport. But Baghdad won’t fall to cascading panic the way that Mosul did in June 2014, no matter how many towns and cities ISIL overruns in the Euphrates River Valley to the northwest of the capital.

Here’s why. Mosul was a predominately Sunni city of one million people where the Shia-led security forces were despised and where the bulk of Iraq’s security forces were hundreds of miles away. Baghdad is a predominately Shia city of more than seven million and the hub of a gargantuan popular mobilization of Shia militias and regular security forces."

Mary Casey

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