Report

U.S. Won’t Review Policy After Two Hostages Were Killed in a Rescue Attempt

U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said he didn’t believe a review of the United States’ raid policy is necessary after two hostages were killed in a rescue attempt in Yemen Saturday.

Secretary Of Defense Chuck Hagel Travels to Afghanistan
KABUL, AFGHANISTAN - DECEMBER 06: U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel speaks during a news conference with Mohammed Ashraf Hhani, President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, December 6, 2013 in Kabul, Afghanistan. Defense Secretary Hagel spoke about troop withdrawal in Afghanistan and the failed attempt to rescue an American hostage in Yemen. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said he didn’t believe a review of the United States’ raid policy is necessary after two hostages were killed in a rescue attempt in Yemen Saturday. It was the third failed U.S. mission to rescue hostages in Syria or Yemen this year. Al Qaeda gunmen shot U.S. journalist Luke Somers and South African teacher Pierre Korkie as U.S. forces raided the compound in Yemen’s Shabwa province where the hostages were being held, and both men later died from their wounds. According to residents and unconfirmed reports, at least 11 other people were also killed during the raid, including several civilians as well as two members and a commander of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the mission was approved because there was information Somers’s life was in danger. The aid group Gift of the Givers, claims Korkie was to be released on Sunday, in return for $200,000 ransom. The United States said it was unaware of negotiations for the release of the South African.

Syria

Syria has accused Israel of conducting at least two airstrikes near the capital of Damascus Sunday. Israel is believed to have launched several airstrikes against targets in Syria in 2013, primarily targeting weapons transfers to Hezbollah. Israel would not confirm or deny the recent reports, however, in remarks Sunday Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel vowed to deal with regional “threats and challenges.” The Syrian army reported strikes hit the town of Dimas, which holds military bases and a small civilian airport, as well as the Damascus International Airport. Meanwhile, the United Nations World Food Program said it would continue providing food assistance to Syrian refugees after a fund raising campaign secured $21.5 million, though $42.5 million more would be needed to keep the program running through the end of December. A group of 36 aid agencies, ahead of a conference Tuesday in Geneva, have called on the world’s wealthy countries to host at least five percent of Syrian refugees by the end of 2015.

Headlines

  • A boat carrying mostly Ethiopian migrants sank off the coast of Yemen killing 70 people, according to the Yemeni Interior Ministry, though the UNHCR estimated the death toll between 18 and 21.
  • Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, an Iranian-American who has been imprisoned since July, was formally charged Saturday, though the details of the charges are unknown.
  • Britain and Canada have closed their embassies in the Egyptian capital of Cairo “due to security reasons.”
  • Tunisia’s electoral commission has scheduled runoff presidential elections between Moncef Marzouki and Beiji Caid Essebsi for December 21.

Arguments and Analysis

Linking Iran and ISIS: How American Public Opinion Shapes the Obama Administration’s Approach to the Nuclear Talks’ (Shibley Telhami, The Brookings Institution)

“The Obama administration appears to have decided to risk appearing open to an Iranian role in fighting ISIS, as it certainly allowed the Iraqi government to coordinate such a role, and Secretary of State John Kerry described it as a good thing. There is evidence from recent polling that this may not be unwise when it comes to American public opinion. Obama assumes that nothing he is likely to do in the Iran nuclear negotiations will appease Congressional Republicans and thus his best bet is getting the American public on his side. Evidence shows the public may be moving in that direction.

The starting point is not about Iran as such; it’s all about shifting public priorities. In a poll I conducted November 14-19, 2014 among a nationally representative sample of 1008 Americans, it turns out that American public fear of Iran is dwarfed by the fear of ISIS. Overall, 70 percent of Americans polled identify ISIS as the biggest threat facing the United States in the Middle East, 13 percent identify violence in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and 12 percent identify Iranian behavior. While on many issues, including the Arab-Israeli conflict, Americans are strikingly divided across party lines, remarkably on this issue there is very little variation across the political spectrum.”

Different approach on Syria’ (Trudy Rubin, Philly.com)

“The first place de Mistura wants to test his idea is historic Aleppo. Once Syria’s largest and richest city, it is now caught in a brutal three-way battle by regime forces, rebel groups, and ISIS. Regime barrel bombs have slaughtered civilians, and the ancient town center has been devastated by shelling.

Why start there? ‘Because it is symbolic,’ de Mistura replied, ‘a city that is home to all religious groups and the last major city that is contested. ISIS is waiting to take advantage. If we can succeed there, we can use it as a sign of hope.’

By a ‘freeze,’ de Mistura doesn’t mean the kind of local cease-fire accepted by desperate rebels in other cities, such as Homs, where they gave up all but their light arms and essentially accepted defeat. His idea is that all sides would stop in place, with rebels keeping their weapons.”

Early Elections in Israel: A Reality Check’ (Steven Simon, Middle East Institute)

“What the Israeli public wants out of this election is hard to gauge. The social media are awash in ‘anyone but Bibi,’ ‘We are stuck with Bibi,’ and ‘Bye Bye Bibi’ slogans. There is clearly dissatisfaction, reflected in his approval ratings, with Netanyahu’s performance. One poster plastered over urban bus stops asks riders, “Years of neglect left you stuck at the station with no buses? Israel is stuck with Bibi,” while others adhered to supermarkets say, ‘Prices are going up, salaries are stuck. Israel is stuck with Bibi.’ The unresolved aftermath of the most recent Gaza conflict, internecine bickering within the coalition, uneven economic news, and a sense of drift have alienated many voters and left others feeling detached.”

Mark Wilson/Getty Images

 Twitter: @casey_mary

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