Report

Kurdish Forces Break Sinjar Siege and U.S. Strikes Kill Islamic State Commanders

Supported by U.S. airstrikes, Kurdish forces carried out a two-pronged attack in part of an offensive launched on Wednesday and managed to open a corridor for people to escape.

IRAQ-UNREST-KURDS
An Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga fighter takes position behind sandbags on the front line in Khazer, near the Kurdish checkpoint of Aski kalak, 40 km West of Arbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq, on August 14, 2014. US military advisors in Iraq are headed for Mount Sinjar to study means of evacuating civilians who have been trapped there by jihadists, a spokesman for the Kurdish peshmerga forces said Wednesday. AFP PHOTO/SAFIN HAMED (Photo credit should read SAFIN HAMED/AFP/Getty Images)

Kurdish forces in northern Iraq claim they have broken the Islamic State siege of Mount Sinjar, freeing hundreds of people, including many from Iraq’s Yazidi minority who have been trapped since the militant group overtook the area in August. Supported by U.S. airstrikes, Kurdish forces carried out a two-pronged attack in part of an offensive launched on Wednesday and managed to open a corridor for people to escape. With 8,000 Kurdish forces, this has been the biggest offensive against the Islamic State militants, according to Kurdish officials. On Thursday, U.S. Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, reported in recent weeks U.S. airstrikes killed three Islamic State military leaders including Abd al-Basit, a top figure in military operations in Iraq, and Haji Mutazz, a deputy to Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Dempsey said hitting these “high-value targets” is “disruptive” to the Islamic State’s “planning and command and control.”

Syria

The World Health Organization said over a million people have been wounded in Syria as a direct result of the war. Additionally, while the WHO delivered over 13.5 million treatments of medicine and medical supplies in 2014, diseases and infections are spreading due to the collapse of Syria’s health system, lack of medicine supplies, decreased vaccination rates, and contaminated water.

Headlines

  • Officials have reported that of the $5.4 billion pledged two months ago to rebuild and support Gaza, only about 2 percent has been delivered.
  • Egypt has sentenced 40 Mohamed Morsi supporters to up to 15 years in prison for violence in Assiut in August 2013, meanwhile President Obama spoke with President Sisi Thursday to express concerns over mass trials and imprisoning of journalists and activists.
  • Medics reported fighting in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi has killed at least 25 people in the past eight days.
  • The Israeli military reported a rocket fired from Gaza hit southern Israel Friday, but did not cause any injuries or damage.

Arguments and Analysis

Rewriting Syria’s War’ (David Kenner, Foreign Policy)

“But can either Rosen’s or de Mistura’s plan actually bring peace to Syria? For all their ambitions, neither examines in much detail the history of local cease-fires in war-torn parts of the country. Rosen cites the example of Latakia, Tartous, and Hama — cities that have not experienced the worst of the fighting in Syria, and have remained largely under regime control. Meanwhile, he only devotes a paragraph each to important cease-fire agreements in the Damascus suburb of Barzeh and the city of Homs. The Homs agreement, Rosen wrote, ‘was another example of both sides negotiating in good faith and achieving success.’

Some observers are skeptical that it is any such thing. A former U.N. official who worked on the Syria crisis said that the Homs agreement, like other local cease-fires, was only reached after Syrian forces had besieged rebel-held areas for months on end, cutting them off from food and medical supplies, and subjecting them to indiscriminate shelling. Only when local fighters were faced with the prospect of essentially watching their families starve to death in front of them did they relent.”

A United Iraq is Pushing ISIS Back’ (Haider al-Abadi, The Wall Street Journal)

“Iraqis are fighting back against the transnational terrorists on the battlefront and on the home front. As we move forward to free every inch of our territory and every segment of our citizenry from ISIS—known in Iraq by its Arabic acronym Daesh—we are also addressing the discontents that give rise to terrorism.

While military action is essential to expel ISIS from the land that we love, there can be no lasting victory without governmental reform, national reconciliation, and economic and social reconstruction. Exclusion breeds extremism, so our new government includes Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds, as well as representatives of the major political parties. In order to root out terrorism and its causes, we are determined to ensure that every ethnic group, every region and every religious confession feels that it has a stake in Iraq’s survival and success.”

How the West’s campaign against IS lets the region off the hook’ (Daniel Levy, Ellie Geranmayeh, and Julien Barnes-Dacey, Middle East Eye)

“IS has mostly been viewed in the region as a re-enforcer of existing narratives and policy predispositions. Rather than acting as a game changer, IS is being used to entrench status quo approaches behind established geopolitical fault-lines and unrepresentative domestic political dispensations. When it comes to the war raging in Syria, in particular, the response to the IS factor has seen all sides double down on bets they already placed, while underscoring their respective claims of being the indispensable partner in confronting IS. This applies as much to the local protagonists as it does to the key regional actors – Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey.

In part, the blame for this can be laid at the feet of Western intervention which, by assuming central ownership of the response, has relieved regional actors of the main burden of responsibility. That is the moral hazard inherent in US leadership of the anti-IS struggle – enabling regional allies to scale-up the taking of risks without repercussions and thereby transforming IS from a common threat to a manageable opportunity, making its ultimate demise harder to secure.”

Mary Casey-Baker

SAFIN HAMED/AFP/Getty Images

<p>Mary Casey-Baker is the editor of Foreign Policy’s Middle East Daily Brief, as well as the assistant director of public affairs at the Project on Middle East Political Science and assistant editor of The Monkey Cage blog for the Washington Post. </p> Twitter: @casey_mary