Report

Islamic State Militants Seize Parts of Strategic Iraqi Town of al-Baghdadi

Islamic State militants have seized control of large parts of al-Baghdadi, near an air base where U.S. Marines are training Iraqi troops.

IRAQ-UNREST-RAMADI
Iraqi security forces and gunmen take positions following clashes with jihadists on September 19, 2014, in Ramadi, the capital of the western province of Anbar. On September 17, a suicide car bomb destroyed a key bridge in Ramadi, a city west of Baghdad where the support of Sunni tribes is seen as vital to any nationwide fightback against the jihadists. AFP PHOTO/AZHAR SHALLAL (Photo credit should read AZHAR SHALLAL/AFP/Getty Images)

Islamic State militants have seized control of large parts of the western Iraqi town of al-Baghdadi, in Anbar province. The town, northwest of Ramadi, is three miles from the Ain al-Asad air base, where an estimated 320 U.S. Marines are stationed training Iraqi troops. Islamic State militants launched an attack early Thursday sparking heavy clashes with pro-government forces around al-Baghdadi. However, a Pentagon spokesperson said there had not been a direct assault on the air base. The United Nations Security Council has adopted a resolution to increase pressure on financing to Islamic State militants, as well as al-Nusra Front. The measure bans trade in antiquities from Syria, threatens sanctions on anyone purchasing oil from the militant groups, and blocks financial transactions with the groups including ransom payments. On Thursday, the Islamic State group said it was holding Muhammad Musallam, an Israeli Arab from Jerusalem who it claims joined the group and posed as a fighter in order to spy for Israel’s Mossad. Israel denied the claim and a security official said Musallam traveled to Turkey in October to join the Islamic State group.

Headlines

Islamic State militants have seized control of large parts of the western Iraqi town of al-Baghdadi, in Anbar province. The town, northwest of Ramadi, is three miles from the Ain al-Asad air base, where an estimated 320 U.S. Marines are stationed training Iraqi troops. Islamic State militants launched an attack early Thursday sparking heavy clashes with pro-government forces around al-Baghdadi. However, a Pentagon spokesperson said there had not been a direct assault on the air base. The United Nations Security Council has adopted a resolution to increase pressure on financing to Islamic State militants, as well as al-Nusra Front. The measure bans trade in antiquities from Syria, threatens sanctions on anyone purchasing oil from the militant groups, and blocks financial transactions with the groups including ransom payments. On Thursday, the Islamic State group said it was holding Muhammad Musallam, an Israeli Arab from Jerusalem who it claims joined the group and posed as a fighter in order to spy for Israel’s Mossad. Israel denied the claim and a security official said Musallam traveled to Turkey in October to join the Islamic State group.

Headlines

  • Al Jazeera journalists Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed left prison in Egypt Friday, but must return to court on Feb. 23 for their retrial.
  • U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon warned that “Yemen is collapsing” meanwhile Italy and Germany joined other Western countries in closing their embassies in Sanaa.
  • Saudi Arabian women’s rights activists Loujain al-Hathloul and Maysaa al-Amoudi have been released after 73 days in jail following Hathloul’s attempt to drive in the kingdom.
  • Egypt has barred media from discussing the case of activist Shaimaa el-Sabbagh, who was killed during a demonstration on January 24.

Arguments and Analysis

Relax, Iran Is Not Taking Over the Middle East’ (Alireza Nader, The National Interest)

“Tying the current nuclear negotiations to Iran’s foreign policies is deeply problematic. For starters, key decision-makers in Iran, especially the conservatives, view the nuclear negotiations as a ploy to roll back Iran’s regional influence, a possible first step in challenging the regime’s hold on power at home. Iran’s national security establishment would like to see Iran fight its enemies, especially the United States, far away from its borders. At this point, challenging Iran’s regional position too aggressively would raise opposition to nuclear negotiations in Tehran. Many Americans who argue for more aggressive U.S. action believe that Iran only responds to pressure, and that pressuring it in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen would force the regime to concede on the nuclear program. However, the reverse is more likely to be true.”

Saudis struggle to reconcile IS fight, Wahhabism’ (Madawi Al-Rasheed, Al Monitor)

“Until more files are opened, no one will know whether Osama bin Laden sought to wreak havoc on the US-Saudi relationship by hitting the United States after his Saudi sponsors declared him persona non grata in the early 1990s or whether Saudi princes were actually involved in attacking their most important protector. One should not forget that official Saudi Arabia is not simply a monarchy, but a fiefdom of multiple wealthy and powerful state actors whose interests do not always coincide. A prince pursuing his own personal interests might collide with the declared policy of the state or a branch of the state led by a rival princely faction.”

Putin makes new friends as part of a grand plan’ (Alan Philps, The National)

“At first sight Turkey and Egypt seem like odd allies for Mr Putin. Russia is the diplomatic and military mainstay of president Bashar Al Assad, whom the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has vowed to overthrow. Egypt also supports the Syrian opposition. But this does not stop a political rapprochement, amid promises of a new era in economic cooperation.

Both Egypt and Turkey have their reasons for wanting to show America – and domestic opinion – that they have some independence in foreign policy. As for Mr Putin, he is even more keen to show that he has partners beyond Europe and the United States, both of which have imposed sanctions over his annexation of Crimea and the backing of rebels in the east of Ukraine. Russia’s engagement with the West, a shared goal for the 25 years since the end of the Cold War, is going into reverse.”

Mary Casey-Baker

AZHAR SHALLAL/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

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