Assad Regime Receives Reinforcements, Accused of Supporting Islamic State
Both the Syrian opposition and Assad government are scrambling to respond to the Islamic State’s recent offensive, in which it captured Palmyra in Syria and Ramadi in Iraq. Approximately 15,000 Iraqi and Iranian forces have arrived in Syria to bolster the Assad regime’s defenses, primarily in Damascus, a Syrian official told AFP. However, it also ...
Both the Syrian opposition and Assad government are scrambling to respond to the Islamic State’s recent offensive, in which it captured Palmyra in Syria and Ramadi in Iraq. Approximately 15,000 Iraqi and Iranian forces have arrived in Syria to bolster the Assad regime’s defenses, primarily in Damascus, a Syrian official told AFP. However, it also seems that the Assad regime may be selectively supporting parts of the Islamic State’s expansion. Syrian rebels this week accused the Assad regime of using his military aircraft “as an air force for ISIS,” a charge echoed by U.S. officials.
Speaking at a conference in Doha, Qatar, retired Marine Gen. John Allen, who is the U.S. envoy to the international coalition fighting the Islamic State, said that there is an “energetic discussion” underway about what a political transition in Syria might look like. His comments suggested that President Bashar al-Assad would have to leave office under the terms of an agreement, but some of his political allies could retain influence. Allen also discussed the role of Shia militias in Iraq, which he said are an important ally in the current counteroffensive in Iraq’s Anbar province. Allen noted that the militias are a more effective force now that they have been integrated into the Iraqi command structure and will be fighting outside of major cities.
Yemen Peace Talks to Begin This Month
Peace talks between the parties to the conflict in Yemen will begin in Geneva on June 14, according to Yemen’s ambassador to the United Nations. Talks were originally scheduled for May 28, but were postponed amid concerns about attendance. Mohammed al-Houthi, head of the Houthis’ Revolutionary Council, said he supports the talks and blamed the government of President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi for delays. “They are putting pre-conditions to obstruct any talks that could lead the Yemeni people to a solution,” he told the Associated Press in an interview.
- Gunmen on a motorcycle fired on tourist police officers at the pyramids at Giza, Egypt, killing two.
- Former President of Egypt Hosni Mubarak will be retried for his role in the deaths of protesters during the 2011 revolution; he was acquitted of the charges in a trial last year.
- A State Department spokeswoman said that the United States is not concerned by reports that Iran’s stockpile of low enriched uranium has grown and that it has until the end of the month to reduce it to prescribed levels; the issue will not hinder ongoing negotiations, she said.
- An extremist group with ties to the Islamic State took credit for firing rockets into Israel from the Gaza Strip; Israel responded with airstrikes against three militant infrastructure sites.
- Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is in Germany to discuss trade relations with Chancellor Angela Merkel; his visit has been marked by protests over his government’s aggressive use of the death penalty.
Arguments and Analysis
“Why Iran’s growing uranium stockpile won’t derail a nuclear deal” (Richard Nephew, Brookings Institution)
“The IAEA report suggests that Iran may fall short by perhaps 5 kilograms from the mark set in the JPOA process, if their current rate of progress persists. Certainly, no one wants to see Iran fail to cross an important confidence-building threshold. But 5 kilograms of 20 percent enriched uranium is not a bomb’s worth. Far from it. And it remains in oxide form, not gas form, so its ready use in enrichment is reduced significantly. Assuming that this problem is of a technical nature rather than political — for it is pure speculation to suggest otherwise — there should be some understanding for the complexity of the task on the part of the Iranians.”
“ISIS forces that now control Ramadi are ex-Baathist Saddam Loyalists” (Malcolm W. Nance, The Intercept)
“The fall of Ramadi, capital of Iraq’s Anbar Province, to the Islamic State last month has frayed nerves in Washington, but what few appear to grasp is that ISIS’s May offensive has given Ramadi back to its former owners — the ex-Baathist Sunni terrorists known as the Former Regime Loyalists. The FRLs, as they’re called, were Saddam Hussein’s most ardent followers, the same fighters whom the United States fought non-stop for eight years. Their resurgence has implications not just for the United States but for ISIS itself. For while these forces may fly the ISIS flag today, their ultimate plans for Iraq are quite different than those of the ‘caliphate.’”
-J. Dana Stuster
KARAM AL-MASRI/AFP/Getty Images