U.S. Expands Support to Saudi Intervention in Yemen
The United States has doubled the number of its support staff to 45 people advising the Saudi intervention in Yemen, as anti-Houthi forces have pushed north from Aden to Taiz. U.S. advisors are “providing intelligence, munitions and midair refueling to coalition aircraft, and U.S. warships have helped enforce a blockade in the Gulf of Aden ...
The United States has doubled the number of its support staff to 45 people advising the Saudi intervention in Yemen, as anti-Houthi forces have pushed north from Aden to Taiz. U.S. advisors are “providing intelligence, munitions and midair refueling to coalition aircraft, and U.S. warships have helped enforce a blockade in the Gulf of Aden and southern Arabian Sea intended to prevent weapons shipments from Iran to the Houthis,” reports the Los Angeles Times. While the United States is continuing to target al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s operations, AQAP is apparently filling some of the vacuum left by retreating Houthi forces.
In addition to the Saudi coalition’s new offensive in Taiz, Saudi jets bombed the port of Hodeida, complicating efforts by aid groups to deliver humanitarian relief. A new report by Amnesty International states that the Saudi air campaign demonstrates “a pattern of strikes against populated areas” with no clear military target, a potential war crime.
Iraq Continues Reforms, Maliki Responds to Investigation
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi cut one-third of his country’s cabinet positions in response to anti-corruption protests, following measures approved last week to reform the vice-presidents’ and deputy prime ministers’ offices. Meanwhile, former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki dismissed a parliamentary investigation that has called for his trial for his role in the collapse of Mosul’s defenses last year. The report “was dominated by political differences and was not objective,” he wrote on Facebook. He continued by claiming the Islamic State’s attacks were a Turkish and Kurdish conspiracy.
- The Israeli government formally denied a string of reports that it is quietly negotiating a long-term ceasefire with Hamas, though the possibility is being discussed by potential intermediaries.
- Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davetoglu is expected to concede tonight that he could not form a new coalition government.
- The Syrian government denounced criticism by U.N. envoy Staffan de Mistura that state media said “strayed from neutrality.” De Mistura called the regime’s attacks on a civilian marketplace in Douma that killed nearly 100 people “unacceptable in any circumstances.”
- Egyptian rights activists responded to the ratification of a new antiterrorism law in Egypt, calling it draconian and “a covert emergency law.”
- Russian officials dismissed as rumors accusations that Moscow hosted Iran’s Gen. Qasem Soleimani last month in violation of U.N. sanctions as Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met with Javad Zarif, his Iranian counterpart.
Arguments and Analysis
“Should the United States Negotiate with Terrorists?” (Clint Watts, Lawfare)
“The United States should not negotiate with Nusra as it currently stands, but rather should seek to fracture Nusra and then negotiate with its splinters. Negotiating with Nusra today, with its continued commitment to al-Qaida and publicly taking guidance from Ayman al-Zawahiri, is by direct extension a negotiation with the terrorist group that perpetrated 9/11. Negotiating with al-Qaida signals weakness to a terrorist group the United States has decimated over the past decade and that has been overtaken by the Islamic State. Elimination — not acceptance — of al-Qaida, Zawahiri, and Julani remains the only option. Meanwhile, negotiation with those intent on defeating Assad but lacking an alternative to Nusra’s transnationalism might be an alternative approach for building ground forces.”
“How Egypt’s Antiterrorism Measures Complicate Its Fight” (Brian Katulis and Mokhtar Awad, Wall Street Journal)
“The antiterror measures are designed to increase punishments–in some cases as a form of deterrent–and seek to address newer threats such as cyberterrorism or incitement of violence online. The law designates terrorism courts to expedite prosecution and sentencing. On the surface, these are reasonable steps. In expanding the definition of a terror crime, however, the law also casts a wide net, lumping a range of groups into one category. Incitement is a problem in Egypt, but it would be counterproductive if the government seeks to prosecute an Islamist or secular activist engaged in nonviolent protests the same way it prosecutes Islamists who plant explosive devices or recruit for Islamic State affiliates. The broadened definitions could lead to an overload of Egypt’s criminal justice system. A more effective strategy would seek to focus resources on combating violent terrorist groups.”
-J. Dana Stuster
MOHAMMED HUWAIS/AFP/Getty Images