U.S. Airdrops Supplies to Syrian Rebels
Despite a large overhaul of the scope of the U.S. train-and-equip mission for Syrian rebels announced last Friday, the United States conducted airdrops of ammunition and supplies to rebels on Sunday. The airdrops were carried out by C-17 transport planes over northern Syria and are “part of a revamped U.S. strategy announced last week to ...
Despite a large overhaul of the scope of the U.S. train-and-equip mission for Syrian rebels announced last Friday, the United States conducted airdrops of ammunition and supplies to rebels on Sunday. The airdrops were carried out by C-17 transport planes over northern Syria and are “part of a revamped U.S. strategy announced last week to help rebels in Syria battling Islamic State militants,” a military official told Reuters. The U.S. military did not specify which rebel groups received the assistance, but as part of its revisions to the train-and-equip program, the United States is loosening its vetting standards for rebels, screening only leaders in a group and not the rank-and-file fighters. Even groups with which the United States has worked closely have been accused of violating international humanitarian law: A new report from Amnesty International documents Syrian Kurdish militias’ expulsion of populations and razing of villages.
The shift in U.S. support for Syrian rebels has been spurred by Russia’s air campaign in Syria. The airstrikes are reportedly driving Syria’s fractious rebel community to work more collaboratively. In the past two weeks, “three local rebel alliances have emerged across the provinces where President Bashar al-Assad aims to regain ground and consolidate control,” the Wall Street Journal reports. Russian President Vladimir Putin and Saudi Defense Minister Mohammed bin Salman discussed their conflicting interests in Syria while watching a Formula One race at a resort in Russia. According to Saudi sources speaking to Reuters, Salman warned Putin that the airstrikes would “escalate the war and inspire militants from around the world to go there to fight,” and that Saudi Arabia would continue to support rebel groups in Syria until Assad is removed from power.
Spate of Stabbings Continue in Jerusalem
Four more knife attacks were carried out by Palestinians in Jerusalem on Monday, bringing the total to 15 attacks this month. Ten Palestinians have been killed by security forces in connection with the attacks. Israel has activated an additional 1,400 reserve border police to help contain the outbreak of violence and Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat has encouraged residents with gun permits to stay armed in the city. Amnesty International has criticized the use of live fire as being at times an excessive use of force.
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- With news of Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian’s conviction in Iran, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and other Iranian officials have reportedly publicly raised the idea that he could be part of a prisoner swap for individuals held by the U.S. government for violating sanctions.
- An Egyptian court has ordered the release of ousted Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s two sons, Alaa and Gamal, who were convicted in May of abusing public funds.
- Militants in western Tunisia near the Algerian border killed two soldiers and wounded four others who were conducting a search for a kidnapped shepherd.
- After a contentious debate, Iran’s parliament formally approved the nuclear agreement reached with the P5+1 in July by a vote of 161 to 59 with 13 abstentions, but stipulated that IAEA inspectors must be granted access to military sites by a security committee.
- Yemen remains severely below its commercial fuel needs, the United Nations reports, despite Yemeni President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi pledging to allow fuel shipments; Yemen received only 1 percent its commercial fuel needs in September and no new shipments have arrived since Hadi’s pledge.
Arguments and Analysis
“‘We Had Nowhere to Go’ – Forced Displacement and Demolitions in Northern Syria” (Amnesty International)
“Every day they were coming and going… [Then in the beginning of February] they called and said tomorrow they would come to burn the house… I stayed at my in-laws’ house… After breakfast [it was a Monday at around 8am or 9am] one car came with a commander who needed an Arabic translator… It was me, my mother and father-in-law, sister-in-law and my kids at my in-laws’ house and we hid my father-in-law because we were afraid they would arrest him… They started pouring fuel in my in-laws house. My mother-in-law was there refusing to leave and they just poured it around her… The commander was leading the operations… They found my father-in-law and began hitting him on his hands… I said, ‘Even if you burn my house I will get a tent and pitch it. This is in my place. I will stay in my place.’ But they said the problem was not with the house but with the people in the house … They were taking things from the house, the window frames, the doors, the water pump, all the stuff from the house… For 13 years you build a life and they leave you with nothing.”
“Algeria and Its Neighbors” (International Crisis Group)
“Since the 2011 regional upheaval, Algeria has played important — at times crucial — roles in the political and security crises of three of its neighbours. In Libya, it has backed UN negotiations and conducted its own discreet diplomacy since mid-2014 to reconcile warring factions. In Mali, it has hosted and brokered talks between the government and northern rebel factions, both to stabilise the country and to prevent northern secessionism. In Tunisia, it has been a quiet but critical backer of the consensus between Islamists and secularists that has been the source of stability there since 2014. In these cases, Lamamra and other senior officials have championed political solutions to polarisation, social unrest and armed conflict. Given the scarcity of actors capable of and willing to play a constructive role in the region — especially in the Sahel, perhaps the world’s largest, at least partly, ungoverned space — this is very positive. Nonetheless, there are constraints on the aspiration for a prominent regional role.”
-J. Dana Stuster
Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images