British and U.S. Pursuing Evidence Russian Jet Was Bombed
The British government is trying to find a way to return 20,000 tourists stranded in Sharm El-Sheikh after suspending all flights from the Sinai resort city to Britain. The move comes as British and U.S. intelligence officials say they are investigating the possibility that the Russian Metrojet plane that crashed in the Sinai Peninsula on ...
The British government is trying to find a way to return 20,000 tourists stranded in Sharm El-Sheikh after suspending all flights from the Sinai resort city to Britain. The move comes as British and U.S. intelligence officials say they are investigating the possibility that the Russian Metrojet plane that crashed in the Sinai Peninsula on Saturday was brought down by a bomb placed aboard the plane. “This airport has lax security. It is known for that,” a U.S. official told CNN. “But there is intelligence suggesting an assist from someone at the airport. ” British Prime Minister David Cameron told reporters the plane was “more likely than not” brought down by a bomb. Egypt’s chief of aviation has touted that seven nations are still allowing flights to and from Sharm El-Sheikh and said that the airport is safe and suspicion of a bomb attack against flights are “not based on facts.”
Russia Increases Troops in Syria, Strikes Ceasefire Towns
Russia has increased the number of forces it has deployed to Syria to 4,000 troops, doubling the number of forces it had in the country even just a month ago, according to U.S. estimates. Russian aircraft are now operating from four different bases in Syria, most recently transferring helicopters to a facility in Tiyas, near Islamic State-occupied Palmyra. Russia has also deployed new missile systems to Syria, which a Russian official claimed were to prevent the hijacking of military aircraft. What appeared to be Russian jets carried out airstrikes in northwestern Syria on Wednesday. Among the targets hit were the towns of Maarat Masrin and Ram Hamdan, where fighters have observed a localized ceasefire since September. Rebels in the towns shelled nearby government-held towns in retaliation.
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- U.S. officials have detected a series of cyberattacks targeting Obama administration officials’ emails and social media accounts, possibly connected to the recent arrest of an Iranian-American businessman.
- The Syrian government is profiting from blackmailing the family members of disappeared persons, according to Amnesty International; people looking to find loved ones are being exploited for money in exchange for information and to prevent their own arrests.
- Iranian President Hassan Rouhani criticized a recent series of arrests of journalists, saying that hardliners are inappropriately interpreting remarks by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei about U.S. influence and exaggerating their case.
- U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama is on a seven-day trip to the Middle East; in Qatar yesterday, she gave a speech encouraging the education of young women and an end to “outdated laws and traditions” that stand in the way.
- Israel’s representative to the United Nations has responded to Palestinian accusations that Israel is illegally harvesting organs from Palestinians killed by government troops, dismissing them as an anti-Semitic blood libel.
Arguments and Analysis
“Campaign Acceleration: How to Build on Progress and Avoid Stalemate against ISIL” (Michael Knights, War on the Rocks)
“I just returned from three weeks visiting various coalition headquarters and training bases for anti-ISIL forces in and around Iraq. I came back with a strong sense that the campaign was not stalemated, at least not in Iraq and eastern Syria. With access to each major coalition headquarters and many Iraqi units, I gained a picture of the campaign that was complex and granular, and I emerged more optimistic about the prospects for the battlefield defeat of ISIL in Iraq and eastern Syria. Speaking privately to senior commanders — as well as the young troops with a nitty-gritty, fingertip feel for the front line — it was clear that more is going right at the tactical level of battles and airstrikes than many observers, myself included, might have suspected. Progress is happening, but there is growing impatience to increase the impetus of the campaign.”
“Busted: The Trial of Ahmed Naje” (The Sultan’s Seal)
“When the young writer Ahmed Naje was referred to a criminal court over sexually explicit fiction this Saturday, gongs sounded for the literary community. The news was an unpleasant reminder that, while creative writers in Egypt are by and large left to their own devices, this is only because their work is seldom scrutinised outside literary circles. As a writer in Egypt you can only be torn between frustration over your work remaining obscure and concern with the trouble ‘success’ could bring to your life. If you want to keep writing ‘against public morality’ — this is the message of Naje’s case — then you’d better be quiet about it. But in whose interest is such a state of affairs except the Wahhabi ‘terrorists’ with whom the regime is at war and the corrupt, fascism-touting sycophants it periodically claims to be purging?”
-J. Dana Stuster
KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images