The United States will deploy a “specialized expeditionary targeting force” to Iraq to conduct operations in coordination with Iraqi government and Kurdish peshmerga troops in Iraq and Syria, Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter said yesterday at a House Armed Services Committee hearing. The size of the force was not discussed but is in addition to the deployment of 50 Special Operations Forces to Syria that was announced at the end of October. Secretary of State John Kerry said that the Iraqi government has been briefed on the new U.S. force. The office of Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi told press that it welcomed U.S. assistance but that it would have to approve any deployment of foreign special operations forces and that ground combat troops were not necessary.
British Prime Minister David Cameron is making his case today to the House of Parliament for the expansion of British airstrikes to include Islamic State targets in Syria. British participation in the international air campaign against the Islamic State is currently limited to Iraq. Though the measure faces some opposition from the Labour Party, it is expected to be approved.
Al-Qaeda Retakes Towns in Yemen Occupied in 2011
Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula seized the strategic towns of Zinjibar and Jaar in southern Yemen today. Pro-government forces withdrew when the cities were assaulted by hundreds of al-Qaeda fighters. Al-Qaeda previously occupied the area for several months in 2011 and 2012 but was forced out by organized local militias called popular committees. An official in one of those committees told CNN today that al-Qaeda forces destroyed the headquarters of the popular committees in Jaar and executed four local commanders.
- A pipe bomb exploded yesterday during rush hour near the Bayrampasa subway station in Istanbul; five people were injured but no deaths were reported.
- Rebels and Assad regime forces have agreed on a conditional truce in the al-Waer district of Homs, Syria, that would create a ceasefire and allow humanitarian access and wounded individuals to leave to seek medical attention; the neighborhood has been under siege since 2012.
- A Tunisian woman working for the International Committee of the Red Cross was kidnapped in Sanaa on Tuesday morning by an unknown group; a second ICRC employee, who is Yemeni, was also kidnapped but has been released.
- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu confirmed for the first time that Israeli forces have operated in Syria “to prevent that country from becoming a front against us” and interdict weapons transfers from Syria to Lebanon.
- A Turkish man is on trial on charges of insulting the president after he posted a meme on his Facebook page comparing the facial expressions of President Tayyip Erdogan with those of Lord of the Rings character Gollum; the trial is currently adjourned because the judge was not familiar with the Lord of the Rings movies or books.
Arguments and Analysis
“ISIS in America: From Retweets to Raqqa” (Lorenzo Vidino and Seamus Hughes, Program on Extremism at The George Washington University)
“This report as provided a look inside the bubble of American ISIS sympathizers, a diverse and diffuse scene that the FBI estimates include hundreds, if not thousands, of individuals. To be sure, most of the participants in this counter-culture will never make the leap from talk to action, from being keyboard warriors to actual militancy. Some will mature out of what is just an awkward adolescent phase. Others simply lack the personality traits necessary for committing terror attacks or setting out for ISIS territory. On a more mundane level, others find themselves restrained by the practical commitments of their daily lives. Nonetheless, a subset of the Americans inside the domestic ISIS bubble, whether they operate individually or in small clusters, will at some point move from chatter to action. For some that will mean boarding a flight to the Middle East. For others, it will entail gathering the equipment needed to carry out an attack inside the United States. The decision to attack the home front may follow unsuccessful attempts to link up with recruiters overseas. In other cases, the attacker’s horizon remains focused on targeting the ‘infidels’ inside America.”
“Yemen: Huthi Armed Group Must End Crackdown on Human Rights Defenders and NGOs” (Amnesty International)
“Activists as well as employees and directors of NGOs have told Amnesty International that they fear for their safety and that of their families. Several said that they had received anonymous phone calls and messages ‘advising’ them to halt their legitimate activities. Some suspect that their movements and calls are monitored and office phone lines tapped. Some employees and directors have been arbitrarily detained. In August, one human rights defender told Amnesty International that he was receiving threats to his family: ‘They told me that if I did not cooperate and work with them, they would kill me and my family. They said to me they knew how to reach my wife and they knew where my home was, if I did not stop my human rights activity. They have constantly threatened me with detention and during an interrogation they asked me about the activities of my organization, our links to the US, what intelligence we provide to the US, our links to Amnesty International and where we get our funding from. I am currently under house arrest and my organization was seized and closed down because I did not cooperate with them.’”
-J. Dana Stuster
ALI AL-SAADI/AFP/Getty Images