Report

Islamic State’s Fighter Database Leaked, Chemical Weapons Targeted

A Syrian newspaper, Zaman Al-Wasl, has published what appears to be a leaked database of Islamic State fighters featuring data the terrorist group gathered in surveys conducted as fighters entered Syria. The documents were reportedly provided to the newspaper by an Islamic State defector; German intelligence officials say that they are also in possession of ...

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A Syrian newspaper, Zaman Al-Wasl, has published what appears to be a leaked database of Islamic State fighters featuring data the terrorist group gathered in surveys conducted as fighters entered Syria. The documents were reportedly provided to the newspaper by an Islamic State defector; German intelligence officials say that they are also in possession of the leaked documents.

The United States carried out two airstrikes against targets near Mosul, Iraq, believed to be part of the Islamic State’s chemical weapons program. One strike hit a production plant and the other a tactical chemical weapons unit. The sites were identified based on information provided in the interrogation of Sulaiman Daoud Al Afari, an Islamic State official involved in the group’s chemical weapons program who was captured by U.S. Special Operations Forces last month and is being held in Iraq. Afari has reportedly provided details of the Islamic State weapons program, which includes mustard gas delivered by artillery shells. The Islamic State appears to retain some chemical weapons, and yesterday the mayor of the Iraqi town of Tuz Khurmatu said the city had been attacked with weaponized chemical gas by the Islamic State.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights pushed back on the U.S. military’s statement that a recent strike “likely killed” Islamic State commander Omar al-Shishani. According to the Observatory’s sources, Shishani survived the U.S. strike, but was “seriously injured” and taken to a hospital in Raqqa for treatment.

Turkey Seizes Another Opposition News Agency

The Turkish government has seized another news agency affiliated with the Guleninst movement. A court in Istanbul will be appointing an administrator to take over the Cihan news service, according to a notice posted on Cihan’s website on Monday night. Like Zaman, the opposition newspaper that was taken over last Friday, Cihan is affiliated with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Islamist rival, Fethuallah Gulen, who has a strong following in Turkey.

Headlines

  • With its budget deficit now at more than $100 billion, Saudi officials are reportedly seeking a bank loan of up to $8 billion; if an agreement is made, it would be the first significant borrowing by the Saudi government in more than a decade.

 

  • An Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps general said yesterday that Iran has more missiles ready to test and that Iran will continue to defy international limits on its ballistic missile program.

 

  • The U.S. military discussed plans to revive a program to train-and-equip mission to support Syrian forces fighting the Islamic State; one general described the revised program as a “thickening effort” to support groups already fighting the Islamic State and said that the program would change its vetting requirements.

 

  • Saudi Arabia and approximately 20 other nations concluded 12 days of military drills yesterday featuring large-scale mock battles; Iran has expressed concern about the exercise but a Saudi general said the exercise was to prepare forces for combat with the region’s “terrorist menace” and was not directed at Iran.

 

  • French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault launched a new initiative yesterday to revive the Israeli-Palestinian peace process by summer, but clarified the French position that it will not automatically recognize Palestine as a country if new talks fail, as was suggested in January.

Arguments and Analysis

Seven Ways to Steady a Tunisia under New Attack” (Michael Bechir Ayari, International Crisis Group)

“This was no simple “terrorist” attack. It was a simultaneous assault on an army barracks, the local headquarters of the National Guard and the city’s police station, accompanied by three targeted assassinations of a customs officer, a police officer and a member of the counter-terrorism unit of the National Guard. It was an attempt at a local insurrection, coordinated by some 50 members of IS sleeper cells in Ben Guerdane. The term ‘terrorist’ would obscure the political objectives of the assault: win the support a part of the city’s notoriously rebellious population by inciting an insurrection even as it takes military control of the city. IS broadcast a revolutionary jihadi message from mosque speakers at dawn and attempted to distribute weapons. In this respect, this week’s attack resembles the events of Gafsa in 1980.”

 

Arab Voices on the Challenges of the New Middle East” (Perry Cammack and Marwan Muasher, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace)

“Most responses can be loosely arranged into four broad categories. Roughly four in ten experts articulate some constructive role the United States could play in their region, particularly in the realm of supporting institutional reform, technical assistance, and education. About two in ten call upon the United States to cease interference, reduce its military role, or play no role whatsoever. Another two in ten focus on the Arab-Israeli conflict, calling on the United States to pressure Israel and/or support Palestinian statehood. This result, combined with the experts’ infrequent citation of the Arab-Israeli conflict elsewhere in the survey, suggests that while most of them do not see the Arab-Israeli conflict as among the most urgent crises facing the region, it nonetheless remains a critical lens for evaluating U.S. policy. Lastly, about one in six want the United States to apply more pressure on Arab states, including four experts who advocate U.S. military action to remove President Bashar al-Assad in Syria.”

-J. Dana Stuster

GEORGES OURFALIAN/AFP/Getty Images

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