AQAP Forced Out of Major Port City in Yemen
Local Yemeni forces, supported by Saudi and Emirati air support, continued a new offensive against areas occupied by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula over the weekend, retaking the major port city of Mukalla. The occupation of the city had been a financial boon to AQAP, which was receiving millions of dollars from smuggling operations. The ...
Local Yemeni forces, supported by Saudi and Emirati air support, continued a new offensive against areas occupied by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula over the weekend, retaking the major port city of Mukalla. The occupation of the city had been a financial boon to AQAP, which was receiving millions of dollars from smuggling operations. The local Yemeni troops, which the Emirati military have reportedly been preparing for months, retook Mukalla yesterday after the city was bombarded by airstrikes. Initial reports noted little fighting as Yemeni government armored vehicles entered the city and residents said that local clerics and tribal leaders had negotiated with AQAP to encourage them to withdraw rather than intensify the conflict in Mukalla. A statement from the Saudi-led military coalition on Sunday claimed 800 AQAP fighters were killed in the offensive, which was met with disbelief by Yemenis and journalists. Yemeni troops are also pushing toward the AQAP-held city of al-Koud, near Zinjibar, where AQAP counterattacked with a car bomb. A suspected U.S. drone strike also targeted members of AQAP in Marib.
The peace talks that began last week in Kuwait between the Houthis and the government of President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi are advancing slowly but U.N. Yemen envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed said yesterday that the parties have expressed a “consensus on the need to make peace and to work intensively towards an agreement.” Over the weekend, the delegations appointed representatives to a committee focusing on de-escalation and monitoring ceasefire violations.
U.S. to Send Additional 250 Special Operations Troops to Syria
President Barack Obama, speaking in Germany this morning, announced that the United States would send an additional 250 Special Operations troops to Syria, building on the 50 already deployed. The new forces will assist with the training and assistance being provided to Kurdish and Sunni Arab forces fighting the Islamic State in eastern Syria, with particular attention to expanding Sunni Arab participation. Russia has also been deepening its engagement with the Kurds, especially in western Syria.
- Egypt is bracing for widespread protests today coinciding with Sinai Liberation Day as discontent with President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, particularly his recent cession of two islands to Saudi Arabia, continues to roil the country; last Thursday, dozens of journalists and activists were arrested and in a speech yesterday Sisi called on people to defend the country against what he says is an “evil” plot to destabilize the country.
- At least 27 Kurdish peshmerga and Shia militia fighters were killed when they clashed with each other in Tuz Khormatu, Iraq, about 100 miles north of Baghdad; both sides blame each other for starting the violence, and Kurdish forces have cut off the town to prevent the militia from receiving reinforcements despite government efforts to deescalate the situation.
- King Abdullah is pressing the Jordanian parliament to pass a series of constitutional amendments that would consolidate the monarchy’s power, giving the king the power to appoint key executive, defense, and judiciary officials without parliamentary input.
- Dutch journalist Ebru Umar, who criticized Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a column last week, was arrested while on vacation in Turkey yesterday; Umar tweeted on Sunday evening that she’d been released but was not allowed to leave the country.
- Last week, Israel identified the person responsible for detonating a bomb aboard a bus in Jerusalem as Abdul-Hamid Abu Srour, a 19-year-old Palestinian who died from wounds sustained in the explosion.
Arguments and Analysis
“Past is prologue? Saudi Arabia’s clumsy oil diplomacy” (Suzanne Maloney, Markaz)
“Even by the standards of their well-established enmity, the past week has been an especially sour one between Tehran and Riyadh. The Istanbul summit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) ended in recriminations and resentment after the Saudis engineered a final statement that criticized Tehran. A Doha meeting of major oil producers failed to produce agreement on a Saudi proposed output freeze because of Tehran’s refusal to cooperate. And quiet talks over the annual pilgrimage to Mecca — a traditional source of strife between the two theocratic states that was further complicated by their January rupture in diplomatic relations — have just collapsed. The handling of these three encounters among wary adversaries underscores trends already evident in Saudi foreign policy: the increasing centrality of Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom’s deputy crown prince and defense minister, in shaping Saudi strategy, and the audacity — even incaution — with which he approaches the strategic schism between the kingdom and Iran.”
“Giulio, the islands and national security” (Khaled Fahmy, Mada Masr)
“Since the archive’s collection is not thoroughly catalogued, making it impossible to know exactly what information is contained in its documents and maps, instructions were issued prohibiting the photocopying of any maps at all. As the Egyptian proverb has it, shut the door that lets in the breeze and set your mind at ease. The security logic seems to suggest that one cannot be sure that a researcher working on Islamic endowments in the 15th century isn’t really a spy — he might be looking for maps of Siwa, Halayib and Shalatin, the Yaghbub Oasis, or Tiran and Sanafir. Since we have border disputes with all our neighbors, not only can you not copy maps related to any border issue, you can’t conduct research on any topic vaguely connected to borders. We researchers thus have a hard time and our work is constantly stalled. The security logic doesn’t stop at maps and borders. It casts suspicion on every topic.”
-J. Dana Stuster
SALEH AL-OBEIDI/AFP/Getty Images