Islamic State Under Strain from Falling Recruitment, Strikes on Finances

The Islamic State has experienced severe new constraints on recruitment and financing in recent months, according to new figures released by the U.S. military. The flow of foreign fighters to join the group in Syria has fallen precipitously — by 90 percent over the past year — the deputy commander for operations and intelligence, Maj. ...

GettyImages-519992126
GettyImages-519992126

The Islamic State has experienced severe new constraints on recruitment and financing in recent months, according to new figures released by the U.S. military. The flow of foreign fighters to join the group in Syria has fallen precipitously -- by 90 percent over the past year -- the deputy commander for operations and intelligence, Maj. Gen. Peter E. Gersten, said yesterday. The Islamic State is estimated to receive 200 new foreign recruits a month, from 2,000 a month this time last year. Additionally, Gersten noted, U.S. airstrikes have destroyed between $500 and $800 million of the Islamic State’s cash reserves by striking stockpiles. That has placed financial strain on the group and defectors from the group say fighters have had their salaries halved or are no longer being paid.

In addition to the new deployment of 250 Special Forces troops to Syria, to join 50 already on the ground, the United States will also send mobile rocket-launching vehicles to the Turkish border. The High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) will also be sent to and used in Iraq to assist in military operations near Mosul.

Iraqi Parliament Confirms Some Members of New Cabinet

The Islamic State has experienced severe new constraints on recruitment and financing in recent months, according to new figures released by the U.S. military. The flow of foreign fighters to join the group in Syria has fallen precipitously — by 90 percent over the past year — the deputy commander for operations and intelligence, Maj. Gen. Peter E. Gersten, said yesterday. The Islamic State is estimated to receive 200 new foreign recruits a month, from 2,000 a month this time last year. Additionally, Gersten noted, U.S. airstrikes have destroyed between $500 and $800 million of the Islamic State’s cash reserves by striking stockpiles. That has placed financial strain on the group and defectors from the group say fighters have had their salaries halved or are no longer being paid.

In addition to the new deployment of 250 Special Forces troops to Syria, to join 50 already on the ground, the United States will also send mobile rocket-launching vehicles to the Turkish border. The High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) will also be sent to and used in Iraq to assist in military operations near Mosul.

Iraqi Parliament Confirms Some Members of New Cabinet

After a contentious day disrupted by protesting parliamentarians, Iraq’s parliament voted to confirm six of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s original cabinet nominees, first put forward in March. The votes only occurred after Abadi and members of parliament moved to a separate chamber away from the opposing politicians who claim that they had voted out the presiding parliamentary speaker in a previous session. Parliament will resume discussion of the remaining nominees on Thursday. Thousands of protesters organized by Muqtada al-Sadr rallied outside the Green Zone in favor of the cabinet reforms. A speaker at the rally called the confirmation votes a “first step.”

Headlines

  • Peace talks in Kuwait to resolve the Yemeni civil war have established an agenda for the talks with separate committees working in parallel on Houthi withdrawal from major cities and the formation of a unity government; Kuwait’s emir intervened in the talks to help negotiate the agenda.

 

  • The supreme leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, complained in a speech today about the lack of financial recovery Iran has seen since the nuclear agreement and accused the United States of only lifting sanctions “on paper” and creating “Iranophobia so no one does business with Iran.”

 

  • Yemeni officials said that three members of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula were killed in a U.S. drone strike in the AQAP-occupied city of Zinjibar on Monday night, including the organization’s top financial official.

 

  • The United States has shifted 100 U.S. peacekeepers from a North Sinai to a base 300 miles south after U.S. troops were targeted by Islamic State militants; the U.S. peacekeepers are there to monitor the Egypt-Israeli border and are not allowed to fire on local militants.

 

  • The Jordanian government has canceled a concert by the popular and politically progressive Lebanese band Mashrou’ Leila that was set to be held in Amman; though the Ministry of Tourism cited concerns about the venue, where the band has played before, a statement from Mashrou’ Leila says they were told the cancellation occurred because of their political activism.

Arguments and Analysis

A Syrian Tempest in the Geneva Teapot” (Aron Lund, The Century Foundation)

“Syrian opposition politics has long been a game operating under its own laws, which have very little to do with the military capacity or membership numbers of any participant faction. Much of this game plays out in the media for symbolic effect and public consumption, rather than on the ground in the country. The great-power diplomacy surrounding the Geneva talks has further complicated the situation. Since there is no autonomous, effective, and indigenous Syrian rebel leadership able to select its own representatives, foreign states have taken it upon themselves to suggest negotiators. A variety of governments are jostling to select opposition representatives to the talks, while the Syrian factions themselves court foreign support to assure themselves of a seat at the table. Turkey’s role in barring the most powerful Kurdish faction from formal attendance at Geneva has already been mentioned. Western and Arab states have promoted their favorite dissidents inside the HNC, which they have fought to preserve as the only official opposition delegation. Conversely, Russia and Iran have sought to undermine the HNC’s centrality by packing the talks with as many alternate factions as possible. In his attempts to navigate these countervailing pressures, de Mistura has brought numerous non-HNC dissidents into the Geneva process as ”consultants,” thereby sidestepping Security Council and great-power restrictions on who can be named a formal delegate.”

 

Syria’s Toxic War: Chemical Weapons Are Undermining Deterrence and Nonproliferation” (Rebecca Hersman, War on the Rocks)

“Efforts have been underway to attribute these attacks and ensure better accountability, but the slow pace and lack of international attention has does little to spur on the process. The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and the United Nations established a one-year Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) to identify actors perpetrating, organizing, or sponsoring the use of chemical weapons in Syria. The JIM has reviewed data from its initial fact-finding mission and identified seven potential cases for further investigation. The team will split into two groups later this month. Security permitting, they will conduct field visits to Syria. On March 9, 2016, the United States conducted airstrikes against targets associated with ISIL’s chemical weapons program based on intelligence and information from a captured ISIL operative who was reportedly a key player in the group’s chemical weapons program. These are major steps, but insufficient in stopping the continued use of chemical weapons. With access and support, the JIM can make vital steps toward attribution and accountability, and ultimately toward justice. If the JIM can gain access to patients, eyewitnesses, environmental and biological samples, and munition remnants, then many questions can be answered. This is a relatively small but essential step if we are to have any hope of preventing the reemergence of chemical weapons as routine tools of warfare. The JIM cannot succeed without the vocal support, assistance, and participation — indeed outrage — of the security and humanitarian communities. But many challenges remain.”

-J. Dana Stuster

SAFIN HAMED/AFP/Getty Images

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