Report

Jihadi Groups Attack in Yemen as Saudis Warn Against Collapse of Talks

Jihadi militants carried out significant attacks against Yemeni forces. At least 13 Yemeni troops were killed in a coordinated attack that involved gunmen and suicide bombers near Mukalla today. The Yemeni military accused al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which recently withdrew from Mukalla, of being responsible for the attack, but a local branch of the ...

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Jihadi militants carried out significant attacks against Yemeni forces. At least 13 Yemeni troops were killed in a coordinated attack that involved gunmen and suicide bombers near Mukalla today. The Yemeni military accused al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which recently withdrew from Mukalla, of being responsible for the attack, but a local branch of the Islamic State has claimed responsibility. Yemeni Prime Minister Ahmed bin Dagher is in the city today in an attempt to provide support to local institutions after AQAP’s withdrawal. Another attack targeted the convoy of General Abdul-Rahman al-Halili, the commander of Yemen’s First Military Region, near al-Qatan. Eight people were killed in the attack and 17 were wounded, including Gen. Halili. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.

Peace talks between the Yemeni government and Houthi rebels continue today in Kuwait. Gen. Ahmad Asiri, the spokesman for the Saudi intervention in Yemen, warned yesterday that if the negotiations collapse, Gulf-supported Yemeni troops will launch an offensive on the capital, Sanaa. “We have two lines working in parallel —  a political process and the military operation. One of them will reach the end,” he said.

Islamic State Continues Bombings in Iraq

Violence in Iraq continued today with a pair of bombings at a police station in Abu Ghraib that killed two police officers and wounded eight others. A third bomber was killed as he tried to attack the police station. Wednesday was the bloodiest day in Baghdad in months, with the Islamic State carrying out three suicide bombings. The deadliest killed more than 60 people in a crowded market in Sadr City. Two other blasts killed nearly 30 others in the neighborhoods of Jamia and Kadhimiya.

Headlines

  • The Assad regime resumed its bombing of rebel-held districts of Aleppo after a two-day extension of a ceasefire in the city expired.

 

  • Turkey and the European Union are in a standoff regarding changes in Turkey’s anti-terrorism laws to bring the country into accord with an agreement that would allow Turks visa-free travel in Europe; Turkey says it has met all the necessary commitments and will not change the law while European officials say that the definition of terrorism is overly broad and must be revised.

 

  • Israeli jets bombed a weapons convoy in Syria near the Lebanese border that was believed to be en route to Hezbollah; the Israeli government confirmed recently that it has carried out “dozens” of strikes in Syria targeting arms transfers to Hezbollah during the course of the civil war.

 

  • Syrian rebels, including Jabhat al-Nusra, captured al-Zara, an Alawite-majority town near Homs; civilians have reportedly been abducted from their homes, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

 

  • Egyptians are protesting the arrest of the satirical group Street Children, who are famous for posting videos taken on camera phones, by posting images of themselves holding phones on social media.

Arguments and Analysis

Beirut’s election was surprisingly competitive. Could it shake up Lebanese politics?” (Amanda Rizkallah, Monkey Cage)

“Amid serious allegations of electoral fraud and delays in the reporting of results by the Ministry of the Interior, the results of Sunday’s election are finally in. Although Beirut Madinati lost to the “Beirutis” list led by former Prime Minister Saad Hariri, the nascent social movement won roughly 40 percent of the vote, much more than was anticipated. However, in Lebanon’s first-past-the-post system, all seats went to the establishment list. Still, Beirut Madinati got more than 60 percent of the vote in the mostly Christian district of Achrafieh, and by some rough estimates, 30 percent of the Sunni vote in the city — a surprisingly high figure in light of widespread support for Hariri among the community. In addition to the well-oiled political machines of establishment politicians, Beirut Madinati also had to battle low turnout — partly due to Beirut’s many registered voters living abroad and partly due to the widespread voter skepticism about political change. A significant risk-averse segment of the electorate, still prefers voting for the devil it knows. And many Beirut Madinati supporters could only volunteer for the group but not vote because of the electoral law requiring voting in hometown of origin. And yet despite Beirut Madinati’s loss, social media and the Lebanese blogosphere have exploded in response to the results, citing the list’s relative success as an important symbolic victory and step forward for those seeking reform in Lebanese politics.“

 

How Al Qaeda is Winning in Syria” (Yasir Abbas, War on the Rocks)

“Al-Nusra starts with embedding itself in the opposition and then incrementally moving to subsume, purge, or dominate revolutionary forces, both civilian and military.  It has used this approach throughout Syria. Unlike ISIL, al-Nusra’s logic of control is defined by achieving a loose military and political dominance, rather than complete control, although the latter is its long-term objective. The group carefully chooses when and where to assert its authority to maintain a careful balance between its long-term aims—full control and establishing an Islamic Emirate in Syrian—and the need to appease revolutionary forces and the local population. Upon entering new territory, for example, al-Nusra often refrains from imposing its control on the population or governance institutions. Instead, it initially shares control with the groups already in power on the ground, even if they are secularists and oppose al-Nusra’s visions for Syria. Al-Nusra uses this approach to prevent an abrupt rejection by the local population that may result in a full-fledged confrontation with opposition armed groups, as well as to diffuse its presence in opposition-held areas. But sharing control does not necessarily foster agreement. It is a tactic to delay confrontation until al-Nusra has the military and political means to dispense with its temporary allies and purge, or subsume, their members. This gradualist approach dovetails with al-Nusra’s strategy to gain genuine grassroots support for its long-term political project.”

-J. Dana Stuster

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