Report

Top Hezbollah Commander Killed in Syria

Mustafa Amine Badreddine, who was believed to be Hezbollah’s top military commander, was killed on Tuesday in an explosion near the Damascus airport, according to a statement by Hezbollah. Some Arab media reports have attributed the blast to an Israeli airstrike but social media accounts associated with Syrian rebel groups have claimed that he was ...

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Mustafa Amine Badreddine, who was believed to be Hezbollah’s top military commander, was killed on Tuesday in an explosion near the Damascus airport, according to a statement by Hezbollah. Some Arab media reports have attributed the blast to an Israeli airstrike but social media accounts associated with Syrian rebel groups have claimed that he was actually killed south of Aleppo and that Syrian rebels were responsible for the attack. Badreddine has been involved in Hezbollah’s military operations since 1982 and was a close associate and relative of Imad Mughniyeh, who previously held Hezbollah’s top military post until he was assassinated by a car bomb in Damascus in 2008. He was indicted by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon as the mastermind of the assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and was involved in the 1982 Beirut barracks bombing and bombings in Kuwait in 1983 targeting U.S. and French diplomats.

Elsewhere in Syria, Assad regime troops turned back an aid convoy outside of the besieged neighborhood of Daraya, in Damascus, and then shelled residents who had gathered to meet the convoy. Separately, Amnesty International accused rebel groups besieging the Kurdish neighborhood of Sheikh Maqsoud, Aleppo, of indiscriminate shelling of civilian targets, including the possible use of chemical weapons.

Small Teams of U.S. Troops Stationed in Libya

The United States has positioned two “contact teams” of Special Operations Forces in Benghazi and Misurata, Libya, since late last year, according to a new report from the Washington Post. The deployment involves fewer than 25 soldiers, who are working with local forces to gain intelligence and identify potential partners. The U.S. troops are working in parallel with French and other European commandos also in the area. U.S. officials have discussed concerns about the Islamic State’s presence in Libya, particularly in Sirte, and the Pentagon has said it is working on plans to address the threat.

Headlines

  • Iran will suspend its participation in the annual hajj pilgrimage to Mecca this year, Ali Jannati, the Iranian minister for culture and Islamic guidance, announced yesterday; he blamed Saudi Arabia for a collapse of negotiations regarding visas and travel which followed a stampede during last year’s pilgrimage that killed 464 Iranians.

 

  • Hundreds of protesters in Sadr City, Baghdad, rallied against the Iraqi government for its failure to protect the neighborhood from a suicide attack that left 64 people dead and called for the resignation of the minister of the interior.

 

  • Eight Turkish soldiers and 22 Kurdish militants have been killed in new military operations targeting the PKK near the Turkey-Iraq border, the Turkish military said; on Thursday, four Kurdish militants were killed in Sarikamis when the bomb they were loading into a car exploded.

 

  • The Mexican Foreign Ministry issued a statement expressing its dissatisfaction with the Egyptian government’s response to a military attack that killed eight Mexican tourists last year, saying the Egyptian government has failed to investigate the incident, hold officials responsible, or compensate the victims.

 

  • The U.S. Navy officer who led a riverine squadron that was briefly detained by Iranian forces in January has been fired and another officer is on administrative hold pending an investigation of the incident; investigators “believe that a navigational error, along with some baffling errors in judgment on the part of the crew, led to their capture,” according to the Navy Times.

Arguments and Analysis

Saudi Arabia’s McKinsey reshuffle” (Adel Abdel Ghafar, Markaz)

“The 2030 document outlines a number of significant reforms that seek to change not only the Saudi economy, but state-society relations more broadly, in a way that hasn’t been done since the Kingdom’s founding. The prince’s vision seems to have been inspired by a report issued by the McKinsey Global Institute in December 2015 titled ‘Moving Saudi Arabia’s Economy Beyond Oil.’ The vision and the report have similar policy prescriptions for diversifying the Kingdom’s economy away from oil. Such similarities highlight the influence of consultancies on policymaking in the Kingdom. Indeed, Bloomberg news reported that consultancies are set to earn 12 percent more in commissions in Saudi Arabia this year, the fastest growth amongst the world’s advisory markets. In a wide-ranging interview with The Economist in January, Prince Mohammed himself said that ‘McKinsey participates with us in many studies.’ According to the Financial Times, Saudi businessmen have sarcastically dubbed the Ministry of Planning as the ‘McKinsey Ministry.’”

 

Rant: The Next Week Will Be Full of Op-Eds about Sykes-Picot: Almost All of Them Will Get it Wrong” (Michael Collins Dunn, MEI Editor’s Blog)

“May 19th will mark the 100th anniversary of the “Asia Minor Agreement,” or as it is universally known today, the Sykes-Picot Agreement. Brace yourself. They’re going to tell you that Sykes-Picot created the modern borders of the Middle East (only a few of them), that it is being overturned by ISIS (even less so), that it was ever really implemented/imposed (only in a limited sense),  and that all the problems of the Middle East stem from it (a bit more arguable), not to mention that the whole reason that the Middle East is such a clusterfu mess today is because of Sykes-Picot (even more arguable). Not because I approve of British and French diplomats carving up the Middle East while a) not asking the locals what they wanted and b) in the British case, promising the Promised Land to themselves, Jews, and Arabs at the same time. The fact is, though, that Sykes-Picot is not what you think it is because, as I’ve ranted before, and in fact more than once, Sykes-Picot, deplorable as it may have been, was never implemented as written.

-J. Dana Stuster

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