Islamic State Losing Ground Near Raqqa and Fallujah
The U.S.-backed Syria Democratic Forces coalition, a collection of mostly Kurdish militias, launched an offensive encroaching on the Islamic State’s de facto capital of Raqqa. An estimated 30,000 SDF forces have advanced south from their stronghold in Tel Abyad toward Ain Issa, approximately 40 miles northwest of Raqqa. Clashes were reported on Tuesday in the ...
The U.S.-backed Syria Democratic Forces coalition, a collection of mostly Kurdish militias, launched an offensive encroaching on the Islamic State’s de facto capital of Raqqa. An estimated 30,000 SDF forces have advanced south from their stronghold in Tel Abyad toward Ain Issa, approximately 40 miles northwest of Raqqa. Clashes were reported on Tuesday in the town of Heisha. Coalition airstrikes against Islamic State targets have been reported in the area. A spokesman for the SDF confirmed the operation to Reuters and said that the goal of the operation is to capture territory north of the city, but not the city itself. Farther west, satellite imagery has confirmed that an Islamic State attack against the Russian airbase in Tiyas destroyed much of the facility, including four attack helicopters.
In Iraq, the government’s effort to retake Fallujah continues today. A force that includes the army, federal police, SWAT teams, and Shia militias have retaken a cement factory in Harariyat, outside the city, and are pressing toward the city. “Now the enemy is collapsing, and we are hunting them,” a commander of the federal police told the Washington Post. U.S. and Iraqi airstrikes have targeted Islamic State positions in the area, but U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter said yesterday that Iraq has not requested additional support for the operation. As Iraqi forces advance closer to the city, many civilians are at risk. Residents of the city told USA Today that the Islamic State has placed the city under a curfew and is moving civilians to the city center as human shields.
Netanyahu Formally Appoints Lieberman as Defense Minister
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu finalized a deal to appoint Avigdor Lieberman as minister of defense and incorporate his Yisrael Beitenu party, which holds five seats in the Knesset, into the governing coalition. At an event announcing the coalition, both men said they were committed to reaching a peace agreement with the Palestinians. A spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told Reuters, “What’s important is deeds not words.”
- A Saudi court sentenced a man to death for his role in a 2004 al-Qaeda terrorist attack, a shooting spree at a Swiss engineering firm in Yanbu that killed seven people, including six Westerners and a Saudi soldier.
- Authorities in Cairo detained French newspaper La Croix’s Egypt correspondent, Rémy Pigaglio, for 30 hours and then deported him without allowing him to enter the country.
- The British government is seeking assurances from Saudi Arabia that the Saudi military is not using British-made cluster munitions from the 1970s, which Amnesty International reported finding components of, in its operations in Yemen; Britain ratified the Convention on Cluster Munitions in 2010.
- Local authorities on the Yemeni island of Socotra detained and are questioning approximately 24 Iranian fisherman who came ashore; they were suspected of smuggling weapons or illegally fishing in Yemeni waters.
- The Saudi air force and Qatari commandos are participating in a joint military exercise with Turkey; the Gulf forces arrived last week and the exercises will last until June 11.
Arguments and Analysis
“How Tunisia’s Ennahda party turned from its Islamist roots” (Rory McCarthy, Monkey Cage)
“A better way to think of Ennahda’s shift in strategy is to ask what lessons the movement drew from its own history. Most important is the way the movement has learned from its experience in the elections of April 1989, during a brief moment of political opening at the start of the Ben Ali regime. Despite running only as independents in a rigged election, Ennahda candidates won about 15 percent of the vote nationwide, and up to 30 percent in some cities, including Tunis, Sousse, Monastir and Bizerte. But they won no seats in parliament, and instead, an intense confrontation developed between the movement and the regime, with mass street demonstrations and a widespread campaign of arrests. This led to a severe repression and the dismantling of the movement. In jail and in exile, the movement went through a process of evaluation. It admitted that its political ambition had overwhelmed its original cultural and social Islamising project. It accepted that it had failed to build alliances with other opposition parties and that occasional acts of violence had undermined its position. Different trends learned different lessons.”
“New Gaza War Inevitable without International Action” (Omar Shaban, Middle East Institute)
“With the exception of the extremely slow reconstruction process of what was destroyed during the last Israel-Gaza war in the summer of 2014, the conditions that preceded that war remain in place. The Palestinian reconciliation process remains cosmetic, negotiations for a truce between Israel and Hamas that were supposed to resume under Egyptian auspices have stalled, and humanitarian conditions in Gaza are becoming increasingly dire. Without improvement on any of these issues, the risks for a new round of fighting remain high. Mobilization and preparation by Hamas and Israel for a new round of war are indeed gathering pace.”
-J. Dana Stuster
AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images