U.S. Troops Participating in Offensive Near Raqqa
U.S. Special Operations Forces embedded with the Syrian Democratic Forces, a mostly-Kurdish coalition fighting the Islamic State in northern Syria, are participating in combat in the new offensive launched this week to seize swathes of territory from the terrorist group north of Raqqa. SDF fighters explained that U.S. troops were in the recently captured town ...
U.S. Special Operations Forces embedded with the Syrian Democratic Forces, a mostly-Kurdish coalition fighting the Islamic State in northern Syria, are participating in combat in the new offensive launched this week to seize swathes of territory from the terrorist group north of Raqqa. SDF fighters explained that U.S. troops were in the recently captured town of Fatisah and using anti-tank missiles to destroy Islamic State car bombs as they approached SDF positions. Some U.S. soldiers were photographed wearing patches belonging to the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militias; a spokesman for the Pentagon said it is not uncommon for U.S. troops to wear insignia of local forces as a security precaution and downplayed the patches’ political significance. Turkey, which identifies the YPG with the Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK), a terrorist group, reacted angrily to the photographs. “It is unacceptable that an ally country is using the YPG insignia. We reacted to it. It is impossible to accept it. This is a double standard and hypocrisy,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said today.
Separately, Russian U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin on Wednesday accused Turkey of providing materials to the Islamic State to make explosives. Russia’s claims are based on chemical analysis of explosives recovered from Kobane, Syria, and Tikrit, Iraq. Turkey has dismissed the claim as “the most recent example of Russia’s propaganda campaign against Turkey, and as such it cannot be taken seriously.”
Search for EgyptAir Black Box Detects Signal from Crash
Ships searching for the flight recorder from EgyptAir Flight 804, which crashed in the Mediterranean Sea last week, have detected a signal from the plane’s emergency beacon, according to Egypt’s chief investigator, Ayman al-Moqadem. The signal was detected by a French ship equipped to search for planes lost at sea and will allow investigators to narrow their search to an area with a 3-mile radius.
- Despite being displaced from major cities in Yemen, including the port of Mukalla, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is continuing to profit off oil exports by participating in and taxing an operation with other armed groups to smuggle oil directly to beaches in Shabwa, where it is picked up by small boats.
- Israel’s environment minister, Avi Gabbay, announced he will resign rather than continue to work in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet after the appointment of Avigdor Lieberman to the Defense Ministry; Gabbay is a member of the Koolanu party, the only centrist party in the governing coalition.
- Parties to the Yemeni civil war in peace talks in Kuwait have agreed to carry out a prisoner swap before the month of Ramadan begins in June, though both sides have offered different numbers of prisoners to be released; plans for the swap will be submitted to the United Nations by Sunday.
- Hamas announced it will carry out 13 executions of individuals accused of crimes or suspected of working with Israel, a move that has drawn condemnation from U.N. peace process envoy Nickolay Mladenov.
- More than 10,000 refugees and migrants attempting to transit the Mediterranean Sea to Europe from North Africa have been rescued this week; the total number of migrants for the year now exceeds 40,500, and 1,370 have died making the journey.
- More than 30 students have been arrested and sentenced to punishments of 99 lashes in Qazvin, Iran, for attending a graduation party where both men and women were present; “We hope this will be a lesson for those who break Islamic norms in private places,” the prosecutor said.
Arguments and Analysis
“Why I Think We Failed Yemen” (Farea al-Muslimi, Al-Jazeera)
“But it was when a Houthi sniper killed Muhammed al-Yemeni, a journalist and colleague, in the city of Taiz earlier this year, that I felt something in [television journalist] Yahia break. His faith in what he was doing — in ‘The Media’ — collapsed. He could see no purpose in continuing to film. Several weeks ago, Yahia announced on Facebook that he was quitting and had formed a fighting unit to join the battle against the Houthis. Yahia soon began using his Facebook page, once a main source of news from Yemen, as a platform for recruiting frustrated young people who wanted to fight. He quickly enrolled the unit in the army and started recruiting young pharmacists, engineers, writers and so on. This week, the first unit graduated and is getting ready to join the battlefield. It tore me to pieces, turned my heart to ash, like the future had suddenly been robbed of its light. It was not just that Yahia, a promising and dedicated journalist, would lose hope for peace and instead join the violence, but it also brought home to me just how few options are left for Yemeni youth after one year of this war.”
“The PKK Could Spark Turkish-Russian Military Escalation” (Andrew J. Tabler and Soner Cagaptay, Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
“For now, there is no concrete evidence that Russia is sending weapons to the PKK. Yet if Turkey and its Gulf partners continue to undermine Russian goals in Syria by arming the rebels with more potent weapons — particularly in the aftermath of a negotiated settlement — Moscow could decide to provide direct military assistance to the group. Supporting the PKK could also allow Moscow to exploit recent political strife in Turkey. On May 20, the Turkish parliament voted to lift the legal immunity of various deputies, particularly those representing the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), paving the way for their potential expulsion on charges of alleged support for the PKK. This development will add to the instability in Turkey’s Kurdish-majority provinces. Moreover, any expelled HDP deputies might form a Kurdish ‘parliament in exile’ in Rojava, placing themselves under Russia and the PYD’s aegis in Syria. Such a scenario would open the Pandora’s box of wider Russian patronage to Syrian and Turkish Kurds, including the PKK. In light of these factors and the deteriorating military situation near Aleppo, Washington should discourage the Syrian opposition and the PYD/PKK from using MANPADS. But in the absence of progress in Geneva, such weapons may be the inevitable next step in a long war of attrition.”
-J. Dana Stuster
DELIL SOULEIMAN/AFP/Getty Images