Report

Islamic State Resists Iraqi Advance on Fallujah

Iraqi forces captured several towns on the outskirts of Fallujah yesterday, but were halted by heavy resistance as they approached the al-Shuhada neighborhood at the southeast edge of the city. Concerns remain about the 50,000 civilians believed to be trapped in the city. Jan Egeland, Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council, called the situation ...

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Iraqi forces captured several towns on the outskirts of Fallujah yesterday, but were halted by heavy resistance as they approached the al-Shuhada neighborhood at the southeast edge of the city. Concerns remain about the 50,000 civilians believed to be trapped in the city. Jan Egeland, Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council, called the situation a “humanitarian catastrophe” and said that he has only seen one report of a family escaping the city. Medical sources inside the city told Reuters that approximately 50 people have died so far, approximately 30 of them civilians.

Deadly Airstrikes Hit Civilian Neighborhoods in Idlib

At least 23 people were killed in overnight airstrikes targeting the rebel-held city of Idlib, Syria. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that residential neighborhoods were hit and a hospital was severely damaged when a bomb struck a public garden next door. Idlib is primarily held by Jabhat al-Nusra, which is not a party to the country’s mostly-lapsed partial ceasefire. The Russian government denied responsibility for the strikes.

The United Nations may postpone the airdrop of humanitarian aid to besieged communities. Airdrops were scheduled to begin June 1, but U.N. officials now say the resupply missions would be too dangerous without the Assad regime’s consent.

Headlines

  • Egyptian prosecutors will try the head of the journalists’ union and two union board members for harboring fugitives and spreading false news; the charges stem from a May 2 police raid on the Journalists Syndicate building in Cairo which the government denies occurred as reported.

 

  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded to a speech last week by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who called on Israel to renew peace talks and work towards warmer relations with Egypt, saying that he would like to pursue negotiations to revise the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative with “the agreed goal of two states for two peoples.”

 

  • Egyptian authorities closed a private hospital in Suez province after a 17-year-old girl was killed while undergoing a female genital mutilation procedure, which is illegal under Egyptian law.

 

  • A Kuwaiti court sentenced seven people, including three members of the royal family, to at least five years in jail for insulting Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad Al-Sabah and the judiciary on WhatsApp and Twitter.

 

  • A Bahraini appeals court lengthened the sentence of Sheikh Ali Salman, the head of the country’s opposition al-Wefaq party, from four to nine years; he was convicted in July 2015 after a previous acquittal on charges of inciting hatred.

 

  • Merve Buyuksarac, a beauty queen who was once named Miss Turkey, was convicted by a Turkish court and sentenced to more than a year in jail for “publicly insulting” President Recep Tayyip Erdogan by sharing a satirical poem on her Instagram account.

Arguments and Analysis

Revisiting Train-and-Equip in Syria to Clear the Manbij Pocket” (Andrea Taylor and Aaron Stein, War on the Rocks)

“For the immediate task of ‘defeating and degrading’ ISIL, the SDF’s utility as a ground force in Kurdish-majority areas has proved to be a successful formula. The SDF has expressed a sustained interest in taking the cities of Manbij and Jarablus from ISIL, before continuing west to link up with the isolated PYD run territory of Efrin in Syria’s northeast. It is unclear if the YPG has the requisite strength to fight a two-front offensive against ISIL, on its western front line as well as its 115-mile front line between Margadeh and Ain Issa. Moreover, even if the YPG had the ability to take and hold territory from ISIL in these two areas, its doing so could come at the expense of the U.S.-Turkish relationship. There are also concerns that a heavy Kurdish presence in the pocket would exacerbate ethnic tensions and further undermine the broader effort to defeat ISIL. So, what other options are available to the United States to drive a stake in the heart of ISIL’s self-proclaimed caliphate? The United States and Turkey are currently working together to arm various Arab- and Turkmen- majority rebel groups in this area, but these groups do not possess an integrated command structure, which limits their battlefield effectiveness. At the same time, U.S. forces do not operate west of the Euphrates River, largely over concerns for their being taken hostage and turned over to groups like Jabhat al-Nusra. For these reasons, the Arab and Turkmen groups in the area that do receive U.S. support are not able to fully leverage the benefits of American airpower. The presence of groups hostile to the United States also rules out the deployment of special operators in the area, further limiting the effectiveness of the air campaign.”

 

Brawl in Turkish National Assembly Indicates Deeper Trouble” (Christopher Gandrud, Political Violence at a Glance)

“We tend to see more legislative violence in parliaments where legislators find it difficult to make credible commitments to follow peaceful legislative bargains. Just like in international conflict, when one side doesn’t believe that the other side will uphold their peacefully bargained commitments, MPs may choose violence as a last-ditch effort to achieve their goals. There are many reasons why legislators may think that their opponents will not stick to their peaceful commitments. One condition is a disproportionate electoral system (i.e. when some parties receive a much larger proportion of legislative seats than their vote shares), while others receive much less. These situations create opportunities for large power shifts as simple electoral rule changes to improve proportionality will greatly benefit one side and hurt the other. Those hurt by unfair rules have strong incentives to change them. On the other hand, beneficiaries of status quo rules have strong incentives to prevent these changes. They might use violence to protect the status quo. More generally, credible commitment problems tend to be prevalent in new democracies. In new democracies, legislators have less information about whether or not their opponents are likely to follow rules to peacefully share and alternate power instead of permanently seizing it for themselves. ”

-J. Dana Stuster

AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images

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