Syrian Forces Advance on Manbij, Iraqi Forces Hit Resistance in Fallujah

The Syria Democratic Forces, a U.S.-backed mostly-Kurdish militia, is advancing on Manbij, Syria, in an effort to retake the Islamic State-occupied portion of the Syria-Turkey border. The area, referred to by military planners as the “Manbij pocket,” has been a focus for the Islamic State’s logistics and smuggling operations. Other moderate rebel forces are also ...

GettyImages-536299880
GettyImages-536299880

The Syria Democratic Forces, a U.S.-backed mostly-Kurdish militia, is advancing on Manbij, Syria, in an effort to retake the Islamic State-occupied portion of the Syria-Turkey border. The area, referred to by military planners as the “Manbij pocket,” has been a focus for the Islamic State’s logistics and smuggling operations. Other moderate rebel forces are also fighting to roll back Islamic State control from the west, particularly near the city of Azaz. The role of the Kurdish YPG militia has raised alarm in Turkey, which considers the YPG to be a Syrian affiliate of the PKK terrorist group. U.S. officials stressed that the Kurdish elements of the operation would withdraw. "After they take Manbij, the agreement is the YPG will not be staying ... So you'll have Syrian Arabs occupying traditional Syrian Arab land," a U.S. official told Reuters. The tension between Turkey and the United States over the YPG’s role was illustrated last week when U.S. Special Forces in Syria were photographed wearing YPG patches; after Turkish officials voiced their outrage, the U.S. military ordered troops to stop wearing the patches.

The Syria Democratic Forces, a U.S.-backed mostly-Kurdish militia, is advancing on Manbij, Syria, in an effort to retake the Islamic State-occupied portion of the Syria-Turkey border. The area, referred to by military planners as the “Manbij pocket,” has been a focus for the Islamic State’s logistics and smuggling operations. Other moderate rebel forces are also fighting to roll back Islamic State control from the west, particularly near the city of Azaz. The role of the Kurdish YPG militia has raised alarm in Turkey, which considers the YPG to be a Syrian affiliate of the PKK terrorist group. U.S. officials stressed that the Kurdish elements of the operation would withdraw. “After they take Manbij, the agreement is the YPG will not be staying … So you’ll have Syrian Arabs occupying traditional Syrian Arab land,” a U.S. official told Reuters. The tension between Turkey and the United States over the YPG’s role was illustrated last week when U.S. Special Forces in Syria were photographed wearing YPG patches; after Turkish officials voiced their outrage, the U.S. military ordered troops to stop wearing the patches.

Iraqi forces attempting to recapture the city of Fallujah from the Islamic State are encountering heavy resistance. “Our forces came under heavy fire, they are well dug in in trenches and tunnels,” an Iraqi commander told Reuters. Iraqi special forces are reportedly holding a position outside of the neighborhood of al-Shuhada, and Shia militias participating in the operation were seen converging on Saqlawiya, an Islamic State-held town north of Fallujah. Concerns are continuing to mount about civilian casualties. The U.N. said that as many as 20,000 of the 50,000 civilians believed to be trapped in the city are children and warned that they could be recruited as child soldiers.

Pro-government Libyan Militias Retake Towns from Islamic State

Libyan forces supportive of the U.N.-backed Government of National Accord have forced the Islamic State out of two towns this week and are placing pressure on the group’s stronghold in Sirte. Troops from the Petroleum Facilities Guard, a security force set up to protect oil terminals on the Libyan coast, seized the towns of Ben Jawad and Nawfiliyah on Monday and Tuesday, and the Libyan government announced it was establishing a control room to coordinate operations. Militias from Misrata are also pushing towards Sirte from the west.

Headlines

  • A 48-hour ceasefire has taken effect in the besieged town of Daraya, Syria, to allow the provision of humanitarian aid; the truce was reportedly negotiated internationally and announced by the Russian military.

 

  • A French ship participating in the search for EgyptAir Flight 804 detected a signal that is believed to be coming from the crashed plane’s flight recorder.

 

  • Fighting between pro-government and Houthi forces killed another 38 people, primarily in Bayhan, Yemen, where clashes have flared since the weekend; Yemeni officials dismissed reports that peace talks in Kuwait are nearing an agreement on a new ceasefire and reiterated that they would launch an offensive to retake Sanaa if talks collapse.

 

  • The Bahraini government released human rights activist Zainab al-Khawaja and her 17-month-old son from prison yesterday; she was jailed in March and charges against her for tearing a photograph of King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa remain pending, for which she could face three years in prison.

 

  • The Egyptian government said it will investigate an incident at a U.N. summit on the environment in Nairobi at which the head of the Egyptian delegation referred to sub-Saharan Africans as “dogs and slaves” after receiving a formal complaint from Kenya, but Egyptian officials denied the comments were made.

Arguments and Analysis

The Iran Nuclear Deal: Prelude to Proliferation in the Middle East?” (Robert Einhorn and Richard Nephew, Brookings Institution)

“As the preceding pages make clear, we do not believe the JCPOA will trigger a cascade of proliferation. Due to a combination of technical, political, economic, and strategic factors, none of the most talked-about entrants in a new nuclear arms race are likely to acquire nuclear weapons. Consequently, we find the net nonproliferation effects of the JCPOA in the region to be positive. By removing the most likely near-term instigator of competitive nuclear arming — Iran’s own acquisition of nuclear weapons — the JCPOA will restrain future proliferation in the Middle East. However, although we find the chances of a cascade of regional nuclear proliferation to be slight, they are not zero and much will depend on how effectively the JCPOA is enforced and on a range of other factors previously discussed. Moreover, the turmoil that currently afflicts the Middle East renders any judgment as to the ‘most likely’ course of events prone to future revision.”

 

Advancing the Dialogue: A Security System for the Two-State Solution” (Ilan Goldenberg, Maj. Gen. (Res.) Gadi Shammi, Nimrod Novik, and Col. Kris Bauman, Center for a New American Security)

“The security system described in this paper addresses the key needs of all sides. It includes a multilayered system that builds up Palestinian capacity to provide law and order and counter terrorism while minimizing Israeli interference in Palestinian sovereignty. However, it does not foreclose Israel’s ability to act unilaterally in self-defense if it feels it must. It gives the Palestinians a clear timeline, but one that is dependent on conditions and criteria agreed to with the Israelis. It includes a long-term monitoring process so that Israelis maintain clear awareness of what is going on in the West Bank and avoid surprises, but that process is unintrusive and involves joint Israeli-Palestinian cooperation. And it provides an Israel-U.S. consultative process to deal with fundamental strategic surprises that could arise from regional instability. The proposed security system is based on the following central principles, which address both Israeli and Palestinian needs.”

-J. Dana Stuster

AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images

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