Iraqi troops captured Qayara airbase on Saturday with air support from the U.S.-led coalition. The airbase is located 40 miles from Mosul and will be used as a staging ground for operations to retake the city. A team of U.S. advisors surveyed the facility on Sunday. Iraqi forces are now reinforcing the airbase’s defenses; the Islamic State still occupies the nearby town of Qayara and the military is concerned about an Islamic State counterattack.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter arrived in Iraq today for meetings with Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and security officials. He said Qayara and another base retaken by Iraqi troops at Makhmour would serve as logistical hubs as Iraqi forces continue to press Islamic State forces from the south and Kurdish Peshmerga from the north.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Meets with Prime Minister Netanyahu in Jerusalem
Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry visited Jerusalem on Sunday to discuss warming Egyptian-Israeli ties with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. A prominent subject of discussion was Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s interest in facilitating renewed peace talks. The partnership between Sisi and Netanyahu has already yielded an arrangement on natural gas and, according to a former Israeli official cited by Bloomberg, cooperation on Israeli drone strikes in the Sinai. Netanyahu is expected to visit Egypt by the end of the year.
- Syrian rebels besieged by Assad regime forces in Aleppo began attacking regime forces near the center of the city this morning and shelling government-held neighborhoods; the rebels lost their last corridor to the city last week when a regime advance came within range of the Castello Road.
- An Iranian parliamentarian, Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh, was attacked by an armed mob in Iran’s Kurdish region, near the Iraqi border, but escaped with only minor injuries; a local governor traveling with Falahatpisheh was wounded by gunfire; the area has been the site of recent clashes between the local affiliate of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.
- The Islamic State’s traffic on Twitter has declined 45 percent over the past two year and had its English-language content on social media dramatically curtailed, according to a report by the Associated Press; U.S. officials attribute the decline to the coalition’s countermessaging efforts and partnerships with social media companies.
- A suspected U.S. drone strike targeted al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula militants in Marib province, Yemen, on Sunday
- A senior commander of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Fehman Huseyin, was assassinated when a bomb destroyed the car in which he was traveling in northeast Syria, according to a Turkish news report citing a Syrian rebel group; it is unclear who is responsible for the attack.
Arguments and Analysis
“Suppose America Gave a Proxy War in Syria and Nobody Came?” (Sam Heller, The Century Foundation)
“The NSA [New Syrian Army] advanced from its base in the central Syrian desert to Albukamal’s outskirts, where it seized an airfield and set up a base in a local school. But the offensive seems to have been dramatically undermanned. The NSA may have top-of-the-line U.S.-supplied hardware and U.S. air support, but according to sources within the group, it has only about 150 fighters. The day after it arrived in Albukamal with such fanfare, the NSA had been encircled by Islamic State forces. The NSA could have been wiped out. ‘Thank God they didn’t use a car bomb on our encircled men,’ Khaz’al al-Sarhan told me over social media. ‘We would have lost a lot.’ It was only thanks to help from American bombers that the NSA was able to narrowly escape and retreat west to its base. The heavily publicized rebel offensive had completely collapsed a day after it begun. Somewhat miraculously, it had suffered only a handful of casualties—Sarhan told me two had died, although other accounts put the number higher. But the defeat was a blow to hopes that the NSA — or anyone, really — can free the residents of Albukamal and Deir al-Zour from Islamic State.”
“Bombing Businesses: Saudi Coalition Airstrikes on Yemen’s Civilian Economic Structures” (Human Rights Watch)
“Since the beginning of the military operations of the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, Human Rights Watch has documented apparently unlawful airstrikes on 13 economic structures used for civilian purposes. These include six factories, three compounds that produced and stored commercial goods, an electrical station storage facility, a power plant, and the Sanaa Chamber of Commerce headquarters. These attacks killed 130 workers, security guards, or nearby residents of the facilities and injured 171 more. Altogether these 13 facilities employed over 2,500 people, many of whom lost their incomes or jobs due to the attacks. A few of the factories reopened following attacks, despite fears for workers’ safety, as managers say they need the revenue to continue paying salaries. At least 10 of the attacks appeared to be unlawful, with no military target in the immediate vicinity, and may constitute war crimes. Four of them killed large numbers of civilians.”
-J. Dana Stuster
HAIDAR MOHAMMED ALI/AFP/Getty Images