U.S. to Deploy More Troops to Iraq for Mosul Offensive

U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter announced that the United States will deploy an additional 560 troops to Iraq to assist in operations to recapture Mosul from the Islamic State. The latest increase in forces will bring the total number of U.S. troops in Iraq to 4,647. Iraqi forces have made strategic advances against the ...


U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter announced that the United States will deploy an additional 560 troops to Iraq to assist in operations to recapture Mosul from the Islamic State. The latest increase in forces will bring the total number of U.S. troops in Iraq to 4,647. Iraqi forces have made strategic advances against the Islamic State in recent days but U.S. officials say they have encountered difficulties handling logistical preparations for an assault on Mosul. “We need to move to this place to be as close to the fighting as we have been,” Lt. Gen. Sean B. MacFarland, commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, told press yesterday.

A car bomb in the predominantly-Shia al-Rashidiya neighborhood of Baghdad killed 11 people and wounded 32 others. The attack targeted a fruit and vegetable market during the morning rush hour. Elsewhere in Baghdad, near the Green Zone, the city’s roads came to a standstill as roads were closed in preparation for a military parade celebrating the Iraqi military’s recent victories at Fallujah and the Qayara airbase; some residents said the traffic made work inaccessible.

Israel Passes Controversial NGO Law

The Israeli Knesset passed a controversial law that will require non-governmental organizations to disclaim foreign funding in public communications. Advocates of the law say it is necessary to limit foreign influence on Israeli politics, but critics note that it will affect liberal groups far more than conservative groups that mostly rely on wealthy donors, who are exempt from the disclaimer. Also yesterday, the Israeli government banned a Palestinian organization, Al-Hirak Al-Shabaabi, on the recommendation of the Shin Bet. The organization is an Iranian-funded front for terrorist activities with ties to Hezbollah, according to Israeli intelligence.


  • Iran announced that three dual-nationals imprisoned by the government — British-Iranian charity worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, American-Iranian businessman Siamak Namazi, and Canadian-Iranian academic Homa Hoodfar — have been referred to the courts for trial; no charges were given.


  • Experts disputed Russian claims about a helicopter that was shot down near Palmyra on Friday, noting that video shows the helicopter was an Mi-35M crewed by Russian pilots, not an Mi-25 on a training run as the Kremlin said; experts also noted it is unlikely the helicopter was shot down by an anti-tank missile, despite Russian claims.


  • A German court convicted a German national who was radicalized in Germany and fought against the Assad regime in Syria of war crimes for posing with the severed heads of Assad regime troops.


  • Facebook is being sued for $1 billion by an Israeli group that is arguing that the social platform allows terrorist groups, including Hamas, to post propaganda and incite violence in violation of the U.S. Anti-Terrorism Act.


  • A poll of Iranian citizens one year after the Iran nuclear agreement was reached between Iran and the P5+1 found that most Iranians are skeptical that the United States will follow through on its obligations under the deal and are underwhelmed by the country’s limited economic recovery since nuclear sanctions were lifted earlier this year.

Arguments and Analysis

The Future of U.S.-Saudi Relations” (F. Gregory Gause, Foreign Affairs)

“The Obama administration’s top priority in the region is rolling back and ultimately destroying Salafi jihadist groups — above all, ISIS and al Qaeda. These groups may not represent an existential threat to the United States, but they do pose an immediate danger to the country and its allies. The Obama administration’s other major goal is to limit Iran’s ability to develop a nuclear weapon, an objective that the recent international agreement has achieved. After the deal, Washington hoped to engage Tehran in regional diplomacy, particularly over Syria, and perhaps even to normalize relations. The administration has not yet realized those hopes, but Obama clearly wants to cooperate with Iran even as he seeks to limit its influence. Washington cares much less about other regional goals. Ever since the administration’s early efforts to jump-start the Israeli-Palestinian peace process foundered, the U.S. government has moved the issue to the back burner. And in Syria, although the Obama administration has repeatedly said that President Bashar al-Assad must step down as part of a negotiated settlement to the civil war, it has done little to make that happen. The United States has provided scant support to the Syrian opposition, and ever since August 2013, when Obama backed down from the redline he had drawn over the use of chemical weapons, it has stopped threatening to attack Assad directly. ISIS, not the Assad regime, now finds itself in Washington’s cross hairs. Saudi Arabia’s priorities are almost exactly the opposite.”


Why ISIS Persists” (Jeffrey D. Sachs, Project Syndicate)

“For Saudi Arabia, as for Israel, the main goal is to oust Assad in order to weaken Iran. Syria is part of the extensive proxy war between Shia Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia that plays out in the battlefields of Syria and Yemen and in bitter Shia-Sunni confrontations in Bahrain and other divided countries in the region (including Saudi Arabia itself). For Turkey, the overthrow of Assad would bolster its regional standing. Yet Turkey now faces three foes on its southern border: Assad, ISIS, and nationalist Kurds. ISIS has so far taken a back seat to Turkey’s concerns about Assad and the Kurds. But ISIS-directed terrorist attacks in Turkey may be changing that. Russia and Iran, too, have pursued their own regional interests, including through proxy wars and support for paramilitary operations. Yet both have signaled their readiness to cooperate with the US to defeat ISIS, and perhaps to solve other problems as well. The US has so far spurned these offers, because of its focus on toppling Assad. The US foreign-policy establishment blames Russian President Vladimir Putin for defending Assad, while Russia blames the US for trying to overthrow him.”

-J. Dana Stuster


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