Before the start of business, Just Security provides a curated summary of up-to-the-minute developments at home and abroad. Here’s today’s news.
The U.S.-backed Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (S.D.F.) have cleared 98 percent of the Islamic State’s de facto capital of Raqqa, the spokesperson for the U.S.-led coalition Col. Ryan Dillon tweeted today.
The impending defeat of the Islamic State group in Raqqa will open a new phase in the Syrian conflict, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said yesterday, blaming Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime for hindering previous efforts to liberate the city. Sarah El Deeb reports at the AP.
The U.N. seeks access to Raqqa and is ready to increase assistance following the defeat of Islamic State militants, a U.N. official in the Syrian capital of Damascus said yesterday, adding that aid groups were struggling to support the thousands of civilians in camps for the displaced near Raqqa. The BBC reports.
The S.D.F. will redeploy fighters to the frontlines of the eastern Deir al-Zour province, a spokesperson for the S.D.F. said yesterday, adding that victory in Raqqa would have a “positive impact” on the offensive against the Islamic State fighters. Tom Perry and Lisa Barrington report at Reuters.
A senior Syrian army commander has been killed in the near the eastern city of Deir al-Zour in an operation against Islamic State militants, Brig. Gen Issam Zahreddine led government offences in the Homs province and maintained a government presence in Deir al-Zour despite the almost three year long siege on his forces. The AP reports.
The U.N. must “ensure accountability” for the April 4 chemical weapons attack on the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley said yesterday, urging the Security Council to quickly vote on renewing the Joint Investigative Mechanism which is investigating the incident that killed more than 90 people. Edith M. Lederer reports at the AP.
The al-Qaeda-linked Tahrir al-Sham alliance released a video yesterday purporting to show its leader Abu Mohamad al-Golani, two weeks after the Russian military said it had critically injured Golani. Reuters reports.
The Islamic State group’s loss of territory has undermined its ability to raise revenue and collect money from civilians in its self-styled caliphate; it is likely that the group will now adopt insurgent tactics instead of pursuing state-building ambitions. Maria Abi-Habib explains at the Wall Street Journal.
The Islamic State group is set to establish itself as a guerilla force following the heavy territorial losses it has suffered in Syria and Iraq, many counterterrorism officials have said; the group still has many fighters, sympathizers and the ability to inspire attacks abroad. Margaret Coker, Eric Schmitt and Rukmini Callimachi explain that the terrorist group is far from defeated at the New York Times.
The defeat of the Islamic State group in Raqqa ushers in a period of uncertainty, the plethora of parties on the battlefield in Syria and Iraq trying to gain influence now that their common enemy faces impending downfall. Sarah El Deeb and Zeina Karam set out the various parties and alliances and their conflicting interests at the AP.
Tahrir al-Sham is set to benefit from the downfall of the Islamic State, the alliance, also known as the Levant Liberation Committee, dominates Syria’s northern Idlib province and has allowed some Islamic State fighters who have fled to the province to join their group. Bassem Mroue and Qassim Abdul-Zahra explain at the AP.
The U.S. lacks a strategy for the next phase of the war in Syria, the Financial Times editorial board sets out the potential future dangers.
U.S.-led airstrikes continue. U.S. and coalition forces carried out two airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria on October 17. Separately, partner forces conducted five strikes against targets in Iraq. [Central Command]
Attorney General Jeff Sessions defended his role in the firing of former F.B.I. director James Comey in testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday which focused on Russian interference in U.S. politics, saying that he did not think “the significance of the error the Mr. Comey made on the Clinton matter” had been “fully understood,” referring to Comey’s 2016 comments that the was not recommending charges against presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and her private email use. Aruna Viswanatha and Del Quentin Wilber report at the Wall Street Journal. Continue Reading »