March 30, 2015
In the news:
Following the Iraqi government’s request for U.S. support in the fight against ISIS in Tikrit, the U.S. provided intelligence through air surveillance, before finally joining the offensive by launching air strikes against IS targets in the city. As a result, Iran-backed Shiite militia pulled out of the offensive in protest. A little outside of the Tikrit battlefield, a mass grave was unearthed, supporting the U.N.’s claim that ISIS has been committing genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. In the North, Mosuli refugees are being brought together to create an ethnically mixed fighting force with the goal of reclaiming Mosul from ISIS.
Meanwhile, ISIS is busy in Afghanistan, where it has started to recruit new militants, and Hezbollah is planning an attack against ISIS along Lebanon’s eastern border with Syria. A group associated with ISIS has also published a list identifying 100 U.S. service members whom they urged their followers to attack, initially claiming to have hacked U.S. military servers. Fears of a sophisticated ISIS hacker army were dispelled when it was announced that a majority of the names published were actually on the Department of Defense’s public website.
As the Houthi rebels in Yemen are closing in on the government stronghold in Aden, the Yemeni President has fled the country, finding refuge in Saudi Arabia, while the city of Aden prepares for battle. After moving heavy military equipment close to the border, Saudi Arabia has started launching drone strikes against the Houthi rebels in an effort to “defend the legitimate government” with a coalition of regional Sunni allies. These strikes were also backed by U.S. logistics and intelligence. Some fear an escalation of the conflict, as Egypt has announced its willingness to send troops into Yemen.
Terrible reports are emanating from Nigeria, where Boko Haram was claimed to have kidnapped 400 women and children in Damasak, a town freed earlier this month by Niger and Chad troops. While these claims were denied by the Nigerian military, it has been confirmed that the militant group has been using civilians as human shields as its fighters are fleeing an offensive by multinational forces.
Finally, Russia is still pouring arms into Ukraine as the U.S. House of Representatives passes a resolution to provide lethal military support to Ukraine, Pakistan has displayed its first locally made armed drone and the U.S. is officially slowing its withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, leaving almost ten thousand of them until the end of 2015. Obama claims, however, that this does not change the 2017 exit plan.
Around the web:
The Islamic State vs. Al Qaeda. This interesting blog post analyses the relationship between the two extremist groups and the ways in which they differ. As the rise of the Islamic State seems to be pushing Al Qaeda towards its demise, the author looks at whom the groups see as their enemy, their ultimate goals and the methods they employ to reach these.
Hamas accused of war crimes. In a new report on the war in Gaza, Amnesty International has accused several Palestinian groups, including Hamas, of having committed war crimes, notably by the use of indiscriminate bombs that have caused both Israeli and Palestinian civilian victims. The report comes a week before Palestine accedes to the International Criminal Court, which will open Palestinians to war crime prosecutions.
On the blog:
Through the looking glass. As proof that IHL is a topic of importance to all, a group of math and science students from California have joined the IHL Action Campaign! Emphasizing the powerful effect that education on such issues can have on the young population, the team is excited about the opportunity to impact those around them.
Situation update: Yemen. The quick acceleration in the Yemeni conflict between the government and the rebel Houthi forces this past week has brought the country to the brink of civil war, and threatens to involve its neighbors. To get a better understanding of the conflict, read this interesting background piece on the Houthis.
Why I became involved in the IHL Action Campaign. Read about how the desire to connect with people, learn about IHL, be aware of humanitarian problems around the world and to share knowledge, influenced a student’s decision to participate in the IHL Action Campaign.