In the news:
As could be expected, a lot of this week’s news is coming from Yemen, where early last week the Houthi rebels were reported to have seized the presidential palace in Aden. However, serious fighting continued in the city, and a Saudi official announced later in the week that the Saudi-led airstrikes have allowed ground troops to push the Houthi forces back towards the outskirts of Aden. In eastern Yemen, the Houthi rebels have captured Ataq, bringing them closer to the country’s most valuable economic asset – the Belhaf gas facility and export terminal. While Iran appears to be increasing its involvement in support of the Houthi rebels, Pakistani members of parliment seem largely opposed to Saudi Arabia’s request for Pakistan’s support. The U.S. on the other hand is providing intelligence to the Saudi-led coalition, and has even started air-refueling operations for their airstrikes and expediting weapon deliveries. There were many reports of a deepening humanitarian crisis in the country, with photos showing the extent of the destruction and a harrowing account by NGO personnel of life in the besieged city of Aden, where, thankfully, medical supplies have started to arrive.
Unfortunately, AQAP seems to have taken advantage of the current power vacuum in Yemen to rebuild its strength and has seized an army base in the southeast of the country. In Iraq, following divisions between the U.S. and Iraqi troops on where to next confront ISIS, the decision seems to have been made to retake the province of Anbar, and the Iraqi army, alongside Shiite militia forces, has already carried out an operation just outside of Ramadi that some have been describing as the start of a major offensive in that province. Since its recapture, Tikrit is still seeing significant looting and violence, and twelve mass grave sites were discovered just outside the city, with the bodies of 1700 Iraqi soldiers that are thought to have been massacred by ISIS in June 2014.
ISIS continues its attacks on cultural property, as a video shows its militants destroying the archeological site of Hatra in Iraq, a UNESCO world heritage site. In Syria, the extremist group has taken control of 90% of the refugee camp of Yarmouk near Damascus, and reports of fighting between ISIS militants and Palestinian fighters within the camp have prompted an emergency U.N. Security Council meeting. In the cyber front, hackers claiming allegiance to ISIS seized control of a French TV network in an apparently “unprecedented step” in the extremist group’s information warfare strategy.
A tentative nuclear accord, which Obama has described as a “historic” nuclear framework, has finally been reached with Iran. Check out the details of this long-discussed (and still debated) agreement here. Meanwhile, Kenya has been bombing Al-Shabab bases in response to the recent horrifying attack on Garissa university and a U.S. soldier was killed in Afghanistan in what could have been an insider attack. Finally, eastern European civilians have been receiving military training in order to counter the perceived threat from Russia, who the U.S. believes is responsible for a cyber aggression against the White house computer system.
Around the web:
21st anniversary of the 1994 Rwandan genocide. As this week marked 21 years since the onset of the Rwandan genocide, documents have emerged contradicting Clinton’s claims that he was unaware of the extent of the suffering in Rwanda. This comes as France decides to declassify documents related to the genocide, in an effort to increase transparency and to ease the tensions between Paris and Kigali.
No ICC prosecution for ISIS? ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda announced last week that the atrocities committed by ISIS do not fall within the jurisdiction of the ICC. Indeed, she argues that Syria and Iraq not being parties to the Rome Statute, the Court has no territorial jurisdiction for crimes committed on their soil. It would further have no personal jurisdiction over ISIS leadership, most of whom are Iraqi or Syrian nationals. Some experts have argued, however, that the there is no rule against referring an organization to the Court, even if it operates in non-member countries.
On the blog:
Texas teams making progress on IHL Action Campaigns. Three Texas high school teams participating in the IHL Action Campaign are creatively educating their peers through the use of presentations, simulations, social media and blogs, as well as “fun runs” and flash mobs.
Using social media to tell refugee stories. Recognizing that knowledge is power, this American Red Cross Club is committed to teaching others about IHL and more specifically, about the issue of refugees. Notably, these students have created a Facebook page where these topics are discussed.