April 20, 2015
In the news:
As ceasefire violations continued in Ukraine, foreign ministers from Germany, France, Russia and Ukraine met to discuss the implementation of the peace agreement brokered in February. However, the talks did not lead to any real breakthrough and fighting resumed quickly in the outskirts of Donetsk. Reports of continued bloodshed further set back hopes of any lasting peace. As a key element in its response to the Russian threat, NATO has been testing its new rapid reaction force.
In Yemen, intense Saudi-led airstrikes continue, but these may not be having the desired effect, as little progress seems to have been made towards the goal of returning the ousted Yemeni president to power. A top Hezbollah official is accusing Saudi Arabia of committing genocide against Shiite rebels in the country and Human Rights Watch has criticized the kingdom for ostensibly violating the laws of war. However, all sides seem to be playing fast and loose with international humanitarian law, as local residents of Aden have accused the Houthi rebels of committing “massacres”, and according to UNICEF representatives, a third of those fighting with armed groups in the country would be children. Meanwhile, Iran is calling out for dialogue in Yemen and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon for an immediate cease-fire. The Pakistani Parliament votes against military intervention in the country as the first planes carrying desperately needed medical aid have landed. However, Saudi Arabia has claimed that the Houthi rebels are blocking access to humanitarian aid, as the U.N. Security Council approved a resolution imposing an arms embargo on the Houthi rebels, with Russia as the sole abstention.
The former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh was denied a request for safe exit from the Arab Gulf States and a number of army units that were loyal to him have defected following the Saudi-led airstrikes. Despite a top AQAP cleric being killed by a U.S. drone strike in Yemen, AQAP remains active. The militant group seized an airport in the east of the country, with no apparent resistance, and has also place a bounty of the leader of the Houthi rebels. As the conflict goes on and the civil war gets increasingly internationalized, read a useful rundown on the different nations involved.
Following the announcement of the Iraqi army’s goal to retake Anbar province, ISIS launched several attacks in that area and captured three villages early last week, before seizing control of several districts of the provincial capital of Ramadi. ISIS militants have also overrun Iraqi military headquarters near Thar Thar, northeast of Fallujah, and have been reported to be using drones for surveillance in its ongoing fight to take the massive oil refinery at Baiji. Meanwhile, the growth of ISIS in Libya is pushing the opposing political factions towards a compromise, as some leaders called for a “unity government” and U.N.-brokered peace talks on Libya resumed in Morocco on Thursday. However, despite these reports and ISIS’ pervasive media presence, Al Qaeda has gained more territory than any other is the jihadist group in the past 6 months
After a Historic meeting with Cuban President Raul Castro, President Obama has formally recommended that Cuba be removed from the list of State sponsors of terrorism. An attack in Mogadishu, Somalia, by al-Shabab militants left ten people dead, and due to its concern regarding al-Shabab’s use of a Somali refugee camp as a recruiting ground, Kenya has asked the U.N. to shut down the camp, a request the U.N. has asked Kenya to reconsider. Finally, Iran is emerging as a significant cyber threat, and if you are still confused about the recent agreement designed to reduce the nuclear threat it poses, watch this video.
Around the web:
Keeping art safe in times of armed conflict. Following the release of yet another video portraying ISIS militants destroying an ancient archeological site in Nimrud, some begin to wonder whether the international community could intervene to remove art and artifacts from countries like Iraq and Syria where they are threatened by ISIS. However, this proposition faces both legal and practical issues.
Investigating drone strikes. An interesting article describes the intricacies and difficulties in investigating drone strikes. Aside from being extremely resource intensive, human rights organization standards require investigating ideally a dozen strikes before being able to identify a pattern of violation of IHL. A new report by the Open Society has looked at whether the U.S. drone program in Yemen has upheld Obama’s promise that any drone strike require near-certainty that no civilian will be killed or injured.
On the blog:
Refugees among us. This IHL Action Campaign team is showing people that refugees are an issue in the U.S., and not just in foreign countries. By giving refugees a familiar face, the team is successfully reaching out to their local community about IHL and refugees.
Situation update: ISIS. ISIS continues to wreak havoc in the Yarmouk refugee camp in Syria, and despite the progress made against ISIS by Iraqi forces with the support of U.S. airstrikes in Iraq, violence still plagues the country.
Why I participate in the IHL Action Campaign. After a visit by a staff member from the American Red Cross’s local chapter, a junior at Iona College realized the importance of educating the youth of today on the crucial topic of IHL.