April 27, 2015
In the news:
As always, ISIS has been prominent in the news, as its leaders in Iraq and Syria released a new video purporting to show the execution of dozens of Ethiopian Christians in Libya, the first evidence of the group’s coordination with its affiliated fighters in Libya. In Iraq’s Anbar province, ISIS was reported to be in control of many districts of the city of Ramadi, although the fight turned in favor of the Iraqi government later in the week as reinforcements arrived, enabling its forces to reclaim some areas of the city. Meanwhile, the fighting continues in the important Baiji oil refinery, where ISIS has yet to capture any major infrastructure. The U.S. remains very involved in the whole ISIS situation, as the U.S.-led coalition airstrikes against ISIS targets continue in Iraq and Syria, a joint training by Turkey and the U.S. of moderate Syrian rebels is announced to begin next month, and U.S. authorities have reportedly been pressing Arab banks to prevent the militant group from channeling funds through their systems.
Initially claimed by ISIS, a deadly bombing that caused the death of at least 34 people in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, is now believed by U.S. officials to be attributable to the Taliban. This however led the Afghan government to turn to Iran for a security cooperation agreement against ISIS, as the Taliban announced they would begin their spring offensive on Friday.
Early last week, the deadliest Saudi-led airstrike since the beginning of the campaign was reported to have killed 25 people on a Yemeni missile base. Yemeni academic scholars published an open letter protesting the campaign and calling for a UNSC resolution demanding an immediate and unconditional ceasefire. Meanwhile, Pakistan agreed to help enforce the U.N. Security Council imposed arms embargo on the Houthis and the U.S. positioned two more warships in the Arabian Sea as a potential warning to Iran not to send arms to the Houthis. In yet another turn of events in the fast-evolving Yemeni situation, Saudi Arabia announced the end of its airstrike campaign. However, not only did rival forces continue fighting on the ground, further rounds of airstrikes were reported only hours after this announcement. Furthermore, the Saudi ambassador in Washington declared that although being reduced, airstrikes will continue as long as the Houthis keep fighting.
The U.S. has sent 300 paratroopers to another conflict that refuses to end, in order to train the Ukraine National Guard who is still fighting Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine. Meanwhile, Russia is bulking up its air defense system in that area, while training pro-Russian rebels. In Somalia, Al-shabab has claimed responsibility for a bomb attack on a bus carrying U.N. employees and a suicide bomb attack in a restaurant in Mogadishu. In order to keep out the group’s militants from its country, Kenya is planning to build a wall along its border with Somalia. Following the tragic deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean, the European Union is going to launch a military operation against migrant-smugglers in Libya. Finally, the White House announced the disturbing news that an American and Italian hostage were killed in a U.S. drone strike targeting Al Qaeda on the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan in January.
Around the web:
The War Against Boko Haram. A new documentary follows the first journalist to join the Nigerian army on the front lines of its battle with the extremist group Boko Haram that has been wrecking havoc in the country. Replete with IHL issues such as the use of private military and security contractors or the indiscriminate targeting of civilians, the documentary makes for a fascinating watch.
AQAP as the clear winner? As the Yemeni conflict continues, with no political settlement in sight and a worsening humanitarian crisis, one group may be able to take advantage of the ongoing civil war. This interesting blog post explores the risks and possibilities faced by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, Al Qaeda’s most dangerous offshoot.
On the blog:
Game of thrones through an IHL lens. Last week, the IHL team hosted a Game of Thrones Tweet-a-Thon for the season 5 premiere to discuss the IHL violations portrayed in the War of the Five Kings. Read about some of these violations and keep the conversation going on Twitter every Sunday using #GoTIHL.
A successful IHL campaign fair. By recognizing the importance of educating themselves and others in their community, the members of the Stuyvesant Red Cross Club overcame their doubts and joined the IHL Action Campaign! The club held a fair on gender and IHL, the originality of which led to much positive feedback.
Situation update: chemical weapons in Syria. A new “60 Minutes” report on the 2013 sarin gas attacks in Syria shows the devastation caused by this prohibited chemical weapon. Learn more about sarin gas and on the use of chemical weapons more generally in last week’s situation update.
Why we became involved in the IHL Action Campaign. The importance of educating America’s youth on IHL has not eluded this group of three students from Miami who have joined the IHL Action Campaign in order to teach about the gender issues that arise in armed conflicts around the world and the ways in which IHL protect those made vulnerable by war.