May 18, 2015
In the news:
Injured Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has reportedly been moved from Iraq to Raqqa, Syria, the de facto capital of the militant group. al-Baghdadi sustained severe injuries in a March bombing by U.S.-led coalition forces and has yet to fully recover, prompting the Islamic State’s Shura Council to decide on a temporary leader to the al-Baghdadi’s place. ISIS released an audio recording last week claiming to be a message from al-Baghdadi; if confirmed, it will be the first message from the ISIS leader in months. References to the conflict in Yemen indicate that the message is recent. In Iraq, Sunni tribal fighters are now being trained by the Shiite-led central government, backed by the U.S., to fight against recent advances by the Islamic State. Meanwhile in Syria, some believe that Bashar al-Assad may be losing his nation’s civil war as recent rebel victories have increased. Over the past several months major rebel factions have joined together into a “Victory Army” to fight Assad’s regime. And as ISIS reached the gates of the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra, many fear the destruction of cultural heritage sites as occurred in Iraq – UNESCO describes the heritage site of Palmyra as having “outstanding universal value.” However, a Syrian government official stated on Thursday that the situation in Palmyra is “fully under control” and ISIS militants withdrew from a government building and other parts of the city they had seized last Saturday.
A five-day humanitarian ceasefire began at 11pm on Tuesday, May 12, but violence continued as clashes and at least one airstrike in Aden were reported in the hours following the truce. And residents in the southern provinces of Shabwa and Lahj witnessed ground fighting between local militiamen and the Houthis, as well as air strikes following the ceasefire’s commencement. Even in the hours leading up to the truce, vicious fighting occurred, including airstrikes which reportedly killed at least 70 people. In Aden, fighting continued and at least ten people were killed on Friday. Citing violations by the Houthis, Saudi Arabia warned that the five-day truce “would not last long in the case the militias continue such practices.” The delivery of humanitarian aid throughout the ceasefire has proven difficult at best. Iran has sent a ship purportedly carrying aid supplies towards Yemen, despite a Saudi-led blockade to prevent weapons from being smuggled to the Houthi rebel group; Iran refuses to allow Saudi-led forces to inspect the ship.
ISIS may be conducting operations in Pakistan as well, as militants claiming affiliation with the Islamic State boarded a bus opening fire on commuters in the southern city of Karachi, killing at least 43 people on Wednesday. In the United States, Texas F.B.I. agents have arrested a former U.S. military employee with reported connections to ISIS. In the Central African Republic, ten rival armed groups agreed to a peace deal requiring disarmament and potential prosecution for war crimes committed during two years of conflict. And in South Sudan, nearly 100,000 people were forced to leave their homes as fighting between rebels and government forces resumed.
Around the web:
How the U.S.-led coalition’s air campaign against ISIS is changing. Charts depict the changes in targeting and strategy the U.S.-led coalition is employing against ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
A goat on a boat. Having a goat onboard the USS Lake Erie may have lost Captain John Banigan his command, but there is a long history of goats on U.S. ships that we may not be aware of.
On the Blog:
Youth Leadership Summit Honorable Mentions. Bayside High School and Columbia University received honorable mentions from the Youth Leadership Summit Selection Committee for their IHL Action Campaigns. They each had innovative campaigns and did amazing work to reach out to their communities!
Situation Update – Afghanistan. Unofficial peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban may be leading to a peaceful Afghanistan. However, future talks are necessary to continue the peace process, and Pakistan may play a role in the negotiations.