The ISIS siege on Kobani appears to have failed–for now. While the flashpoint city continues to struggle with ISIS counterattacks, it appears that the Kurdish peshmerga, with the help of coalition airstrikes, has driven the militant group back for the moment. The Associated Press brings us a first-hand account from Kurdish soldiers of the “fierce battles” still raging through the city’s streets.
On Sunday, Defense Department officials claimed that the US had broken a deadlock with Turkey, claiming that the latter would allow coalition troops to use its bases for airstrikes. The New York Times reports that from a strategic standpoint, such a willingness is significant; Turkey boasts installations “within 100 miles” of the Syrian border. Earlier, Defense Secretary Hagel specifically mentioned coalition access to Incirlik Air Base as being key to the war effort.
But did Washington speak too soon? According to the Times, Ankara on Monday appeared to refute the US, saying they had not agreed to allow coalition planes to use Incirlik, and that talks were still ongoing. Hurriyet and the BBC report that Turkey did however agree to allow the training of moderate Syrian rebels on its soil.
Turkey’s reluctance to intervene in the conflict against ISIS threatens to reignite the country’s long-simmering conflict with Kurdish separatists in its southeastern region, the New York Times reports. The P.K.K., which has fought a decades-long war against Ankara and forms the backbone of Kurdish resistance against ISIS in Kobani, vowed that “if Turkey does not help the embattled Kurdish forces” in the city, “they will break off peace talks and resume their guerrilla war” with the country.
The ISIS-inspired violence continues to rage in Iraq as well, where the police chief of Anbar province, Major General Ahmed Saddag, was killed by a roadside bomb. The Washington Post reports that ISIS militants are close to “full control” over the vital province; ISIS fighters seized their third Iraqi army base in as many weeks near the town of Hit, and are threatening Ramadi, the provincial capital, as well as “Iraq’s second-largest dam at Haditha.” Anbar was not the militants’ only target: the BBC writes that in eastern Diyala province, 22 Kurdish soldiers were killed in a “triple car bomb attack.” This followed car bombs on Saturday that killed 38 people in “mainly Shia areas” of Baghdad, meaning “at least 75 people have been killed in attacks in various Iraqi cities this weekend.”
Perhaps most ominously, ISIS fighters are currently battling Iraqi forces for control of Abu Ghraib, which is located only 18 miles from Baghdad’s Green Zone. Bloomberg has more.
In the face of these advances, and continuing US refusal to commit ground troops in the region, what can be done to defeat ISIS? According to Foreign Policy, former Blackwater CEO Erik Prince has the answer: “American mercenaries.”
At the National Journal, Laura Ryan asserts that ISIS is better at using the internet than al Qaeda in three important ways: 1) ISIS more successfully recruits members using social media, 2) al Qaeda relies on older internet platforms, and 3) ISIS videos glorify extreme violence in their videos.
Wondering how much the US is spending on the air operations in Iraq and Syria? According to Tony Capaccio at Businessweek, the Pentagon is shelling out $7.6 million on the campaign - per day. Still, if Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khameini is to be believed, the US has no one to blame but itself for the increasing cost of the conflict.
Over at Foreign Policy, John Hudson reports that President Obama has yet another new critic: the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which has lambasted the US over the number of civilian deaths due to the coalition’s airstrikes.
ISIS is arousing fear far beyond Syria and Iraq. The Washington Post writes that in Jordan, the monarchy has reacted to ISIS’s advances with a sweeping new anti-terror law that outlaws “any open activity, recruitment or support for the Islamic State.”
The Post also has a fascinating graphic illustrating where ISIS is pulling most of its foreign recruits from. Hint: North African countries are punching above their weight.
Finally, amid the daily death tolls and drone’s-eye-view perspective, it is important to keep an eye on the human cost of ISIS and the larger Syrian Civil War. The Post provides a snapshot of 18 stories from the Syrian exodus, which is now greater than 3 million.
Elsewhere in the world, the New York Times reports that a “mob of masked men opposed to Hong Kong’s pro-democracy demonstrators” assaulted the protest zone in the city’s financial center, “tearing down barricades and clashing with police.” As the protests against the local government and its patrons in Beijing enters its third week, demonstrators are attempting to rebuild the barricades and “keep up momentum.”
In Foreign Policy, Dalena Wright argues that the current instability in Hong Kong has its roots in the “sour deal” made between the UK and China decades ago, and that the pact continues to undermine proper governance in the semi-autonomous city.
Also, the Washington Post reports that in response to the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, Beijing has released new censorship orders that target “books by scholars considered supporters of the demonstrators.” The orders can be found here.
In Eastern Europe, Agence France-Press reports that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered 17,600 troops to pull back from the country’s border with Ukraine. Amid reports that “pro-Moscow rebel attacks had subsided,” the article notes that Putin will meet Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko for talks in Milan on Friday.
Russia’s economy continues to convulse in the wake of Western sanctions, and Businessweek reports that in response to the pressure, rival factions have broken out in the Kremlin. According to the article, the faction concerned about Russia’s “increasing alienation from the global financial system” is centered around Prime Minster Dmitriy Medvedev, while another group including close Putin allies “favors greater state control over the economy.” However, the state may be running out of options: Businessweek quotes Russian Central Bank head Elvira Nabiullina as saying that “if currency markets continue to turn against the ruble,” the central bank ‘won’t be able to restrain them.” Russia has burned through $6 billion of its international reserves in the last ten days to prop up the ruble and $55 billion since January, leaving $452 billion left.
Also, the Russian and Chinese governments are meeting today in Moscow. Here is a list of the plans to be inked, courtesy of the Kremlin.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon visited Ramallah today and harshly criticized Israeli settlements in front of his Palestinian hosts. At a later joint press conference in Jerusalem with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the latter responded in kind, blasting the UN in front of its leader.
According to Yediot Achronot, the tit-for-tat came just days after a donor’s conference for Gaza ended in Cairo, where “international powers outperform[ed] Abbas’ expectations” and raised more than $5.4 billion for the reconstruction of the Strip. Gaza is still reeling in the aftermath of Hamas’ summer war with Israel, which cost over 2,200 lives and billions of dollars in property damage.
In the Yemeni capital of Sanaa, a suicide bomb attack against Shia Houthis killed 47 people. A similar blast at a checkpoint in Hadramawt left 20 soldiers dead. According to the BBC, the attacks come as the country’s political deadlock continues and Houthis consolidate their control over the capital.
In Afghanistan, Taliban militants ambushed and killed at least 22 “security force members” in northern Sar-e-Pol province. The BBC reports that at least 22 insurgents were also killed in the firefight.
If the exit polls are to be believed, Evo Morales will cruise to a third straight term as Bolivia’s President. The BBC writes that analysts predict him to collect up to 60% of the votes, compared to his closest challenger’s 25%.
In a Sunday interview with CBS, Michael Hayden, the former director of the NSA, criticized the legal proceedings involving New York Times reporter James Risen—“one of the most prominent examples of the Obama administration’s crackdown on national security leaks,” according to Foreign Policy. Read more.
On the topic of the NSA, new documents released by the Intercept appear to show that the NSA conducted operations inside countries like “China, Germany and South Korea” that helped to “physically subvert and compromise foreign networks and equipment.”
At Wired, Andy Greenberg shares the first emails Edward Snowden sent to Laura Poitras as he prepared to undertake an “unprecedented” leak of classified documents.
Finally, the BBC reports on the newest controversial surveillance device: a manned plane that can can “view and record everything that is happening on the ground” across a 25 square mile area. While police forces are “excited” by the new technology, privacy campaigners are less than thrilled.
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