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Daily Brief: Iraqi Forces Intensify Assault on Fallujah

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May 31, 2016

Daily News Brief

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Iraqi Forces Intensify Assault on Fallujah

Iraqi forces drew closer overnight to the city of Fallujah, which is under control of the self-proclaimed Islamic State. An Iraqi military commander said elite forces reached a point about five hundred meters from a southeastern district in the city (Reuters). The offensive to retake Fallujah, which began a week ago, brought together the Iraqi military with the largely Shiite Popular Mobilization Units and local Sunni tribal forces (Al-Monitor). An estimated fifty thousand civilians are trapped inside the city, and three thousand have reportedly fled during the operation (Al Jazeera).


"The grim sectarian tableau in Falluja — starving Sunni civilians trapped in a city surrounded by a mostly Shiite force — provides the backdrop to a final assault that Iraqi officials have promised will come soon. The United States has thousands of military personnel in Iraq and has trained Iraqi security forces for nearly two years, yet is largely on the sidelines in the battle to retake Falluja. It says its air and artillery strikes have killed dozens of Islamic State fighters, including the group’s Falluja commander. But it worries that an assault on the city could backfire — inflaming the same sectarian sentiments that have allowed the Islamic State to flourish there," Tim Arango writes for the New York Times.

"No one should be under any doubt about what will happen once Fallujah is 'liberated'. Sectarian cleansing is a well-established programme in Iraq, under the aegis and encouragement of the radical mullahs of Iran. In fact, areas around Samarra are being actively cleansed of any Sunni Arabs in order to create a Sunni-free corridor that stretches from the Iranian border to what the Shia consider to be their holy shrines and sites in the predominantly Sunni city," Tallha Abdulrazaq writes for Middle East Eye.

"The assault on Falluja comes amid a concerted campaign against Isis in Iraq and Syria that has stretched the militants across multiple fronts. It is likely to last at least a few days with stiff resistance from the militants, who have long been entrenched there. Falluja was the first major city to be seized by Isis, taken long before the militants surged into northern Iraq and conquered the Nineveh plains and Iraq’s second city, Mosul. Although it has less strategic value than the populous city of Mosul, the Sunni city carries great symbolic weight for the Iraqi government and Isis," Kareem Shaheen writes for the Guardian.


South Korea Says New Ballistic Missile Test by North Failed

North Korea attempted to test an intermediate-range ballistic missile Tuesday, but it exploded shortly after launch (Korea Times), according to South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff. The incident is the fourth failed test of its kind this year by Pyongyang.

This CFR Global Conflict Tracker discusses North Korea's weapons development.

CHINA: U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter will attend a security summit in Singapore, where China's expansion in the South China Sea is expected to dominate discussions (AFP). In a graduation speech last week, Carter said China was constructing a "Great Wall of self-isolation" with provocative moves against its neighbors.

This CFR InfoGuide looks at China's disputes in the South and East China Seas.


Taliban Offensive Kills Fifty Police in Southern Afghanistan

Taliban fighters began an offensive around the provincial capital of Helmand province in southern Afghanistan over the weekend, killing more than fifty police officers and taking control of four government posts (Al Jazeera).

This CFR InfoGuide delves into the Taliban's history and aims in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

PAKISTAN: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is undergoing open-heart surgery in London, his second such surgery in five years (Dawn).


Russian Airstrikes Reportedly Kill Twenty-Three in Northern Syria

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Russian warplanes attacked a rebel-held city in northern Syria (Middle East Eye) early Tuesday. The city is held by the Nusra front, an al-Qaeda affiliate which is not included in a cease-fire agreement brokered by Russia and the United States.

This CFR Global Conflict Tracker discusses Russian involvement in the Syrian civil war.


Former Chadian Dictator Given Life Sentence by Senegalese Court

Former Chadian president Hissene Habre was found guilty by a Dakar court of crimes against humanity, rape, and sexual slavery (FT). Habre's trial marked the first of an ex-leader by an African Union-backed court in another African nation. Rights groups say Habre was responsible for the deaths of 40,000 people (VOA) after seizing power in 1982.

IVORY COAST: A war crimes trial for former first lady Simone Gbagbo was set to begin in the Ivory Coast on Tuesday (Africa News). Both she and her husband Laurent Gbagbo have faced charges over post-election violence in 2010 when Gbagbo refused to concede defeat to current President Alassane Ouattara.


French Transportation Sector Strikes Loom Ahead of Euro 2016 Tournament

French unionists called for the national rail network and Parisian metro to join an ongoing strike in protest of labor reforms passed by President Francois Hollande that would make it easier for businesses to fire employees (AFP). The country will host the Euro 2016 soccer tournament in June.

EU: A judge from the EU's top court ruled that companies could ban Muslim women from wearing headscarves to work if such prohibitions applied to all displays of political, philosophical, or religious expressions at the workplace (FT).


Transparency Minister of Interim Government Quits Over Leaked Tapes

A second minister has resigned from the government of interim President Michel Temer, following leaked tapes which suggest the transparency minister tried to quash ongoing corruption investigations into the state oil company Petrobras (NYT). Temer's planning minister previously left after a similar leak (Guardian).

PERU: Presidential candidate Keiko Fujimori pulled ahead in polls ahead of Peru's presidential election next week (Mercopress). Her father, former President Alberto Fujimori, was convicted in 2009 on corruption charges and for authorizing death squads (Peru Reports), and is serving a twenty-five year prison sentence.


Sanders Says Democratic Platform Must Recognize Palestinians' Needs

Sen. Bernie Sanders (D–VT) said (NBC) that the Democratic party's platform, while recognizing Israel's "right to exist in peace and security," must also respect Palestinian people’s needs. The Democratic Party has agreed to let Sanders nominate five members to the platform committee; Hillary Clinton will appoint six, and the party will name the rest.

Track and compare the candidates’ positions on the Middle East and other foreign policy issues with CFR’s interactive, The Candidates and the World.

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