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Daily Brief: Libyan Forces Advance on the Islamic State After U.S. Air Strikes

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August 2, 2016

Daily News Brief

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Libyan Forces Advance on the Islamic State After U.S. Air Strikes

Libyan fighters loyal to the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord advanced (AFP) Tuesday inside the jihadist stronghold of Sirte following U.S. air strikes on self-proclaimed Islamic State positions in the city. The forces captured a central district in the city, which has been controlled by the militant group since June 2015. The U.S. air strikes, which struck a tank and vehicles, were the first to come to the aid of local forces (WSJ) carrying out a ground offensive against the Islamic State in Libya. The national unity government has been fighting for the city since May. U.S. officials said the strikes were the first of a wave (FT) intended to help Libyan forces advance.


"It's about time. Forces loyal to the Libyan government have long sought more U.S. military assistance to stop the spread of Islamic State, and U.S. generals have supported it. Mr. Obama has resisted for reasons that are hard to understand, unless the President simply hasn't wanted to publicly acknowledge that the terror group has expanded its reach," writes the Wall Street Journal.

"If the use of American air power is sustained, the Sirte campaign would open a new chapter in the Obama administration's war against the Islamic State and its campaign to establish a caliphate across a wide swath of Africa, the Middle East and Asia. While U.S. and allied war planes have been conducting strikes for two years in Iraq and Syria, its actions against the group's Libya affiliate, which officials have described as its most powerful branch, have been limited to a small number of targeted airstrikes since last year," write Missy Ryan and Sudarsan Raghavan in the Washington Post.

"American officials, who estimate that there are fewer than 1,000 Islamic State fighters in Surt, say that American warplanes could provide a decisive advantage to the attackers and help break the stalemate along the fighting fronts in the southern and western part of the city. But they also say that the Islamic State's modest numbers in Surt belie their determination, if not desperation, and that with escape routes from Surt largely cut off, the Islamic State fighters may fight to the death," writes Helene Cooper in the New York Times


China Holds Live-Fire Drills in East China Sea

The Chinese navy fired dozens of torpedoes and missiles Tuesday (AP) during exercises in the East China Sea. The drills come amid heightened maritime tension in the region following an international arbitration panel's ruling last month that denied China's claims to a large zone in the South China Sea.

This CFR InfoGuide examines China's maritime disputes.

JAPAN: The country's annual defense review expressed "deep concern" (Japan Times) over China's increasing assertiveness, warning that Beijing's disregard for international rules could result in "unintended consequences." The report noted a marked rise in fiscal 2015 in the number of times the Self-Defense Force scrambled fighter jets in response to Chinese aircraft approaching Japanese airspace.

CFR Senior Fellow Jennifer M. Harris writes on the need for a new U.S. strategy to contain Beijing in this Newsweek piece.


Pakistani Aid Group With Ties to Militants Going to Indian-Administered Kashmir

A Pakistani official said a charity with ties to the banned Lashkar-e-Taiba militant group is sending an aid convoy (AP) for Muslims in Indian-administered Kashmir. The group plans to stage a sit-in at the cease-fire line dividing Kashmir between India and Pakistan if the convoy is not allowed to pass.

INDIA: Flooding has killed 96 people (AP) and forced around one million into shelters. Heavy monsoon rains have wreaked havoc in the states of Bihar, Assam, and Himachal Pradesh.


Reports: Toxic Gas Dropped on Syrian Town

A helicopter dropped toxic gas (Reuters) overnight on Saraqeb, close to where a Russian helicopter was shot down Monday, according to a Syrian rescue service operating in rebel territory. No group has claimed responsibility, but rescuers accused Bashar al-Assad's regime of being behind the attack. Members of the Syrian Civil Defense said they suspected the gas was chlorine and posted videos showing men struggling to breathe. They said around thirty people were affected.

IRAN: Ayatollah Ali Khamenei distanced himself (NYT) from Iran's nuclear pact with major powers, accusing the United States of failing to honor pledges. He said the nuclear talks should be regarded as a lesson on the dangers of interacting with governments he regards as enemies.


Panel: Nigerian Soldiers Should Be Prosecuted for Killings

A Nigerian judicial commission recommended Nigerian soldiers be prosecuted (Guardian) for killing more than three hundred people last year during clashes with a sect of Shiite Muslims. The report said the military used excessive force and said 347 people had been buried in a mass grave in northern Nigeria.

SOUTH SUDAN: Influential opposition leader and minister Lam Akol resigned (Al Jazeera) and called for President Salva Kiir's unity government to step down. Akol said the fragile peace deal in the nation was dead.


Turkish Officials: Attempted Coup Cost Economy $100 Billion

The failed attempt to overthrow President Recep Tayyep Erdogan's government cost the Turkish economy $100 billion, according to Turkey's trade minister (AFP).

CFR's Steven Cook writes on Turkey's authoritarian turn in this Atlantic article.

EU: The EU's director general for trade warned of "dire consequences" (Politico Europe) for the bloc's trade policy if it cannot ratify an agreement with Canada.


Campaign to Recall Venezuelan President Passes First Hurdle

Venezuela's National Electoral Council Tuesday announced the opposition had succeeded in gathering enough signatures to proceed with a campaign to recall President Nicolas Maduro (BBC). The opposition wants to end his term prematurely amid a deep economic and political crisis.

This CFR Backgrounder looks at Venezuela's economic and political fractures.

BRAZIL: Brazilian officials are working closely with the United States (NYT) to identify threats and thwart potential attacks after militant groups have called for "mayhem" at the Olympic Games. The Games are slated to open on Friday.

Journalist Juliana Barbassa discusses Brazil's challenges leading up to the Olympics in this CFR Interview.

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