Middle East Weekly Roundup: Mosul operation begins, Libya coup attempt, Jordan reforms
An attack at a checkpoint in the North Sinai province on October 14 left 12 members of the Egyptian security forces wounded, and 15 attackers dead. The armed group responsible for the attack has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, and claims to be its “Sinai Province” branch.
Iran sent two warships, the Alvand and Bushehr, to the waters off Yemen’s southern coast earlier this week, after the U.S. military fired cruise missiles at radar sites controlled by Iran-backed Houthi forces. The Iranian ships will patrol the Gulf of Aden, which is one of the world’s most important shipping routes. According to Iranian sources, the ships were sent to protect trade vessels from piracy.
According to Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, the offensive to liberate Mosul from ISIS has begun. It is believed that the fight will likely last at least a few months. This is the culmination of months of buildup for this assault. Iraqi forces will be taking the lead on the ground operation with the backing of coalition airstrikes and advisers. ISIS is expected to put up a fairly significant fight.
Ahead of the operation to expel ISIS from Mosul, the group executed 58 of its own fighters by drowning in response to what they alleged was a planned rebellion. Led by a local aide to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the conspirators were reportedly planning to undermine ISIS defenses. The bodies were buried in a mass grave on the outskirts of the city.
The UN Security Council held a special session Friday to discuss illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank. The U.S. decried settlements in the West Bank as creating “a one-state reality,” and other states issued bristling criticisms of Israeli settlement policy in the occupied Palestinian territories. Russia’s representative agreed that settlement construction must stop and that the conflict is approaching a “moment of truth.”
The Jordanian government instituted education reforms this school year, slightly decreasing the depictions of conservatively dressed Muslims in textbooks and including secular pluralist ideas. The reforms are intended to counter extremist ideology in the kingdom. Many conservative Jordanians have protested against the changes, though, and some schoolteachers have refused to teach the new curriculum.
Forces loyal to former Libyan prime minister Khalifa Ghweil seized key offices from Libya’s UN-backed government in Tripoli, and ordered Prime Minister Fayez Serraj’s government to step down. However, no clashes were reported to have occurred in the capital. Libya has been wracked by chaos since Muammar Gaddafi was toppled in 2011.
Saudi Arabia is issuing international bonds for the first time in its history, in an attempt to shore up gaping budget deficits due to the low price of oil. Government representatives are meeting with investors this week in the United States and United Kingdom to pitch the $10-15 billion bond issue.
More than 65 people were killed in three days of Russian or Syria airstrikes on eastern Aleppo, according to activists on Thursday. Shelling and a dozen airstrikes Wednesday claimed 11 lives, a day after a bomb hit rebel-held Aleppo’s largest market, killing at least 15 and leveling buildings. Secretary of State John Kerry and his UK counterpart Boris Johnson said Sunday warned of further economic sanctions against Russia if Moscow’s jets continued to bomb Aleppo. Kerry described the situation in the city as the “largest of humanitarian disasters” and that “crimes against humanity” were taking place daily in Aleppo.
According to the British Defence minister, the United Kingdom has sent at least 40 military personnel to Tunisia to help train Tunisian forces prevent the spread of ISIL fighters from Libya. “The training will focus on operational planning, intelligence, surveillance and mobile patrolling,” reported Reuters news agency. It is the third mission by British troops in Tunisia in recent years.
Documents reveal that the Turkish government fired 149 military staff working for NATO in late September, according to Reuters news agency. The purge comes in the wake of the failed July coup that attempted to overthrow the government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Overall, some 400 Turkish NATO staff have been fired so far.
An American warship, the USS Mason, launched three Tomahawk missiles at radar sites on Yemen’s Red Sea coast. According to the Pentagon, the strikes were launched in retaliation for two incidents in which Houthi rebels fired missiles at American ships on international waters. The strikes mark the first direct American involvement in the war in Yemen since its start in March 2015.