US coalition moves on Raqqa

Submitted by Matthew on 21 June, 2017 - 10:55 Author: Simon Nelson

After several months of deadlock, the US-led operation with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to take Raqqa has begun. Lama Fakih the Middle East director at Human Rights rightly points out, “The battle for Raqqa is not just about defeating ISIS, but also about protecting and assisting the civilians who have suffered under ISIS rule for three and a half years.”

Erdogan tries to reinforce his power

Submitted by Matthew on 12 April, 2017 - 10:31 Author: Dan Katz

On Sunday 16 April, Turkey’s voters will cast ballots in a referendum. They will decide on proposals from the ruling Islamists, the Justice and Development (AK) party, led by Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

The main thrust of the 18 constitutional amendments that will be voted on as a package is to highly centralise power in the hands of the President. If Erdoğan wins he will also be able to run in Presidential elections in 2019 and 2024, meaning he could be in power until 2029.

Syria: the return of US “world policing”

Submitted by Matthew on 12 April, 2017 - 9:16 Author: Simon Nelson

During the US election Trump’s advice to Obama was, “do not attack Syria... if you do many very bad things will happen and from that fight the US gets nothing.” Therefore Trump was not heeding his own advice when he gave the go-ahead for 59 missiles to be fired at an Assad military airfield on 6 April.

Daesh stages murderous fightback in Mosul

Submitted by Matthew on 10 November, 2016 - 10:19 Author: Simon Nelson

With the assault on Mosul advancing quickly, Daesh have mounted a last ditch fightback. Seven eastern districts of Mosul have been lost; fighters who remain are hiding amongst the civilian population and launching repeated smaller guerilla style attacks on the approaching troops. 34,000 people have now fled the city.

Sectarian dangers in Mosul

Submitted by Matthew on 26 October, 2016 - 10:34 Author: Simon Nelson

The progress of Iraqi forces in their effort to re-take Mosul has gathered pace. Many Daesh fighters have been pulled out of the city to consolidate their power back in the rest of the terrain they control.

Daesh have used suicide attacks, carried out a diversionary operation in Kirkuk, and tried to halt Iraqi forces with clouds of toxic smoke from a burning sulphur plant; but it still seems unlikely that their fighters will be able to resist the combined forces of Kurdish peshmerga and the Iraqi army, backed by US and UK airstrikes.

Aid needed for civilians in Mosul battle

Submitted by Matthew on 19 October, 2016 - 12:59 Author: Simon Nelson

The United Nations has appealed for an additional £50m to cope with an expected flood of refugees as the Iraqi government starts its operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Daesh.

UN humanitarian chief Stephen O’ Brien has said: “I am extremely concerned for the safety of up to 1.5 million people living in Mosul who may be impacted.”

Syria: risk of aid stopping

Submitted by Matthew on 21 September, 2016 - 10:43 Author: Simon Nelson

The ceasefire in Syria had already appeared to be on the verge of collapse following a US-led attack on Syrian troops, who, so Russia has said, were fighting Daesh. Then came an air attack on UN aid convoys near Aleppo. Russia and Syria have both denied responsibility, but are suspected of being involved. The US has said the ceasefire is not dead.

The US said its attack on Deir al-Zour was aimed at Daesh, and it was unaware Syrian government troops were present. The Russians declared it was a “display of heavy handedness” by the US.

Big-power jockeying over Syria

Submitted by Matthew on 31 August, 2016 - 10:53 Author: Simon Nelson

Chemical weapons have been used by both Daesh and (on a much bigger scale) the Assad government in the Syrian civil war. The verdict is from a final report by the Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) of the United Nations and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

Turkey: reaction grows

Submitted by Matthew on 1 June, 2016 - 10:57 Author: Dan Katz

Last November, the Turkish Islamist Justice and Development (AK) party won a victory at the polls. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s thin-skinned Islamist president, and an increasingly intolerant persecutor of his many critics, had refused to accept losing the AK majority in the June general election. He ramped up the war on the Kurds in the Turkish south east and then ran on a platform of defending the security that he himself had undermined.