Iraqi troops launch offensive to free Anbar province; North Korea fires missiles ahead of US defense chief arrival in Seoul; China gains land through island-building in South China Sea; Norway to boost power investment in Africa; new evidence of atrocities in Ukraine; and more
TOP OF THE AGENDA
Iraqi Troops Launch Offensive to Free Anbar
Iraqi security forces mounted a new offensive (Reuters) against the self-declared Islamic State to liberate Anbar province on Wednesday. Anbar province, a Sunni stronghold in western Iraq, is mostly controlled by the militant group. In northern Iraq, Islamic State militants released (Middle East Eye) over two hundred Yazidi minorities who had been held captive for months, according to Kurdish peshmerga security forces. Meanwhile, French television network TV5 Monde said it was hacked (France 24) by individuals claiming to be members of the Islamic State, who halted television broadcasts and hijacked its website and social media accounts. U.S Vice President Joseph Biden is expected to give an address (AP) on U.S. policy in Iraq and the fight against the Islamic State at the National Defense University in Washington on Thursday.
"The battle of Anbar will not be easy. The province constitutes about one-third of Iraq territory and borders the provinces of Babil, Baghdad, Karbala, Najaf, Salahuddin and Mosul as well as Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Syria. Anbar has been a semi-permanent hub for extremist organizations since 2003. Its geographic complexity, expansive deserts and multiple borders make the task of securing it difficult as well as risky," writes Mustafa al-Kadhimi in Al-Monitor.
"Isis has revealed an ability to combine a medieval, even pre-medieval, mindset with 21st century technology. It has also shown itself cannily able to manipulate and exploit western media thinking. Its release of beheading videos present open societies with a dilemma. If you do not report the killings, you are imposing censorship and covering up crimes; if you do report them, and post the videos or even a single picture, you are doing the group’s propaganda bidding," writes Mary Dejevsky in the Guardian.
"The current U.S. strategy is designed to help the war against ISIS in Iraq. But it will likely backfire as the war there takes on an increasingly sectarian tinge. Even the plan to train Syrian rebels to fight ISIS, according to one source in Washington, is meant to help guard the borders between Syria and Iraq rather than to aid in a strategy to dislodge ISIS in Syria. Fighting ISIS in Syria itself would be a better bet," writes Hassan Hassan in Foreign Affairs.
Pyongyang Fires Missiles as U.S. Defense Chief Arrives in Seoul
North Korea fired (Bloomberg) two short-range missiles into its western waters on Tuesday ahead of U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter's arrival in Seoul. Before leaving Tokyo Japan for South Korea, Carter said that building (Yomiuri Shimbun) trilateral ties between the U.S., China, and Japan was an important step to ensure regional stability.
This Council Special Report by CFR's Robert Blackwill and Ashley Tellis recommends placing less strategic emphasis on integrating China into the international system and more on balancing China's rise.
CHINA: New satellite images show China making gains (NYT) as a result of its island-building activities in disputed areas of the South China Sea. Separately, the United States and the Philippines are expected to double the size of their annual joint military exercises (Bangkok Post) slated to start on April 20, some of which will be staged close to a flashpoint in the South China Sea, according to the Filipino military.
Bonnie S. Glaser explores tensions fueling territorial disputes in the South China Sea in this CFR Contingency Planning Memorandum.
Norway to boost power investment in Africa
New evidence of atrocities in Ukraine
This is an excerpt of the CFR.org Daily News Brief. The full version is available on CFR.org