World News Brief, Friday May 22

Ancient Syrian city of Palmyra taken by ISIS; Malaysia orders search and rescue for migrant boats in Andaman Sea; new PM for South Korea; US intelligence releases Bin Laden documents; California declares state of emergency after oil spill; and more


Islamic State Takes Strategic, Ancient City in Syria

Militants of the self-proclaimed Islamic State seized (NYT) the Syrian city of Palmyra on Wednesday, according to activists. Palmyra, a UNESCO world heritage site, is home to ancient Roman ruins and strategically located (WSJ) near oil and gas fields and a road connecting Damascus and the eastern city of Deir al-Zour. Militants also took control (BBC) of the city's military airbase, intelligence headquarters, and prison, known for holding political dissidents. On Thursday, the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that the Islamic State now controls half of Syrian territory. Meanwhile, Iraqi forces fought off (Reuters) a third attack by Islamic State militants outside of Ramadi, the capital of Sunni-dominated Anbar province, which fell to the militants earlier this week.


"The gain consolidates the Islamic State’s control west toward the Syrian capital and east in the direction of the border with Iraq, where militants seized the city of Ramadi on Sunday. Advances by the Islamic State demonstrate the group’s ability to continue to take territory, despite recent assertions by American officials that it remains largely on the defensive after 10 months of U.S.-led airstrikes," writes Loveday Morris in the Washington Post.

"The taking of Palmyra puts ISIS on a theoretically straight trajectory for mounting an incursion into Homs—once the cradle of Syria’s revolution and now mostly retaken by the Assad regime—and then possibly onto Damascus, where the terror organization had briefly conquered the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp last month," writes Michael Weiss in the Daily Beast.

"ISIS’ ideas have filled a hole both in governance in Iraq and Syria and in the global Salafi-jihadist political imagination. In the long run, the ISIS legacy will be not only its gruesome record of sadistic violence but also its profound challenge to existing Islamist thinking," write Andrew F. March and Mara Revkin in Foreign Affairs.  


Malaysia Orders Search and Rescue Operations for Migrants

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak ordered (CNN) search and rescue operations for migrant boats in the Andaman Sea, a day after Indonesia and Malaysia agreed to offer temporary shelter to the thousands of migrants, mostly Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar and Bangladesh, stranded at sea. Meanwhile, Myanmar officials said a delegation from the foreign ministry would attend (Nation) a regional summit in Bangkok that is expected to focus on the irregular movement of people and smuggling in Southeast Asia.

CFR's Joshua Kurlantzick discusses strategies for addressing the Rohingya migration crisis in this recent blog post.

SOUTH KOREA: President Park Geun-hye nominated (Yonhap) Justice Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn to be South Korea's new prime minister, the sixth pick for the job since Park took office in 2013.


US intelligence releases Bin Laden documents

California declares state of emergency after oil spill

This is an excerpt of the Daily News Brief. The full version is available on