World News Brief, Tuesday March 17

Iraq puts Tikrit Offensive on hold; China surpasses Germany in arms trade; Japanese delegates to visit Beijing in bid to improve relations with Japan; Sierra Leone vice president seeks asylum in US; Putin puts 40,000 troops on full alert; and more


Iraq Halts Tikrit Offensive

Iraqi and militia forces leading an offensive in Tikrit against the self-declared Islamic State have put their operations on hold (AP), allowing civilians to flee the embattled city, according to Iraq's interior minister. While Iraqi forces have gained control in the northern, southern, and western outskirts, officials are calling for coalition air power (Al Jazeera) to oust remaining militant forces sheltered in Saddam Hussein's former palace complex. Meanwhile, Kurdish forces are investigating possible chemical weapons attacks by the Islamic State. Separately, air strikes killed (Al Arabiya) more than fifty Islamic State militants in Anbar province, according to Iraqi security sources, and militants loyal to the Islamic State in Libya claimed responsibility (Reuters) for an attack on a checkpoint in the capital.

"By numbers alone, the first major Iraqi offensive against ISIS should have been a romp. Yet the fight to retake this city 90 miles north of Baghdad has been a slog, partly because of such immeasurable factors as motive, incentives, and ideological commitment. Sunni militants loyal to ISIS have repeatedly demonstrated more discipline and greater devotion, in Iraq and in Syria, than their rivals," writes Robin Wright in the Wall Street Journal.

"The key to defeating ISIS must be a systematic and sustained drone air campaign in support of Kurdish and Iraqi forces—in effect a high-tech upgrading of a proven battlefield strategy first employed by George Patton’s Third Army during World War II and by U.S. Marines in Korea," write Arthur Herman and William Luti at Defense One.

"The battle for Tikrit has brought into sharp focus the role played by Iran in fighting ISIL in Iraq. Iran has reportedly funded, trained and equipped many of these militias, and has sent dozens of senior military commanders to advise the Popular Mobilisation fighters. As a result, Iraq's militias are armed with weapons that the Iraqi military has not possessed in large quantities since 2003, when the US-led invasion of Iraq destroyed much of the country's military arsenal," writes Suadad al-Salhy in Al Jazeera.


China Ranks Third in Arms Exports

A report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute says that China has surpassed (WSJ) Germany in arms trade, now ranking third in the world in weapons exports, behind the United States and Russia. Meanwhile, Xinhua news reported that Xu Caihou, China’s most senior army general to face prosecution in President Xi Jinping's anti-corruption probe, died (SCMP) of cancer Sunday.

JAPAN: Secretaries general from Japan’s ruling coalition parties will visit (Kyodo) Beijing next week, in a bid to improve relations with China.    


Sierra Leone vice president seeks asylum in US

Putin puts 40,000 troops on full alert

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