World News Brief, Wednesday September 24

US launches airstrikes in Syria; Uighur scholar in China sentenced to life in prison; police and students clash in Hong Kong during pro-democracy protest; Liberia and Norway sign logging deal; British photojournalist appears in second ISIS video; and more

Top of the Agenda

United States and Partners Launch Airstrikes in Syria

The United States, backed by five Arab partners (Bahrain, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates), conducted the first airstrikes (Reuters) in Syria against ISIS early Tuesday morning. The airstrikes come four days after Congress approved President Obama's plan to arm and train moderate Syrian rebels (WSJ). Although Obama had authorized airstrikes in Syria two weeks ago, he waited until the United States had built a coalition (Haaretz) to carry out operations against the militant group in Syria. According to U.S. Central Command, the fourteen strikes hit bases, training camps, offices, and storage sites (NYT) in Raqqa, Hasaka, Deir al-Zour, and Aleppo. The United States also launched strikes on the Nusra Front in northern Syria targeting veteran al-Qaeda network Khorasan (BBC), which was allegedly planning imminent attacks in the West.


"If the airstrikes are a recognition that the United States cannot defeat the Islamic State by fighting it only in Iraq—and leaving it a haven in Syria—they are to be welcomed. As he did in August in Iraq, Mr. Obama would be justified in shaping the campaign to rescue a vulnerable population—in this case the Syrian Kurds," writes the Washington Post.

"[This] is a strategy of mitigating ISIS' threats and containing its influence within Iraq and the surrounding region. Yet, while mitigation and containment will drive the U.S. counterterrorism strategy regarding ISIS as a reality, the Obama administration (and Congress and the media) will pretend that the strategic end state is to defeat and destroy them. So when you hear the White House promise to destroy ISIS, don't believe them, but consider why it is politically mandatory that they make such an outrageous and impossible claim," writes CFR's Micah Zenko.

"Early strikes in Raqqa appear so far to focus on fixed infrastructure and other static targets, but given ISIS's insurgent experience at operating underground, seeking out these fixed targets will yield diminishing returns. Although leadership strikes modeled on U.S. counterterrorism operations against al Qaeda and its affiliates could have high political and psychological value, these types of decapitation campaigns are often lengthy, intensive efforts with uncertain results. The significant autonomy enjoyed by ISIS's ground commanders makes them critically important to their military operations but also potentially resilient to U.S. decapitation efforts," write Daniel Trombly and Yasir Abbas in the Daily Beast.



Uighur Scholar Sentenced to Life

Chinese courts sentenced Ilham Tohti, a Beijing-based Uighur economist, to life in prison (SCMP) on charges that he was seeking to divide the country by promoting Xinjiang separatism on website he managed. The trial of Tohti, who has criticized China's ethnic policies, has drawn concerns over judicial and human rights abuses.

CHINA: Scuffles broke out between police and students in Hong Kong on Tuesday as students took their pro-democracy protest to government headquarters (Reuters). Thousands of students are boycotting classes this week in protest of Beijing's decision to rule out fully democratic elections for Hong Kong's next leader in 2017.


Liberia and Norway sign logging deal

British photojournalist appears in second ISIS video

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