JUST SECURITY – IRAQ and SYRIA
Maha Hamdan, an Associate Intelligence Analyst@TheIntelligenceCommunity gives a roundup of the current issues in the press across the region.
Syria’s ceasefire. The ceasefire agreement brokered by the US and Russia faces “complete nullification” because of Assad regime attacks in violation of the truce, warned a senior official from the Saudi-backed opposition High Negotiations Committee yesterday. [Reuters’ John Davison and John Irish] Secretary of State John Kerry said that alleged violations of the agreement will be investigated, adding that the regime of President Bashar al-Assad should show “some measure of decency” during the cessation of hostilities. [BBC; CNN’s Susannah Cullinane]
Russian fighter jets sat idle today at Moscow’s Hemeimeem air base in Syria, as the country’s ceasefire enters its fourth day, reports the AP.
“In the Syrian ceasefire shell game, the good guys may be bad guys,” reports Alexander Decina, citing US-allied backed militia, Ahrar al-Sham which is actually allies with al-Qaeda. [The Daily Beast]
Iraqi forces are pushing back against the Islamic State in a strategic area north of Baghdad, officials said. The area, called Jazerat Samarra, will be essential for future operations aimed at reclaiming parts of Anbar province and Mosul, said the country’s spokesman of the counterterrorism forces. [AP]
Defense Secretary Ash Carter said the US is increasing its support for Iraqi troops as they attempt to reclaim Mosul from ISIS, saying: “Will we do more to enable as they go north? Yes, we fully expect to do that,” yesterday at a briefing. [The Hill’s Kristina Wong] Echoing this, Gen Joseph F. Dunford Jr, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that US-backed troops have begun laying the groundwork for the battle to isolate Mosul from the militant group’s de facto Syrian capital, Raqqa. [New York Times’ Helene Cooper and Matthew Rosenberg]
The American Army’s elite Delta Force has begun operations to target, capture or kill senior Islamic State operatives in Iraq, following a number of weeks of covert preparation, according to an administration official. [CNN’s Barbara Starr]
Russia has appealed for a global pact to counter the growing threat of chemical warfare from Islamic State and other militant groups. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told the UN-sponsored conference on disarmament in Geneva that the threat is “extremely urgent in light of newly revealed facts of repeated use of not only industrial toxic chemicals but also of full-fledged chemical warfare agents” by terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq. [Reuters]
GOP lawmakers have accused the Obama administration of “paralysis” in failing to adopt the label of genocide for the actions of the Islamic State. Nahal Toosi provides the details. [Politico]
The Islamic State has executed eight Dutch members accused by the group of attempting to desert, according to the Syrian citizen journalist group Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently via Twitter. [AFP]
US-led airstrikes continue. The US and coalition military forces carried out 12 airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria on Feb 28. Separately, partner forces conducted a further 12 strikes against targets in Iraq. [Central Command]