TURKS TARGETING KURDS After a deadly car bombing in its capital this weekend, Turkey is launching airstrikes against Kurdish strongholds in northern Iraq. No one has asserted responsibility for the attack in Ankara. But the Turkish government suspects that Kurdish separatists affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), who have bases in Iraq, are behind it. The development complicates the already contorted picture of conflict in Iraq and Syria – the United States has aligned itself with Turkey in declaring the PKK a terrorist organization, but it has resisted Turkish efforts to list Syrian Kurds as well, given the key role the group has played in fighting the Islamic State.
U.S. QUIETLY GETTING MIRED IN YEMEN One rarely hears about the other Middle East conflict in the United States, but Washington has been pulled into the long-running war in Yemen by virtue of its quiet support for ally Saudi Arabia. The result has been problematic, with the humanitarian crisis in that country growing and extremist groups gaining ground in the chaos. Now the United States is at a crossroads, the New York Times reports – slammed with criticism from all sides, should Washington commit more to helping its ally in this seemingly interminable conflict or pull back? And what will the result of either option be across the greater Middle East?
RUSSIA-U.S. COOPERATION FOR RAQQA? The Russian news service Interfax has reported that the Russian government is ready to fully coordinate actions in Syria to take out the Islamic State in Raqqa, the militant group’s de facto capital and greatest stronghold. But while both powers might want to take out the Islamic State, they remain bitterly divided over other, vital elements of the battle on the ground – the U.S. and Russia back different allies, the Russians have been accused of striking U.S.-allied opposition groups in their air campaign, and the Associated Press reports that Secretary of State John Kerry is insisting afresh that the peace settlement in Syria include a political transition away from President Bashar al-Assad, whom Russia backs.
ISIS PUSHING BIRTH CONTROL TO MAINTAIN SEX SLAVE SUPPLY Over the weekend, the New York Times published an especially disturbing report about how Islamic State militants have been maintaining their supply of sex slaves by forcing captives to take birth control. It’s a troubling tale of how the pills and drugs that in the West have been a tool of liberation are prolonging and worsening the misery of those in captivity in areas controlled by the Islamic State, also known as ISIS and ISIL.