Connect with us

International

ISIS Concerns Remain After Trump Announces Leader’s Death

Published

on

  • President Donald Trump announced that U.S. special operations forces killed the leader of the Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
  • While Baghdadi’s death is generally viewed as a symbolic hit for ISIS, many experts are worried it will not impact the group’s operations.
  • The leader’s death also comes as Trump has moved to withdraw U.S. troops from Northern Syria, prompting concerns of an ISIS resurgence in the region.

Trump’s Announcement

President Donald Trump announced Sunday that United States forces had killed ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, 

“Last night the United States brought the world’s number one terrorist leader to justice. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is dead. He was the founder and leader of ISIS, the most ruthless and violent terror organization anywhere in the world,” Trump said speaking at a press conference.

“U.S. special operations forces executed a dangerous and daring nighttime raid in northwestern Syria and accomplished their mission in grand style,” he continued.

“The U.S. personnel were incredible. I got to watch much of it. No personnel were lost in the operation, while a large number of Baghdadi’s fighters and companions were killed with him.” 

Trump went on to say that Baghdadi died by exploding a suicide vest after he was cornered in a dead-end tunnel, also killing three of his children.

“Baghdadi’s demise demonstrates America’s relentless pursuit of terrorist leaders and our commitment to the enduring and total defeat of ISIS and other terrorist organizations. Our reach is very long,” the president added.

While Trump’s announcement is certainly significant, Baghdadi’s death has left many wondering: what does this mean for ISIS?

Implications for ISIS in Northern Syria

There are a couple of key issues at play here. First, and perhaps the most relevant geopolitical question, is the situation in Northern Syria.

Several weeks ago, the White House announced that the U.S. would be withdrawing troops from Northern Syria and stepping aside to let Turkey launch a military operation. 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan claimed the operation was necessary to clear Syrian Kurdish groups Turkey considers terrorists, and that the U.S. considers key allies who have done the majority of fighting against ISIS on the ground.

Many world leaders and politicians in the U.S., including some of Trump’s biggest supporters, condemned the move. They argued that not only was the U.S. abandoning an ally but that the move also could lead to a resurgence of ISIS in the region for two reasons.

First of all, with U.S. forces gone and Syrian Kurdish forces busy fighting a military attack from Turkey, ISIS could feel emboldened to attack and take over areas of Syria that the U.S. and the Kurds had fought to reclaim.

Second, Syrian Kurdish forces who had been guarding camps holding tens of thousands of captured ISIS fighters and their families would be short-staffed, again because many of them would have to shift to fight the Turkish invasion, making it easy for the captured fighters and their families to break out of the camps.

Already there have been reports that ISIS prisoners have broken free from the camps. 

Although there are conflicting reports of how many exactly have escaped, last week, U.S. Special Envoy for Syria Jim Jeffrey said in a testimony before the Senate that “over 100” ISIS militants had escaped, and that it was unclear where they were.

Even though Turkey and Syria agreed to a ceasefire last week, Kurdish forces on the ground guarding the prisons have said that they are still understaffed. As one guard told The Washington Post, “Half of our guards were transferred to the front line.”

With the U.S. withdrawing forces in Northern Syria, the power vacuum that they have created has been filled by the Syrian government and Russia, who the Kurdish forces have allied with for military and tactical support.

While the Trump administration has generally supported this move, many experts have argued that Russia and Syria do not have the ability to organize and command the same kind of coalition that the U.S. did to drive ISIS out of the region.

In short, if ISIS were to reemerge, those actors would not be equipt to deal with it.

“There is nobody else in the area that we’re talking about right now,” William Wechsler, a former deputy assistant secretary of defense for special operations and combating terrorism told the Post.

Wechsler also added that if there were anyone in the area who had the ability to counter ISIS, “ISIS would not have emerged in the first place.”

Will Bahgdadi’s Death Hurt ISIS?

Another big question for the future of ISIS is how much the loss of their leader will impact them.

While many have said this is certainly a huge symbolic blow for the organization, a lot of experts have basically argued that the net impact will not really hurt ISIS.

“When you think about the impact it will have on ISIS going forward, this is more like the close of a chapter, but by no means the end of the story,” Nick Rasmussen, the former head of the National Counterterrorism Center told the Post.

Others have also pointed out that Baghdadi was obsessed with security and keeping himself safe, and as a result, he gave ISIS a lot of power to act on their own.

In fact, American and Iraqi officials told The New York Times that the elusive leader largely limited his communications with the outside world, meaning ISIS mostly operated with little leadership on his part.

“Baghdadi was a figurehead. He was not involved in operations or day-to-day,” one anonymous regional intelligence officer told Newsweek. “All Baghdadi did was say yes or no—no planning.”

Sam Heller, a senior analyst at the International Crisis Group also told reporters that the autonomy of ISIS agents under Baghdadi prompted the group to become much more decentralized in both decision-making and financing, especially in Syria and Iraq.

Some have also pointed out that U.S. covert action against Islamist extremists have killed a number of militant leaders and the groups still lived on.

“In the annals of modern counterterrorism so far, what history has shown is these types of strikes do not lead to the strategic collapse or organizational defeat of a terrorism organization,” Javed Ali, a former White House counterterrorism director told the Post.

Other analysts and experts have even said that Baghdadi’s death could embolden ISIS cells to re-invent themselves, grow in recruits, or even band together to make bigger cells.

As the Times noted, two successors were killed before Baghdadi became the leader of ISIS, significantly expanding the group’s influence and reach. 

“In the face of the kind of pressure and the mutual threats that they’ve experienced, I wouldn’t be surprised to see more cooperation, even if it doesn’t mean a public alliance,” Tricia Burton, a former State Department counterterrorism official told the Post.

Others, however, have been more optimistic about ISIS’s inability to re-group following Baghdadi’s death. 

 “Their recovery has been very slow, their organization is fragile and the killing of Baghdadi is bad timing for them,” Hassan Hassan of the Center for Global Policy said. “Even though they have likely prepared for this moment, it will be hard for them to ensure the organization remains intact.”

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (NPR)

International

Tunisian President Fires Prime Minister, Suspends Parliament Over Deadlock and COVID-19 Response

Published

on

President Kais Saied claims his actions are constitutional and have the support of the military, which has already blocked off government buildings. His opponents, however, call the move little more than a coup.


President Makes Massive Changes to Government

Tunisia’s government received a major shakeup after President Kais Saied fired the Prime Minister and froze parliament late Sunday.

The move, according to Saied, was meant to break years of parliamentary deadlock between Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi and various political parties that have sturggled to find common ground. However, the timing comes just after a massive protest over how the government has handled the COVID-19 pandemic turned violent earlier on Sunday.

Either way, the move risks sparking a confrontation between Saied —who is backed by the army — and various political parties that view his actions as a coup.

The President’s actions have proven cotnroversial. Despite that, he has widepsread support after being elected in 2019 on a platform to fight corrupt politicians.

After the announcement, tens of thousands have taken to the streets in support of his decision to dismiss the Prime Minister and parliament, with many cheering as he appeared among the crowd Sunday night.

In recent months, anger at the ruling government has only increased as many feel the ruling coalition, largely made up of the Islamist Ennahda (“Renaissance”) party, have been ineffective.

It’s a common belief in Tunisia that Ennahda’s rule, alongside its tenuous coalition, helped exacerbate problems caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, which led to the economy shrinking by 8% as tourism plummeted.

One of the President’s supporters told Reuters and other outlets during Sunday’s demonstration, “We are here to protect Tunisia. We have seen all the tragedies under the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood.”

He mentioned the Muslim Brotherhood, which had a strong presence in Egpyt after the Arab Spring, becuase Ennahda has longstanding relationship with the group, although it has sought to distance itself as a more moderate political group over the last few years.

Now, for their part, the ruling coalition has argued that Saied’s move is clearly unconstitutional. Rached Ghannouchi, leade of Ennahda and Parliamentary Speaker, said that he is “against gathering all powers in the hands of one person.” His position isn’t without supporters eithers. Both sides have already gathered throughout the capital and have thrown rocks at each other.

Legalities of Article 80

The question across many minds is whether or not Saied’s actions are actually constitutional.

He claims that under Article 80 of the constitution, he can fire the Prime Minister, suspend parliament for 30 days, and appoint a premier to rule — all of which is true.

However, in order to do that, the Prime Minister and the Parliamentary Speaker need to be consulted; something Parliamentary Speaker Ghannouchi said was never done. It’s unclear what Mechichi’s position is as he’s stayed inside his home all day, though the army says he is not under any kind of arrest.

In addition to those requirements, a Constitutional Court needs to approve the move, and one hasn’t been set up. As the German Foregin Office put it on Monday morning, it seems like Saied is relying on “a rather broad interpretation of the constitution.”

International observers hope a solution will soon be made to keep what seems to be the last functional democracy to come from the Arab Spring from devolving into civil war or dictatorship.

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (Reuters) (BBC)

Continue Reading

International

South Korean President Makes BTS Official Presidential Envoys

Published

on

The position is largely ceremonial but will be used by the government to help give a friendly and popular face to national and international initiatives spearheaded by Seoul.


Government Recognition

The K-pop band BTS will be adding to its list of global impacts this year after South Korean President Moon Jae-in appointed its members as Presidential Envoys on Wednesday.

The role will include attending international conferences such as the United Nations General Assembly in September.

At these events, BTS will perform “various activities to promote international cooperation in solving global challenges, such as improving the environment, eliminating poverty and inequality, and respecting diversity,” according to Park Kyung-mee, a Blue House spokesperson.

The band has already appeared at U.N. conferences multiple times over the last few years.

Just last year, the group gave a message of hope and reassurance through the U.N. during the COVID-19 pandemic. Prior appearances at the U.N. have been either as part of U.N. organizations or as private citizens.

Wednesday’s appointment will make them official representatives of South Korea, although they won’t actually engage in any direct diplomacy and instead will be used to promote the country’s ongoing efforts in youth-related projects.

Longstanding Policy

BTS’ success, alongside prior and current K-pop groups, has remained a masterclass of soft diplomacy by the Korean government. For decades, the Korean government has cultivated promoting cultural aspects abroad in the hopes of generating more interest in the country. There are hopes that such efforts will encourage more tourism as well as an elevated image when consumers consider Korean-made products.

Such efforts, beyond cultivating K-pop and raising its stars as semi-official government symbols, also include helping fund Korean restaurants abroad as well as free Korean-language classes taught by Professors of some of Korea’s most prestigious schools.

The news comes as BTS’ newest single, “Permission to Dance,” quickly took the #1 spot on the Billboard top 100. BTS is also partnering with YouTube to promote a Permission to Dance challenge on YouTube Shorts that will begin tomorrow and end on August 4.

Fans will be encouraged to replicate dance moves from the music video, and the group’s favorite clips will be put into a compilation made by them.

See what others are saying: (Yonhap News) (The Korea Times) (All Kpop)

Continue Reading

International

Over 1 Million Chinese Displaced After Record Rainfall

Published

on

The rain has created waist-high waters throughout the capital of China’s Henan province, drastically affecting the lives of its over 10 million inhabitants.


Trapped in a Flood

The Henan province of central China experienced severe rainfall over the last week that has left at least 25 dead and displaced more than 1.2 million people due to severe flooding, according to figures released by Chinese authorities Wednesday.

Meteorologists claim that the sudden, severe rainfall is caused by Typhoon In-Fa colliding with a high-pressure system over Henan province.

The floods have forced people to wade through waist-high water throughout Zhengzhou, the region’s capital. In one tragic incident Monday, 12 people died after they were trapped in the subway amid rising waters. A similar situation occurred Tuesday, causing multiple lines to be trapped in chest-high water for up to three hours before rescue workers managed to save them. Since then, metro authorities have shut down many of Zhengzhou’s rail lines.

Between Monday and Tuesday alone, Zhengzhou was hit with an estimated 25 inches of rain, equating to about 87% of its average annual rainfall. At one point, seven inches of rain occurred in less than an hour.

In an effort to alleviate rising waters, authorities breached a nearby dam to release floodwaters on Tuesday, although it’s unclear how much that helped as many dams and rivers in the region have overflowed for days.

Elsewhere in Henan, villages have been cut off by landslides and flooding, killing at least four others and leaving some areas without power for more than 24 hours.

Long Recovery Ahead

The region was finally able to begin recovery efforts Wednesday as conditions have begun to die down.

Despite reduced rainfall, the situation has still proven to be dire, leading President Xi Jinping to issue a statement through state media ordering authorities to give top priority to people’s safety and property.

In total, more than 17,000 firefighters have been mobilized for rescue efforts, as well as local volunteers and other rescue crews from other provinces.

Chinese companies have rushed to donate money to help the affected communities, and so far over $300 million has been donated.

It’s likely that for some time, hundreds of thousands in the region will be left without homes as authorities begin the work of ensuring that buildings are safe to return to.

See what others are saying: (South China Morning Post) (BBC) (The New York Times)

Continue Reading