Conflict update, November 17

Iraq

Another day, another ISIS atrocity discovered:

Iraqi security forces have discovered two mass graves near the city of Mosul containing around 250 bodies, police said Thursday.

The graves were found near the town of Hammam al-Alil and were created by ISIS militants, Iraqi Federal Police Commander Brig. Gen. Faris Radhi Abbas told CNN.

Their discovery follows the uncovering of 100 decapitated bodies in another mass grave near the same town on November 7.

Iraqi progress in Mosul is being slowed in part, as you might imagine, from the difficulty posed in trying to tell civilians from ISIS fighters, who may be posing as civilians in order to launch attacks against Iraqi forces. Cooperation from Mosul residents has been helpful but, for that cooperation to continue, the military needs to continue to be very careful with respect to whom it fires upon. Which means things will keep moving slowly. Even so, Baghdad and the Kurdistan Regional Government have already begun squabbling over the final status of areas around Mosul that have been liberated by the Peshmerga. The KRG clearly feels these areas have now become part of the KRG, while Baghdad, unsurprisingly, disagrees. This is one of two potential flash points (along with Tal Afar) that could bring Turkey into the fighting and lead, in the worst case scenario, to a Turkey-Iraq war. Ankara likes the KRG, in marked contrast to its own Kurds, and would prefer to see Mosul come under the KRG’s sway, if not its outright control, because that cements the city in Turkey’s orbit.

Outside of Mosul, an ISIS suicide bombing, reportedly targeting a police officer’s wedding in Amiriyat al-Fallujah (a short distance south of Fallujah), killed at least 40 people and injured at least 60 more.

Syria

Sorry if this sounds like a skipping record:

At least 45 people were killed Thursday and dozens injured as airstrikes and barrel bombs pounded eastern Aleppo and rebel-held parts of the countryside, the Aleppo Media Center activist group said.

The death toll was expected to rise and airstrikes and shelling continued through the night.

“Planes are more than birds, and bombs are more than rain,” one resident said of the Syrian air force’s renewed blitz.

Russia and Syria seem intent on presenting incoming President Trump with a fait accompli, by which I mean they’re going to take eastern Aleppo, removing the biggest humanitarian crisis in the country, which will mean one less reason for Trump not to throw in with Moscow and Damascus in their fight against, well, whomever really. If the horror show in Aleppo is still going on when Trump takes office, there could be more pressure on him not to play nice with Assad and Putin. But if Aleppo is already sorted out, then maybe that pressure will be removed.

Yemen

yemeni_civil_war

Yemen as of November 2; Green means rebel control, Red government, White al-Qaeda (Wikimedia | Ali Zifan)

John Kerry’s certainty aside, there doesn’t seem like there’s actually going to be any ceasefire in Yemen, as the Yemeni government is sticking to its outright refusal to comply. In fact, dozens of people have been killed in Yemen in the past day or so, as fighting has raged around Taiz and around the town of Midi, in the northwest of Yemen along the Saudi border.

If you’ve ever wondered why, despite all the international haranguing, Saudi Arabia seems to be feeling no particular pressure to stop bombing Yemen, Thomas Lippman has your answer at LobeLog:

In many countries, 19 months of war against an impoverished neighbor that rained death on civilians to no apparent gain might provoke widespread public protests. Not in Saudi Arabia. No one in Riyadh is marching around the Ministry of Defense calling for peace or even writing newspaper columns asking for a review of Yemen policy.

On the contrary, interviews this month with Saudi business executives, academics, government officials, and political commentators made clear that the people mostly regard the Yemen campaign as a war of necessity, not a war of choice. Even those who deplored the collateral damage to Yemeni civilians mostly agreed that Saudi Arabia was obliged to take action to protect itself against further encirclement by its archenemy, Iran. Some said they understood why the bombing campaign started and don’t worry much about it because it doesn’t affect them.

“I’m busy with my own work” and hardly paying any attention to Yemen, said a Ministry of Planning official. “People know about the war, but there has been very little in the local media about civilian casualties,” a young journalist said.

TIP JAR

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