Special Forces Raiding Islamic State Positions, Says Iraqi Official

Foreign special forces, reported by Arab media to be U.S. troops, have been carrying out raids against Islamic State targets near Hawija, Iraq, Speaker of the Iraqi Parliament Salim al-Jabouri told Reuters. “These operations are bearing fruit,” Jabouri said, saying that they were done in collaboration with Iraqi forces and part of a plan to prepare for larger operations to retake Mosul.

A spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition denied that U.S. Special Forces are involved in the strikes. The claim is part of an “Iranian disinformation” campaign and U.S. forces have been involved in direct action since a raid on an Islamic State prison in October, Col. Steve Warren told reporters.

Saudi Arabia Considering Selling Shares of Oil Producer

Saudi Aramco, the world’s largest producer of crude oil, issued a statement yesterday confirming that it is considering an initial public offering of shares in the company. The prospect was first mentioned by Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in an interview in the Economist published on Wednesday. “I believe it is in the interest of the Saudi market, and it is in the interest of Aramco, and it is for the interest of more transparency, and to counter corruption, if any, that may be circling around Aramco,” he said. The company could be worth as much as $2.5 trillion, according to financial analysts.


  • Turkish police raided an Istanbul office of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), a major opposition party with a pro-Kurdish platform, and detained several party officials; Turkish press said the raid was part of a crackdown on elements of the Kurdish Workers’ Party, which is a designated as a terrorist group.

  • The Syrian government has agreed to allow aid from the U.N. World Food Programme to reach the besieged city of Madaya, where much of the population is on the brink of starvation; food supplies could reach the city as early as Monday.

  • Residents of Sanaa, Yemen, said that the city is being bombarded with the heaviest airstrikes of the war this week after Saudi Arabia concluded a ceasefire earlier this week; Human Rights Watch issued a new report documenting the use of cluster bombs, which are banned by most countries, in densely-populated portions of the city.

  • Syrian opposition groups expressed skepticism about upcoming peace talks during a meeting with the U.N.’s Syria envoy and called on the Assad regime to make goodwill gestures, including releasing rebels held prisoner, before the start of negotiations.

  • In the group’s latest brutal stunt, the Islamic State staged a public execution in Raqqa in which a 21-year-old recruit killed his own mother because she asked him to leave the terrorist group.

Arguments and Analysis

A Constitution for Libya: A Futile Debate?” (Fadel Lamen and Karim Mezran, MENASource)

“The fear of repeating this mistake should compel Libya’s political elite and its foreign advisors to pause and reflect — without rushing to empower one actor over the others. Unfortunately, given the volatile security climate, a broad, inclusive debate on the terms of citizenship is practically impossible. Still, for the sake of the success of the UN-led negotiation and the establishment of the new government to bring order and security in the country, a point of reference to unite all Libyans around a shared identity should be found. The national anthem and the flag chosen the day after the revolution of 2011 represent a positive start, but remain insufficient. The Constitutional Declaration enacted by the provisional National Transitional Council in August 2011 — rushed and redacted to fill the post-Qaddafi void — also lacks the transparency or inclusiveness needed to provide a unifying reference point. The 1951 Constitution, as amended by Law No. 1 of 1963 which repealed the federal character of the political system and declared the Kingdom of Libya, does offer an opportunity around which Libyans could rally.”

What is the future of al-Qaeda and the Islamic State?” (Barak Mendelsohn, Markaz)

“Rather than pursue an economic plan that would guarantee the caliphate’s survival, the Islamic State has linked its economic viability to its military expansion. At present, ISIS relies on taxing its population and oil sales to support its flailing economy. But these financial resources cannot sustain a state, particularly one bent on simultaneously fighting multiple enemies on numerous fronts. Ironically, rather than taming its aspirations, the Islamic State sees conquest as the way to promote its state-building goals. Its plan for growing the economy is based on the extraction of resources through military expansion. While this plan worked well at first—when the Islamic State faced weak enemies — it is not a viable solution any longer, as the self-declared caliphate can no longer expand fast enough to meet its needs. Consequently, this strategy is undermining ISIS rather than strengthening it.”

-J. Dana Stuster