The grey areas depicted on the map indicate geographic areas Islamic State (IS) is assessed to maintain a significant operational and often administrative presence, or at a minimum sufficient freedom of movement to stage cohesive offensive operations on a routine basis. The boundaries of these areas are estimated based upon available information and subsequent assessment, and represent frontlines which remain largely fluid and undefined. These lines do not represent the full extent of IS freedom of movement, particularly in Nineveh, Salah ad Din, Baghdad and Anbar Provinces. As such, areas which witness a high number of asymmetric attacks may not necessarily be represented as active frontlines. Some areas marked as under government control may also be contested, either with IS or other security forces, representing dynamic fronts. The integrated heat map depicts concentrations of activity during the reporting period.
Key developments this week:
- Residual IS threats and humanitarian concerns prominent in Tal Afar District
- Iraqi government votes to reject the Kurdish independence referendum vote as unconstitutional
- Mandali Mayor’s office breached by Shi’a militia members during demonstration against referendum
- Preparations continue for Hawija operation, with timeline possibly shifting
- IS attempts to maintain pressure in the vicinity of Balad
- Security forces attempt to maintain pressure in western Anbar
- Ongoing lull in major attacks in Baghdad
- Tribal clashes in Wasit
- Air traffic controllers strike in Basra
- Ongoing consolidation efforts in the vicinity of Tal Afar, and preparations for Hawija operation
On 5 September, Army Lt. Gen. Paul E. Funk II assumed command of Operation Inherent Resolve, replacing outgoing commander Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend. At least 5,700 US troops are currently operating in Iraq and Syria in accordance with official manning levels for permanent forces, though a large number of additional personnel are present on a temporary basis.
On 7 September, Operation Inherent Resolve Spokesman US Army Col. Ryan Dillon held a teleconference discussing developments in Iraq and Syria. In a reference to Hawija and Anbar, he stated “The [Iraqis] are now quickly transitioning for follow-on operations in the few remaining ISIS-held areas in Iraq.” Previously seen Coalition estimates of less than 1,000 IS fighters in Hawija were maintained. Preparatory strikes were emphasized along with intelligence and surveillance support for the Iraqi military ahead of this operation.
On 6 September, civilian flights in Basra and Baghdad Airports were temporarily halted after air traffic controllers conducted a 15-minute strike. The strike was conducted in protest against a lack of commitment by the Iraqi government to fulfil their demands, which include increased pay for technical allocations and other benefits. A later statement added that the air traffic controllers would not accept any verbal statements acknowledging their demands, as was seen in the past, due to their conditions having failed to be met previously. Another set of strikes was conducted on 12 September, but these events were fairly effectively mitigated by the implementation of contingency plans at these airports. An agreement was reached later on 12 September, with the strike ending as a result.
On 7 September, Muqtada al-Sadr claimed he plans to dissolve his military wing, Saraya al-Salam (Peace Companies), following the defeat of IS. He stated these militia forces will join official government security forces including the Hashd al-Shaabi. Sadr also stated he plans to close many branches of his movement’s private offices across Iraq, maintaining only one in the holy city of Najaf. These announced plans follow previous demands issued by Sadr in August calling for the government to disband the Hashd al-Shaabi and integrate these fighters into formal security forces.
This latest statement is assessed to acknowledge that the increasingly legitimized Hashd al-Shaabi will remain an enduring component of the Iraqi security apparatus. As such, Sadr may be attempting to lay the foundation to incorporate his forces into all security organizations including the Hashd al-Shaabi in order to ensure conditions are met for the long-term sustainability of his forces.
Residual IS threats and humanitarian concerns prominent in Tal Afar District:
On 10 September, the head of the Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights, Wahda al-Jamili, stated that the bodies of 2,000 civilians have been recovered from the ruble of West Mosul since the liberation of the city. The official held Iraqi and Coalition forces fully responsible for these losses, and stated a lawsuit was filed against the Coalition for not following the laws of armed conflict. She added that additional bodies are expected to be located as recovery efforts continue in Old City. In an additional related report, Laith Habbaba, a doctor and an acting director of the Nineveh Health Department, claimed the corpses of 2,650 civilians have been recovered in West Mosul since the liberation.
These reports further highlight the impact of the Mosul Campaign on the civilian populace, with previous upper end estimates claiming as many as 40,000 civilians may have been killed by a combination of IS, Coalition, and Iraqi military actions. The most significant condemnation continues to be directed towards the Coalition, concerning the prevalent use of firepower during the liberation of West Mosul. Such disdain will undoubtedly continue to resonate as the full impact of the battle on the civilian populace is increasingly refined during ongoing recovery efforts.
On 11 September, 73rd Brigade 16th Iraqi Army Division and possibly other units, supported by Iraqi airstrikes, breached an isolated IS stronghold in Qasabat al-Ra’i Village, located northwest of Ayadhiya in the Tal Afar District. Joint Operations Command Spokesman Brigadier General Yehia Rasul later stated that security forces killed 65 insurgents and 15 suicide bombers amongst other losses during initial heavy fighting. He also noted that dozens of insurgents fled towards Peshmerga lines, forming a reference to associated Peshmerga claims that 17 IS militants were killed by their forces attempting to escape the area.
A number of casualties were also reported amongst security personnel during initial fighting. Late on the night of 11 September, according to an Iraqi Army officer, around 40 insurgents travelling in vehicles launched an attack against elements of the 73rd Iraqi Army Brigade in Qasabat al-Ra’i Village in a possible breakout attempt. Nine Iraqi Army soldiers were reportedly killed including two officers during heavy clashes. Sporadic clashes were ongoing in and around the village as of the morning of 12 September. Full control will likely be confirmed early in the upcoming reporting period, with related threats remaining in effect in the area for the time being.
While small groups of insurgents have been encountered almost daily in different areas outside Tal Afar in recent weeks, these events highlight a very significant presence of insurgents holding out in an isolated stronghold of the Ayadhiya sub-district well after the 31 August victory announcement. These events bare similarity to an enclave located in the Old City neighborhood of Mosul, which was finally cleared long after the official victory announcement. Unsurprisingly, official reporting devoted to these events was similarly downplayed so as not to detract from the earlier announcement.
Other developments associated with the recently concluded Tal Afar Operation center on IS family members who surrendered to Kurdish security forces. According to an unnamed sources who spoke on condition of anonymity, this includes as many as 1,400 women and children, many of whom were the family members of foreign fighters originating from 14 countries. Most were from areas of Central Asia, Russia, and Turkey, but some originated from as distant as Japan and South Korea. It is expected most of these individuals will not be charged, and will be repatriated to their home countries. The Norwegian Refugee Council called on the government to “swiftly move to clarify its future plans for these individuals”.
Iraqi government votes to reject the Kurdish independence referendum vote as unconstitutional:
Independence referendum-related campaigning and vote preparations remains prominent in the leadup to the 25 September vote as noted during a number of events on 9 September. This week saw a spike in political rallies and other events across the region both in support of the ‘Yes’ movement and ‘No for Now’ campaigns in the Kurdish Region. Each of these events was peacefully conducted, and will undoubtedly remain prominent in the final weeks leading up to the 25 September referendum vote. Possible politically motivated violence was largely limited to as many as two drive-by-shootings against KDP offices in Chamchamal, with intimidation-style violence remaining in line with expectations for this period. More significant unrest related to the referendum was noted in Diyala as discussed below.
On 6 September, NRT issued a report claiming that the KDP could consider postponing the referendum in return for delays in the presidential and parliamentary elections, scheduled on 1 November. NRT also says that the KDP has submitted a proposal to the PUK seeking another two-year term for President Barzani. NRT’s claim should be taken with caution as the channel has previously voiced opposition to the planned referendum. The statement, however, comes as President Masoud Barzani reiterated earlier this week that his political mission will end when he manages to gain independence for the Kurdish people.
On 12 September, a major trilateral meeting was conducted between representatives of the Gorran, KDP, and PUK in Erbil. The referendum and ambitions to reactivate the KRG parliament by 14 September were discussed in accordance with a seven-point plan promoted by the PUK. It was stated that Gorran “agreed in principle” to supporting the reactivation according to PUK official Mala Bakhtiyar. It will be important to confirm an agreement has been made with Gorran sources following this announcement, with reports of breakthroughs being made regularly embellished in the past. PUK and KDP officials previously threatened to reactivate parliament without Gorran representation if they refused, though such an act would not be recognized as legitimate by the international community.
In an even more significant opposing development on 12 September, the Iraqi parliament voted to reject the Kurdish independence referendum vote as unconstitutional, and authorizes the prime minister to take “all measures” against this act in the Kurdish Region and disputed territories. Kurdish MPs predictably boycotted the vote, which is primarily intended to degrade the perceived legitimacy of the referendum if it goes forward. Although strongly worded, it is not anticipated the 12 September parliamentary vote will be utilized as justification to use military force to prevent the vote. At most, it is assessed to officially endorse Iraqi government efforts to counter the vote in disputed territories that are already under its administration and security control.
The latest push to reactivate the KRG parliament forms a final effort to gain some semblance of perceived legitimacy surrounding the referendum, while the Iraqi government has reinforced their stance officially refuting the legitimacy of the vote. As both sides continue to stack bargaining chips, and undermine their opposition, it remains unclear exactly how near conditions may be for a negotiated settlement that could postpone the vote. Growing rumors indicate the Hawija operation could be initiated prior to 25 September, potentially forming a way for Masoud Barzani to save face by postponing the vote “in support of the operation.” It still remains very possible that the vote will proceed as planned.
Mandali Mayor’s office breached by Shi’a militia members during demonstration against referendum:
On 10 September, hundreds of Mandali residents conducted a demonstration in front of the Mandali Mayor’s office. The individuals denounced the planned inclusion of Mandali in the Kurdish independence referendum as announced the day prior. Over 100 gunmen reportedly affiliated with Asaib Ahl al-Haq (AAH) breached the office and removed the Kurdish flag from the site and other government buildings in the town, burning them and replacing them with the Iraq flag. The Diyala Governor and police units responded to these events in order to bring the situation under control.
Mandali local council member Haidar al-Mandalawi stated the demonstration transitioned into a sit-in, with demonstrators demanding the removal of Mandali from the referendum vote, and the replacement of the Mandali Mayor and Mandali local council director. The sit-in ended the following day after the Mandali local council voted to dismiss the Mandali mayor, and voted to cancel Mandali’s participation in the vote in a session that day. Kurdish officials denounced the vote as occurring under duress due to the threat posed by Shi’a militia members, and similarly denounced Diyala government and security officials for the conditions that transpired.
These developments form one of the most notable instances of unrest tied to the approaching referendum yet seen, and prominently illustrate challenges that were previously anticipated along various sectarian fault lines, particularly in northern Diyala, Tuz Khurmatu, and Kirkuk. Mandali forms the southernmost tip of the Kurdish Region, being predominately Kurdish, but lacking a significant Peshmerga presence unlike Khanaqin to the north. As such, this town is located in a position that is particularly vulnerable to both Iraqi government and extrajudicial actions as highlighted during these events.
Despite the breaching of the office, the lack of significant violence and clear efforts to moderate related tensions forms a positive measure that was also consistent with previous expectations for the most likely course of action during this politically dynamic period. On 12 September, the Diyala Provincial Council passed a vote stating it would not be permit the referendum to be held in any areas within the administrative boundaries of the province. However, given the significant Peshmerga presence in northern districts of the province, it is initially assessed to be unlikely that the Diyala government will seek to enforce such a ban, with this vote essentially degrading legitimacy.
Preparations continue for Hawija operation, with timeline possibly shifting:
Coalition strike activity was significant in the Hawija pocket as part of ongoing preparations for future operations. Strikes this week were heavily focused on disrupting IS command and control functions, destroying at least six headquarters and six command and control nodes. Similar to what was seen in Tal Afar, such actions will undoubtedly pose an impact on the cohesion and effectiveness of IS command in the Hawija pocket once the ground assault is initiated. Iraqi strike activity similarly remains prevalent, focusing on a number of hotspots along the periphery of the Hawija pocket including the restive Mutabija area of eastern Salah ad Din.
A growing number of rumors indicate the Hawija operation could be initiated as early as a week prior to the 25 September Kurdish independence referendum. If accurate, such a development would reflect growing comfort levels pertaining to the potential impact of the referendum on the security environment, or as noted above, a potential last ditch effort to encourage the KRG to delay the referendum due to operational considerations. In any event, the nature of various preparations and shaping operations will continue to be closely monitored during the upcoming reporting period in order to more accurately assess the potential for a pre-referendum assault.
Indicators of the likely scheme of maneuver for this operation also continue to be noted. Most reports have involved non-specific Hashd al-Shaabi, Federal Police, and Iraqi Army units assembling in the vicinity of Shirqat. On 9 September, a Peshmerga officer reported that a large contingent of US forces including an artillery unit was stationing in the Qaraj area, located along a frontline of the Makhmour District. As seen during historic operations in the Makhmour District, the establishment of a new Coalition firebase in the specified area would prove very useful for supporting maneuver elements during future operations in IS-held areas along the southwestern outskirts of the district. Additional confirmation was not initially seen.
Kurdish officials reiterated Peshmerga forces will only be involved in the operation if an agreement is reached with the central government amongst enduring coordination challenges. Although the participation of Peshmerga units does not necessarily form a critical requirement for offensive operations, agreements between the KRG and Iraqi government remains important for permitting Iraqi security forces to stage operations in Kurdish-controlled areas of Kirkuk, which host a number of key supply routes. As such, there have been no significant indicators of major buildups of Iraqi military units outside Kirkuk City.
Overall, various indicators strongly support a major Iraqi military axis of advance in East Shirqat, with Peshmerga forces forming a supporting axis on the Makhmour front in addition to bolstering various defensive commitments in Kurdish-controlled areas. Additional reporting indicates some forces have begun massing in frontline areas of the Tuz District as another likely axis. As it stands, Iraqi security forces are currently assessed to be massing in areas that they can most readably support logistically and operationally without Kurdish approval. However, it is important to note shifts may be seen to involve another major axis outside Kirkuk City if an agreement is reached.
IS attempts to maintain pressure in the vicinity of Balad:
IS militants continued to maintain pressure in the vicinity of Balad following the uptick in attack events during the previous reporting period. On 7 September, IS attacked Hashd al-Shaabi barracks south of Balad. IS fighters reportedly withdrew after sustaining heavy casualties, with few further details reported. Another possible attack was repelled the following day, with a suicide vest reportedly discovered as militia forces pursued three suspected suicide bombers. On 12 September, a number of IS militants reportedly attacked Hashd al-Shaabi forces in an area south of the Sayid Mohammed bin Ali al-Hadi Shrine. The attack was repelled, with an unspecified number of casualties reported on both sides.
The true scale and impact of many of these attacks is difficult to judge given initially limited reporting, though the bulk of these incidents apparently formed a hit-and-run style attack effort, as opposed to concerted attempts to assault the shrine. Such attacks continue to highlight concerns for the security of symbolic Shi’a religious sites in and around Balad and Samarra, forming an assessed IS effort to tie down large numbers of Hashd al-Shaabi fighters to defensive purposes ahead of the Hawija Operation.
On 9 September, the 110th Hashd al-Shaabi Brigade and 5th Iraqi Army Division Commandos conducted an operation in a set of areas of eastern Diyala. The 110th Hashd al-Shaabi Commander stated a ring and rifle belonging to the former Brigade’s commander, who was killed in action, were found during the operation. The commander noted that the operation lasted for eight hours, with at least 14 IS militants killed. Some reporting indicates at least five suicide attackers detonated during these events, with four Kurdish Hashd al-Shaabi members killed in action amongst other casualties.
The 9 September operation highlights a strong underground IS footprint along the easternmost fringes of the Hamrin Mountains. Operations intended to clear IS militants from this corridor, referred to by IS as their Mountain Governorate, are expected to intensify as a key supporting effort associated with future operations in Hawija. Related priorities are in effect for counterparts in Salah ad Din, with another set of major operations anticipated in a major IS support zone located in the Mutabija area.
Security forces attempt to maintain pressure in western Anbar:
On 5 September, an unnamed source reported a Commando unit of the 7th Iraqi Army Division, supported by tribal fighters and Iraqi Army Aviation, launched an operation outside Anah. The following day, security forces repelled an attack near the Anah – Rawa Intersection, with only IS casualties reported. Overall details related to this routine offensive operation were limited, but were indicative of a fairly deep penetration similar to a previous operation. Such efforts remain important for keeping IS militants off balance, while also developing the capabilities of security forces ahead of more decisive operations in western Anbar.
At least 10 Coalition airstrikes occurred in western Anbar between 9 and 10 September, destroying nine command and control nodes, a vehicle borne IED, a vehicle borne IED facility, an explosives factory, a training camp, and multiple additional targets. The overall intensity of Coalition strikes in western Anbar on those dates notably exceeded that seen in the Hawija pocket. More significantly, each of the nine command and control nodes were targeted in and around Rawa. Rawa and Anah form the first major population centers that are expected to be assaulted once the operation to liberate western Anbar is initiated.
Meanwhile, unnamed sources reported reinforcements from the 7th Iraqi Army Division were staging west of Haditha, and 30th Brigade 8th Iraqi Army Division reportedly arrived at Al Asad Air Base, with both of these actions said to be ahead of upcoming liberation operations. Overall, each of the above officially reported and unconfirmed developments promotes perceptions of intensifying preparations for future operations in western Anbar. However, the specific timing and the scope of these future operations remains somewhat unclear. While possible that operations in western Anbar could develop simultaneously along with Hawija, it is expected that the Hawija Operation will form the main effort for the foreseeable future.
It is also important to note that upticks in strike activity, anti-IS information operations, and limited offensive operations, have been commonly seen historically in order to promote perceptions that major operations in western Anbar are “imminent.” Maintaining pressure on IS militants in western Anbar forms an important approach for partially diverting IS support for the Hawija pocket, related disruptive attack efforts on secondary fronts, as well as diverting IS support from recently initiated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) operations in Deir ez-Zour.
Ongoing lull in major attacks in Baghdad:
The current reporting period formed a rare week with no confirmed vehicle borne IED incidents or other forms of high-impact attacks in and around the capital, and similarly no confirmed reports of significant interdictions including along key approaches in Anbar. As such, this week represented an ongoing lull following the spike in attacks at the end of August, which was intended to detract from the Tal Afar victory. Baghdad security officials predictably praised the effectiveness of the Eid al-Adha security plan as they reduced security postures. As usual however, such lulls tend to be very tentative, with preparations for the next significant series of attacks undoubtedly ongoing.
On 10 September, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi reportedly issued orders to lift all checkpoints at entrances to Karada, and to open all roads leading to the area. These initiatives follow longstanding local criticisms pertaining to significant route restrictions in central Karada, and their highly adverse impact on traffic conditions in this vibrant commercial area. Many of these restrictions stemmed from the 3 July 2016 bombing in central Karada, which resulted in the deaths of over 300 individuals, and decisive security precautions that followed. Security officials have only incrementally reduced travel restrictions in central Karada over time.
IED activity levels also dropped slightly this week in a positive sign, with just 22 confirmed detonations. However, while escaping the international spotlight, deadly shootings were once again prominent in and around the capital. At least 14 individuals were killed and three others wounded over the course of 15 incidents. Of these incidents, 12 affected civilians, two affected security personnel, and a remaining incident affected a government employee. As regularly noted, a diverse range of actors and motivations is possible for these attack events, with many instances involving personal disputes. However, it is very possible IS attack networks in Baghdad are promoting this form of attack in an approach to maintain momentum during this period.
Air Traffic Controllers strike in Basra:
Basra was again, by far, the most active province in southern Iraq, although as ever, the majority of incidents were related to criminality and included a large number of security events and arrest operations. The majority of security breaches in the province were again connected to criminality and included a low yield IED detonation, a concussion grenade attack, a murder, a kidnapping, and two robberies. Only the two explosions, both in close proximity to the homes of local government employees, are unlikely to have been conducted by criminals, with politics a likely motive and Shi’a militia suspected of involvement. Intimidation through the use of low yield IEDs and concussion devices has long been a tactic of the militias in southern Iraq and Baghdad, though most significant in Basra where government employees are regularly targeted.
In possibly the most significant incident of the week, Basra and Baghdad Airport air traffic controllers announced on 12 September that, with effect from 0700 hours, they would conduct a strike until demands were met. This is a long-standing dispute between the air traffic controllers and the Ministry of Transport going back at least as far as May of this year. The controllers demanded a wage increase as well as the payment of their technical allowances, but agreed to postpone any action after a verbal agreement from a representative of the ministry. A similar situation arose towards the end of August, when the controllers outlined their plan for escalating action, culminating with the effective closure of Iraqi airspace to civilian aircraft, though again action was averted by promises from the ministry.
On 11 September, controllers ceased work for a 15-minute period and threatened strike action beginning on 12 September unless the promises made were honored. The strike began at 0700 hours on 12 September. Due to the ongoing nature of the dispute, and presumably the ministry’s intention to ignore the demands, a contingency plan was devised and put into action on the morning of 12 September, whereby military air traffic controllers were drafted in to ensure the airspace remained open. An agreement was reached later on 12 September, with the strike ending as a result, though the potential exists for further strike action to be seen should the conditions of this latest agreement fail to be achieved.
Tribal violence continues within the south:
Once again, overall activity levels in Babel this reporting period remained steady with 10 incidents reported, including the only attacks in southern Iraq likely conducted by IS elements. Hashd al-Shaabi forces continued to be targeted in IED attacks in the Jurf al-Sakhr and Iskandariyah districts in the north of the province. On 6 September, two Hashd al-Shaabi fighters were wounded in a roadside IED attack in the Buhayrat area west of Iskandariyah and two more similar attacks were registered in Jurf al-Sakhr district on 7 and 9 September resulting in a further seven militiamen wounded.
While steady, such attacks will continue to degrade sectarian stability and confidence in security forces within the province, resulting in an ongoing consideration for long-term security assessments. Elsewhere in the province criminality continues to dominate reporting, with numerous arrests for various criminal offences as the routine Friday demonstration took place in Hillah when protesters continued demands for government reform.
On 7 September, heavy fighting involving the use of various weapons broke out between two tribes in the area west of Qurna in northern Basra Province after the members of one tribe accused members of another, of murder conducted during a car-jacking in the area of Huwayr earlier in the day. The fighting forced a number of road closures in the immediate area ensuring the intervention of the Iraqi Army and the police who brought the situation under control. According to official sources, there were no casualties as a result of the fighting. Incidents of tribal fighting have decreased in recent weeks in Basra Province, likely in part due to continued initiatives by the local authorities, Iraqi security forces and local tribal leaders.
There has been speculative reporting in the media, particularly some western media, that persistent tribal violence is likely to increase in the face of the ”disappearance” of the provincial leadership. To recall, the former governor resigned and promptly fled to Iran and the head of the Provincial Council is currently awaiting trial on corruption charges. The worry, according to these reports, is that tribal violence will increasingly encroach into the oilfields, forcing cessation of work and the withdrawal of the major oil companies.
Such a scenario is assessed as unlikely to occur, with the local political leadership issues having been addressed with a new governor elected and the Provincial Council performing as usual. As discussed above, tribal violence currently appears on the wane, although historic trends suggest further flare-ups will inevitably occur. Likewise, here have been no indications oil production will be adversely affected. Iraq’s economy relies almost entirely on the oil industry, with too many influential interested parties and economic interest dependent upon production.
North of Basra, an outbreak of tribal violence occurred in southern Maysan Province. On 6 September, two tribes clashed with light and medium weapons and hand grenades in the area of Kahla, southeast of al-‘Amarah. Although the fighting reportedly continued for several hours, continuing into the 7th, there were no casualties reported. While suggestive of a longstanding dispute, there has been no additional information forthcoming with regards to these clashes.
Uncharacteristically, tribal fighting was also reported this week in northern Wasit Province. Although there are frequent unconfirmed reports of skirmishes in the area of the Iranian border, they are rarely openly reported due in large part to the relatively isolated location. Late on 10 September, one individual was killed and a second wounded when fighting broke out between members of two tribes in the Badra district north of al-Kut, before the Iraqi security forces restored calm. During the evening of 11 September, fighting was again reported in the Badra area, with unconfirmed reports of several civilian casualties.
Although there are international companies operating in northern Wasit in the Badra area, the location remains relatively lawless as tribal loyalties dominate. Traditionally, this area has thrived on smuggling operations across the porous Iraq/Iran border and the various tribes acknowledging each other’s’ primacy in certain areas. Fighting has previously occurred when members of one tribe have wandered into another’s “territory,” creating one of the more likely reasons for violence to have flared again. In the current economic climate, and given restrictions placed on certain goods, smuggling has once again become a lucrative business with competition becoming understandably frenetic.
- Syrian regime dropped sarin on rebel-held town in April, UN confirms– Guardian
- A boost for Assad as the Syrian army makes gains against ISIS in eastern Syria– AP
- Israeli airstrike targets Syrian military site as tensions rise– WP
- S. charges former Turkish minister with Iran sanctions evasion– Reuters
- Russia says airstrike kills 4 IS leaders in Syria– AP
- S. requires enhanced screening of cargo from Turkey– Reuters
- Coalition Partner Force Mounts ISIS Clearing Operation in Eastern Syria– DoD
- Syria army, U.S.-backed forces converge on Islamic State in separate offensives– Reuters
- S. Navy Denies Iran’s Claim Says It Warned Off Warship In Gulf Of Oman– RFE/RL
- Germany says 2 more citizens detained in Turkey– AP
- Syria war: ‘Russian air strikes’ kill dozens in Deir al-Zour– BBC
- Turkey set to buy Russian missile defence system– Al Jazeera
- Report: Trump To Weigh More Aggressive U.S. Strategy On Iran– Reuters