By Matthew Nizich

Yemen

U.S. Doubled Fuel Support For Saudi Bombing Campaign In Yemen After Deadly Strike On Funeral
July 13, 2017
In the months following the Saudi Arabian bombing of a funeral, killing 130 people, the United States doubled the amount of fuel it provided to coalition jets. An amendment that would have provided insight into the usage of military technology in foreign wars failed to pass on July 12th, limiting the ability for congress to note what targets U.S. military technology is being used against in Yemen.  Due to lack of oversight and accountability in how US assets are used, Congress remains largely in the dark about the impact US fuel has had on the war. This information has not been made public by the Pentagon thus far.

U.N. slams warring parties in Yemen for fueling cholera outbreak
July 12, 2017
Since the end of April, World Health Organization said there have been more than 320,000 suspected cases of cholera, and 1,742 deaths across more than 90 percent of the Arabian Peninsula country. According to U.N aid Chief Stephen O’Brien – “This cholera scandal is entirely man-made by the conflicting parties and those beyond Yemen’s borders who are leading, supplying, fighting and perpetuating the fear and the fighting”. O’Brien has called on the 15 member council to pressure actors outside of Yemen to end the conflict so they can provide aid to those who are currently unreachable.

Saudi Arabia

Anti-Qatar bloc meets US envoy, but no breakthrough in sight
July 12, 2017
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met with the King of Saudi Arabia as well as officials from Arab countries opposing Qatar, but was unable to make any traction in reducing the pressure being applied to Qatar.  Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain severed relations with Qatar and cut air, sea and land routes with it over a month ago, accusing Doha of supporting extremist groups. Qatar denies the allegations.

Saudi demands for restoring relations with Qatar not viable, says US
July 10, 2017
The Senior Adviser to U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says that “Saudi Arabia’s pre-conditions for restoring diplomatic and economic relations with Qatar are not realistic, even if some elements could form the basis for an eventual deal”. Secretary Tillerson plans on spending most of the week in the Gulf to mediate the dispute, though there have been mixed messages coming from President Trump and the State & Defense departments.


US Defense Spending

US House passes sweeping 2018 defense policy bill, 344-81
July 14, 2017
The U.S. House passed a $696.5 billion defense policy bill in a bipartisan vote on Friday, but it exceeds statutory budget caps by $72 bn. Democrats are calling for parity in the defense and nondefense sides of the budget, and will have some negotiating power as the vote to ease budget caps requires 60 votes.  

War authorization push hits snag in House
July 16, 2017

Rep. Barbara Lee’s AUMF amendment is in danger of being removed from the House Appropriations defense spending bill, as the amendment was blocked from debate for the fiscal year 2018 National Defense Authorization Act, due to the language being too harsh. Lee responded that “Eliminating this amendment behind closed doors would be undemocratic and further undermine our constitutional obligation on matters of war and peace.”

Iraq and Afghanistan

‘We lost our houses, our cars, our men’: call to protect Mosul civilians
July 10, 2017
Following the proclaimed victory over ISIS in Mosul by Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, human rights organizations and aid workers are calling on the Iraqi government to take steps to protect the remaining civilians and safeguard human rights while they attempt to retake the last sections of the city. The war has displaced hundreds of thousands of civilians, and they will continue to live as refugees until the city has been rebuilt. “While there may be an end to military conflict in Mosul, there is still no end in sight to the humanitarian crisis,” the UN High Commission for Refugees said in a statement.

US kills leader of ISIS in Afghanistan
July 14, 2017
The Pentagon said Friday that US forces have killed Abu Sayed, the leader of ISIS-Khorasan, the terror group’s Afghanistan affiliate. Secretary of Defense James Mattis told reporters on Friday that the death of a leader like Sayed “sets them back for a day a week, a month, it’s about who it is and what kind of people are below them. It is obviously a victory on our side in terms of setting them back, it’s the right direction.”April’s raid also resulted in the deaths of several other high ranking leaders of ISIS-K, the terror group’s regional branch, and 35 ISIS fighters. Two American soldiers died in the attack, perhaps from friendly fire, military officials said at the time.

Mattis on new Afghanistan strategy: ‘We are pretty close’
July 14, 2017
Defense Secretary James Mattis is currently evaluating different strategies for a road ahead in Afghanistan, which could encompass anything from a troop surge to a heavier reliance on Pakistan for support. Discussion has circulated inside the Pentagon for months about the need to add more trainers and advisers to support the soldiers training in Afghanistan. But two officials says it’s possible that the US might decide not to add more troops at this time because there are voices within the administration that feel extra troops won’t improve the ability of Afghan forces to challenge the Taliban and fight ISIS. There has been mention of the possibility of using contractors for a “variety of unspecified missions in Afghanistan”.

Syria

US-Russia ceasefire holding in southwest Syria, say rebel sources
July 9, 2017
A US-Russia-brokered ceasefire for southwest Syria is still in place hours after it took effect on Sunday, according to a monitor and two rebel officials. This is seen as an encouraging development, considering the last few attempts at ceasefires crumbled within hours of their starting time. The deal will still require work, as they do not yet know who will monitor or enforce the ceasefire; yet this clears the way for sorely needed humanitarian aid and supplies.

Netanyahu: Israel Opposes Cease-fire Deal Reached by U.S. and Russia in Southern Syria
July 16, 2017
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told French President Emmanuel Macron that Israel opposes the U.S.-Russia brokered ceasefire in Syria, due to it perpetuating the Iranian presence in the country. Iran is seeking to not only send advisers to parts of Israel, but additional military forces and the establishment of an air & naval base as well. According to a senior Israeli official, “ (the deal) doesn’t take almost any of Israel’s security interests and it creates a disturbing reality in southern Syria. The agreement doesn’t include a single explicit word about Iran, Hezbollah or the Shi’ite militias in Syria.”