Iran missile test, IS convoy attacked, Turkish bomb blasts, Syrian rebel training…

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Iran tests long-range missile in defiance of UN resolution

This past Sunday, Iran announced that it had successfully test-fired a long-range ballistic missile.  While no information was given in regards to its range or operational capabilities, Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan claimed that it is the first locally developed missile that can be controlled until it reaches its target.  While the terms of the P5+1 nuclear deal do not bar Iran from developing such weapons, UN Security Council resolution 2231 forbids them from doing so.  The White House has stated that it is analyzing the information collected from the test and will refer the matter to the Security Council if a violation is found.

Seeking to increase their strategic deterrence capability, Iran will very likely continue to develop and test missiles that have the potential to reach Israel.  Although the military advances trumpeted by the IRGC cannot be independently verified, it is worth remembering that they claim to have developed a missile with a range of 1,250 miles, which covers Israel and US military installations in the region.

Iraqi Air Force attacks IS convoy believed to have al-Baghdadi present

In the latest of a series of attempts to capture and/or kill IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the Iraqi Air Force is claiming an attack on a convoy headed to Kerabla, a border town in Western Iraq’s Anbar province, where he was believed to be traveling.  The airstrike reportedly killed eight IS commanders, with IS denying that al-Baghdadi was harmed in any way. An anonymous US official in Baghdad also stated there was no indication that the Islamic State’s Caliph was hurt.

Prior to this operation, it had been reported that al-Baghdadi was seriously injured in an US airstrike in March 18, where he was allegedly incapacitated due to spinal damage. The Islamic State has stressed that even if al-Baghdadi is captured or killed, the fight will go on.

Turkey conducting investigation as Islamic State blamed for Ankara blasts

The double bombing on Saturday that claimed over 85 victims at a Turk-Kurdish peace really in Ankara bears a strong resemblance to previous Islamic State attacks.  Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has named the jihadis the primary suspects. However, some analysts believe there is little incentive for IS to conduct this attack, as Turkey’s vast borders with Syria are the main entry point for the foreign fighters the IS needs to replenish its jihadi ranks.

Instead, suspicion falls upon Turkish president Erdogan and his Islamist AK party which stands to benefit the most.  By promising swift retribution, Erdogan hopes to lock in more voters for the upcoming run-off Parliament elections, while targeting his primary opposition, the union of anti-Islamist and Kurdish parties that blocked the AKP’s efforts at parliamentary majority in the most recent election.

Obama administration blames Congress for Syrian rebel training failure

The perceived failure of the Syrian rebel training program, which ultimately inserted 60 fighters into Syria at a cost of $ 590 million, was on stark display during President Obama’s interview on 60 Minutes. Seeking to put as much distance between himself and the project as possible, Obama said that from the start he didn’t think it would work.  Defense Undersecretary for Policy Christine Wormuth also cast blame at Congress, saying that the way they wrote the bill only authorized the recruitment effort to go towards those who wanted to fight IS exclusively.  Missing from Wormuth’s statement is the fact that this program is the administration’s policy, and thus the training program’s authorization reflected that.

On the ground, Kurdish rebel group YPG has announced an alliance with Sunni Arab groups located near the IS stronghold and de facto capital of Raqqa.  The US was quick to announce weapons delivery to the Arab forces.  In the past, YPG has been successful in countering IS advances in northern Syria, but will not receive weapons directly owing to Turkish concerns over Kurdish groups too close to their border.

Other stories we’re following:

Russian intervention divides Gulf alliance against Assad

US begins removing Patriot missiles from Turkey

IS seen growing in Afghanistan, draws closer to Kabul

IS believed to have captured US missiles in Iraq

Nusra Front calls for revenge attacks in Russia

Turkey warns US and Russia it will not accept Kurdish militias near its borders

IS kills top Iranian commander on Syria

Al-Qaeda training camps raided by US and Afghan forces

Boko Haram suspected of twin suicide bombings in Cameroon

Uganda announces troop exit from South Sudan

For the first time, China arrests hackers after US request

US Northern Command: North Korea capable of striking US with long-range missile

Navy third fleet seeks to ensure freedom of navigation in South China Sea

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