Another week – another defeat for Islamic State – this time in the Syrian city of Deir el Zour. The Syrian government says it has driven the group from the last major urban area it controlled in the country.
They did it with the help of Russian bombers and Iranian forces and are now advancing on ISIL positions near the Iraqi border. Strategically this is important because Iraqi forces say they have begun their own ‘final offensive’ against ISIL.
The region each side of the border is what Islamic State titled the ‘Euphrates Province’ of what it called its Caliphate. Now it’s being squeezed as both Syrian and Iraqi forces advance towards the Albu Kamal border crossing. ISIL has now lost almost all of the territory it once held in Iraq.
As its ‘Caliphate’ crumbles so too it seems, for the moment, do the dreams of Catalan independence. A very different scenario of course, but one dealt a series of blows this week. Madrid imposed direct rule on the region after it declared independence and having had his bluff called the former Catalan President, Carles Puidgemont, ran away. Facing the prospect of an arrest warrant for sedition he showed up in Brussels with other former Cabinet members. Seeking asylum? No – just staying there until he is sure he can get what he calls a fair trial in Spain. Already in court were several other ministers from the now dissolved Catalan parliament. Charged with rebellion, sedition, and misuse of public funds. Most were held in custody in case they fled the country. This led to demonstrations on Thursday in Barcelona in support of what were called ‘political prisoners. A lot now depends on the results of snap election called for Catalonia next month.
Terror again returned to the streets of New York. 29-year-old Sayfullo Saipov killed 8 people and injured 12 when he drove a truck along a cycle path. Saipov, originally from Uzbekistan, said he was inspired by Islamic State. Thousands of jihadist images and videos were found on his phone.
This week also saw the 100th anniversary of Britain’s Balfour Declaration – the document which helped create the policies leading to the State of Israel. Prime Minister Theresa May held a dinner to mark the anniversary – the Israeli Prime Minister attended, the leader of Britain’s opposition Labour party, Jeremy Corbyn, declined. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson celebrated the event, but pointedly pointed out that the passage in the declaration that nothing should be done to harm the civil and religious rights of non-Jewish communities in Palestine had not been fulfilled… demonstrations against the anniversary and what it led to were held in many cities around the world.
Another week in the ongoing crisis that is Korea. U.S BI supersonic bombers from Guam flew over the Korean peninsula. Fighter jets from South Korea and Japan accompanied them. It’s happened before – but this time it happened just a few days before the Asian tour of President Trump. North Korea reacted by claiming this was a trial run for a surprise nuclear attack. In fact, it said “The gangster-like US imperialists are ceaselessly resorting to their frantic nuclear threat and blackmail to stifle the DPRK with nukes at any cost,” Speaking of nukes – some analysts are warning that Pyongyang may explode another nuclear test weapon to coincide with Mr. Trump’s visit to the region. By the way, you might remember that last week we talked about a third US aircraft carrier arriving in the Pacific? Well this week the first 2 of 12 US F-35 Fighter jets arrived in Japan to begin a 6-month deployment…
Finally, the idea of preemptive strikes seems to be fashionable… someone deactivated President Trump’s Twitter account this week – for 11 short minutes any of his 41 million followers, clicking on ‘at the real Donald Trump, brought only ‘sorry that page doesn’t exist’. Twitter said a customer service employee on their last day in the job was responsible for the deed. However, Mr Trump is now once more technologically enabled with the ability to tweet threats to destroy North Korea.