Dateline: Iraq – After more than three months of intense fighting to take back the eastern bank of the city, Iraqi forces now aim to drive Islamic State fighters out of western Mosul within a
month. The situation looks grim for the several thousand ISIS fighters still in Mosul. Iraqi forces have already cut off the main road between Mosul and the ISIS stronghold of Tal Afar, effectively cutting off the jihadists from reinforcements. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State, abandoned his commanders in the field, leaving them to fight off the 100,000 Iraqi troops working to reclaim what is left of Mosul, according to Reuters.
Between Islamic State’s losses in Syria and the threat of losing a major stronghold in Iraq, we may soon see a return to primarily insurgent tactics by ISIS as they lose valuable land. Territory is what has allowed ISIS to legitimize itself as a “caliphate,” leading to a status as a quasi-conventional force. With the increased pressure on their holdings on the ground, ISIS may soon shift focus away from holding land and to increasing acts of terror.
Dateline: Japan – With the threat of North Korean missiles and a destabilized region, Japanese lawmakers have begun lobbying for the ability to strike preemptively against North Korean missile facilities. The issue, naturally, is an incredibly sensitive one in Japan. The post-WWII constitution is one of pacifism, and although Japanese lawmakers have pushed those boundaries in the past, the idea of conducting preeminent strikes has always faced stiff resistance, according to Reuters.
Japan now looks to acquire the assets needed to increase their defensive posture. “It is time we acquired the capability,” said Hiroshi Imazu, chairman of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s policy council on security. “I don’t know whether that would be with ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, or even the F-35, but without a deterrence North Korea will see us as weak.”
The more Japan increases their defensive capabilities, the less they will rely on the United States and other allies for assistance. Such a change would fundamentally alter U.S. military posturing in the area, and potentially change the diplomatic climate of the region.
Dateline: Iran – Iran has successfully test-fired a naval ballistic missile earlier this week. The weapon, called the Hormuz 2, would be capable of engaging seaborne targets at ranges of up to one hundred eighty miles, Reuters reports. U.S. naval vessels operate in the waters near Iran, and it is not without tensions. On Wednesday, Iranian state media claimed that a recent encounter where Iranian fast-attack boats came within six hundred yards of the USNS Invincible was the Invincible’s fault, despite U.S. assertions to the contrary. In January, four Iranian fast-attack boats closed in at high speed to a U.S. destroyer, which fired three warning shots after the Iranian vessels refused to acknowledge repeated warnings.
The test-firing of the naval missile adds to the already tenuous situation near the Strait of Hormuz, in which twenty percent of the world’s oil passes through. A significant trade route, Iranian control of the strait would potentially allow them free reign over the global economy. The recent missile launch only heightens already growing concerns.