Iraqi officials said that ISIS used chlorine gas (AP) in its advances north of Baghdad last month, after about forty Iraqi security forces showed symptoms of chlorine gas poisoning. Similar reports have emerged from Kobani in recent weeks. The United States is conducting an investigation to confirm (NYT) the latest reports. In September, a chemical weapons watchdog noted signs of the use of chlorine gas in Syria, but U.S. intelligence attributed the attacks to Bashar al-Assad's regime. Meanwhile, Anbar province is under siege in northern Iraq, and U.S. military officials said Friday that an Iraqi army ground offensive is still months away (Reuters).
"The Islamic State would appear to be using chemical weapons for very much the same reasons the regime used them. They've seen how successful the use of chemical weapons has been in Syria. The regime used chemicals because they were about to be overrun. […] I personally believe ISIS will use chemical weapons more often when and if they are defeated in the rest of Iraq and Syria," Hamish de Bretton Gordon, a chemical weapons expert, told Syria Deeply.
"This is not a call for deeper U.S. involvement in Iraq and Syria. But if degrade-and-destroy is really the goal, I don't see how deeper involvement will be avoided. This has morass written all over it. And morasses, as Obama knows, are dumb," writes Eugene Robinson in the Washington Post.
"The problem is that ISIS can readily replace the fighters it loses in Kobani, and heavy weapons are not essential to its guerrilla style of warfare. Even as ISIS is losing a little ground at Kobani, it is gaining strength elsewhere," writes CFR's Max Boot.
Highlights From 2013–2014
Learn more about CFR's mission and its work over the past year in the 2014 Annual Report (free PDF). The Annual Report spotlights new initiatives, high-profile events, and authoritative scholarship from CFR experts, and includes a message from CFR President Richard N. Haass.
Countries Join Asian Infrastructure Bank
Twenty-one countries joined (Nikkei Asian Review) the Chinese-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) on Friday. The AIIB, set to open within the next year, will be headquartered in Beijing with an initial capital investment of $50 billion.
The AIIB is an important opportunity not only for spurring infrastructure investment in Asia but also for ensuring that investment incorporates robust environmental standards, writes CFR's Elizabeth C. Economy.
SOUTH KOREA: U.S. and South Korean officials postponed the transfer of control over South Korean troops to South Korea (Yonhap) in the event of a war. The transfer had been set for late 2015, but according to military sources, South Korea must first invest billions to upgrade its defense capabilities before it can take control of its wartime forces.
CFR's Vaccine-Preventable Outbreaks Map "demonstrates that the resurgence of polio in Pakistan is strongly correlated with the rising number of attacks on healthcare workers there," says CFR's Laurie Garrett.
AFGHANISTAN: A Russian national detained in Afghanistan will be transferred to the United States (Radio Free Europe) to face terrorism charges. A veteran of the Soviet war in Afghanistan, he defected to the Taliban and has been held at a detention facility on a U.S. airbase since 2009.
MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA
Tunisian Clashes Ahead of Elections
Tunisian forces raided a suspected terrorist hideout (Guardian) on Friday, killing six, after a police officer died in fire exchanged with armed militants. The latest clashes raise concerns ahead of important parliamentary elections on Sunday.
EU leaders reached a new deal on climate and energy (EU Observer) on Thursday. The deal, which sets targets to cut greenhouse gas emissions, boost renewable energy, increase energy savings, and develop energy infrastructure, will be subject to review after the 2015 UN Climate Change Summit in Paris. Meanwhile, tough talks are set for Friday as Eurozone leaders meet to examine 2015 budgets.
KOSOVO: Foreign Minister Enver Hoxhaj made a landmark trip to Serbia (Deutsche Welle) on Thursday, the first high-level visit since Kosovo became independent in 2008. Although Serbia still does not recognize Kosovo as a state, the EU has played a central role in facilitating dialogue to normalize relations.
New York Physician Tests Positive for Ebola
A New York City emergency room doctor tested positive (Al Jazeera) for Ebola on Thursday, in the fourth diagnosis of the virus in the United States. New York politicians said that the city is well prepared to treat and prevent the spread of Ebola.
MEXICO: The governor of the southern Mexican state of Guerrero resigned amid mounting pressure (LAHT) on Thursday over the deaths of six and the disappearance of forty-three students in clashes with local police last month. Meanwhile, Jose Luis Abarca, mayor of the town of Iguala, who was charged with ordering police attacks on the protesting students there, has not been seen since September and is considered a fugitive (BBC).