On the night of 15 May 2015, a special operations task force led by the elite US Army’s Delta Force, launched a raid into eastern Syria targeting a high level Islamic State official. The official, Fathi ben Awn ben Jildi Murad al-Tunisi, or better known by his nom guerre “Abu Sayyaf” was killed during a firefight with the Delta Force operatives. The significance of this raid is that Abu Sayyaf was in charge of the oil and gas financing that had largely funded the operations of ISIS in both Iraq and Syria. While Abu Sayyaf was killed during the raid, his wife, whose nom guerre is Umm Sayyaf, was captured. She was transported to Iraq where she is currently being interrogated as US officials believe she and her husband possess information regarding the whereabouts of American and Western hostages held by the Islamic State. While the death of Abu Sayyaf deals a major blow to the political infrastructure of the Islamic State, there is still a long road ahead before victory can be achieved.
The situation in Iraq remains volatile, with the al-Anbar province city of Ramadi falling to the Islamic State in recent days. The Iraqi Army has struggled in its efforts against the Islamic State since last summer’s blitzkrieg offensive against cities throughout northern and western Iraq. This spring the Iraqi Army launched an offensive against the Islamic State in Tikrit, utilizing American airpower and Shiite and Iranian militias to push the ISIS’s fighters out, and after a month of heavy fighting were able to retake the city. With the loss of Ramadi, the Iraqi government may reassess their operational plans for retaking key cities in northern Iraq, such as Mosul, as the Islamic State continues to push closer and closer to the Iraqi capital of Baghdad. With continued struggles on the battlefield, the capabilities of the Iraqi Army are coming into question and the need for outside forces, such as American troops, may be required to oust the Islamic State.
In the previous SITREP we covered the situation in Yemen. The situation there remains unstable, although no Arab League ground forces have been committed to conducting operations. Iranian warships are now escorting transport vessels to the region, where the US and Arab League have established a blockade. Iranian warships have been detaining transport vessels in the Straits of Hormuz, citing that the companies owe fines for damages inflicted on Iranian oil rigs in the region. The US Navy has deployed vessels to the region to support transports moving through the straits and the Persian Gulf. With the Iranian nuclear talks still at a critical stage, it will be a very interesting development in how the United States and Iran maneuver through these unpredictable times and come to an agreement that both sides can agree to.