Caliphates on the rise...
The Islamic State started last week off by sending a “second message to America” in beheading another U.S. journalist, Steven Sotloff.
That message has, perhaps, now been received. After some hesitation, the Obama administration is reacting in wake of the growing IS threat in Iraq and Syria, announcing it will broaden its campaign against the jihadist militant group. While still not committing troops on the ground, airstrikes will continue and increase -- this time with the intention of targeting IS militants (previous airstrikes were confined to providing humanitarian aid or protecting Iraqi minorities and Americans in the area).
As well as airstrikes, plans for the next campaign phase will include a partnership with the Iraqi government, which finally ended political deadlock on Tuesday by approving a mixed parliament that includes both Sunni and Kurdish deputy prime ministers. The partnership would involve an intensified U.S. effort to train and equip the Iraqi military and Kurdish fighters.
As for Islamic State’s strong presence in Syria, who is still embattled in civil war, Western leaders are unsure whether airstrikes should commence. Yet one thing does seem clear - the campaign may be a lengthy one, which is significant given Obama had thought the U.S. may be on track to leave the Middle East. British Prime Minister David Cameron, the leading ally to U.S. in the campaign, told reporters at the recent NATO summit, “This will take time, patience and resolve.”
Yet with all eyes on the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the threat and violence of Boko Haram in Nigeria should not be overshadowed.
The militant Islamic group, who was responsible for the abduction of more than 200 girls from a boarding school in April, has reportedly captured the north-eastern town of Michika, expanding their territorial control outside of the occupied Borno state. While these place names will likely go in one ear and out the other, just note this – like IS, Boko Haram has eyes on the prize of a caliphate (an Islamic state led by a religious leader).
Although lacking the social media savviness of IS to publicise their exploits, Boko Haram is using similar brutal and violent tactics to gain territory. The United Nations has released numbers saying more than 700,000 people have been displaced because of the ongoing conflict, all in an area dangerously close to neighbouring countries Cameroon, Chad and Niger.
[Charred Ukranian army vehicle // Image cred: Business Insider]
The Ukraine crisis continues: The ceasefire established before the weekend between the Ukraine government and pro-rebel Russians came to a swift end following reports of one death, and artillery arson, during a clash between forces. The UN said the death toll of the conflict has now risen above 3000, including those victims of the MH17 plane crash.
India and Pakistan flood: Nearly a week of monsoon rains have left nearly 300 people dead as extensive flooding hits the two countries. Numbers are still expected to rise amid rescue efforts for those displaced or stranded.
Kate’s pregnant: Yes, the royal couple has another one on the way. Perhaps baby no. 2 will also grow up and have a Plunket playdate in Wellington with some Kiwi toddlers. The news seemed of such great importance that John Key tweeted on behalf of all New Zealanders: “Fabulous news for William and Kate. Excited Kiwis send congratulations from New Zealand.”
California looks to ban plastic bags: Environmentalists can rejoice if Gov. Jerry Brown signs the bill that would see a statewide ban of single-use plastic bags. Having already passed the Senate, the law would mean supermarkets and convenience stores can charge customers to instead use paper or reusable bags.