U.S. pushing fight vs. ISIS
As the U.S. mission expands, so do its efforts to arm and train Iraqi forces to combat the Islamic State group, with large-scale operations continuing to recapture territory from the Sunni militants. Hundreds of American advisers are working at the Camp Taji military base north of Baghdad to train Iraqi forces on issues like weaponry and better coordination and integration of ground action with coalition airstrikes. The goal, U.S. military officials say, is to teach the different divisions of the Iraqi military how to harmonize the operations of its various fighting units. In November, President Barack Obama authorized the deployment of up to 1,500 more American troops to bolster Iraqi forces.
SAUDI ARABIAU.S. reopens embassy
The U.S. Embassy in Riyadh and two other U.S. diplomatic missions resumed consular services yesterday after being closed all last week over security concerns. The embassy said in a statement, however, that U.S. citizens should "continue to be aware of their surroundings and take extra precautions when traveling throughout the country." Diplomatic facilities in Riyadh, Jiddah and Dhahran were also closed last week after the embassy warned citizens that individuals associated with a terrorist organization could be targeting Westerners working for oil companies in the Eastern Province.
SPAIN2 upstart parties gain seats
Two fledgling parties made significant inroads in their first regional bids for power in Andalusia's election yesterday, suggesting they could threaten the nation's two-party system in votes later this year. The left-wing party Podemos, with links to Greece's anti-austerity Syriza, came third, winning 15 seats in the 109-seat Andalusia parliament. "The political map in Andalusia and Spain has changed," Podemos candidate Teresa Rodriguez said. The centrist Ciudadanos finished fourth with nine seats. With 96 percent of votes counted, the big loser was the Popular Party of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, which went from 50 seats won in 2012 to 33.