North Korea: Military crews fired three short range rockets or missiles into the Sea of Japan today. News outlets speculated they might have been new cruise missiles.
Comment: It is normal for North Korea to test rockets and missiles, especially new weapons. South Korean press reported this was the tenth episode of firings this year, which is much higher than in most years.
The North recently has chosen to use rocket and missiles launches to display its displeasure with South Korea or the US or both. It said so in propaganda statements. Thus, today's launches could be the start of another complaint over South Korean or US training.
Afghanistan: A spokesman of the Ministry of National Defense said that fighting in Sangin District of Helmand Province has nearly ended, but that operations continue in Nawzad, Musa Qala and Kajaki districts. He admitted that Taliban fighters still control a region in Sangin.
Comment: Open sources contain few details of the fighting, but it is an important test of the capabilities of Afghan forces. They could use air support, which was essential to the safety of US and NATO forces. Air power is the one capability of which the Taliban remain afraid and for which they are defenseless.
Iraq: Security. Lieutenant General Ata said today that Iraqi security forces cleansed the University of Tikrit from the terrorist Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) elements and raised the Iraqi flag on the university building. He said that this took place following a heli-borne assault by Iraqi special forces. He said that scores of terrorists were killed in this operation. At least one Iraqi helicopter crashed during the assault.
ISIL claimed to have taken control of major natural gas fields in northern Iraq today and of another town southwest of Baghdad.
A suicide bomber wearing an explosive belt killed at least seven and injured 36 others in a Baghdad neighborhood.
Comment: The counter-attack at Tikrit is the most salient of recent signs of an emerging counter-offensive. Iraqi forces are taking advantage of ISIL's over-extension which degrades its ability to defend territory beyond Mosul. ISIL might have lost its opportunity to execute a terror attack in Baghdad.
Politics. The new Iraqi parliament will convene its first session on 1 July.
NEW TIME Today, at 9:30 AM PT: Get the Market Movements in Advance; Williams Edge Webinar for January 26th, 2014 | John Ransom