MESOP SHORT CUTS SYRIA / KURDISTAN : Assad Says Syria is Informed About U.S.-Led Airstrikes

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said third parties, including Iraq, are conveying messages to the Syrian government about U.S-led coalition airstrikes against Islamic State militants. In an interview with the BBC, Assad mentioned that there is no dialogue, and the messages are general, not tactical. Assad also denied the Syrian army had used barrel bombs, which have been criticized by human rights groups for killing thousands of civilians. The United States pushed for the removal of Assad after the Syrian conflict broke out in 2011, though officials say their priority is now fighting Islamic State militants. The Obama administration is expected to ask Congress by Wednesday for a formal Authorization to Use Military Force in the campaign against Islamic State fighters. On Tuesday, the United Arab Emirates reported its forces launched a series of airstrikes from a Jordanian air base, which were the first since the UAE suspended strikes against Islamic State militants in December. Meanwhile, Kurdish forces in Iraq, supported by coalition airstrikes, retook three key corridors north of Mosul from Islamic State fighters.