The Middle East Channel

New clashes in Iraq seem to be part of an al Qaeda campaign

Clashes between militants and Iraqi forces killed 19 people, including 11 policemen, and downed an army helicopter. The fighting reportedly began late Tuesday with an attack on a security checkpoint near Hadid, in the predominantly Sunni province of Diyala, and continued through Thursday when militants opened fire on a surveillance helicopter. Blaer Hassan, a Diyala security official, said, "This is a setback because we are worried about the capacity of Iraqi forces in the face of the growing strength of al Qaeda." While the identities of the militants are unknown, the assault appeared to be part of an al Qaeda campaign to reclaim territory lost in the U.S. 2003 invasion. Last week, Iraqi al-Qaeda leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi released a statement online about the strategy, called "Breaking the Walls." A day after the announcement al Qaeda's Iraqi affiliate, Islamic State of Iraq, unleashed a wave of attacks that killed up to 116 people and wounded hundreds.

Syria

The Syrian regime has renewed attacks on parts of Damascus as clashes continue in several districts of Aleppo. Assad's forces appear to be preparing to invade the city. The United States expressed fears of the possibility of mass casualties with a regime invasion of Aleppo. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said there is "concern that we will see a massacre in Aleppo, and that's what the regime appears to be lining up for." She maintained that there would be no U.S. military intervention saying they didn't want to pour "more fuel onto the fire." However, Reuters learned of a presidential directive that would authorize greater covert assistance for the opposition, but still would not supply them with arms. It is not clear if President Barack Obama has signed the document. Meanwhile, Member of Parliament Iklhas Badawi, elected in May to represent Aleppo in what was considered by many to be a sham election, has defected and reportedly crossed into Turkey. She said she defected "from this tyrannical regime ... because of the repression and savage torture against a nation demanding the minimum of rights." If confirmed, Badawi would be the first parliamentarian to defect.

Headlines  

  • Israel's Supreme Court has extended the deadline for the eviction of Migron, the largest unsanctioned West Bank settlement, over protest concerns during Ramadan and because temporary housing is not completed.
  • Hamas's leader in the Gaza Strip, Ismail Haniya, has met with Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi days after Egypt eased visa requirements for Gazans under 40 years old.

Arguments & Analysis

A vacuum looms' (The Economist)

"Governments in the West and in the Middle East fear the prospect of a power vacuum if Mr Assad were to go soon. Opponents, including the Syrian National Council, a wobbly coalition of Mr Assad's foes, are trying to draw up a plan for a post-Assad Syria. But Western diplomats are taking the council less seriously, since it lacks credibility in Syria, and are shifting their focus to the FSA and internal groups. The idea of a unity government has yet to gain ground; Mr Assad's opponents are split over whether to seek out any figures from the present government. The French are urging a role for Manas Tlass, a Sunni general and childhood friend of Mr Assad who recently defected. Foreign diplomats and FSA commanders are frantically trying to work out how the security forces might be rearranged in the event of the regime's collapse. The UN and the Arab League are flailing. In other words, hand-wringing and head-scratching all round."

Lara Friedman Responds to Dani Dayan' (Lara Friedman, Open Zion)

"Finally, Dayan's over-arching thesis in this op-ed is that "...our four-decade-long settlement endeavor is both [moral and wise]." The truth is that some of the settlers and their rabbis have twisted the whole concept of morality in order to justify an ideology that values land over human life, over security, and over peace. This is an ideology that can justify stealing landdestroying olive trees, and abusing and even killing children of the "enemy", all for the goal of destroying the modern state of Israel-a state that is an imperfect but nonetheless vibrant democracy, with the rule of law and a healthy civil society-and replacing it with the a religious-fascist state characterized by the tyranny of a Jewish minority. In short, the settlement enterprise is patently immoral and spectacularly unwise, from the point of view of anyone who cares about Israel and its survival as a democracy and a Jewish state."

--By Jennifer Parker and Mary Casey 

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