A wave of attacks in Iraq Wednesday morning killed nearly 30 people and injured hundreds of people in the bloodiest day in two weeks. Two car bombs exploded in the ethnically mixed city of Kirkuk, about 180 miles north of Baghdad, near the local headquarters of the Kurdistan Democratic Party. An estimated 19 people were killed and over 200 injured. Also in Kirkuk, a suicide bomber hit a Kurdish security facility killing at least four people. The assault appeared to target a local office of Masoud Bazani, president of Iraq's semiautonomous Kurdish region. Another suicide car bombing hit Tuz Khurmatu, south of Kirkuk, near the headquarters of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani. The bombing killed two people and wounded 26 others. Sectarian tensions have recently increased in the disputed region after Iraqi government troops confronted Kurdish militias as Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has sought to consolidate security. The attacks in Kirkuk came a day after Sunni member of parliament, Efan al-Essawi, was killed by a suicide bomber in Anbar Province. The country has recently seen a rise in mass anti-Maliki demonstrations accusing the prime minister of marginalizing Sunnis.
Syrian government forces have stepped up an offensive in the northern city of Aleppo a day after at least two deadly explosions hit Aleppo University as students were taking exams. The Syrian regime and opposition forces have traded blame for the attacks, which killed more than 80 people and wounded over 160. The source of the attacks as well as the target remains unclear. The northern part of the campus is surround by government military intelligence and security buildings. Control in Aleppo is essentially split between government and opposition forces, but the university's campus has largely been spared from the fierce fighting that has engulfed Syria's largest city for months. According to Syria's state news agency, SANA, the "Armed Forces carried out several special operations against mercenary terrorists in Aleppo and its countryside, inflicting heavy losses." SANA added that government forces also killed militants in the al-Laramon area of Aleppo from where it claimed two rockets were fired on Tuesday at the university. Opposition activists and fighters claim Aleppo University was hit by government airstrikes.
- Islamist militants linked to al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb have reportedly killed one foreigner and abducted six others in an attack on the In Amenas gas field in eastern Algeria.
- Turkish fighter jets bombed more than 50 Kurdish militant targets in northern Iraq on Tuesday in the largest aerial campaign in years, threatening peace talks between the government and PKK leader Ocalan.
Arguments and Analysis
Lost Tribes (Daniel Levy, Foreign Policy)
"Alongside Bennett's rapid rise, Jan. 22 is best understood as a "Tribes of Israel" election -- taking identity politics to a new level. Floating votes may exist within the tribes of Israel, but movement between tribes, or political blocs, is almost unheard of. Israelis seem to relate their political choices almost exclusively to embedded social codes rather than contesting policies.
Indeed, with all the personal rivalries, splits, mergers, and divisions within the four major tribes, it's remarkable how little this campaign has been about the serious issues facing Israel. There is precious little substantive policy debate, even by Israeli and general Western standards. Iran, for instance, has barely featured at all in this campaign season. The race has also not really been about the Palestinians. Bennett may have produced a plan for annexing 60 percent of the occupied West Bank and formalizing an apartheid system, but in election rallies, ads, and interviews, his party emphasizes social issues, military service, and his version of Jewish values, de-emphasizing not only his annexation plan but also the settler radicalism of his list."
How Serious Is the Threat to Jordanian King Abdullah's Rule? (Daniel Wagner & Giorgio Cafiero, INEGMA)
"Calls for change have returned to Jordan, with large crowds demanding social, economic and political reform and objecting to the rising cost of living, high levels of unemployment, corruption and autocracy. As the Arab Awakening enters its third year, the resilience of King Abdullah's regime is being tested as never before. Its ability to successfully exploit division among the political opposition, continue to receive economic assistance from the Gulf Cooperation Council and sell its reform agenda to the Jordanian public will ultimately determine its fate.
The Jordanian government has tolerated a "loyal opposition" for decades. The Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood - founded in 1945 by merchants committed to waging Jihad against Zionists in the British Mandate of Palestine - has for many years constituted the center of this opposition. The Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood's political wing -- the Islamic Action Front (IAF) -- has called for nullification of the peace treaty with Israel and transforming Jordan into a constitutional monarchy. Historically, the movement has worked within the system and cooperated with the monarch on a host of issues, such as oppressing communists and promoting literacy campaigns. However the opposition has not previously staged protests deviating from a well-defined script. The size of such demonstrations have rarely exceeded several hundred, and no direct challenges to the King were made."
--By Jennifer Parker and Mary Casey
AFP/Getty Images/MARWAN IBRAHIM