The Middle East Channel

Rebel Factions Continue Fight Against ISIL in Northern Syria

Fighting between rival rebel factions in northern Syria has continued for a fourth day with major clashes in Raqqa. On Monday, nationalist and fundamentalist factions battling Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) forces retook churches and towns and reportedly released about 50 prisoners. Additionally, the fighters attacked the al Qaeda linked group overnight at its headquarters in Raqqa, which it has controlled for months and, according to some activists, largely evicted ISIL from the city. In the Jabal al-Zawiya region, rebels captured and killed 34 foreign fighters, mostly from ISIL, according to the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The recent clashes have come as ISIL has overtaken parts of the cities of Fallujah and Ramadi in Iraq's Anbar province, neighboring Syria. Meanwhile, Iran has rejected a suggestion by the United States that it contribute to a Syrian peace conference "from the sidelines" claiming that would not respect the country's "honor." Iranian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham said, "Iran has always announced its readiness to participate [in the Syria talks] without preconditions."


  • The United States is speeding up military equipment deliveries to Iraq, including missiles and surveillance drones, to help the government fight Islamist militants in Anbar province.
  • The Turkish government removed about 350 police officers in Ankara from their posts overnight in the largest purge since a December corruption investigation.
  • Kuwait's prime minister has reshuffled his cabinet, replacing seven members and appointing Salafi MP Ali Saleh al-Omair as oil minister.
  • Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu reportedly rejected a framework for an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement pushed by U.S. Secretary of State Kerry, who left the region Monday after four days of talks. 

Arguments and Analysis

'Don't Create a New Al Qaeda' (Daniel Benjamin and Steven Simon, New York Times)

"Western governments must recognize the real possibility that a new cycle of conflict could produce more terrorists who wish to target Americans and the West. Rightly or wrongly, Islamists view the status quo as supported -- even engineered -- by the United States. It doesn't help when American lawmakers like Michele Bachmann visit Egypt to praise the military regime and condemn the Brotherhood, as she did recently.

America has no good options at present. There's no upside to a confrontation with the military -- only the prospect of losing more sway. An effective policy response will require close cooperation with the Egyptian security services, who caused the problem to begin with. And the need for American military access to the Suez Canal and continued Egyptian support for the peace treaty with Israel also preclude simply walking away from Egypt. The United States will be in a situation much like it was with the Mubarak regime for three decades, working closely on counterterrorism while pressing, however forlornly, for liberalization. It must find new inducements to nudge Egypt's rulers to open up based on the country's economic needs. But this is hard, especially in light of what Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates will supply.

There is a small chance that, together with the West, other powers like Russia and China, which both fear Islamist extremism, can be persuaded to send Egypt a similar message. We should try to forge a common approach."

'Just Give Us Our Freedom' (Munib al Masri, Haaretz)

"It was early 1983. I told Rabin over the phone that if he wanted an end to the wars between our peoples, he would have to sit down and negotiate with Arafat and the PLO. 'No way,' he declared. 'I will never sit down with him.' For Rabin at that time, neither Arafat nor the PLO would ever be partners for peace. I told him he was wrong. Ten years later, when Arafat introduced me in person to Prime Minister Rabin during a conference in Casablanca, Morocco after the signing of the Oslo Accords in the White House Rose Garden, Rabin smiled wryly and said to me in a low voice, 'Just don't say I told you so.'

Many other Israeli leaders and citizens have gone through the same process of change, realizing in the end that the Israeli and Palestinian leaderships have no choice but to come to a fair compromise that will allow our peoples to share a peaceful, prosperous future. I have no doubt that the present Israeli government will likewise come to see in our president, Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) and his government reliable partners in peace.

My optimism is based on the simple fact that Abu Mazen, like Arafat before him, has already made the most painful decision any national leader can be asked to make by stating unambiguously his willingness to accept 22 percent of historic Palestine as the price of peace. Moreover, the Palestinian leadership has embraced the Arab Peace Initiative because it regards the two-state solution to be the beginning of a new, open, collaborative relationship with Israel that will bring incalculable benefits to our peoples and the region."

--Mary Casey & Joshua Haber



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