After several days of fierce clashes, militants believed to be from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) have taken control of most of Iraq's second largest city, Mosul. Hundreds of fighters destroyed several police stations and seized the Nineveh province's government headquarters. Iraq's parliamentary speaker, Osama Nujaifi, said that Iraqi forces had "abandoned their posts" and that "terrorists" are in control of Mosul. Nujaifi called for troop reinforcements. According to Nujaifi, the militants had additionally seized the airport and the jails, reportedly releasing about 1,400 prisoners. Militants have launched attacks in Nineveh and four other provinces in recent days. Iraq's deputy migration and displacement minister stated that fighting in Mosul had already forced over 4,800 families to flee their homes. Meanwhile, the Turkish government is investigating reports that 28 Turkish truck drivers have been abducted in Nineveh province while transporting diesel to Mosul.
Fighting between Islamist brigades, including al-Nusra Front, and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Syria's Deir al-Zour province has killed 634 people since April 30, according to the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The six-week ISIL offensive has killed an estimated 39 civilians and driven 130,000 people from their homes. ISIL is battling for control of eastern Syrian and western Iraq, and has taken control of most of the northeast bank of the Euphrates River from close to the Turkish border to around 200 miles southeast to the town of Busayra.
- Egypt has arrested seven men after a video appeared to show a mob sexually assaulting a 19-year-old woman in Tahrir Square during celebrations marking President Sisi's inauguration.
- Libyan Prime Minister Ahmed Maitiq said he would step down after the Supreme Court ruled his election unconstitutional.
- During a two-day visit by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to Ankara, Iran and Turkey signed 10 energy and trade deals and agreed to cooperate on regional security issues.
- Members of Israel's Knesset are voting on finalists Reuven Rivlin and Meir Sheetrit in the second round of presidential elections to determine a successor to Shimon Peres.
Arguments and Analysis
'The Latest Iranian Distractions' (Norma Claire Moruzzi, MERIP)
"While senior Iranian and US officials are planning bilateral talks over Iran's nuclear research program, the Iranian and world media are distracted by other issues: young women who post images of themselves without hejab on Facebook, and a video of six well-heeled youths dancing to Pharrell Williams' song 'Happy.' The gyrating youngsters were arrested and compelled to issue an apology on state television for what authorities said was a 'vulgar clip' that had 'hurt public chastity.' Meanwhile, an anonymous Facebook page popped up demanding that the women who had photographed themselves with uncovered heads be lashed and imprisoned. The woman who runs the 'My Stealthy Freedoms' Iranian-women-without-hejab Facebook project, journalist Masih Alinejad, has been subjected to relentless blackballing in the state-run media.
The confluence of events is no accident. While parts of the Iranian government seem to be inching closer to resolving the long-standing tensions with the United States, other parts of the regime are energetically targeting symbolic representatives of 'Western' cultural corruption. How better to sabotage political rapprochement than by confirming everyone's worst fear -- that the Iranian state is a rogue actor rather than a rational one?"
'Iraqi election results expose dramatic shifts in power' (Kirk H. Sowell, The National)
"Iraq's parliamentary elections, held at the end of April, exhibited a tectonic shift in the demographic balance of power and sectarian polarisation.
Due to a low Sunni Arab turnout in mixed provinces, Iraq's parliament has an outright Shia Islamist majority, having increased to 181 seats out of 328 for 2014. Whereas 2010 saw a high-water mark for the Sunni Arab-secular Shia coalition, winning 101 seats - 91 of those under the Iraqiya coalition headed by former (secular Shia) prime minister Iyad Allawi - those two groups have been reduced to just 76. The Kurdish parties managed to add five seats, increasing to 62.
The results left Sunni Arab factions both weaker and divided. Speaker Osama Al-Nujayfi's Mutahidun won 27 seats, a clear Sunni plurality, but a pyrrhic victory since his factions held 45 seats in the outgoing parliament."
-- Mary Casey
HAIDAR HAMDANI/AFP/Getty Images