An estimated 500,000 people have fled the Iraqi city of Mosul after militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) overran the city. Fighters seized control of government buildings, prisons, banks, and the airport. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has urged parliament to declare a state of emergency calling on "all international organizations to support Iraq and its stance in fighting terrorism." The United States said the situation in Iraq remains "extremely serious" and called on the Iraqi government to "step up to the plate" to address political issues and instability. On Wednesday, ISIL and allied fighters pushed south into Baiji, which holds Iraq's largest oil refinery, expanding control from Nineveh province into Salahadin province.
A new coalition of Islamic rebel factions, the "Operations Room for the People of the Levant," has announced a new offensive against ISIL. On Monday, al-Nusra Front, Islamic Front, and Kurdish fighters launched attacks on the ISIL-held town of al-Bab. Meanwhile, in an interview with Lebanon's al-Akhbar, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said that since the beginning of the crisis, Syrians had trusted the state, and that his re-election was proof that this support remains. Syria has begun releasing prisoners under a general amnesty declared by Assad. The amnesty should cover prisoners detained under anti-terrorism legislation and foreign fighters, as long as they turn themselves in within a month. However, it is unclear how many prisoners will be released.
- An Egyptian court has sentenced prominent pro-democracy activist Alaa Abdel Fattah and 24 others to 15 years in prison for violating a protest law.
- Israel's Knesset members have elected veteran Likud Party lawmaker Reuven Rivlin to succeed President Shimon Peres when his term ends in July.
- Former Libyan General Khalifa Heftar's forces have launched airstrikes on three areas of Benghazi after reports that he had agreed to cease-fire through national elections.
Arguments and Analysis
"It only took five days for the Sunni Muslim extremist organization known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, to occupy the city of Mosul, capital of the province of Ninawa and one of the biggest cities in Iraq, around 395 km north of Baghdad. The reason that the group, known as Daash in Arabic and formerly affiliated with Al Qaeda, were able to do this was because of the mass withdrawal of the Iraqi army and local security forces. These forces, loyal to the Shiite Muslim-led government in Baghdad, have been controlling parts of multi-ethnic Ninawa province for the past six years. Other parts of Ninawa are under the military control of forces from neighbouring Iraqi Kurdistan, which operates partially independently of Baghdad."
'Syria's Very Local Regional Conflict' (Yezid Sayigh, Carnegie Middle East Center)
"But this is no ordinary proxy conflict. The hollowing out of the Syrian state, significant demographic shifts resulting from the displacement of some 9 million Syrians, and the rise of subnational identities as a remarkably diverse society fragments have turned Syria into a kaleidoscope of local conflicts and miniature civil wars. New political actors, social trends, and economic dynamics continue to appear on the ground and evolve constantly. In many cases they are increasingly integrated into crossborder networks, communities, and economies in ways that may be difficult to reverse.
The highly localized nature of the Syrian conflict suggests that no external actor can fully grasp, let alone control, the intricacy and fluidity of complex dynamics at the grassroots level. But given the Assad regime's dependence for its survival both on its external allies and their proxies, as well as on the diverse array of local actors it has brought into being since the start of the conflict, it has little hope of regaining meaningful sovereignty. Indeed, no matter who eventually 'wins' the war, the scale of destruction, the loss of economic opportunity, and the degree of capital flight Syria has experienced mean that the country will remain completely dependent on external assistance and subject to foreign influence for decades to come."
'The Huthis: From Saada to Sanaa' (International Crisis Group)
"The power balance in Yemen's north is shifting. In early 2014, Zaydi Shiite fighters, known as the Huthis or Ansar Allah (Partisans of God), won a series of battles, in effect consolidating their control over Saada governorate, on the border of Saudi Arabia, and expanding southward to the gates of the capital, Sanaa. Now a patchwork of shaky ceasefires is in place, albeit battered by bouts of violence. Tensions are high between Huthis and their various opponents - the Ahmar family, Major General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar (no relation to the Ahmar family) and his military allies, Salafi fighters, and the Sunni Islamist party, Islah, and their affiliated tribes. Fear is growing that an escalation could draw the state into a prolonged conflict. To head off a conflagration, the parties must turn the inchoate understandings reached during the country's National Dialogue Conference (NDC) into an implementable peace plan."
-- Mary Casey
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