Fighters led by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) have moved southeast seizing the towns of Saadiyah and Jalawla in Diyala province, close to the Iraqi capital of Baghdad. Anticipating the approach of militants, Iraq's interior ministry spokesman said it is intensifying the deployment of forces and increasing intelligence efforts in Baghdad. U.S. President Barack Obama said he was considering "all options" to make sure "these jihadists are not getting a permanent foothold in either Iraq or Syria." The president has not ruled out airstrikes, though White House spokesman Jay Carney said the United States is not considering ground troops. According to Iranian security officials, Iran deployed two Revolutionary Guards units Wednesday to protect Baghdad, Karbala, and Najaf. On Thursday, the Iraqi government launched airstrikes in and around Mosul and said it sent elite military units to "cleanse" the city of Islamist extremists. Additionally, thousands of Shiite "volunteers" reportedly are mobilizing to protect Baghdad and other Shiite regions. The United Nations refugee agency said there have been 800,000 people displaced by fighting in Iraq since the beginning of the year, with 300,000 just this week.
While the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is making gains in Iraq, its branch in Syria appears to be holding back on fighting, particularly in territory held in the east near the Iraqi border, while fighters bring back weapons seized in Iraq. The head of the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Rami Abdulrahman, said ISIS may have negotiated a cease-fire with rebel brigades in Syria, though clashes continued in parts of Deir al-Zour and Aleppo.
- An Egyptian court has cleared Habib el-Adly, interior minister under Mubarak, of corruption charges, though he will remain in prison facing a retrial over the killings of protesters in 2012.
- Tunisian police killed two militants from the Islamist group Ansar al-Sharia in clashes Thursday night in the city of Jendouba near the Algerian border.
- Iran released a study this week estimating that, with its current infrastructure, it would take its scientists and engineers years to build a nuclear weapon.
Arguments and Analysis
'How Nouri al-Maliki's policies are dooming Iraq' (Nabeel Khoury, The Cairo Review of Global Affairs)
"One thing is clear: U.S. goals in Iraq have not been accomplished, and what accomplishments were achieved prior to the departure of troops in 2011 have by now unraveled. From the lofty nation-building goals of 2003, a constitution and a functioning parliamentary system are indeed still in place. National reconciliation, however, has lagged behind and may now be on the verge of collapsing. Economic recovery remains mired in disagreements over the export of oil policies of the central government and endemic corruption of state officials at all levels. As for security, and despite the millions spent on training and equipping Iraqi troops, the performance of the state has been deficient throughout the country. The exception is the northern Kurdish region, where central government forces were shunned in favor of a locally grown and controlled security apparatus. Even before this latest assault on Mosul and its surroundings, Iraqi civilian deaths from sectarian strife over the past year exceeded the number killed during the height of the civil war in 2006 to 2007. Economically, politically and militarily, the Iraqi nation remains a work-in-progress, with the word progress used only idiomatically."
'Egypt: The Closing of the Political Space' (Marina Ottaway, Wilson Center)
"After the turmoil of the past three years, which devastated the economy and worsened the country's chronic socioeconomic problems, Egypt needs a period of political stability in which the focus will shift from political struggles to formulating policies to start addressing problems. Political instability has sapped investor confidence and scared away tourists, drying up a major source of foreign currency earnings. Slow economic growth has exacerbated the problems created by the skewed income distribution, which worsened during the Mubarak years. A bankrupt government-the budget deficit for next year could reach 14 percent if no measures are taken-has little choice but to reduce subsidies on energy and food, in turn increasing discontent. Electricity production is insufficient to meet demand because of shortage of fuel for power generation, leading to constant blackouts. Most Egyptians, in other words, face outright catastrophe or endless aggravation in their daily life. The generous support provided and pledged to post-Morsi Egypt by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates will keep Egypt afloat for the time being, but the problems are just too large and complex for this aid to be more than a palliative.
Egypt needs stability to address these problems. Closing the political space, as the regime is trying to do, is unlikely to bring either stability or a solution to these festering problems."
-- Mary Casey
AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images