After meeting in Baghdad with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry traveled north to the Kurdish regional capital of Erbil to urge Kurdish leaders to join a new unity government. In an interview Monday, Kurdish President Masoud Barzani suggested the autonomous region would seek formal independence from Iraq, noting, "Iraq is obviously falling apart." After militants led by fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) seized Mosul earlier in June, Kurdish security forces took control over the oil rich city of Kirkuk, which the Kurds consider their historic capital. On Monday, militants claimed to have overtaken Iraq's largest oil refinery in Baiji. Local tribal leaders said they had negotiated a deal for the surrender of the remaining Iraqi forces at the facility. However, government officials said troop reinforcements had blocked the assault. According to the United Nations, violence has killed at least 1,075 people, primarily civilians, in Iraq in June.
The director of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, Ahmet Uzumcu, has reported the remainder of Syria's chemical weapons materials have been removed for destruction. According to Uzumcu, the final portion, about eight percent, of the Syrian regime's declared stockpile was loaded onto ships in the port of Latakia Monday. The materials will be delivered to the U.S. ship Cape Ray and commercial facilities for destruction. However, the OPCW did not declare Syria free of chemical weapons, saying verification work had not been completed. Additionally, the organization said Syrian officials had not yet destroyed several facilities used to produce and mix munitions.
- Egyptian President Sisi said he would not "interfere" with judicial verdicts following international condemnation over lengthy sentences issued to three Al Jazeera journalists.
- A suicide car bombing killed a security officer and wounded an estimated 25 people outside a café near an army checkpoint in the Lebanese capital of Beirut late Monday.
Arguments and Analysis
'Beware Libya's 'Fair Dictator'' (Ibrahim Sharqieh, The New York Times)
"Regardless of General Hifter's motives, Libya needs an inclusive national dialogue, not the formation of an additional militia or a coup.
General Hifter's aligning with militias is likely to trigger the formation of other alliances among Libya's 250,000 militants and deepen Libya's divisions, possibly even pushing the country into outright civil war. Only around 30,000 fighters fought against Colonel Qaddafi's army; the rest took up arms later.
Over the past two years many of them have profited from - and developed an interest in maintaining - the chaos that engulfs the country. Warlords, Islamist groups and other committed revolutionaries who truly fought against the Qaddafi government will not surrender to General Hifter's movement - and that poses a grave threat to Libya's prospects for stability."
'Oil and the Iraqi Civil War: How Security Dynamics May Affect Oil Production' (Kenneth M. Pollack, The Brookings Institution)
"We should always remember that war is highly unpredictable, and it is exceptionally difficult to assess a dynamic balance of combat forces with such limited information. Nevertheless, the evidence we have suggests that it is more likely that the Iraqi civil war will settle into a vicious stalemate roughly along current lines for the foreseeable future than it is that the Sunni militant fighters will be able to swiftly overrun Baghdad and drive south into Iraq's main oil fields."
-- Mary Casey
BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images