U.S. President Barack Obama requested $500 million from Congress to train and equip "moderate" and "appropriately vetted" members of the Syrian opposition as concerns grow over the spillover of the Syrian conflict into Iraq. According to Obama, arming the opposition would "help defend the Syrian people, stabilize areas under opposition control, facilitate the provision of essential services, counter terrorist threats, and promote conditions for a negotiated settlement." Previous U.S. assistance to the Syrian rebels has been focused on non-lethal aid. Though, Obama suggested a plan to increase help for the opposition in May during a speech at the West Point military academy. The request for funding has come as the head of the opposition government, Ahmad Tohme, disbanded the Supreme Military Council over allegations of corruption within the ranks of the Western and Arab supported Free Syrian Army.
Iraq's top Shiite cleric Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani called on political blocs to reach a deal on the country's next prime minister before the new parliament convenes on July 1. Prominent Shiite leaders are considering alternatives to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki due to growing concerns that he cannot lead an inclusive government. Iraqi forces have launched an attack on the city of Tikrit attempting to regain control from ISIL-led militants. Helicopters fired on a university campus, where one was reportedly downed after coming under fire. Human Rights Watch reported it has evidence from satellite images and photos from militants that ISIL fighters executed up to 190 captive soldiers after seizing Tikrit on June 11. Meanwhile, U.S. officials are continuing to evaluate intelligence on the ISIL offensive in Iraq from up to 35 surveillance planes and drones. Noting that it could take weeks to get a detailed picture of the situation, officials said that U.S. airstrikes do not appear imminent.
- Israel has named two members of Hamas as suspects in the alleged kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers.
- Libya's new parliament will convene in the eastern city of Benghazi in efforts to rebuild state authority where institutions have largely collapsed under increasing insecurity.
- Saudi Arabian authorities have reported over 100 more MERS cases dating back to February after analyzing hospital records.
- The Turkish government has submitted a reform package to parliament to revive stalled peace negotiations with Kurdish militants ahead of the August presidential election.
Arguments and Analysis
"The deliberate targeting of water supply networks and related structures is now a daily occurrence in the conflict. The water pumping station in Al-Khafsah, Aleppo stopped working on 10 May, cutting off water supply to half of the city. It is unclear who was responsible; both the regime and opposition forces blame each other, but unsurprisingly in a city home to almost three million people the incident caused panic and chaos. Some people even resorted to drinking from puddles in the streets.
Attacks and counter-attacks have destroyed several waste water treatment and sewage facilities in the country. Damage to the sewage system in Aleppo, for example, has resulted in the contamination of drinking water. Warnings to citizens to boil all tap water were issued in the city this month. But, with the rising prices of black-market fuel, boiled water is itself a luxury that most of the besieged population cannot afford. Disinfection of the water supply system now needs a two-day fresh water flush, during which time the water supply would be inaccessible - making it a an unpalatable action, given the current water shortage."
'Maliki has only himself to blame for Iraq's crisis' (Zaid Al-Ali, The Washington Post)
"The second issue is that Iraq's system of government is parliamentary and not presidential. Personal popularity of specific politicians is in fact totally irrelevant to the question of who should become prime minister. The only legitimate criterion in parliamentary systems is in fact the ability to obtain parliament's confidence. In other words, the parliament and the entire political system must have sufficient trust in the prime minister to allow him to negotiate agreements and offer concessions. Without that reservoir of trust, a parliamentary system cannot function.
Based on that criterion (which is the only one that is applicable), Maliki is perhaps the worst candidate possible to occupy the prime minister's position, precisely because he will not be able to successfully negotiate any further agreements or convince anyone of his good faith. He only has himself to blame: In November 2010, Maliki entered into the Irbil Agreement, which allowed him to start a new term in office in exchange for a number of concessions and reforms, none of which he delivered. His unending series of broken promises have transformed him into the lamest of ducks, unable to convince anyone of his good intentions, even when he genuinely does promise reform. The hostility that he has engendered from those who do not support him will make it impossible for him to lead an effective administration."
-- Mary Casey
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