The Middle East Channel

Maliki Loses Support as U.S. Deploys Advisors to Northern Iraq

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is becoming increasing isolated losing the support of Iran, militia and army commanders, and politicians, including members of his own party. On Tuesday, Iran endorsed Iraqi President Fouad Massoum's nominee for prime minister, Haider al-Abadi. Meanwhile, the United States has sent an additional 130 military advisors to assist in humanitarian relief operations in northern Iraq where militants led by the Islamic State have seized large portions of territory. U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel indicated the military may expand the mission, however he maintained that U.S. troops were not being deployed to fight asserting that this "is not a combat-boots-on-the-ground operation." Additionally, France has announced it will supply arms to Kurdish forces battling Islamic State fighters. Britain said its focus remains on humanitarian aid drops, though it plans to also send a "small number" of helicopters and will transport military equipment provided by other countries to the Kurdish forces.

Syria

Islamic State fighters have seized several towns and villages in Syria's northern province of Aleppo province. The towns, including Turkmen Bareh and Akhtarin, 30 miles northeast of Aleppo, had been under the control of opposition forces. According to the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the gains have opened the way for the group to advance toward the west. Additionally, clashes were reported between Islamic State militants and Syrian government forces near a military airport in Raqqa over the government's last held position. Meanwhile, government forces have surrounded the city of Aleppo on three sides forcing rebel fighters to prepare for a siege on the country's largest city.  

Headlines

  • Up to six people were killed in Gaza as a bomb disposal team attempted to dismantle an Israeli missile meanwhile Palestinian negotiators are considering an Egyptian truce proposal as a 72-hour cease-fire is set to expire.
  • The Egyptian government justified blocking entry to Human Rights Watch staff and accused the group of violating the law and Egypt's sovereignty and trying to imfringe upon the independence of the judiciary.
  • Fighting erupted Tuesday night between Houthi rebels and fighters loyal to the Islamist Islah party killing an estimated 15 people in Yemen's northeastern al-Jouf province.
  • A Bahrain court has sentenced 14 Shiites to life in prison over the death of a police officer during a July 2013 anti-regime protest.

Arguments and Analysis

'A Big Mistake: A Rush for Kurdistan's Independence' (Matthew M. Reed, The National Interest)

"The Kurds are naturally excited by the prospect of independence. A long history of marginalization and victimization makes their case for statehood especially moving. But there can be no independent Kurdistan without steady revenue. Selling oil in spite of Baghdad is already proving to be extremely difficult. Should Erbil commit to a nasty divorce, what was difficult might become impossible."

'The Amputation of Egypt's Islamist Political Arm' (Tarek Radwan, Atlantic Council)

"As the court extinguishes the final vestige of the Muslim Brotherhood's official political influence, Egyptian authorities will sooner or later have to answer the question: will repressive stability bring about the security and prosperity that Sisi recently promised? While some critics might say that Egypt has suffered a blow to political plurality, the court's decision to dissolve the FJP represents more of a housekeeping directive-one that formally implements and provides legal cover for a preexisting policy that aims to eliminate dissent (some may even believe that the judiciary had already disbanded the party). But as avenues to express opposing political views dwindle, fewer peaceful options remain and contribute to a growing radicalization of the marginalized. Echoes of jihadist voices that ridicule the Muslim Brotherhood for trying to pursue democratic means, claiming that only violence can achieve their desired goals, begin to ring louder. With no guidance from a decapitated movement, hatred from a bitter majority, and brutality from a determined police force, rage begins to build. While impossible to link the Muslim Brotherhood directly to extremist violence, such rage has undoubtedly burst forth in militant attacks."

-- Mary Casey

AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images

The Middle East Channel

U.S. Pushes for New Iraqi Government as Maliki Refuses to Step Down

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has refused to step down after the new president, Fouad Massoum, nominated Deputy Speaker of Parliament Haider al-Abadi, a member of Maliki's Dawa party, as his replacement. Maliki called Abadi's nomination a violation of the constitution and said, "My nomination is still valid and we will correct this mistake for sure." U.S. President Barack Obama praised Abadi's nomination saying it was a "promising step forward" and urged him to form an inclusive cabinet. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said that once Iraq starts to build a new government, the United States will consider providing additional military, economic, and political assistance to the country. Abadi has 30 days to form a government. Meanwhile, the Iraqi military is conducting relief efforts in the Sinjar mountains, dropping supplies and carrying-out small scale evacuations, though thousands of members of the minority Yazidi community who fled an Islamic State offensive remain stranded, starving, and dehydrated. Britain has additionally conducted aid drops, though several members of parliament are calling for Britain to join the United States in launching airstrikes against Islamic State militants.

Syria-Lebanon

Lebanese General Jean Kahwaji said that radical Islamist militants who attacked the town of Arsal near the border with Syria in early August still pose a "great threat" to Lebanon. Kahwaji said the fighters, who included Islamic State militants, were working to "cause Sunni-Shitte strife" and had planned to advance into nearby Shiite villages. Meanwhile, activists reported Islamic State forces regained control of three villages near the border with Iraq after a tribal uprising expelled the militants earlier this month.

Headlines

Arguments and Analysis

'Fighting the Islamic State in Iraq' (Julien Barnes-Dacey, European Council on Foreign Relations)

"For the moment, however, the prospect of significant political reform in Baghdad remain slim at best, despite the concerted pressure of Iraq's religious establishment, Iran and Western powers. Across eight years of rule Maliki has cemented control of the state's security institutions around his office and with his bloc having won the most seats at the last elections he is now refusing to leave, a position that is now allegedly being backed by Iraq's federal court.

In this context not only do US military strikes risk little impact in combatting IS - Maliki's ongoing stay in power will ensure that Sunnis do not switch sides - but they actually risk making the situation worse if viewed as US complicity with Maliki, particularly if they take the pressure off him to stand down, further fuelling IS' mobilising drive. It is for this reason that President Obama has to date committed to very narrow objectives and limited military action, wanting to keep Maliki's feet close to the fire. The longer the political crisis endures over a new government, however, and with IS' advance continuing unabated, the greater the pressure Obama will face to escalate US military action regardless of the status of the prime ministership. Already the US is directly arming Kurdish forces, which could itself further complicate deal-making in Baghdad and US ambitions to preserve the political unity of the Iraqi state."

'Erdogan is the victor but he is not yet almighty' (Sinan Ulgen, Financial Times)

"But this set-up is only temporary. A more permanent configuration will emerge after the 2015 parliamentary elections. Mr Erdogan's ultimate objective is for his Justice and Development (AK) party to win a constitutional majority at these critical polls.

Then a presidential system can be introduced and he can become the omnipotent executive president. As a result, in his first year as president, he will focus much more on domestic politics with the aim of sustaining and even increasing the AK party's popularity. He will have to accomplish a delicate balancing act to overcome the current constitutional restrictions on the bipartisanship of the presidency. The constitution, for instance, requires the president-elect to resign from his party to ensure impartiality."

'Would arming Syria's rebels have stopped the Islamic State?' (Marc Lynch, The Washington Post)

"Former secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton made news this weekend by suggesting that the rise of the Islamic State might have been prevented had the Obama administration moved to more aggressively arm Syrian rebels in 2012. Variants of this narrative have been repeated so often by so many different people in so many venues that it's easy to forget how implausible this policy option really was."

-- Mary Casey

AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images