Succumbing to U.S., Iranian, and internal pressure, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki announced he would cede power in a televised address Thursday night. Maliki said that he was withdrawing his candidacy and endorsing Haider al-Abadi, in order "to ease the movement of the political process and the formation of the new government." U.S. and U.N. officials lauded the move opening the way for the formation of a new government in Iraq. Secretary of State John Kerry said the United States is ready to work with a new Iraqi government to counter the threat posed by Islamic State militants. EU ministers are holding an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to discuss supplying arms to Kurdish forces battling militants led by the Islamic State in northern Iraq. Prime Minister David Cameron said Britain is prepared to join France and the United States in sending weapons to the Kurdish pesh merga.
Lebanon has charged 43 Syrians, 10 of whom are currently in custody, with belonging to armed terrorist groups and seeking to establish an Islamist caliphate. The arrest of one of the Syrians in custody, Emad Gomaa, who had been a commander with al-Nusra Front but joined the Islamic State, sparked five days of fighting in the Lebanese town of Arsal, near the border with Syria. Meanwhile, facing increasing threats from militant groups, Druze politician Walid Jumblatt has called on Christian leaders in Lebanon to agree on a nominee for president. The post has remained vacant since Michel Suleiman's term ended in May.
- A five-day Gaza cease-fire has continued to hold as protests and violence increase in Jerusalem meanwhile Israel is opposing the United Nations' appointee to head an investigation into possible war crimes.
- The United Nations is set to vote on a draft resolution Friday targeting the Islamic State and al Qaeda linked groups in Iraq and Syria punishing the recruitment and financing of foreign fighters.
- At least three people were killed Thursday as Egyptian security forces broke up demonstrations marking the one-year anniversary of the killings of hundreds protesters supporting ousted President Mohamed Morsi.
Arguments and Analysis
'Gaza demilitarization won't solve Israeli-Palestinian conflict' (Daniel Levy, Al Monitor)
"The 'reconstruction for demilitarization' formula proposed by numerous Israeli officials and commentators is an illegitimate equation that continues to impose collective punishment on Gaza's civilian population. The Gaza Strip is in a dire state, facing severe risk of being uninhabitable by 2020 according to a UN report - and that was before this latest devastation that has destroyed some 16,000 homes and much critical infrastructure. Making the realization of Gaza population's most basic humanitarian needs - the rebuilding of homes, water and electricity networks, hospitals and schools - conditional on Hamas being disarmed should be condemned as a shockingly indecent and inhuman proposition. Instead, Israeli, Egyptian and Western governments appear to be endorsing it.
Third, pursuing demilitarization is more likely to make the security situation worse, rather than stabilizing it and building on a cease-fire. Everyone knows the demand can't be realized, yet failure to achieve it will be cited as Israel's reason for keeping the siege in place. During previous periods of security quiet (January 2009-November 2012 and December 2012-July 2014) ordinary Gazans - let alone Hamas - were given very little incentive to maintain quiet. Quite the contrary. What for Israel were periods of quiet and normalcy, were for Gazans periods of not only blockade but also international indifference to their plight. Over the nine months of the most recent round of US-sponsored peace talks, for instance, Gaza was entirely ignored. Should Gaza remain under siege, a new round of violence is guaranteed."
'This is Not a Horror Movie. This Is a Public Hospital in Syria' (Zaher Sahloul, New Republic)
"According to Doctors Without Borders and other human rights organizations, the Syrian regime and some of the military groups have systematically targeted health care professionals, facilities, and ambulances. Physicians for Human Rights said government forces were responsible for 90 percent of the confirmed 150 attacks on 124 facilities between March 2011 and March 2014, which have devastated the country's health care system. Of the more than 460 civilian health professionals killed across Syria, at least 157 were doctors, followed by 94 nurses, 84 medics, and 45 pharmacists. Approximately 41 percent of the deaths occurred during shelling and bombings, 31 percent were the result of shootings, and 13 percent were due to torture."
'Isis: Armed and dangerous' (Financial Times)
"The al-Qaeda precursor of Isis self-destructed in Iraq after prioritising the slaughter of Shia and brutalising the Sunni tribes into revolt. Isis could yet over-reach, uniting regional actors against it. But it is moving with irresistible speed - much faster than deliberations in Baghdad to regroup behind a more inclusive government, or dithering in Washington about how and how hard to hit it. The Islamic State's chilling timing, as the heart of the Middle East goes up in flames, will make it hard to dislodge."
-- Mary Casey
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