The Middle East Channel

Kurdish and Iraqi Forces Push to Retake Mosul Dam

Kurdish and Iraqi forces, backed by U.S. airstrikes, launched a counter-offensive Sunday night against Islamic State fighters who have held the strategic Mosul dam in northern Iraq. An Iraqi military spokesman said the dam, which is the largest in Iraq, had been "fully cleansed." However, Kurdish officials said pesh merga forces had not taken complete control of the dam and journalists reported continued fighting. The United States resumed targeted airstrikes on Friday. President Barack Obama said the operations would be "limited in their scope and duration as necessary to support the Iraqi forces." Britain has also increased its military involvement in Iraq in a campaign that Secretary of Defense Michael Fallon stated, "is not simply a humanitarian mission" and could last "weeks and months." Prime Minister David Cameron wrote that Britain could not "turn a blind eye" and must use all its resources to achieve "true security." However, he said Britain would not send ground forces.

Syria

Syrian pro-government forces launched about 26 airstrikes Sunday targeting Islamic State positions in the eastern Syrian city of Raqqa. According to the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the attacks killed at least 31 Islamic State fighters, though a resident said only about 30 percent of the strikes hit territory held by militants, with the remainder hitting civilian areas. Meanwhile, the Observatory claimed the Islamic State has executed 700 members of the al-Sheitaat tribe in Syria's eastern Deir al-Zour province over the past two weeks.

Headlines

  • Palestinian and Israeli officials have resumed indirect talks in Cairo indicating a desire for an extension of a five-day cease-fire meanwhile, Israeli forces destroyed the West Bank homes of two suspects in the killings of three Israeli teens.
  • Britain has delayed the release of a report, which officials say found that the Muslim Brotherhood should not be designated a terrorist organization, due to concerns over anticipated reactions.
  • Unidentified war planes were seen flying over the Libyan capital of Tripoli Monday and residents reported several explosions as rival militias continued fighting in parts of the city.
  • A strong earthquake struck a remote region near Iran's border with Iraq Monday injuring at least 60 people and causing significant damage.
  • Gunmen attacked the motorcade of a Saudi prince in Paris late Sunday stealing around $330,000 and "sensitive" embassy documents.

Arguments and Analysis

'The Massacre One Year Later' (Ahmad Shokr, MERIP)

"The assault on Raba'a was indeed a climax, but of a different sort. The brutal clearing of the square was the endpoint of a strategy pursued by Egyptian political elites of all stripes, but most fatefully by leaders of the security and intelligence apparatus, in which politics was treated as an existential question governed by zero-sum calculations. That 'peaceful alternatives' were never seriously pursued, as former vice president Mohamed ElBaradei stressed in his letter of resignation on the day of the killings, has almost vanished from memory. Finishing the job was made easier by a hysterical media campaign to demonize Muslim Brothers as fifth columnists, creating a toxic climate where the public could consent to mass killing. The post-June 30 public mood, which had been poisoned by a kind of anti-politics that fetishized 'stability' and yearned for a reversal of the uncertainty and disorder of the previous three and a half years no matter the cost, could not have been more favorable to the elite's machinations."

'Isis: a portrait of the menace this is sweeping my homeland' (Hassan Hassan, The Guardian)

"From a military perspective, Isis thrived on the disunity of the Syrian rebels and the inconsistencies of their backers. When al-Baghdadi announced the merger between his group in Iraq and Jabhat al-Nusra, the group started to act as a state in rebel-held areas. Despite its low numbers, Isis established a reign of terror in many areas across Syria. It alienated most of the rebel groups by creating smothering checkpoints, confiscating weapons and imposing its ideology on the local population, something Jabhat al-Nusra had avoided. By the end of last year, all rebel groups declared war against Isis and drove it out of Idlib, most of Aleppo and Deir Ezzor. But the war cost the rebels a lot: around 7,000 people were killed in the battles against Isis and the main rebel coalitions started to disintegrate as a result of the fighting. The Islamic Front, once the most powerful rebel coalition, is now a shell of its former self. Jabhat al-Nusra, once the most effective rebel group, is struggling to halt the drifting of its fighters or sympathisers to Isis, especially after it lost its stronghold in Deir Ezzor."

-- Mary Casey

AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images

The Middle East Channel

Maliki Cedes Power Meanwhile EU Ministers Discuss Arming Kurds

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.

Syria-Lebanon

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.

Headlines  

  • 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

GEORGES GOBET/AFP/Getty Images