The Middle East Channel

Iraqi Forces Advance on Tikrit After Troops Seize Mosul Dam

U.S. President Barack Obama announced that Kurdish and Iraqi forces, with the support of U.S. airstrikes, had made "important progress" reclaiming the Mosul Dam from Islamic State militants on Monday. Obama said the U.S. military will continue limited missions in Iraq and he committed to providing humanitarian aid to Iraqis. However, he stressed the need for the process of forming Iraq's new government under Haider al-Abadi to be inclusive, legitimate, and credible. A day after overtaking the Mosul dam, Iraqi forces launched an offensive against Islamic State fighters in and around the city of Tikrit, which the militants seized in June. Meanwhile, the United Nations has launched a major humanitarian aid operation to deliver food and supplies to over half a million people displaced by violence in northern Iraq.

Syria

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has formally barred all U.S. airlines from flying over Syria due to the ongoing conflict. The FAA said the decision was made after an updated risk assessment concerning extremist groups that are "known to be equipped with a variety of antiaircraft weapons which have the capability to threaten civilian aircraft." Additionally, the United States reported it had completed the neutralization of Syria's worst chemical weapons that were delivered to the U.S. ship, the Cape Ray.

Headlines

  • Israeli and Palestinian officials have agreed to a 24-hour cease-fire extension to continue talks in Cairo meanwhile Israel has accused West Bank Hamas cells of plotting a coup to oust Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
  • A Kurdish protester was killed in southeastern Turkey in clashes with security forces who were removing a statue of Mahsum Korkmaz, a founder of the Kurdistan Workers' Party.
  • Unidentified militiamen fired rockets into two affluent districts of Tripoli early Tuesday pushing fighting closer to the center of Libya's capital.
  • Saudi Arabia executed four men convicted of smuggling cannabis bringing the total number of executions in the kingdom to 17 over the past two weeks.
  • Turkish authorities detained 25 more police officers in an investigation into the illegal wiretapping of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdgoan.

Arguments and Analysis

'Why Maliki's ouster is no magic bullet for Iraq' (Michael Wahid Hanna, Al Jazeera America)

"Much of the recent media conversation about the rapid territorial gains of the Islamic State (IS) focused on Maliki, as if he had been the key obstacle to the achievement of a new Iraqi national consensus that could turn the tide against the extremists. Maliki's sectarian, authoritarian and paranoid tendencies as well as his growing incompetence have certainly exacerbated the country's chronic political and security maladies and rendered him a toxic figure among Iraq's domestic and foreign stakeholders. And the impending transfer of power from one Shia prime minister of the Da'wa party to another, Haider el-Abadi, avoids the potential for a major disruption among Iraq's democratic institutions.

But redistributing authority in Baghdad is unlikely to have a significant impact on either the motivations or the capabilities of the IS. Despite the now hackneyed truism that there is no military solution to Iraq's current crisis, it is equally clear that a significant military campaign will be necessary for Iraq to reverse the gains of the IS."

'Israel and the Demise of "Mowing the Grass"' (T.X. Hammes, War on the Rocks)

"In short, technological advances offer Hamas the opportunity to shift from a terror strategy to a military strategy that focuses on Israeli security forces. This will place even more pressure on Israel over the proportionality of its response. The issue did not surface until it became apparent that disproportionate numbers of Palestinian civilians were being killed at a time when the threat to Israeli civilians was at a minimum. During the recent conflict, Israel could legitimately claim that its technical and tactical proficiency was what reduced the Israeli civilian casualties - and point to the continuing Palestinian efforts to fire rockets at civilian areas. It will be much more difficult for Israel to justify its actions against Palestinian civilians if Hamas focuses its attacks on Israeli security forces. Furthermore, if Hamas focuses on the personnel and facilities that enforce Israel's blockade, it can argue that its actions are directly focused on improving the lives of Palestinian civilians. It is much more difficult for Israel to insist that the blockade is a security rather than a punitive measure given that Hamas has smuggled in materials to build thousands of rockets as well as miles of tunnels. Since the blockade has clearly failed to prevent the infiltration of weapons, can the enormous humanitarian cost to the Palestinian people be justified?"

-- Mary Casey

AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images

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