The Middle East Channel

Wave of car bombs kills up to 60 people in Iraq

Wave of car bombs kills up to 60 people in Iraq

A wave of seemingly coordinated car bombings hit Iraq Monday killing up to 60 people and wounding over 200 others in a surge of recent violence. Around 15 to 17 attacks hit Shiite dominated areas of Iraq, mainly in the capital Baghdad and the cities of Basra, Kut, and Mahmudiya. In several districts of Baghdad, bombs were hidden in parked cars hitting markets, a restaurant, and a hospital. The most severe explosion was in the eastern Shiite district of Sadr City. Iraq has seen a recent escalation in violence with between 2,500 and 3,000 people killed in attacks since April. A spike in violence since the beginning of Ramadan on July 10 is raising concerns that Iraq will fall back into a full-blown sectarian war. No one has yet claimed responsibility for Monday’s bombings, but al Qaeda’s branch in Iraq has carried out similar coordinated attacks in the past.  

Syria

The Syrian government reported Monday it had overtaken the rebel-held Khalidiya district of Homs after a month long regime offensive in the central city. The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said fighting was continuing Monday, however government forces had regained control of most of the district. It reported, "Clashes took place between rebels and regime forces, supported by Hezbollah and National Defense Forces, in the southern parts of the Khalidiya neighborhood." According to the pro-opposition group, opposition forces only maintain control of a few districts in Homs, including the Old City. Meanwhile, the new president of the opposition Syrian National Coalition (SNC), Ahmed Jarba, said he would be willing to attend a peace conference with Syrian government officials in Geneva without preconditions. He said, however, "We believe there should be a precise time frame…The regime is used to manipulating the process and wasting time." Jarba said he expects the Geneva II meeting, which was planned for July, to still take place, "but the question of whether it succeeds remains valid." Additionally, he maintained that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s resignation was non-negotiable for a political solution to the Syrian conflict.

Headlines

Arguments and Analysis

Tunisia and the "Arab Spring" Reversal‘ (Fadil Aliriza, Jadaliyya)

"Two years ago, hope was not only palpable in the streets of Tunis; it was infectious. Young Arabs had risen up and triumphed against a Western-supported dictator whose police state ran on fear. Similar uprisings across the region seemed to have confirmed that Tunisia had led the way towards a new, more democratic order. And Tunisia was about to lead the way again by holding a clean election, almost unprecedented in the Middle East and North Africa. 

Now, hope is in rare supply across the region. Egypt’s elections yielded new leaders that blindly and illiberally ran the country along strict partisan lines until a military coup publicly reasserted old-regime institutions. Libya’s timid leaders and bold militias have hampered democracy, security and institution building. Syria’s revolution turned into a bloody war and a hellish game for external actors, while Lebanon desperately tries to quarantine itself from the neighboring chaos. Western observers use increasingly desperate euphemisms for Iraq’s escalating civil war. No one dares talk about Bahrain, or perhaps no one cares. Other Gulf countries quietly quarrel amongst themselves through political and economic maneuvering in neighboring proxy countries.

While numerous pundits bemoan ‘Arab Spring’ fatigue, many still believed that tiny Tunisia alone might overcome its challenges to create a new inclusive, civic, stable, free, and prosperous political order. But what started in Tunisia may soon end in Tunisia as the gains of the ‘Arab Spring’ are systematically rolled back with the help of old regime forces, ascendant ideological zealots, domestic lassitude, and powerful outside players that are uncomfortable with independent, populist politics in the region." 

A Fool’s Errand Worth Pursuing‘ (Fareed Zakaria, Time Magazine)

"If you were to ask me what international problem is least likely to be resolved in the next few years, I would probably say the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians. It takes no special insight to be skeptical on this; no one has ever lost money betting against the Middle East peace process. And yet I find myself cheering on Secretary of State John Kerry’s efforts to revive talks between the two sides.

The case for realism is obvious. The Palestinians are dysfunctional and divided, with Hamas controlling Gaza and still unwilling to make any kind of deal with Israel. For its part, the Israeli public has largely given up on peace, and new political groups — like those led by Naftali Bennett — flatly oppose a two-state solution.

But the situation on the ground is not quite as stuck as it at first seems. There are a number of forces that could push the parties to negotiate seriously. While Israel is thriving, many Israelis are unhappy with the prospect of having to rule over millions of Palestinians in perpetuity. These concerns are heightened by growing efforts to delegitimize Israel — in Europe, on American university campuses and elsewhere. The Palestinian strategy of seeking to gain formal recognition as a state at the U.N. (where there is a standing majority in its favor) could cause Israel problems, since the Palestinians would then have standing in the International Court of Justice and other such venues. Were all else to fail, the Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas could dissolve the Palestinian Authority as he has threatened to and force Israel to take over the West Bank, sending its soldiers back into refugee camps and taking on the difficult and costly business of occupation."

–Mary Casey & Joshua Haber