The Middle East Channel

Kerry Proposes Cease-Fire Plan as Protests Erupt in the West Bank

An estimated 10,000 Palestinians gathered in the West Bank Thursday to protest the Israeli offensive in Gaza. Clashes broke out between Israeli soldiers and demonstrators, and three Palestinians were reported killed and up to 200 wounded. Blasts at a U.N. school, which was being used as a shelter, in Gaza’s northern city of Beit Hanoun ...

ABBAS MOMANI/AFP/Getty Images
ABBAS MOMANI/AFP/Getty Images

An estimated 10,000 Palestinians gathered in the West Bank Thursday to protest the Israeli offensive in Gaza. Clashes broke out between Israeli soldiers and demonstrators, and three Palestinians were reported killed and up to 200 wounded. Blasts at a U.N. school, which was being used as a shelter, in Gaza’s northern city of Beit Hanoun killed an estimated 16 people Thursday. On Friday, Israeli airstrikes hit 30 houses in Gaza, reportedly killing the head of Islamic Jihad’s media operations. In the past 18 days of fighting, an estimated 819 Palestinians have been killed, mostly civilians. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, in negotiations in Cairo, has proposed an initiative to end hostilities. The initiative would begin with a weeklong cease-fire, starting Sunday, though Israeli troops would be permitted to remain in Gaza throughout the truce. During that time, Egypt would mediate negotiations between Israel and Hamas.

Syria

The United Nations has for the first time sent a humanitarian aid convoy into Syria across the Turkish border. The move came after a U.N. Security Council resolution on July 14 that authorized U.N. humanitarian aid deliveries to be transported across four border crossings, in Turkey, Iraq, and Jordan, without the consent of the Syrian government. Meanwhile, the Jordanian air force shot down an unidentified drone Friday near the northeastern border city of Mafraq. This was the first such incident reported by Jordanian authorities since the conflict began in Syria in March 2011.

Headlines

  • Iran has arrested four journalists, of whom three are Iranian-Americans, including Washington Post Tehran correspondent Jason Rezaian.
  • French authorities are investigating Thursday’s Air Algerie flight crash, which left no survivors, though the interior minister said the incident could have been linked to weather conditions.
  • Iraqi parliamentarians elected Kurdish politician Fouad Massoum president meanwhile militants from the Islamic State destroyed the shrines of two Muslim and Christian prophets in Mosul.

Arguments and Analysis

How the U.S. Lost Leverage in Iraq‘ (Steven Simon, Middle East Institute)

"Reflecting on this turbulent time, it is relatively easy to see why U.S. options for responding to the ISIS surge are so meager.  Without a large-scale troop presence on the ground in Iraq, securing the population is not really possible. This, in turn, suggests that peeling away ordinary Iraqis from insurgents would be quite a challenge.  The ideological framework and depth of commitment among core ISIS members further implies that efforts to coopt them would be unavailing.  Finally, there is the inescapable relevance of Casey’s insight regarding the Maliki government: that, in important ways, it acts like yet another sectarian faction rather than as a government in search of broad legitimacy.

The Obama Administration, therefore, will likely be constrained to actions on the margin:  collecting intelligence (mostly for targeting purposes), weakening ISIS through decapitating attacks, strengthening reliable units in the Iraqi armed forces, stepping up arms transfers, and strengthening vulnerable allies, like Jordan.  If the Iraqi political process develops in a way that produces more inclusive policies, then U.S. options will broaden.  In the meantime, what you see is what you get."

Sisi’s Economic Call to Arms‘ (Tom Rollins, Sada)

"To a large degree, Sisi’s ability to enact major subsidy cuts with little unrest demonstrates how the government has, with some success, reclaimed leftist language to frame its reforms, remarketing austerity policies as inclusive, beneficial, and progressive. It seems Sisi learned a lesson from President Anwar Sadat’s attempt at a more radical overhaul of the subsidies system in 1977. Back then, the reforms sparked the infamous ‘Bread Riots’ and brought Egyptians to a stand-off with the army. The government has been lauded for its comparatively measured introduction of subsidy reform in 2014. However, this reflects more a wariness of Sadat’s sudden, shock-therapy economics than any genuinely progressive reforms made by Sisi that might both complement subsidy reforms and protect the poor at the same time."

— Mary Casey

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