Iraqi Pro-Government Forces Battle Militants as U.S. Considers Support

U.S. President Barack Obama met with top advisors to deliberate options on Iraq, but he made no decision on U.S. action. The United States and Iran held talks on the security situation in Iraq Monday, though they ruled out military cooperation. Obama said 275 military personnel would be sent to Iraq to provide security for ...

STR/AFP/Getty Images
STR/AFP/Getty Images
STR/AFP/Getty Images

U.S. President Barack Obama met with top advisors to deliberate options on Iraq, but he made no decision on U.S. action. The United States and Iran held talks on the security situation in Iraq Monday, though they ruled out military cooperation. Obama said 275 military personnel would be sent to Iraq to provide security for the U.S. Embassy, though the forces would be "equipped for combat." About 170 of those forces have arrived in Iraq, and the remainder are on standby. Militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and allied forces temporarily overtook several districts on the western outskirts of Baquba Monday, however after heavy clashes Iraqi government forces and Shiite militia fighters regained control. Government forces are also working to reclaim the city of Tal Afar, which was seized by militants Monday, and have reportedly been carrying out airstrikes.

Syria

In a report Tuesday, U.N. human rights investigators said the Middle East appears on the "cusp of a regional war" with violence expanding in Syria and Iraq. According to the report, rebel factions, including ISIS having been abusing civilians in territory they control and ISIS fighters abducted nearly 200 Kurdish civilians while attacking Aleppo at the end of May. On Monday, U.N. chief humanitarian aid coordinator Valerie Amos said the Syrian government has been making the delivery of aid to civilians more difficult since the re-election of President Bashar al-Assad. The United Nations estimates 9.3 million people in Syria need humanitarian aid, and that 241,000 people are completely cut off from assistance.

U.S. President Barack Obama met with top advisors to deliberate options on Iraq, but he made no decision on U.S. action. The United States and Iran held talks on the security situation in Iraq Monday, though they ruled out military cooperation. Obama said 275 military personnel would be sent to Iraq to provide security for the U.S. Embassy, though the forces would be "equipped for combat." About 170 of those forces have arrived in Iraq, and the remainder are on standby. Militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and allied forces temporarily overtook several districts on the western outskirts of Baquba Monday, however after heavy clashes Iraqi government forces and Shiite militia fighters regained control. Government forces are also working to reclaim the city of Tal Afar, which was seized by militants Monday, and have reportedly been carrying out airstrikes.

Syria

In a report Tuesday, U.N. human rights investigators said the Middle East appears on the "cusp of a regional war" with violence expanding in Syria and Iraq. According to the report, rebel factions, including ISIS having been abusing civilians in territory they control and ISIS fighters abducted nearly 200 Kurdish civilians while attacking Aleppo at the end of May. On Monday, U.N. chief humanitarian aid coordinator Valerie Amos said the Syrian government has been making the delivery of aid to civilians more difficult since the re-election of President Bashar al-Assad. The United Nations estimates 9.3 million people in Syria need humanitarian aid, and that 241,000 people are completely cut off from assistance.

Headlines  

  • Foreign Secretary William Hague said Britain will reopen its embassy in Iran, which has been closed for two and a half years, in a mending of ties amid the security deterioration in Iraq.
  • Egypt’s public prosecutor has ordered the release on medical grounds of Al Jazeera journalist Abdullah Elshamy who has been on hunger strike since January protesting being held without charge.
  • Israel arrested 41 additional members of Hamas in overnight raids, as the military continues to search for three missing teenagers and works to weaken Hamas.
  • Egypt’s new cabinet was sworn in Tuesday with Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehleb heading the third government since the ouster of Mohamed Morsi in July 2013.

Arguments and Analysis

ISIS a fanatical force — with a weakness‘ (Charles Lister, CNN)

"But this is not all about ISIS. Many other armed Sunni actors are involved in what has become, in effect, a Sunni uprising — groups such as the Jaysh Rijal al-Tariqa al-Naqshbandia, Jaish al-Mujahideen, Jamaat Ansar al-Islam, Al-Jaish al-Islami fil Iraq and various tribal military councils.

ISIS may be the largest force involved (with about 8,000 fighters in Iraq), but it is far from sufficient to take and hold multiple urban centers. It is still totally reliant on an interdependent relationship with what remains a tacitly sympathetic and facilitating Sunni population. But this "relationship" is by no means stable and should not be taken for granted. The militant group has consistently failed to retain popular support, or at minimum, acceptance."

How ISIS Games Twitter‘ (J.M. Berger, The Atlantic)

"The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the Sunni militant group that seized Iraq’s second-largest city last week and is now pledging to take Baghdad, has honed this new technique-most recently posting photos on Twitter of an alleged mass killing of Iraqi soldiers. But what’s often overlooked in press coverage is that ISIS doesn’t just have strong, organic support online. It also employs social-media strategies that inflate and control its message. Extremists of all stripes are increasingly using social media to recruit, radicalize and raise funds, and ISIS is one of the most adept practitioners of this approach.

One of ISIS’s more successful ventures is an Arabic-language Twitter app called The Dawn of Glad Tidings, or just Dawn. The app, an official ISIS product promoted by its top users, is advertised as a way to keep up on the latest news about the jihadi group."

— Mary Casey

<p>Mary Casey-Baker is the editor of Foreign Policy’s Middle East Daily Brief, as well as the assistant director of public affairs at the Project on Middle East Political Science and assistant editor of The Monkey Cage blog for the Washington Post. </p> Twitter: @casey_mary

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