Report

Islamic State Tightens Hold on Palmyra, Ramadi

The Islamic State is consolidating its hold on Palmyra after seizing the city this week. Militants have used the speakers at mosques used for the call to prayer to tell residents to turn in soldiers and government employees, and people remaining in the city have reported dozens of public executions. The Syrian government is reportedly ...

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The Islamic State is consolidating its hold on Palmyra after seizing the city this week. Militants have used the speakers at mosques used for the call to prayer to tell residents to turn in soldiers and government employees, and people remaining in the city have reported dozens of public executions. The Syrian government is reportedly stepping up airstrikes targeting the Palmyra. “The civilians are terrified,” a resident told the New York Times. “The only bakery is controlled by ISIS. The army is bombing randomly.”

The Islamic State also tightened its hold on Ramadi, the other major city it captured this week. Fighters there overran an Iraqi security checkpoint near the city. “The situation is very critical now after ISIS fighters managed to overrun our defensive line in Husaiba,” a police official told reporters. “We have retreated to the eastern part of the area and we’re waiting for more reinforcements and air force strikes to stop the Daesh [ISIS] advance.”

Suicide Bombing Targets Shia Mosque in Saudi Arabia

A suicide bomber attacked a Shia mosque in al-Qadeeh, Saudi Arabia, today. The attack took place during Friday prayers, killing at least 30 people. Last November, gunmen killed five Shia Muslims in the eastern city of al-Dalwah, an attack the Saudi government later said they had tied to the Islamic State. Human Rights Watch called the November attack a “wakeup call” that should encourage Saudi officials to confront “the pernicious and long-standing discrimination against the country’s Shia citizens that has fed the sectarian impulses leading to such horrific attacks.”

Headlines

  • President Obama announced Tunisia will be designated a major non-NATO ally of the United States after meeting with President Beji Caid Essebsi in Washington yesterday; the two presidents published a joint editorial in the Washington Post on Thursday.

 

  • Gaza now has the highest unemployment rate in the world — 43 percent, and 60 percent among youth — according to a new World Bank report that warns that the economy is on the “verge of collapse.”

 

  • Saudi Arabia has reportedly increased its air campaign in Yemen targeting Houthi forces and loyalists to ousted President Ali Abdullah Saleh a day after the United Nations announced upcoming peace talks.

 

  • The State Department’s senior non-proliferation official is in Israel to discuss a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East as the United Nations nears the conclusion of its periodic review of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

 

  • The United States authorized new sanctions against an Iraqi and an Emirati company for their role in assisting Iran’s purchase of used civilian aircraft.

Arguments and Analysis

‘Look … It’s My Name on This’: Obama Defends the Iran Nuclear Deal” (Jeffrey Goldberg, The Atlantic)

“I have to imagine that comments like [Rabbi] Steinlauf’s may be understood by people such as Sheldon Adelson and Benjamin Netanyahu as hopelessly naive. But this is where much of the Jewish community is today: nervous about Iran, nervous about Obama’s response to Iran, nervous about Netanyahu’s response to reality, nervous about the toxic marriage between Obama and Netanyahu, and nervous that, once again, there is no margin in the world for Jewish error.”

Defying Gravity: Working Toward a Regional Strategy for a Stable Middle East” (Ross Harrison, Middle East Institute)

“But this chaos that makes strategic opportunities so scarce at the ground level is already creating a new order at the regional level, where the necessary preconditions for strategy are more abundant. While at this level there is still uncertainty, peering beyond the fog of the current chaos and focusing on the four relatively stable regional powers yields a clearer picture of the strategic environment. This clearer perspective reveals more precisely where the interests of the various parties conflict and overlap within the evolving regional structure, and thus highlights strategic opportunities for solving some of the region’s most vexing problems through cooperation.”

 

-J. Dana Stuster

SABAH ARAR/AFP/Getty Images

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