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Iraqi Forces Surround Ramadi, Begin Strikes
Iraqi troops, supported by Shia and Sunni militia forces, have begun taking positions north and east of Ramadi and have reinforced defenses in Habbaniyah as a new offensive begins to retake the city. The Iraqi government announced the operation yesterday in a statement, saying that “The operation to liberate Anbar has started with the cooperation ...
Iraqi troops, supported by Shia and Sunni militia forces, have begun taking positions north and east of Ramadi and have reinforced defenses in Habbaniyah as a new offensive begins to retake the city. The Iraqi government announced the operation yesterday in a statement, saying that “The operation to liberate Anbar has started with the cooperation of the Iraqi Army and the Popular Mobilization Forces.” The U.S. Defense Department told reporters that Iraqi forces have begun air and artillery strikes against Islamic State positions in Ramadi.
The new operation comes amid frustration with comments from Washington. “It was a tactical retreat from Ramadi…In the coming days, we will prove to him that he was wrong and we were right,” an Iraqi colonel told the New York Times, referring to comments from Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter that Iraqi soldiers lacked the “will to fight” in Ramadi. Iranian Quds Force commander Qassem Suleimani, who coordinates Iran’s paramilitary work in Iraq, lashed out at the United States in a speech earlier this week, saying that it had done “nothing” to prevent the fall of Ramadi. “How can you be in that country under the pretext of protecting the Iraqis and do nothing?” he said. “This is no more than being an accomplice in a plot.”
Gaza Militants Fire Rocket into Israel, Israel Responds
Militants in Gaza fired a rocket into Israel yesterday, hitting a clearing near Ashdod. No damage or injuries were reported and Hamas says it does not know which militant group is responsible for launching the rocket. Israeli jets bombed four targets in response, including Islamic Jihad and Hamas training sites. “Hamas better restrain any attempts to open fire toward Israel or provoke it; otherwise we will have to act more forcefully,” Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said in a statement. “I wouldn’t advise anyone to test us.”
- Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that the United States and Turkey had reached an agreement to provide air support to Syrian rebels fighting the Assad regime, though details of the arrangement are still unclear.
- Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni, head of Libya’s Tobruk-based government, survived an assassination attempt when gunmen targeted his motorcade as it left a parliamentary session.
- The European Union is considering a new plan to resettle 40,000 Syrian and Eritrean refugees currently in Italy and Greece across the continent.
- Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif met with Omani Foreign Minister Yusuf bin Alawi in Muscat to resolve a maritime boundary dispute and discuss a new potential ceasefire in Yemen’s civil war.
- A German court has begun hearing arguments over a 2012 drone strike that hit a wedding in Yemen; the case has been brought by relatives of the victims who argue that the German government, working with U.S. troops operating from Ramstein air base, was instrumental to the strike.
Arguments and Analysis
“What’s Wrong with Robert Kaplan’s Nostalgia for Empire” (Juan Cole, The Nation)
“The Middle East is not facing state collapse because of the lack of empire. European empires themselves drew lines in the desert and instituted policies favoring minorities and dividing and ruling, which continue to haunt the region. A long-term drought has driven millions of farmers from their land in this region, a drought exacerbated by the extra heat in the atmosphere caused by climate change. Water shortages in Raqqa in Syria or Taiz in Yemen are severe, and underpin some of the social turmoil. The collapse of the socialist state after the fall of the Soviet Union and its deterioration into a rule of oligarchs under the impact of neoliberal (market fundamentalist) policies pushed by the West further destabilized these societies. The youth bulge, with hundreds of thousands of new workers trying to enter the work force annually, has presented challenges to these governments that they were unable to overcome. In any case, world regions do witness a great deal of turmoil in modern history. There was a time when Southeast Asia was in flames. It didn’t get back on track from the 1980s forward via Western neocolonialism. Indeed, the US Vietnam War had contributed to the destabilization of Laos and Cambodia.”
“Turkey’s Kurdish party at the threshold” (A. Kadir Yildirim, Monkey Cage Blog)
“This year’s election campaign has been different: It is the ruling AKP which has doubled down on religious and ethnic identity issues, while its opponents have scaled back their traditional attention to those concerns in favor of economic issues. The campaign trail has been dominated by the AKP’s Erdogan brandishing copies of the Koran proclaiming that he ‘was raised with Koran and have been living with it’ and that the opposition has a ‘heretical mindset’ and ‘nothing to do with religion.’ Similarly, Erdogan has provocatively suggested that ‘Turkey does not have a Kurdish problem’ while condemning the Kurdish ‘peace process’ initiated by an AKP government led by Erdogan himself in late 2012. The AKP, in other words, has all but invited its opponents to pursue a secular, anti-religion or Kurdish ethnic identity oriented campaign.”
-J. Dana Stuster
HAIDAR HAMDANI/AFP/Getty Images