Islamic State Bombings Strike Regime Strongholds in Syria
The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for a wave of coordinated bomb attacks that killed at least 65 people in Tartous and Jabla. The cities are controlled by the Assad regime and have seen relatively little conflict over the past five years of the civil war. The attacks in Tartous targeted a bus station, and ...
The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for a wave of coordinated bomb attacks that killed at least 65 people in Tartous and Jabla. The cities are controlled by the Assad regime and have seen relatively little conflict over the past five years of the civil war. The attacks in Tartous targeted a bus station, and the attacks against Jabla, which may have been carried out with rockets, struck a hospital and another bus station. The number of casualties is expected to rise.
The Assad regime and Russian jets pummeled the last rebel-held road into Aleppo yesterday. Kurdish militias in the city have also targeted people using the road with sniper fire. The Free Syrian Army and 40 other rebel groups said they would stop abiding by the partial ceasefire if the Assad regime did not end its assault on rebel-held neighborhoods of Damascus within 48 hours.
Iraq Begins Offensive to Retake Fallujah
Iraqi troops began their assault to retake the city of Fallujah today. The attack will include the Iraqi military, U.S. air support, local tribal fighters, and Shia militias, but the Shia groups may be allowed to operate only outside the city. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi urged civilians to leave the city if possible but the Islamic State has killed people who have attempted to flee; the government has asked the remaining 60-90,000 civilians to identify their homes with white flags. In Baghdad, Abadi spoke to President Barack Obama by phone and the two men stressed the need for greater security for the Green Zone after protesters breached the security cordon again on Friday. Government forces tried to disperse the crowds with tear gas, water cannons, and by shooting in the air; medical personnel said 58 people were wounded in the riot. Moqtada al-Sadr, the cleric who has organized the rallies, said peaceful protests will continue and that “the revolution will take another form” if they are blocked.
- Egypt deployed a submarine on Sunday to join the hunt for the flight recorder from EgyptAir Flight 804, which crashed in the Mediterranean Sea on Thursday, killing 66 people; the circumstances of the crash are still unknown but the evidence suggests “a sudden and dramatic catastrophe.”
- U.N. Yemen envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed said peace talks are making progress after the government delegation agreed on Saturday to return to the table; despite new airstrikes targeting Houthi-held military bases near Sanaa, the ceasefire “is holding around 80 to 90 percent,” Ahmed said on Sunday. An Islamic State car bombing killed at least 40 army recruits on Monday in Aden.
- The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in Turkey confirmed Binali Yildirim as the new prime minister at an extraordinary party congress after Ahmet Davutoglu stepped down; Yildirim stressed his support for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and said he would prioritize constitutional reforms that would endow the presidency with more power.
- India announced a $500 million deal to invest in the strategic Chabahar port in Iran, as well as other investments in oil and gas industries; the arrangement will facilitate trade routes that bypass Pakistan.
- Israel lifted a ban on the import of cement to Gaza that was imposed last month; the Israeli government issued a statement saying that it was satisfied by the findings of a security assessment and arrangements made with the international community.
- The first-ever U.N. World Humanitarian Summit convenes today in Istanbul; representatives from 175 nations are expected to attend.
Arguments and Analysis
“The Kurds: A Divided Future?” (Joost Hiltermann, New York Review of Books)
“In short, the Kurdish political landscape is no less fractured than the region around it. Iraqi Kurdistan may have ended its economic dependence on Baghdad but any notion it harbors of breaking away from Iraq can never amount to more than quasi-independence — shibeh istiqlaal in Arabic — as an opposition leader put it, as long as the region, floating on a sea of corruption and adrift in economic misery, lacks the economic resources, military power, and international recognition it would need. Were Barzani to press ahead with formal statehood, the Kurds, who would be a late addition to the family of nation-states, would be living in a newly independent failed state on the model of South Sudan. Heavily indebted to the oil companies that came in search of its riches, the new entity would be choked off economically by Turkey and wracked by internal conflicts stoked by Iran.”
“In Libya, Politics Precedes Victory” (Tarek Megerisi, Sada)
“Ultimately, Libya’s viability as a unified and peaceful nation-state has been tethered to domestic politics and an international policy founded on frenzied speculation about security threats. Ignorance of the Libyan context was what undermined the military intervention in 2011. The lack of political and humanitarian assistance to complement NATO’s efforts allowed Libya to fail as a state. Empowering politicians who had little actual influence but grand personal ambitions, rather than engaging stakeholders directly, allowed Libya’s post-revolutionary failures to compound. Five years on, the international community can learn from the mistake of engaging unilaterally without due respect to the context or risk repeating this factionalizing approach in an arena where the stakes have grown considerably higher.”
-J. Dana Stuster