While search teams have not yet found the flight recorder from EgyptAir Flight 804, investigators say debris being collected from the crash suggest the plane was brought down by an explosion. A senior Egyptian forensics expert told the Associated Press today that the theory is “the logical explanation.” At least 80 pieces of small debris have been recovered and brought to Cairo, including human remains. “There isn’t even a whole body part, like an arm or a head,” an official said. Families of the victims have provided DNA samples to identify the remains as they are recovered.
Some safety experts have expressed concerns about Egypt’s handling of the evidence. The recovered material from the aircraft is being handled by individuals without protective clothing and could affect the results of important tests to determine whether the plane shows sign of fire, smoke, or explosive residue. The Egyptian military declined to comment to the Wall Street Journal about the concerns about its recovery efforts.
Turkey Confirms Government Formed by New Prime Minister
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan approved the new government formed by Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, who was selected to succeed Ahmet Davutoglu on Sunday. Analysts told Reuters that the selection of Yildirim, a long-time loyalist to Erdogan, marks a de facto transition to a presidential system that the government will now try to formalize in law. Yildirim’s new cabinet, believed to have been formed in consultation with Erdogan, replaces the previous minister in charge of relations with the EU with Omer Celik, a founding member of the Justice and Development Party (AKP). The change comes as Turkey and the EU dispute the terms on visa waivers and the disbursement of aid established in an agreement on the management of refugee flows to Europe.
- Iran’s Assembly of Experts selected Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, an 89-year-old hardline politician, to be its new chairman; the council has nominal control of selecting the successor to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
- U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon argued in favor of unilaterally delivering humanitarian aid to besieged neighborhoods in Syria in a new report presented to the Security Council; representatives are discussing a new compromise resolution that would open four border crossings to U.N. aid convoys.
- The de facto government of Syrian Kurdistan, which declared itself an autonomous federal region called Rojava in March, opened a representative office in Paris yesterday, and has also opened offices in Berlin, Stockholm, and Moscow.
- Tunisia’s Ennahda party re-elected Rachid Ghannouchi as the head of the party at a party congress; Ghannouchi’s re-election is a validation of his policy of separating the party’s religious and political elements.
- Pope Francis met with Sheik Ahmed el-Tayyib, the grand imam of Al-Azhar, at the Vatican on Monday and restored ties between the two institutions that were suspended five years ago.
Arguments and Analysis
“Fallujah Offensive Will Lay Bare Need for Local Support” (Lina Khatib, Chatham House)
“With this sectarian tension in place, and given that thousands of Fallujah’s residents are part of the families of ISIS fighters, the Iraqi army’s attempt to break into Fallujah is likely to face fierce resistance that surpasses the challenges faced in the liberation of the city of Ramadi few months ago. And even if the army manages to overcome ISIS in Fallujah, it will find it difficult to hold the city without the cooperation of its residents. It is only when local residents are won over that any anti-ISIS military operation can be hailed as a success. But this formula is absent in Iraq today. The current government under Abadi desperately wants to increase its legitimacy through fighting ISIS. But the Iraqi army does not have enough capacity to tackle ISIS on its own, and has become dependent on the help of militias. The government’s blessing of the role of Shia militias in the fights against ISIS means that Sunnis still see it as continuing to discriminate against them. This resentment is in turn sustaining Sunni tribes’ embrace of ISIS in Fallujah and Mosul. Even if ISIS is defeated, the drivers behind people’s embrace of the group are likely to remain intact if not amplify.”
“The U.A.E. Approach to Counterterrorism in Yemen” (Michael Knights, War on the Rocks)
“The fight against AQAP will continue to be dynamic: AQAP’s tribal coalitions against Yemen’s equivalents, AQAP’s civil-military operations against the government’s version. On May 17, AQAP signaled its chagrin at the U.A.E. role in southern Yemen by issuing a video directly threatening the Emiratis to cease involvement in the area. This is probably as good a signal as any that the Gulf coalition is doing something right against AQAP. In this fight the coalition, especially the United Arab Emirates, has shown itself to have certain characteristics, ideas, and experiences that have allowed it to be effective at fighting AQAP, at least so far. The Gulf States share language, culture, and religion with the Yemenis — they have a similar mindset, and this matters a lot when undertaking tribal engagement and building coalitions. The United Arab Emirates has a particularly tight societal connection to the southern Yemenis and carries less historical baggage than the strained Saudi-Yemeni relationship. The coalition builds rough-and-ready proxy forces that are “good enough” to do the simple military tasks set for them. These forces are not over-engineered; they are built to be ready roughly on time and to do roughly what they’re told. After the fighting, they are put in charge of liberated areas. It remains to be seen how sustainable such solutions are, but they have proven effective at clearance and could be good enough for holding terrain.”
-J. Dana Stuster
Chris McGrath/Getty Images