Assad Regime Forces Make Strategic Advance in Aleppo
Despite the announcement of a three-day ceasefire yesterday, violence continues in Syria. Assad regime forces advanced in al-Malah Farms, northwest of Aleppo, and are now holding a position that will allow them to fire with precision on the Castello Road, the last point of access for rebels in the city. “(The road) was not risk-free, ...
Despite the announcement of a three-day ceasefire yesterday, violence continues in Syria. Assad regime forces advanced in al-Malah Farms, northwest of Aleppo, and are now holding a position that will allow them to fire with precision on the Castello Road, the last point of access for rebels in the city. “(The road) was not risk-free, but now there is not a matter of danger, now the road is cut,” an Aleppo-based rebel told Reuters this morning. Rebels are now counterattacking in an effort to prevent the rebel-held portions of the city — and the estimated 250,000 to 300,000 people living in them — from being completely besieged. Rebel groups also reported that the Assad regime violated the ceasefire in and around Damascus. “The regime has made this announcement purely to escape international pressure. On the ground, I don’t think anything has changed,” Islam Alloush, a representative of Jaysh al-Islam, told reporters.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said yesterday that he supported the announced ceasefire and that diplomats are discussing ways to build on the three-day pause to reach an “enforceable, accountable cessation of hostilities that could change the dynamics on the ground.” Russian President Vladimir Putin called President Barack Obama yesterday; a Russian readout of the call claimed that both Putin and Obama agreed to increased military coordination in Syria, while a readout from the White House said Obama urged the Russian government to pressure the Assad regime to abide by the ceasefire reached in February.
Death Toll in Baghdad Bombing, Now More Than 250, Partly Resulted from Negligence
The toll of the bombing targeting a mall in Baghdad’s Karada district on Sunday has climbed to more than 250 dead. Iraqi security experts now say that the blast was caused by a van loaded with C4 explosive, but that the damage was exacerbated by poor construction and planning for an emergency. The building was covered in flammable paneling, emergency exits were inaccessible, and fire crews that arrived on the scene were ill-equipped for the attack and quickly ran out of water, according to security experts.
- The provisional Libyan Ministry of Justice in Zintan may have released Muammar Gaddafi’s son, Saif al-Islam, from death row as part of an amnesty granted in April; Islam’s attorney told one reporter that Islam is free and in hiding while he still faces trial by the International Criminal Court.
- The diversion of U.S. warplanes to attack Islamic State fighters fleeing Fallujah last week deprived U.S.-backed rebels from the New Syrian Army of air cover during their assault on the Islamic State-occupied town of Bukamal and contributed to the attack’s failure, the Washington Post reports.
- Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula claimed credit for the raid on the Solaban military base near Aden on Wednesday; revised casualty reporting shows eight Yemeni soldiers and six militants were killed in the attack.
- A car bomb, the third bombing in Benghazi in as many weeks, killed 11 Libyan soldiers yesterday; the city was captured from Islamist militias earlier this year by forces loyal to Gen. Khalifa Haftar, who has refused to join the U.N.-supported Government of National Accord.
- Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair responded to the findings of the Chilcot Report, telling reporters that he maintains that he “made the right decision and the world is better and safer” but that he has “more sorrow, regret and apology than you may ever know or can believe.”
- A fire that burned for hours at a petrochemical plant in Mahshahr, Iran, has been extinguished; Iranian state media reports that there were no casualties.
Arguments and Analysis
“Europe’s Plan Endangers Foreigners in Libya” (Human Rights Watch)
“In June, Human Rights Watch interviewed 47 people in Sicily, 23 women and 24 men, who had recently travelled from Libya to Italy on smugglers’ boats. Those interviewed – from Cameroon, Eritrea, Gambia, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Senegal, and Sudan – said they had left their homes to flee persecution, including abusive military service, to escape forced marriage, or to seek education and work. They described severe abuses in Libya by government officials, smugglers, and members of militias and criminal gangs, and at times collaboration between officials and smugglers. Rampant lawlessness and violence across Libya convinced those who had gone there for work to attempt the perilous sea crossing to Europe. ‘In Libya, they do whatever they like because there’s no law, no nothing,’ said a 31-year-old Gambian man, who told Human Rights Watch that criminals had raped his wife.”
“What Americans Owe Iraqis” (Barbara Slavin, Voice of America)
“Nussaibah Younis, who directs an Iraq project at the Atlantic Council, noted that the current Iraqi Prime Minister, Haider al-Abadi, ‘had successfully distracted the Iraqi public from the political crisis in Baghdad with the fight to liberate Fallujah, but the devastating bombings in Karada have once again left the prime minister exposed to the wrath of the Iraqi people….The public anger towards government corruption and incompetence is likely to spill over into renewed public demonstrations demanding radical reforms or the dismissal of the current government,’ Younis told this analyst. While Younis said she thought Abadi — who is supported both by the U.S. and Iran — would hang on in office, the continued violence incentivizes those educated Iraqis who have not already fled to leave the country or migrate to the safer south or Kurdish north. A country that then top Pentagon official Paul Wolfowitz once bragged would greet Americans as ‘liberators’ and be able to finance its own reconstruction with oil revenues is now in such dire straits that the State Department has organized a donors’ conference later this month in Washington to try to raise hundreds of millions of dollars to care for 10 million Iraqis in need of outside humanitarian help. It will be years, if not decades, before Iraq is peaceful enough to begin a real recovery. It is possible that it will not remain a unitary state.”
-J. Dana Stuster
GEORGES OURFALIAN/AFP/Getty Images