A series of attacks across Iraq beginning early Monday morning killed up to 107 people and wounded another 223 in what is the deadliest day of the year so far. There were at least 29 separate attacks, throughout 12 cities and towns, in what appeared to be a coordinated effort of car bombings, checkpoint ambushes, and an assault on a military base. The worst attack was approximately 12 miles north of Baghdad in the primarily Shiite town of Taji, where five houses were bombed, killing 17 people. Insurgents have continued to carry out strikes into the afternoon in northern and central Iraq. The wave of attacks came a day after the head of al Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Bakir Al Baghdadi, announced a new offensive -- Breaking Down Walls -- would soon begin. He said, "We are returning again to dominate territories we used to dominate, as well as more." There were also several explosions which killed an estimated 20 people. The increased violence is raising concerns that al Qaeda is provoking a sectarian war, and that Iraq is unequipped to maintain security since the U.S. troop withdrawal in December 2011.
After about a week of severe clashes in the Syrian capital, Syrian forces regained control of two districts of Damascus on Sunday, Mezzeh and Barzeh, and executed dozens of people suspected of aiding the opposition. Additionally, government fighters reportedly won back two border crossings with Iraq. However, the opposition has announced it captured a third border crossing with Turkey. Fighting has escalated in Deir al-Zour, and the opposition has launched an offensive on the traditionally pro-government city of Aleppo. Responding to rising concerns over the Syrian regime's stockpile of chemical weapons, Syrian foreign ministry spokesman announced "Syria will never use (chemical weapons) against Syrians no matter what." However, he added that the regime would resort to the chemical weapons to address "exterior aggression." The Arab League has called for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down, offering his family safe passage out of Syria. The European Union has imposed a fresh round of sanctions on Syria, including an asset freeze and travel ban on 26 people, mostly members of the Syrian military or intelligence official, as well as three companies. The measure came after a resolution to impose sanctions at the United Nations was blocked by China and Russia, and as questions over the strength of the regime have risen after four officials in Assad's inner circle died after an opposition attack.
Arguments & Analysis
‘Can Libya's Liberals and Islamists Get Along?' (Karim Mezran, The Atlantic)
"You might think, based on the headlines in the Western press, that Libya's July 7 vote delivered a resounding victory for the country's liberals...But Jibril himself more than once declared his coalition to be neither secularist nor liberal, but simply nationalist and non-ideological. And many candidates in the Muslim Brotherhood, and in the other so-called "Islamist" parties, definitely did not fit the stereotypes of the typical bearded or veiled Islamists. But axiom "all politics is local" is true in Libya as well, and what Jibril's candidates have most in common is not by any secular-liberalism or lack thereof, but deep local roots. It seems that in some urban areas, based on my conversations with people in Libya, that voters selected Jibril's candidate assuming he or she would share Jibril's views, only later discovering that this was not the case. Some local candidates seem to have bandwagoned on Jibril's name and popularity, without actually holding his liberal or secularist views. The same thing appears true of many candidates on the so-called "independents" list."
‘Intervention and End Games in Syria' (Paul Pillar, The National Interest)
"The Obama administration is approaching the current situation in Syria correctly insofar as it is bracing for an implosion of the current political order there, thinking of the problem less as shoving Assad out even sooner than he would be going anyway and more as one of doing whatever outsiders can do to minimize any spread or fallout of chaos after he does fall. The opportunities for the United States to do much good in this regard may still be minimal. Doing good does not mean, as some recommend, trying to stage-manage the emergence of a new political order and picking winners and losers in it. The extreme, very-high-cost U.S. attempt to do that sort of thing in the Middle East-the war and occupation in Iraq-should have taught us how dim would be the prospects for success and how counterproductive would be most of the things we could try."
‘Workers' strikes: the ongoing revolution from below' (Soha Farouk, OpenDemocracy)
"In fact, either before or after Mubarak, workers' rights have rarely been placed at the top of the political agenda. Although their several strikes and protests since the 2000s are considered one of the first sparks of January 25 revolution, they failed to reap its fruits. Soon after the outbreak of the revolution, they succeeded in retrieving, partially, their right to organize and form independent trade unions by founding the Egyptian federation of independent trade unions enclosing thousands of new free unions. However, the state-run Egyptian Trade Union Federation (ETUF) with the same old corrupt figures striving to contain the independent unionists, was not dissolved. Divided and self-organized, with very poor financial and human resources, the newly formed unions are unable to counter bureaucratic ETUF power. Hence, empowered by the revolution, workers protests and sit-ins continue apace."
--By Jennifer Parker and Mary Casey
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