Yemeni officials have reported that the second in command of the country's branch of al Qaeda, Saeed al-Shihri, has been killed, although details have not been confirmed. Shihri, a Saudi Arabian national, fought in Afghanistan and had been detained for six years at the U.S. military prison at Guatanamo Bay until his release in 2007. At that point, he was returned to Saudi Arabia for a "rehabilitation" program aimed at extinguishing militant ideology. Upon his release, he joined al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in Yemen, serving as deputy to branch leader Nasser al-Wahishi. According to Yemen's ministry of defense, Shihri, along with six others traveling together in a car, was killed by a U.S. drone strike on Monday. However, the U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said she couldn't confirm Shihri's death, who has been reported dead in the past. However, two senior U.S. officials did confirm he had been killed, but could not confirm U.S. involvement. If accounts are verified, Shihri's death could be a major breakthrough for U.S. backed efforts against the militant group. Meanwhile, coinciding with the anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks, al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri released a 42-minute video confirming the death of his deputy, Abu Yahya al-Libi. He was believed to have been killed by a U.S. drone strike in June, but questions arose after a video featuring him was released a week after the strike.
The United Nations' refugee agency has reported more than 250,000 Syrians have flooded into neighboring countries seeking assistance. The estimate includes all of those who have registered as Syrian refugees, or are awaiting registration; the total number of people who have fled the conflict is likely far higher as tens of thousands are believed not to have registered. Refugee flows have increased to an average 2,000 in Jordan where authorities are concerned about their capacity for humanitarian relief efforts. Additionally, World Health Organization officials have reported that over 500,000 people in the Syrian city of Homs need aid, including health care, food, and water. They said the biggest hospital in Homs was destroyed in fighting, while only six of the 12 public hospitals and eight of the 32 private hospitals are still operating, but at a dramatically reduced capacity. Meanwhile, Syrian forces continued their assault on Aleppo and shelling was reported in Hama province. Clashes were reported in the Barzeh neighborhood of Damascus, and outside the capital in Douma. The Syrian Observatory for human rights said 25 civilians were killed in Tuesday's violence.
Arguments & Analysis
‘Palestinians take to streets in call for Fayyad to step down' (Aziz Abu Sarah, +972 Magazine)
"In the past few days, protesters have filled the Palestinian streets. This time, their protest is not against Israel, but rather against the Palestinian Authority and specifically Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. The Palestinians are coming out to protest the rising prices in the West Bank, which have increased at a time when the Palestinian Authority has been unable to pay its employees their full salaries on time.
However, what is more important than whether or not Prime Minister Fayyad holds onto his job is the role of the Palestinian Authority. Since it's inception, the Palestinian Authority failed to deliver on its promises. No statehood, no freedom, and no dignity for the Palestinian people. Its sole justification for existence has become providing services, creating government jobs, facilitating modest business growth, fundraising, providing some internal law and security services, and - some say - enabling the Israeli occupation. If the Palestinian Authority is unable to provide basic services, then its role and purpose are unclear. The Palestinian Authority's reason for existence is going become an increasingly tough sell to the Palestinian people, who might turn against it when they are done with Fayyad."
‘Turkey: The PKK and a Kurdish Settlement' (International Crisis Group)
"Turkey's Kurdish conflict is becoming more violent, with more than 700 dead in fourteen months, the highest casualties in thirteen years. Prolonged clashes with militants in the south east, kidnappings and attacks on civilians suggest hardliners are gaining the upper hand in the insurgent PKK (Kurdistan Workers' Party). The government and mainstream media should resist the impulse to call for all-out anti-terrorist war and focus instead, together with Kurds, on long-term conflict resolution. There is need to reform oppressive laws that jail legitimate Kurdish politicians and make amends for security forces' excess. The Kurdish movement, including PKK leaders, must abjure terrorist attacks and publicly commit to realistic political goals. Above all, politicians on all sides must legalise the rights most of Turkey's Kurds seek, including mother-language education; an end to discriminatory laws; fair political representation; and more decentralisation. Turkey's Kurds would then have full equality and rights, support for PKK violence would drop, and the government would be better placed to negotiate insurgent disarmament and demobilisation."
‘Follow the money to measure Iraq's move away from Iran' (Ashfin Molavi, The National)
"Iraqi politics remains muddled. Its sectarian divisions have sharpened. Violence clearly remains a threat. And yet, amid these problems, Iraq is pushing oil production uphill, while Iran's is falling.
As Iraq's coffers fill and Iran's empty, a balance will emerge. Tehran will lose the ability to decisively influence Iraqi politics. Meanwhile, Iraq will improve relations with Arab powers who are hostile to Tehran's influence. China and other Asian buyers will look more to Iraq as a major new source of oil. And Baghdad will re-emerge in its traditional role as a regional power, alongside Iran, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
As Iraq grows richer, it will be able to play "rial-politik" on its own and, more importantly, be less swayed by outsiders waving wads of cash. As Iraq stabilises over the next decade, its geopolitical influence will grow.
There is no abrupt shift in the balance of power today, but the tectonic plates are moving. Iraq and Iran are moving towards equilibrium again, and that will benefit Iraq's long-term stability."
--By Jennifer Parker and Mary Casey
The Middle East Channel offers unique analysis and insights on this diverse and vital region of more than 400 million.