Iraq troops battle for control of Tikrit; North Korea proposes two Koreas suspend hostilities; senior military official expelled from China's Communist Party; MERS cases in Saudi Arabia triple; militia disarms in Democratic Republic of Congo; and more 

Top of the Agenda

Iraq Battles for Tikrit as Caliphate Is Declared

Iraqi troops battled to wrest control of Tikrit on Monday (Reuters), a day after the insurgency's leader declared the establishment of a transnational caliphate, Islamic State (FT), with authority over all jihadi organizations worldwide. Meanwhile, Russian military advisers arrived in Baghdad to train Iraqi forces on twelve new warplanes, as Iraqi officials complain that the United States has been too slow in supplying F-16s and attack helicopters (NYT), whose delivery was stalled amid fears in the U.S. Congress that Baghdad would use the U.S. arms to suppress its domestic political opponents. In Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivered an address seizing on the rise of Islamic extremism in Iraq and Syria to expand his security requirements in future talks with the Palestinians, calling for a long-term security presence in the West Bank. The Israeli premier also endorsed Kurdish aspirations for independence (NYT).

Analysis

"Sunni extremists' efforts to stir sectarian strife through brutal atrocities against Iraqi Shia will no doubt make the Iraqi government and the country's majority Shia population more amenable to overt Iranian assistance and influence in the country. But they were already fairly amenable to begin with: Maliki has already demonstrated as much by pursuing anti-Sunni sectarian policies that helped fuel support for ISIS to begin with. And his long-standing ties to Iran are likewise no secret; many attribute his resistance to a continued U.S. military presence in Iraq after 2011 to Iranian influence. To think that any outcome in Iraq would leave Iran without considerable influence is foolish. But with ISIS gains threatening to lead to a de facto partition of the country, Iranian influence might actually be more contained than it has been in recent years," writes Dalia Dassa Kaye in Foreign Affairs.

"The critical criterion for supporting a foreign group of fighters or politicians is local legitimacy, not 'moderation' defined in distant lands. But legitimacy is an issue that the United States, Iran, Arab powers and all foreign armies ignore as they march into battles in foreign lands. This is why they leave behind such ravages and chaos when they march home a few years later, staggered and bewildered at the furies they encountered and the sandstorms and cultural forces that momentarily blinded them," writes Rami G. Khouri in the Cairo Review.

"Iraqis from all sects and ethnicities will be stupidly self-destructive if they don't come to terms with one another quickly. They still have a chance to reverse course, reallocate power and repair political rifts in a way that Syria almost certainly cannot if Mr. Assad stays in power. They also have international interest in helping make it happen, as controversial as any form of outside diplomatic or military assistance may be. The alternative is the Lebanon situation, in which politics was hijacked by warlords, security forces were marginalized by law-defying militias, the economy survived off smuggling, and daily life was Darwinian," writes Robin Wright in the New York Times.

 

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PACIFIC RIM

North Korea Offers Conciliation After Firing Missiles

North Korea on Monday proposed that the two Koreas suspend hostilities, an overture that follows its firing of two short-range missiles and precedes a visit by Chinese president Xi Jinping to Seoul (Yonhap). Meanwhile, North Korea said it would put two U.S. tourists on trial (Reuters), while Japan is set to move ahead with talks Tuesday on past abductions and possible sanctions relief (Asahi Shimbun).

CHINA: Senior military official General Xu Caihou was expelled from the Communist Party on Monday and his case referred to prosecutors as President Xi Jinping widens his campaign of rooting out graft (SCMP).

ELSEWHERE:

MERS cases in Saudi Arabia triple

Militia disarms in Democratic Repulic of Congo

This is an excerpt of the CFR.org Daily News Brief. The full version is available on CFR.org

 

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