Russian Jets and Experts Sent to Iraq to Aid Army - Rod Nordland (New York Times)
Iraqi government officials said Sunday that Russian experts had arrived in Iraq to help the army get 12 new Russian warplanes into the fight against Sunni extremists.
The Russian move was an implicit rebuke to the U.S., which the Iraqis believe has been too slow to supply American F-16s and attack helicopters - although the U.S. is now in the process of providing both.
See also Iraqi Army Drives Back Insurgents in Tikrit - Rod Nordland and Suadad Al-Salhy (New York Times)
Independent sources confirmed that an Iraqi Army counteroffensive had driven ISIS militants from the center of Tikrit, the birthplace of Saddam Hussein, with a largely Sunni population of 250,000.
"There is a very big change in the performance of the security forces, and now we can say the initiative is in the hands of the Iraqi forces," said Ahmed al-Sheraifi, a former air force pilot and now a professor at Baghdad University.
He attributed the improved performance to intelligence support by American drones, as well as to American advice on tactics. "The security forces began relying on their airborne division, and this is a trademark of U.S. tactics," he said.
Martin Indyk, U.S. Mideast Envoy, Steps Down - David S. Joachim (New York Times)
The State Department said Friday that Martin S. Indyk had resigned from his position as special Middle East envoy.
Indyk's resignation was the latest sign that the Obama administration's hopes for the peace process have faded, though the State Department said he would continue to advise Secretary of State Kerry after returning to the Brookings Institution as its foreign policy director.
ISIS Flags Seen in Gaza (Algemeiner)
Mourners in Gaza were seen carrying black flags of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terror group at a funeral on Sunday for one of two terrorists Israel targeted in an airstrike on Friday, Ma'ariv reported.
The IDF said the two were behind volleys of rockets fired into Israel over the last two weeks, and belonged to the Salah e-Din Brigades of the Popular Front.
Egypt Arrests 15 ISIS Militants in Sinai (Jerusalem Post)
Egyptian special forces arrested 15 militants in Sinai belonging to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), members of a terrorist cell which had used tunnels to cross from Gaza into Sinai, Ma'ariv reported on Saturday.
Egypt said the group's intent was to set up terrorist cells for ISIS in Egypt, to fight the Egyptian government.
Turkey Benefits from Flow of Kurdish Oil - Anshel Pfeffer (Jewish Chronicle-UK)
Turkey is interested in serving as the main conduit for oil and natural gas out of Kurdistan and the Caucasus.
Israel has become the first buyer of Kurdish oil, which came through Turkey's massive Ceyhan oil terminal, which is also the outlet for the oil Israel buys from Azerbaijan.
Despite the dire state of Israel's relations with the Erdogan government, the oil shipments have continued through Ceyhan without disruption.
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- Netanyahu Expresses Support for Kurdish Independence - Batsheva Sobelman
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed open support Sunday for Kurdish independence.
In a policy address in Tel Aviv, Netanyahu said that among the challenges facing Israel was the need to build cooperation with moderate countries in the region to help fend off the threat posed by extremists such as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS.
"It is upon us to support the international efforts to strengthen Jordan, and support the Kurds' aspiration for independence," Netanyahu said. The Kurds are a "fighting people that have proven political commitment and political moderation, and they're also worthy of their own political independence." (Los Angeles Times)
See also Netanyahu Says Security Control of West Bank Is Vital in Any Accord - Isabel Kershner
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday told the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University that under any future peace agreement with the Palestinians, Israel would insist on maintaining security control of the West Bank "for a very long time."
He said it had been proved time and again that after the departure of Western forces, local troops trained by the West could not be relied on. He cited Gaza, where Hamas routed Western-backed Palestinian Authority forces after Israel's unilateral withdrawal in 2005, and Iraq after the exit of American forces. The departure of Israeli forces from the West Bank would "probably lead to collapse of the Palestinian Authority there and the takeover of radical Islamic forces, like in Gaza."
Netanyahu added that Israel would support international efforts to shore up Jordan, though he called it a stable country with a strong army that is able to defend itself. (New York Times)
See also Netanyahu: Israel Needs to Maintain Military Presence on Jordan Border to Fight Islamist Threat - Attila Somfalvi
To counter the extremist Islamist threat from the east, Prime Minister Netanyahu said: "Now it is also clear why I insist that our eastern border is along the Jordan River. We must be able to stop the waves of zealotry on the Jordan border." (Ynet News)
- Netanyahu: As in Syria, Dismantle and Remove Iran's Hostile Capabilities
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told CNN on Sunday: "I hope that the U.S. and the P5+1, the other world powers, do not accept Iran's deal of surrender. They should resist it. Iran...[is] basically saying: okay, keep their capabilities. Park as a threshold nuclear state a few weeks or a few months away from becoming a military nuclear power, and we'll inspect you. Well, it doesn't work."
"It didn't work in the case of North Korea. It did work, and is working in the case of Syria, because you're not relying on inspectors. You're relying on removal. You dismantle or you destroy and you remove what's not destroyed. That's the deal that should be done with Iran, for the sake of peace and for the sake of the future of the Middle East and the world." (CNN)
- Al-Qaeda Splinter Declares New Islamic Caliphate - Ryan Lucas
ISIS - the al-Qaeda breakaway group that has seized much of Syria and Iraq - on Sunday formally declared the establishment of a new Islamic state, demanding allegiance from Muslims worldwide. But the declaration, made on the first day of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, could trigger a wave of infighting among the Sunni militant factions.
The spokesman for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant declared the group's chief, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, as the leader of the new caliphate, or Islamic state. "Listen to your caliph and obey him. Support your state, which grows every day," said ISIS spokesman Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, in an audio statement posted online. He said that with the establishment of the caliphate, the group was changing its name to just the Islamic State.
- A Nuclear Deal Amid Crisis in Iraq? - Zalman Shoval
As the July 20 deadline draws near for a potential nuclear deal between the West and Iran, the chances of such an agreement being reached seem low.
The Americans and their allies are fed up with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif's polite diversion tactics, and his proposed outline for the agreement falls vastly short of meeting their demands. American diplomats underscored that the Iranian position on several key points - such as the number of centrifuges and amount of enriched uranium - was far from the West's position on those matters.
So far, the Americans seem steadfast in their demands, that while the West is willing to abide 1,000 centrifuges at the Natanz uranium enrichment facility, such allowances do not extend to any hidden facilities; and that uranium enrichment could be performed only up to 5% - not to 20%. Publicly, the Iranians have adamantly rejected all of the West's demands, and now it is a matter of who blinks first - unless the crisis in Iraq brings about an extreme change of circumstance. The writer is a former Israeli ambassador to the U.S.
- The Danger of ISIS to the West - Zvi Mazel
An extremist Islamic state is coming into being in the heart of the Mideast. It will become a bastion of terrorism, unleashing its attacks against neighbors and sending its faithful on operations in Europe and the U.S. ISIS - the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria - is a jihadist terrorist organization that has already taken large areas in Syria and made significant gains in Iraq. It is now in the process of setting up a hard-core Islamic state in the heart of the Middle East.
Secretary of State John Kerry has been making the rounds of Arab states to see whether he can cobble together a coalition to act in Syria and Iraq. He came to Cairo bearing gifts, and pledged to unfreeze speedily the dispatch of Apache helicopters badly needed by Egypt to fight jihadist terrorists in the Sinai Peninsula.
After the Americans conquered Baghdad in 2003, the Iraqi Army was disbanded, the civil service dissolved, and the power - held for so long by the Sunni minority - handed over to the Shi'ites, who promptly initiated discriminatory measures against the Sunni minority while moving closer to Shia Iran, the enemy of the West. The writer, a fellow of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, is a former ambassador to Romania, Egypt, and Sweden.
Has Syria's Chemical Weapons Arsenal Truly Been Dismantled? - Lt. Col. (res.) Dr. Dany Shoham (Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies-Bar-Ilan University)
- The Syrian regime is fully aware of the critical role of chemical weapons (CW) for the outcome of the civil war. Assad has no moral qualms about using CW, and his Russian and Iranian allies would not truly discourage him from doing so, particularly if he is on the verge of losing the war.
- Ostensibly, Assad has met the Syrian undertaking of chemical disarmament, but in reality, the remaining, seemingly marginal, issues are of great concern and have dangerous potential:
- In September 2013, Syria reported 23 sites which held a combined 41 facilities containing "1,300 tons of chemical precursors and agents, plus 1,230 unfilled munitions." Currently, no further investigations have been held in Syria to ascertain that no additional sites and/or additional quantities existed and/or were added.
- It is not clear whether since September 2013 production of CW was entirely stopped throughout Syria. Additionally, reports by the Syrian opposition claiming hidden CW (mainly VX agent-loaded) in the area of Hama cannot be ignored. The opposition's claim that at least 20% of the Syrian CW arsenal was not declared might be true.
- The employment of toxic chemicals by the Syrian regime continued during the first half of 2014. The chemical attacks mainly included chlorine, ammonia, and possibly additional toxic chemicals, such as pesticides. The typical delivery mode has been dropping toxic barrel-bombs from helicopters. Airborne chlorine-releasing canisters have been used as well.
- Although prohibited by the CW and BW (biological weapons) conventions, no toxic materials of biological origin, namely toxins, were declared by Syria. However, such agents are probably present in the Syrian arsenal. Besides, it is highly likely that Syria also continues to maintain certain pathogens as deployable biological warfare agents.
- The security and safety within the remaining Syrian CW facilities are doubtful. There is a tangible danger that the rebels will seize undeclared depots of Syrian CW.
- For now, the job done by the inspectors is notable, but is far from complete.
The writer, a top Israeli expert on chemical and biological warfare, is a former senior IDF intelligence analyst.
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