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June 23, 2014

In-Depth Issues:

U.S. Taps Old Allies for New Iraq War - Eli Lake (Daily Beast)
    U.S. diplomats and military officers are reaching out to discarded tribal allies in Iraq.
    On Wednesday, Brett McGurk, the senior State Department official responsible for policy on Iraq, met in Baghdad at the home of former exile leader Ahmed Chalabi.
    The outreach to Chalabi is part of a scramble by U.S. military, diplomatic, and intelligence agencies to respond to the growing violence in Iraq.
    On Thursday, Obama announced that he was sending up to 300 U.S. special operations forces to Iraq - in addition to the 275 such troops already in country. Manned and unmanned aircraft are also now in the region.
    Waleed al-Rawi, a former Iraqi general, said, "My contacts are telling me [that tribal leaders] are willing to talk to the Americans about the entire situation. They say they will fight al-Qaeda but we need to change the government first."

Secret U.S. Plan to Aid Iraq Fizzled Amid Mutual Distrust - Adam Entous, Julian E. Barnes and Siobhan Gorman (Wall Street Journal)
    President Obama authorized a secret plan late last year to aid Iraqi troops in their fight against Sunni extremists by sharing intelligence on the militants' desert encampments, but devoted only a handful of U.S. specialists to the task.
    The program also faced restrictions by the Iraqis, and U.S. surveillance flights took place just once a month.
    Instead of providing Iraqis with real-time drone feeds and intercepted communications from ISIS, U.S. intelligence specialists gave the Iraqis limited photographic images, reflecting U.S. concerns that more sensitive data would end up in Iranian hands, officials said.
    At the end of April, the Pentagon dispatched a team of special-operations personnel to assess the capabilities of Iraq's security forces, a defense official said.
    The assessment they brought back was bleak: Sunni Army officers had been forced out, overall leadership had declined, the Iraqi military wasn't maintaining its equipment and had stopped conducting rigorous training.
    In a Friday sermon, a spokesman for Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq's most influential Shiite cleric, said Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki should consider stepping aside.

Israel Receives Shipment of Kurdish Oil - Julia Payne (Reuters)
    A tanker began unloading crude oil from Iraqi Kurdistan at a port in Israel on Friday, although the Kurdistan Regional Government said on Saturday it did not deal with Israel in the sale.
    Oil cargoes often change hands multiple times before reaching their final destination.
    The new export route to the Turkish port of Ceyhan is designed to bypass Baghdad's federal pipeline system.
    See also Kurds Rediscover Their Old Ally Israel - Zvi Bar'el and Avi Bar-Eli (Ha'aretz)

Senior Fatah Official: Most Palestinians Support Kidnapping of Three Teens - Herb Keinon and Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
    Amin Maqboul, a member of the Fatah Revolutionary Council, said in Ramallah on Saturday that the overwhelming majority of Palestinians support the abduction of Israelis, if the goal is to exchange them for imprisoned Palestinians.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Netanyahu to U.S.: Avoid Working with Iran in Iraq - Elisha Fieldstadt
    Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu strongly discourages the U.S. from working with Iran to mitigate the spreading turmoil in Iraq. "When your enemies are fighting one another, don't strengthen either one of them," Netanyahu said Sunday on NBC's Meet the Press. Netanyahu worries that if America works with Iran, their nuclear might will be strengthened. "I hope they don't come up with a bad deal," he said. "Iran could come out with nuclear weapons capability - it would make everything else pale in comparison." He said the U.S. should "try to weaken both" Iran and the Sunni insurgents. (NBC News)
        See also Iran's Leader Says Tehran and Washington Not Aligned on Iraq - Jason Rezaian
    Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, made remarks Sunday that lessened any remaining possibility of military cooperation between the Islamic republic and the U.S. in securing Iraq against an onslaught from al-Qaeda-inspired militants. "We don't support any foreign interference in Iraq and we're strongly opposed to U.S. interference there," Khamenei said.
        "What is happening in Iraq is not a war between Shiites and Sunnis. Arrogant powers want to use the remnants of Saddam's regime and takfiri (ISIS) extremists to deprive Iraq of stability and tranquility," he said. "The real fight is between those who want to bring back a U.S. presence and those who want Iraqi independence."  (Washington Post)
  • Sunni Militants Seize Border Crossings with Jordan and Syria
    The Iraqi government appears to have lost control of its western borders after Sunni militants captured the border posts of Turaibil, on the Jordanian border, and al-Waleed, on the Syrian frontier, on Sunday after government forces pulled out. The capture of frontier crossings could help ISIS transport weapons and other equipment to different battlefields, analysts say. One tribal leader said that 90% of Anbar, the vast, mainly Sunni-populated province to the west of Baghdad, is now in rebel hands. (BBC News)
        See also Jordan: Traffic Halted at Iraqi Border
    Jordan beefed up its border defenses with Iraq on Sunday after Sunni gunmen seized territory close to its border in Anbar province and took control of the only land crossing with Iraq. A Jordanian minister told Reuters traffic had halted and there were signs of chaos at the crossing that serves as a major artery for passengers and trade between the two countries.
        The loss of the Iraqi border crossing with Jordan was not seen as an immediate security threat to the kingdom, although some were unnerved by the prospect of al-Qaeda-affiliated groups along the border, an official said. (Ammon-Jordan)
        See also below Observations: Could ISIS Take Jordan Next? - Taylor Luck (The National-UAE)
  • Presbyterians Vote to Divest Holdings to Pressure Israel - Laurie Goodstein
    The Presbyterian Church (USA) voted on Friday by 310 to 303 at its general convention to divest from Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard and Motorola that supply Israel with equipment used in the territories. The measure also reaffirmed Israel's right to exist and endorsed a two-state solution. (New York Times)
        See also Israeli Leader Criticizes Presbyterian Divestment Decision - Yousur Alhlou
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday criticized the decision by the Presbyterian Church (USA) to divest from U.S. companies that operate in the West Bank, saying the vote was misguided and unfair. "When the Middle East is fragmented in this horrible war, this savage, savage war between militant Shiites and militant Sunnis...the only place where you have freedom, tolerance, protection of minorities, protection of gays, protection of Christians and all other faiths is Israel," said Netanyahu.
        "Let's arrange a bus tour for (Presbyterians) in the region. Let them go to maybe Syria, Lebanon, Iraq. And my only suggestion for be in an armor-plated bus, and...they shouldn't announce that they're Christians."  (AP)
        See also Netanyahu Addresses Jewish Media Conference (Prime Minister's Office)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israeli Teen Killed, Three Wounded in Explosion on Syria Border - Gili Cohen and Eli Ashkenazi
    An Israeli teen was killed and three contract workers for the Defense Ministry were wounded, one seriously, on Sunday by an explosion near the border fence with Syria in the Golan Heights. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Defense Minister Ya'alon: Assad Regime Responsible for Missile Attack on Israel - Yaakov Lappin (Jerusalem Post)
        See also IDF Responds to Syrian Border Attack with Airstrikes - Gili Cohen
    The Israel Air Force struck nine Syrian military targets on Monday night, in response to Sunday's cross-border missile shooting. (Ha'aretz)
  • Dozens of Terror Tunnels Discovered in West Bank - Yoav Zitun
    The IDF has discovered dozens of terror tunnels and hiding holes in the Hebron area while searching for the three teens kidnapped in the West Bank. Some of the tunnels were found inside Palestinian homes under furniture and washing machines. Israel's elite Yahalom engineering unit discovered close to 20 laboratories for manufacturing improvised explosive devices hidden in homes. (Ynet News)
  • IDF Searches for Kidnapped Israeli Teens - Lilach Shoval
    Lt. Col. Yogev Bar-Sheshet describes the raids against Hamas in the West Bank: "Some 500 troops raid two villages every night; they detain people and seize arms; we may not have been able to prevent the kidnapping but at the very least we are thwarting the next one. You cannot escape the feeling that this mission is of great national importance; you cannot do more than what we have been doing. We are arresting as many terrorists as we can; they are on the run. The Palestinian public will not enjoy a good night's sleep so long as the abductees have not been returned."  (Israel Hayom)
        See also War Diary: A First-Hand Account of Operation Brother's Keeper - Major Eran Krass (Israel Hayom)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Turkey Gives Up on Unified Iraq - Thomas Seibert
    Ankara has been keen to preserve Iraq's territorial unity in order to prevent a Kurdish state from being created, because such a development could promote separatist sentiments among Turkey's own Kurdish minority of about 12 million people. But policymakers are reviewing that position, said Veysel Ayhan, director of the Ankara-based International Middle East Peace Research Center (IMPR). "The federal state [in Iraq] has not brought stability, so we have to discuss a new system, either a confederation or division....Sunnis will not accept to live under Shia rule, and Shiites will not live under Sunnis."
        Huseyin Celik, spokesman for Prime Minister Erdogan's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), said, "It has become clear for us that Iraq has practically become divided into three parts."  (Daily Beast)
  • Iraq Army's Ability to Fight Raises Worries - Matt Bradley and Julian E. Barnes
    The Iraq army's quick collapse against Sunni insurgents in Mosul this month surprised the U.S. military, which spent about $25 billion to train and supply the army over nearly a decade of occupation until 2011. But it didn't surprise Mosul's residents, who say they witnessed the Iraqi army's decay through corruption, sectarianism and incompetence.
        The ISIS insurgents "are not strong, but the military is very weak," said Atheel al-Nujaifi, the governor of Nineveh province who fled its capital Mosul. "There was no responsible leadership, there was no planning, there was no correct utilization for the military tools....The leaders and the soldiers have no military experience and have no convictions."  (Wall Street Journal)
  • It's Time to Stop Infantilizing the Palestinians - Alan Johnson
    Despite the jubilant reaction of many Palestinians to the kidnapping of three Israeli teenage boys, the Palestinians will likely pay a very small price in the international community or global public opinion. Why? Because a mindset has taken root in the West that treats the Palestinians as children - "the pathology of paternalism" it has been called. It assumes that Israelis have responsibility and choice, while Palestinians do not.
        This kind of thinking casts the Palestinians as passive victims and discounts the threats Israel faces. The Palestinians remain perpetually below the age of responsibility. But if the Palestinians are treated as children, never held accountable for cultivating a culture of hate, then they will never make compromises for peace. And without those compromises, Israel will not take risks for peace. Nor should it. The writer is the editor of Fathom, published by the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre (BICOM). (Telegraph-UK)

Could ISIS Take Jordan Next? - Taylor Luck (The National-UAE)

  • Last week, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also ISIS) announced it would "soon bring the Islamic state" to "brothers in Jordan." According to senior ISIL-linked Jordanian jihadists, the former al-Qaeda affiliate has pumped $3 million into Jordan in the past month for "recruitment purposes" and to fund the medical treatment of its fighters returning from Syria.
  • ISIL has identified Jordan as a vital "linchpin" to uniting its young caliphate. Yet even more attractive to ISIL is the stretch of Jordan Valley farmland separating Jordan from Israel and the Palestinian territories - with leaders eyeing a push into the territories and the possible "liberation of Jerusalem."
  • But in recent months, Jordanian jihadists have served as ISIL's most vocal critics, with Abu Mohammed Al Maqdisi, who once ranked third in al-Qaeda's leadership chain, denouncing ISIL as "deviants." Key Salafist theologian Omar Mahmoud Othman has attacked the movement's massacres of minorities and referred to its leadership as "dogs."
  • The Islamic State will likely find that repeating its successes in Jordan will not be easy, as most in the country still solidly back the Hashemite monarchy. The vast majority of Jordanians also have little appetite for the instability brought by hardline Islamist groups.
  • Unlike the Iraqi government forces, ISIL would be up against the seasoned veterans of Jordanian intelligence and a well-trained military, who boast more than three decades of anti-terror experience. Jordanian authorities have arrested more than 200 ISIL fighters since last December along the Syrian border. Jordanian forces have engaged in a series of cross-border battles with ISIL fighters that have reportedly left 20 dead and led to more than 100 arrests.

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