Spurred by Iraq, U.S. to Boost Support for Syrian Rebels
The United States moved toward a joint Iraq-Syria policy, recognizing the two conflicts are intertwined, as U.S. secretary of state John Kerry arrived in Jeddah on Friday to consult with Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah, the Syrian opposition's most prominent backer, and Syrian opposition leader Ahmed Jarba (Daily Star). His visit comes a day after U.S. president Barack Obama requested that Congress appropriate $500 million to train and arm "appropriately vetted" members of the Syrian opposition forces (NYT), which would mark a significant elevation of U.S. involvement in Syria's civil war. However, military and State Department officials said specific plans had not yet been drawn up. The proposal, which has been awaited since Obama's West Point commencement address in late May, was accompanied by an additional $1 billion to help stabilize Syria's neighbors (AP).
"ISIS has a bad track record at institutionalizing local alliances, but the possibility still exists because the Maliki government's unwillingness to broaden the space for Sunni political participation makes ISIS' job far easier. Even Sunnis who are skeptical of the radical Islamists or believe they can use and then dispense with them may end up caught between an uncompromising regime and a formidable ISIS. If ISIS has learned from its bloody past, it will avoid picking unnecessary fights with these Sunni factions and instead try to slowly integrate them into its own structures. For American and Iraqi policymakers, time is of the essence: the longer ISIS can take advantage of this lack of other Sunni options, the more likely it is to transform into a resilient armed presence," writes Paul Staniland for Political Violence at a Glance.
"Syrian rebels opposed to ISIS have pointed in the past to the apparent hesitation of Mr Assad's forces to attack ISIS as proof of its tacit co-operation with the regime to weaken other rebel groups. But the radical jihadists' gains in Iraq, including its capture of arms and cash, are now tilting some Syrian rebel groups back towards wanting to ally with ISIS. Some local rebel militias in eastern Syria are now said to be declaring their allegiance to it. In any case, the collapse of Mr Maliki's forces in northern and western Iraq appears to have persuaded the Syrian government, perhaps with urgings from its close ally, Iran, to take the threat of ISIS more seriously," writes the Economist.
"Sealing off Syria's external borders -- and its internal one with the Kurdish region -- would help contain jihadist groups and interdict ISIS suicide operators coming to Iraq while the United States works with the Iraqi government to win over moderate Sunnis and, possibly, launches drone strikes against ISIS positions. This could be bolstered through the creation of a U.S. Joint Special Operations Task Force to coordinate cross-border operations. Meanwhile, allying with the Arab tribes on both sides of the border will undermine ISIS support in its key Sunni Arab demographic. This could result in a foreign policy twofer, helping address both the current situation in Iraq and Syria and the broader jihadist threat over the long term," writes Andrew Tabler in Foreign Affairs.
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SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA
Thousands March in Kabul to Protest Electoral Fraud
Thousands of protestors joined presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah in a march on the president's palace on Friday to protest alleged systematic fraud in the runoff election (TOLO). Abdullah's campaign released additional audio and video purporting to back these claims on Thursday. The electoral commission is expected to release preliminary results next Wednesday.
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U.S. Lawmakers Cite Dim Prospects for Immigration Deal
Leading lawmakers said Congress is unlikely to reach a compromise on comprehensive immigration reform until after President Obama leaves office, despite the passage of a Senate bill with bipartisan support (WaPo) a year ago.