U.S. Gulf allies align against Iraqi government, blast sectarian policies


Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal on Thursday blasted the Shiite-dominated government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for having systematically instituted policies that "incited sectarianism," echoing a criticism of Maliki under which he has been broadly blamed for alienating Iraqi Sunnis and creating an environment favorable to the current insurgency being led by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Faisal had a day before been blunt in characterizing the Iraq crisis as a burdgeoning civil war with regional implications, in which actors with "bad intentions" were pursing "plots threatening [Iraq's] security, stability, national unity and sense of Arab identity." The UAE - part of a bloc of traditional U.S. allies that has in recent years found itself aligned opposite an Iranian-led Shiite axis and the camp of Islamist radicals that includes the Muslim Brotherhood - in the meantime recalled its ambassador from Baghdad for consultations. The posture being taken by Washington's Gulf partners is likely to have domestic implications in the United States, as the Obama administration considers how to respond to ISIS's military progress. Secretary of State John Kerry has twice this week floated the possibility of coordination or cooperation or information-sharing with Iran regarding ISIS, remarks that were quickly met with criticism and - at least as of Monday - walk-backs by the State Department. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) told reporters on Thursday that he opposed U.S. coordination with Iran in part because it would be read by Washington's Middle East allies as siding with Tehran, remarking that "I can just imagine what our friends in the region, our allies, will be thinking by reaching out to Iran at a time when they continue to pay for terrorists and foster terrorism, not only in Syria and in Lebanon but in Israel as well."


Suspicions that Hamas was behind last week’s kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers deepened Thursday, with an Israeli security official naming Saleh al-Arouri, the founder of Hamas’s armed wing in the West Bank, as  a key figure behind the abductions. The official, speaking to veteran Arab affairs reporter Avi Issacharoff, said there was “no doubt that al-Arouri was connected” to the kidnappings. Earlier this year Israeli military officials attributed an uptick in Hamas-driven violence in the West Bank to Arouri, who is based in Turkey and has in recent years reportedly taken “sole control” of efforts to rebuild Hamas’s terror infrastructure in the West Bank. Washington Institute Senior Fellow Matt Levitt noted Thursday that Arouri’s ties to Hamas terror plots extend over decades. These latest allegations had already by mid-Thursday renewed concerns in the foreign policy community and in Washington over the extent to which Turkey, a U.S. counter-terror ally, has been facilitating terror activities in the region – Foundation for Defense of Democracies Vice President of Research Jonathan Schanzer on Thursday questioned if Ankara would be “held accountable if Saleh Arouri is indeed behind the West Bank abductions.”


President Barack Obama on Thursday announced plans to send 300 American military personnel to train and advise Iraqi forces and to expand intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance missions as Washington aims to curb recent advances by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Addressing growing concerns from U.S. policymakers and analysts in recent days, President Obama noted that “unlike some other players in the region, we don’t have territorial ambitions in their country” and called on all of Iraq’s neighbors to “respect Iraq’s territorial integrity” – a message that appeared to be directed at Tehran. Iran has frequently been accused of interference by neighboring countries. When pressed by reporters on proposed cooperation with Tehran, the President highlighted Iran’s record of supporting Iraqi Shiites at the expense of an inclusive government, and said that no bilateral cooperation would occur if Iran continues to approach Iraq through the lens of sectarianism.


While many sports fans were shocked that defending champion Spain were knocked out of the World Cup 2014 so soon, a red ruffed lemur at the Zoological Center Tel Aviv-Ramat Gan could have warned them not to expect success. Max the lemur is serving as Israel’s ‘Paul the octopus’ in this year’s World Cup predictor role. The German eight-armed cephalopod, that has since died, wowed 2010 World Cup followers after correctly forecasting the outcome of eight matches. The Safari staff chose Max because of his friendly and inquisitive nature. Max makes his predictions by choosing a food box. There are three options: two with team flags, one with ‘tie/draw’ written on it. Max is following in the footsteps of yet another forecasting animal – the Safari’s giraffe, Dovale, correctly guessed 18 of 31 games in the 2012 UEFA European Championship. (via Israel21c)

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