MENA Week in Review — August 8, 2014

Middle East and North Africa

MENA Week in Review--August 8, 2014

This week the Islamic State made significant territorial gains in northern Iraq, leading to a humanitarian crisis and U.S. military airstrikes; Islamic militants led an incursion across the Lebanese border; and Israeli and Palestinian negotiators are meeting in Cairo this week to resolve the month-long military conflict in the Gaza Strip.


  • The Islamic State made significant gains in northern Iraq this week causing thousands of Iraqi Christians to flee to Kurdish territory and the minority Yazidi population, an ancient religious group, to take refuge atop Mount Sinjar. The rapidly deteriorating conditions led President Obama late Thursday night to authorize airstrikes on IS mobile artillery units and to airdrop humanitarian assistance to the Yazidis stuck on the mountain.
  • The Syrian civil war again spilled over into Lebanon as Islamist fighters clashed with the Lebanese military in Arsal. Fighting in Arsal is believed to have began over the arrest of Imad Ahmad Jomaa, a fighter linked with Jabhat al-Nusra, the Syrian al-Qaeda affiliate. On Thursday, Islamist fighters began pulling out of Arsal with Lebanese military hostages. In support of the Lebanese military, Saudi Arabia announced that it would be providing $1 billion in military aid to Lebanese troops committed to fighting terrorism.
  • During this week’s African Leaders Summit in Washington, Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki spoke at the Atlantic Council. President Marzouki urged the U.S. government to approve the sale of 12 Black Hawk helicopters he suggested they need to help combat terrorism. Tunisia closed its border crossing after the arrival of thousands of Libyan refugees who have fled the ongoing.
  • Without opposition, the Senate approved a measure that will provide $225 million in emergency funding to Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile defense system. This comes on the heels of a 72-hour cease-fire, including the withdrawal of Israeli ground troops from the Gaza Strip. Fighting resumed Friday morning after negotiations failed to extend the cease-fire. While the cease-fire was in place, Palestinians assessed the damage from Operation Protective Edge, which destroyed critical infrastructure including hospitals, U.N. schools, and the only power plant in the Strip. Mohammed Mustafa, the Palestinian deputy prime minister, indicated that reconstruction would cost approximately $6 billion.
  • As warring militias continue to fight for control over Libya, the Libyan parliament threatened to call in the U.N. to oversee a ceasefire. The Washington Post editorial board argued that a satisfactory resolution to the political quagmire would require, “another Western intervention and a peacekeeping force, coupled with a far more robust international mediation mission.”
  • After the unprecedented expulsion of senior State Department official Tom Malinowski last month from Bahrain, 18 U.S. foreign policy leaders called for a review of the bilateral relationship and suspension of U.S. arms sales to Bahrain. Concern was raised that silence from the U.S. “will be read abroad as a sign of weakness and encourage other governments to push back when Washington presses for reforms on governance and human rights.”