The taking of the Mosul Dam on the Tigris River from ISIS by Kurdish Peshmerga forces backed by US air power highlights the strategic nature of water in the multi-sided Iraq conflict. Even before ISIS seized the giant dam in early August, the militants were taking advantage of the country's drought, cutting off the flow of water from the dam to Baghdad through territory under their control. "ISIS is starting to use dams as weapon of war," wrote meteorologist Eric Holthaus, Slate's Future Tense blog. "So they've made [it] high on their list to take over those dams and control the water downstream." July saw battles between ISIS militants and government troops over the Haditha Dam and its hydroelectric works on the Euphrates. The fall of the complex to ISIS would have given the rebels control over Baghdad's electricity source. But the most grave danger has not passed: ongoing fighting and air-strikes in the area of the Mosul Dam could lead to the dam being breached, which would flood Mosul and other downstream cities, possibly even affecting Baghdad.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appealed to US legislators to help Israel stave off a feared global push to bring Israeli military and political leaders to trial on war crimes charges in the wake of the Gaza offensive, the New York Post reported Aug. 6. Congress members visiting Israel as guests of AIPAC, were urged by Bibi to go to bat for Israeli officials seekng to avoid ending up in the dock at the International Criminal Court in The Hague. The delegation included Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY), who said: "The prime minister asked us to work together to ensure that this strategy of going to the ICC does not succeed." Netanyahu "wants the US to use all the tools that we have at our disposal to, number one, make sure the world knows that war crimes were not committed by Israel, they were committed by Hamas. And that Israel should not be held to a double standard." (JP)
Well, this is surreal. In authorizing US air-strikes in northern Iraq, President Obama invoked the responsibility to protect the Yazidis from ISIS and avert a potential "genocide." Before the missiles fall, there will be air-drops of aid to the several thousand Yazidis besieged on a mountaintop in Sinjar, Nineveh governorate, driven from their homes below by ISIS militants. Said Obama: "Earlier this week, one Iraqi cried that there is no one coming to help. Well, today America is coming to help." (AP, AFP, NYT, Aug. 7) We have been noting for years the growing persecution and attacks on the Yazidis as jihadists have been unleashed in the decade since the US invasion, and warning of the threat of genocide. But too small to matter in the Great Power game, their plight was little noted by the outside world. Now their name is on the lips of the leader of the West, and in the global headlines.
Kurdish Peshmerga forces took control of the town of Zumar near Iraq's border with Syria Aug. 1, routing ISIS militants from oil installations they had taken in a surprise attack earlier in the day. Kurdish authorities said two Peshmerga troops were killed, along with several ISIS fighters, with several more ISIS militants taken prisoner. The Peshmerga victory comes two days after ISIS insurgents blew up the critical bridge over the Tigris River at Samarra, effectively cutting off Baghdad from Nineveh and Iraq's north. The emergence of the Peshmerga as a more potent force against ISIS than Iraq's national army (now approaching a state of disentegration) raises obvious dilemmas. In fact, in 2012, the town of Zumar was at the center of a political crisis between Baghdad and the Kurdistan Regional Government. The central government sent military units to Zumar to take the border post, but were stopped by Peshmerga forces. Zumar lies in the northwest of Nineveh governorate, on the border of teritory controlled by the KRG and ISIS. (See map.) (Rudaw, Aug. 1; BasNews, July 30)
Elie Wiesel—yet again—seems to find himself on the wrong side, this time in a full-page ad he took out in US newspapers (PDF), problematicallly entitled: "Jews rejected child sacrifice 3,500 years ago. Now it's Hamas' turn." Offering no evidence for the accusation, he writes: "I call upon President Obama and the leaders of the world to condemn Hamas' use of children as human shields." This formula of course gives Israel a blank check to kill Palestinian children, while blaming Hamas for using them as "shields." And while the statement invokes co-existence and a shared Abrahamic heritage with the Palestinians, it does so in utterly hypocritical terms. In his penultimate paragraph, Wiesel writes: "And I enjoin the American public to stand firmly with the people of Israel who are in yet another struggle for survival, and with the suffering people of Gaza who reject terror and embrace peace." Note the subtlety of the propaganda. We are admonished to stand with "the people of Israel" (presumably, all of them), who are engaged in a "struggle for survival." Whereas, we are told to stand with "the suffering people of Gaza who reject terror and embrace peace"—this after a lecture about the Gazans using their children as "shields." So presumably, we are only to "stand with" those Gazans who reject their own leaders. No such conditions are placed on the Israeli side—on the contrary, the Israeli war is legitimized as a "struggle for survival." There is no acknowledgement of a "struggle for survival" in Gaza—with over 1,500 dead, 200,000 displaced, whole neighborhoods reduced to rubble, and thousands without water or electricity.
Today's depressing news that some 10,000 joined a "New York Stands with Israel" rally at the UN (overseen by Chuck Schumer, of course) was compounded for me by a demoralizing encounter outside St. Mark's Church. I was biking down Second Ave., and saw the "FREE PALESTINE" banner outside the church, and stopped to check it out... To my disappointment it was the highly problematic group "If Americans Knew." It is obvious from its name that this is basically a right-wing naitonalist formation with (at least) an anti-Semitic streak. Right, "Americans" are pure and righteous (never mind Gitmo and Abu Ghraib and "shock & awe"), but are being hoodwinked into supporting atrocities by those wily Jews... I nonetheless took one of their flyers just to see what it said, and was dismayed to find it was a big quote from the vile Gilad Atzmon, a peddler of the most rank anti-Semitic garbage...
More than 700 were killed in Syria over the course of July 18-19, in what the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) called the bloodiest 48 hours in the conflict to date. SOHR president Rami Abdul Rahman compared the violence to the gas attack in Ghouta last year, which he said killed some 500. The dead were mostly from fighting between ISIS and pro-government forces in clashes over the Shaar gas field near Homs. Reports of ISIS atrocities in Syria continue to mount. ISIS militants reportedly carried out the stoning of a woman charged with adultery in the stadium of Tabqa city July 18. SOHR said residents resisted ISIS pressure to participate in the stoning. (Asharq Al-Awsat, July 20)
Well, we don't think so either, actually. But Revolution News brings some interesting facts to light in a piece entitled "Bombing for Oil: Gaza, Israel and the Levant Basin." It seems that in 1999, British Gas Group (BG) and Consolidated Contractors International Company (CCC) signed a 25-year agreement with the Palestinian Authority for offshore rights on the Gaza coast. In 2000, as drilling began, BG and CCC found gas (not oil) fields, dubbed Gaza Marine 1 and Gaza Marine 2. The companies were granted a 90% ownership of any reserves (60% and 30% respectively for BG and CCC), with a 10% share for the Palestinians. Gaza Marine 1 is entirely located in "Palestinian territorial waters," with reserves estimated at 28 billion cubic meters. Gaza Marine 2, or the "Gaza Border Field" straddles the maritime border between the Gaza Strip and Israel, with an estimated 3 billion cubic meters.