Iraqi premier Nuri al-Maliki's mishandling of security and perceived sidelining of Sunni Arabs set the stage for a major militant offensive, but factors such as Syria's civil war also played a role, experts say. Maliki's opponents accuse him of sectarian discrimination against the Sunni minority, centralising power and moving toward dictatorship, while the prime minister insists he is working to keep the country safe. "He's appointed every senior officer in the military currently serving, so issues like illegal arrests, torture, extraction of bribes to free detainees, etc. I'd lay at Maliki's feet," said Kirk Sowell, a political risk analyst and publisher of the Inside Iraqi Politics newsletter. Anthony Cordesman of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, agreed.
Tunisia's electoral commission on Monday proposed holding long-planned parliamentary elections in October and a presidential poll in November after the political parties agreed a deal following months of negotiations. "The draft timetable that we have presented (proposes) legislative elections on October 26, the first round of the presidential election on November 23, and the second round on December 28," the commission's chairman, Chafik Sarsar, told journalists. He was speaking after meeting National Assembly speaker Mustapha Ben Jaafar. Sarsar hailed the breakthrough in negotiations between the political parties, which allowed for an agreement on Friday between the Islamist Ennahda party and its opponents, on holding the parliamentary election first.
Maiduguri (Nigeria) (AFP) - At least 15 people were killed when suspected Boko Haram gunmen stormed a market in northern Nigeria late on Sunday, witnesses and a security source said. "Sunday is normally a market day and people from neighbouring villages had gathered at the local market in Daku when the insurgents laid siege," said grocery seller Laraba Simon. "Scores of people escaped with bullet wounds while dozens of shops, stalls, houses, vehicles, motorcycles and assorted foodstuff were set ablaze by the rampaging attackers." Laraba said the insurgents "surrounded the village with sophisticated weapons and petrol bombs".
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday telephoned Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas and said he expected him to help ensure the safe return of three kidnapped teenagers, a statement said. Abbas's office also issued a statement condemning both the kidnapping of the three youths and the results of a massive Israeli crackdown to find the perpetrators. "I expect you to help in the return of the kidnapped youths and the capture of the kidnappers," Netanyahu told the Palestinian leader. It was their first telephone conversation in nearly a year, and came as Israeli forces conducted the biggest arrest operation in years, focusing predominantly on the Islamist Hamas movement which Netanyahu has accused of kidnapping the three youths in the southern West Bank.
Militants gained ground on Monday in a battle for a strategic Shiite enclave in northern Iraq that provides a corridor to Syria, officials and residents said. Security forces insisted they had repelled an assault on Tal Afar, a Shiite Turkman-majority town in Nineveh province, but multiple officials and a resident said militants had entered it, with one saying they were in control. "Armed groups managed to take control of Tal Afar," a Nineveh provincial government official told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity. Resident Mohammed Khalil said militants had taken several districts but not the entire town, and added that families were fleeing to nearby Sinjar between Tal Afar and the Syrian border.
Arab foreign ministers are set to meet this week in Saudi Arabia to discuss what the Arab League on Monday called the "critical situation" in Iraq. The talks on Wednesday and Thursday come as Baghdad battles a lightning offensive by Islamic militants advancing on Baghdad after seizing parts of the north, including Iraq's second-largest city Mosul. Iraqi security forces on Saturday launched a counter-offensive, recapturing two towns north of the capital. Arab League chief Nabil Al-Arabi said the meeting in Jeddah will "study developments in the critical situation in Iraq and the steps that need to be taken to deal with it", a statement received by AFP said.
The prime minister of Iraq's Kurdistan region is in Tehran for talks with Iranian officials, media reported on Monday, amid efforts to thwart a Sunni insurgent offensive north of Baghdad. The unannounced visit by Kurdistan premier Nechirvan Barzani comes after Iranian leaders pledged support for Iraq's central government against jihadist fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Iran's Mehr news agency said Barzani would meet the secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, Admiral Ali Shamkhani, to discuss "the recent developments in Iraq".
Qatar's foreign minister has accused Iraq's Shiite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki of triggering the unrest that has swept his country through his policies of "marginalisation" of the Sunni Arab minority. Militants spearheaded by powerful jihadist group the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and joined by supporters of executed dictator Saddam Hussein, have in the past week overrun a large chunk of northern and north-central Iraq, although their advance has since been slowed by a government counter-offensive. "This (unrest) is partly a result of negative factors... mainly implementing factional policies, marginalisation and exclusion," said Foreign Minister Khaled al-Attiyah in comments carried late Sunday by QNA state news agency.
American companies can expect progress on some critical U.S. trade initiatives if the Republican Party takes control of both houses of the U.S. Congress this November. A Republican victory in the Senate may prevent the chamber's Democrats, backed by labor unions concerned about the impact of free trade on American jobs, from blocking trade legislation favored by both President Barack Obama and Republican leaders. Pollsters currently see the Republicans with a reasonable chance of winning just enough seats to gain control of the Senate in mid-term elections, which would give them their first majority in both chambers since 2006. One area that might take a hit is future funding of the Export-Import Bank of the United States, the nation's export credit agency, as some conservatives see it providing “corporate welfare” through loans to foreign buyers of goods made by major U.S. companies.