IRAQ: U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry turned up in Baghdad this morning to meet with key Iraqi leaders. The Obama administration is making not-so-subtle calls for Iraqi President Nouri al-Maliki to step aside—a now-familiar diplomatic move that hasn’t gone so well in Egypt, Libya, or Syria.
On Sunday, journalist Bob Woodward joined two Republican senators the media love to hate—Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.—in saying the president went against his own military generals and al-Maliki in refusing to leave a contingency force in Iraq.
“The experts, the generals were saying—I mean they were almost on their knees, ‘Keep some troops here,’ and we left zero.”
With ISIS making gains in Anbar province last year, President Barack Obama authorized a secret plan to aid Iraqi troops in their fight against the Sunni militants—but characteristically devoted too little personnel and resources to make it work. The small team set up last year “wasn’t a priority and nobody thought it was a serious effort,” said a senior U.S. official.
SYRIA: Orthodox Bishop of Damascus Jean Kawak addressed Pope Francis during a packed-out visit in Rome. “All Syrians are suffering, among them many Christians,” he said, speaking in Italian. “All people are scared, there’s no food, no place to stay, no jobs. How much longer denied, we believers? We are not resigned to the darkness of evil. We are not people of resignation or despair. Christians are the people of faith and hope. … The anonymous prayer of many people has changed the course of history.”
MAN KNOWS NOT HIS TIME: Fouad Ajami, a great Middle East scholar and one who, as The Wall Street Journal notes, “discovered his calling in explaining the ways of the Arabs to Americans,” died Sunday of cancer at age 68. He served as senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, before that was director of Middle East Studies at Johns Hopkins University, and for 27 years wrote commentary for the Journal. Born in Lebanon to a Shiite family, Ajami understood the roots and stakes of Islamist terror as few did—understanding, for instance, that the Iraq War could not be summed up in whether U.S. forces located weapons of mass destruction. His final Journal op-ed, posted June 13, began: “Two men bear direct responsibility for the mayhem engulfing Iraq: Barack Obama and Nouri al-Maliki.” His book The Foreigner’s Gift remains a treasure in understanding the region today.
EGYPT: Three Al-Jazeera journalists with lengthy experience as war correspondents have been sentenced to lengthy prison terms—two for seven years and one for 10 years—for allegedly spreading false news and collaborating with the Muslim Brotherhood after the overthrow of President Mohammed Morsi.
ELECTIONS: Lead candidate Abdullah Abdullah continues to protest election results in Afghanistan’s runoff and released audio recordings he says show fraud in favor of his opponent, Ashraf Ghani. We’re also watching July 9 elections in Indonesia, where televised debates between contenders were held last night.
WORLD CUP: Argentinian author Jorge Luis Borges hated soccer for its tie scores, fake injuries, and overt nationalism. He even scheduled lectures purposely to coincide with matches.
QUOTE: “My country, family, church fare worse because of my sins, for sinners bring judgment in thinking sins are small, or that God is not angry with them. … And let me not lay my pipe too short of the fountain, never touching the eternal spring, never drawing down water from above.”—The Valley of Vision
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