TIME Iraq

The Iraqi Government Seems Helpless to Stop ISIS’s New Caliphate

The Sunni militant group says it has created its own Islamic empire. Their hold is less than secure, but Iraq's government seems helpless

With the upload of an audio recording, radical Sunni militants on June 29 declared a new Islamic caliphate, a religious superstate, stretching from eastern Iraq to the Syrian city of Aleppo. The group formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) is now simply the Islamic State, dropping the names of the two countries whose sovereignty it doesn’t recognize.

After weeks of laying claim to Iraqi territory, the group’s spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani said on Sunday that they had everything necessary to proclaim their state. The Caliph — or leader — is Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the Iraqi-born ISIS leader who appears to be giving al-Qaeda chief, Ayman al-Zawahiri, a run for his money. “Listen to your leader and obey him,” said al-Adnani in the online statement. “Support your state, which grows continuously.”

But despite massive Sunni discontent with the Shi‘ite-led government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a caliphate run by a Caliph whose location is unknown and whose representatives regularly order beheadings may still be too much for many Iraqis. “They put up the new rules at all the mosques,” said one resident of Mosul, an Iraqi city that has fallen to ISIS. “Now it’s no smoking, no argileh pipes, and they sent the women home from government jobs.”

Even more troubling than the strict Shari‘a law ISIS is known to enforce with public lashings and executions is the militant group’s assertion of sovereignty over the territory it controls. There are many Islamists and well-armed Sunnis within ISIS’s self-declared borders who won’t be keen to swear allegiance to al-Baghdadi and his black flag.

Until now, Sunni tribes and the old guard of Saddam Hussein’s Baath party have been playing along with ISIS against a common enemy: Baghdad and al-Maliki’s Shi‘ite-led government. But “there are a lot of tribes that don’t want to be part of a caliphate,” said Kenneth Pollack, a specialist in Middle East political-military affairs and a former CIA analyst. And it may be their resistance, rather the Iraqi army, that will prove the true obstacle for ISIS. “This is exactly the thing back in 2006 when they were al-Qaeda in Iraq that got them in to trouble and helped push the Sunni tribes back into the arms of the Americans.”

But as ISIS defends its new territory, its assertion of dominance may become a self-fulfilling prophecy, as an increasing number of fighters join the group seen as winning on the ground. “The events of the last three weeks have really boosted ISIS’s stock among the global jihadist movement,” said Pollack. “These guys took Mosul. When was the last time al-Qaeda did anything that impressive? So if you’re some young would-be jihadi I think there is a good likelihood you’re going to choose ISIS as opposed to the old al-Qaeda.”

ISIS fighters continue to battle Iraqi government troops, particularly for the strategic northern city of Tikrit. Despite outnumbering the jihadists, the Iraqi national army has retaken little ground, and is desperately reaching out to the international community for military support. Russia was quick to deliver a small fleet of warplanes over the weekend, and U.S. advisers are already in country to support the Iraqi military.

But al-Maliki’s choice of military force rather than political negotiation is failing, and calls for him to step down here are being heard in Tehran, and even in Iraq among his Shi‘ite support base. On July 1 Iraq’s parliament will reconvene and there will be a lot of pressure on al-Maliki to make the concessions suggested by U.S Secretary of State John Kerry and British First Secretary of State William Hague when they visited Iraq recently. Iraq’s Sunni and Kurdish minorities say the current government has a sectarian agenda and the Kurds are more interested in autonomy than a new deal with Baghdad.

“We are in a new reality now, and it’s clear Iraq will never be ruled by one man, one sect, or party,” said Hiwa Osman, an analyst and writer based in Erbil. “The new Iraq is to be managed, not ruled. Managing the relationships between the various regions is the only way forward if the country wants to stay together.”

A political solution out of the parliament tomorrow is unlikely. Not only has al-Maliki shown he’s unwilling to compromise, but Osman says those Sunnis who will be sitting in the opening session on Tuesday don’t have the necessary influence in the areas of the newly declared caliphate.

“If they were really the players, they would be on the ground in Mosul, in Tikrit, in Nineveh,” said Osman. “Not in Baghdad.”

TIME Israel

Bodies of Missing Israeli Teens Found in West Bank Field

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Israelis mourns and light candles in Rabin Square in Tel Aviv on June 30, 2014, after the announcement that the bodies of the three missing Israeli teenagers were found Oren Ziv—AFP/Getty Images

After 18 days of searching, Israeli soldiers find the remains of the three kidnapped youths, not far from where they were last seen

The bodies of three Israeli teenagers kidnapped while hitchhiking this month were found on Monday afternoon in a field a few miles south of where they were last seen, the Israeli military said.

The discovery brought to a tragic close the intense search and nationwide vigil for Eyal Yifrach, 19; Naftali Fraenkel and Gilad Shaer, both 16, all students at Jewish religious schools located on the occupied West Bank. It also shifted to the foreground the question of how Israel will respond to the deaths, which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blames on Hamas, the militant Islamist group. After news that the bodies had been found in an open field north of Hebron, Netanyahu summoned senior ministers to an emergency meeting of the so-called security cabinet.

Netanyahu made some brief remarks at the beginning of the meeting. “They were kidnapped and murdered in cold blood by animals,” he said, according to Haaretz. “In the name of the whole of Israel, I ask to tell the dear families — to the mothers, the fathers, the grandmothers and the grandfathers, the brothers and sisters — our hearts are bleeding, the whole nation is crying with them. We will bring the boys to be buried according to Jewish rites.”

“Hamas is responsible, and Hamas will pay,” the Prime Minister added.

Israel already has struck hard at Hamas, tripling the number of troops on the West Bank in what was the largest military operation in the area in a dozen years. Officials said they wanted to wound Hamas as an organization — by arresting scores of its activists and shuttering its social-service outlets on the West Bank, while pounding militant targets in the Gaza Strip, which Hamas has governed since 2007. In recent days, rockets from the Gaza Strip have been flying toward Israel.

Netanyahu made clear he also wanted to coerce the more moderate Fatah party to dissolve a governing partnership that had been put in place only two weeks earlier, in the form of a cabinet of technocrats at the Palestinian Authority (PA). But the effort to influence Palestinian politics was greeted skeptically on the West Bank, where the Israeli military operation was seen more as a bludgeon than an effort to recover the missing teens. PA President Mahmoud Abbas, who heads Fatah, was criticized for condemning the kidnapping and directing Palestinian security services to assist in the search.

In Israeli security circles, the investigation turned grim early. The discovery of a burned sedan outside Hebron the morning after the teens went missing was received with foreboding: fires can erase evidence, and Hebron would be the likeliest direction abductors would head. Other directions would take them closer to concentrations of Israeli security, and the city is both the largest on the West Bank, and a stronghold of Hamas. Forensic examination of the vehicle produced spent bullets and traces of blood. The amount could not be detected, however, nor the type, let alone DNA. Absent the presence of bodies, the news was initially withheld from the families. But investigators hypothesized that at least one of the youths had been killed within minutes inside the car, and likely all three.

Authorities also zeroed in on suspects soon after the abduction — two young Palestinians who were known to be active in Hamas, and had disappeared the night the teens went missing. Marwan Quasma, 29, and Amar Abu Eisha, 32, are thought to be in hiding separately. Quasma is from a notoriously militant Hebron clan that, in the past, has reportedly been known to operate beyond the control of Hamas leaders.

U.S. President Barack Obama issued a statement on Monday extending his condolences to the three teenagers’ families. “The United States condemns in the strongest possible terms this senseless act of terror against innocent youth,” he said. “I also urge all parties to refrain from steps that could further destabilize the situation. As the Israeli people deal with this tragedy, they have the full support and friendship of the United States.”

— With reporting by Aaron J. Klein / Tel Aviv

TIME South Africa

Psych Eval Rules Pistorius Wasn’t Mentally Ill When He Shot His Girlfriend

Oscar Pistorius’ murder trial has resumed.

A psychiatric evaluation has determined that former Paralympian sprinter Oscar Pistorius was mentally capable when he shot and killed his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine’s Day 2013.

The high-profile murder trial in South Africa will resume after a month-long break, which allowed the assessment to take place.

The new development is a blow for the 27-year-old’s legal team, as it undermines earlier expert testimony for the defense that an anxiety disorder may have affected their client’s actions that night.

If convicted, Pistorius could face a mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years.

TIME Canada

Rob Ford Returns to Office After Rehab

Toronto Mayor Ford arrives at City Hall in Toronto
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford arrives at City Hall in Toronto June 30, 2014. Mark Blinch—Reuters

Toronto's notorious crack-smoking mayor is back — but for how long?

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford returned to office Monday following a two-month stay in rehab for substance abuse, CBC reports.

Ford’s return comes after a year of scandalous behavior including public drunkenness, using obscene language and smoking crack cocaine. He agreed to attend rehab at the end of April, releasing a statement that said he had “a problem with alcohol” for which he was seeking help.
Toronto’s city council stripped him of most of his powers and budget following news of his drug-taking, rendering him mayor in name only. Nevertheless, Ford has refused to quit, saying voters will decide his fate in the municipal elections on October 27.

The mayor is due to speak to the media at 3:30pm ET, though what he’ll say remains a mystery. Ford’s main electoral opponents, John Tory and Olivia Chow, have scheduled media addresses directly after Ford’s, at 4pm and 4:30pm respectively.

Councillor Doug Ford, brother of the embattled mayor, has been playing his cards close to his chest. He said Sunday his brother was “looking forward to coming back, that’s for sure.”

The councillor added: “He looks the same, but a little lighter. He’ll be hungry and looking forward to meeting the people.”

[CBC]

 

TIME U.K.

Former British Tabloid Editor to Face Retrial in Hacking Case

After conviction for conspiracy

The former editor of the now-defunct British tabloid the News of the World will be re-tried for allegedly buying royal telephone numbers from police after he was already found guilty last week of conspiracy in the hacking case that has consumed the British media world.

Andy Coulson, the former editor who resigned as Prime Minister David Cameron’s communications director in 2011, is due to stand trial for conspiring to commit misconduct in a public office, BBC reports. Coulson is accused of paying police officers for royal telephone directories. Coulson was found guilty last week of conspiring to hack phones from 2000 to 2006; he was the paper’s editor from 2003 to 2007.

The jurors who convicted him of the conspiracy charge failed to reach a verdict on whether he committed misconduct by allegedly paying police officers for the phone books. Coulson is due to be sentenced later this week for the phone hacking conviction. He faces a maximum of two years in prison.

[BBC]

TIME New Caledonia

Is a Vast Marine Sanctuary Any Use if You Can’t Police It?

New Caledonia, Atoll, Amédée Lighthouse
New Caledonia's Amédée Lighthouse marks the entrance to its coral reef. DEA PICTURE LIBRARY—De Agostini/Getty Images

Tiny New Caledonia relies on a handful of French ships to patrol a marine reserve twice the size of Texas

Correction appended, July 1, 2014

For the first half of June — until the U.S. declared an even bigger one — the tiny, French semiautonomous territory of New Caledonia boasted the largest nature reserve on earth.

Covering a vast 1.3 million-sq-km region of the South Pacific, the Natural Park of the Coral Sea was established on May 28 to protect the world’s second largest coral reef and its attendant lagoon. Already safeguarded in parts by a UNESCO World Heritage listing, this wonderland is a nursery for 25 kinds of marine mammals (including sea cows and humpback whales), 48 species of shark and five different marine turtles. It also spawns vast numbers of pelagic fish, 3,000 tons of which make it into the Pacific every year – an important food source for tens of millions, and a source of employment for thousands of people living in the region.

But before most people had even heard of the creation of the Natural Park of the Coral Sea, U.S. President Barack Obama went one better by using his executive powers to create an even larger marine park in the south-central Pacific on June 17. Known as the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument, it protects 2 million sq km of ocean and a smattering of islands and atolls between Hawaii and American Samoa from commercial fishing.

Obama’s announcement made world news, while New Caledonia’s barely received a mention. Perhaps that’s because the U.S., while sketchy on the details, has the hardware and manpower to enforce the no-take rule at the core of any national park. New Caledonia, however, has no navy of its own and relies on a handful of French ships to patrol an area twice the size of Texas and three times the size of Germany. What, in the end, is the meaning of its marine sanctuary if it cannot police it?

“This is supposed to be a World Heritage area, but look around you. Where are the patrols?” asks Manu Hernu, an eco-tour operator in Bourail, a popular surf beach on the west coast of New Caledonia’s largest island, Grande Terre. “There is no one here to stop people from fishing but me. I have to be the sheriff because the government isn’t here.”

A similar picture emerges in the micro-state of Kiribati, the halfway point between Hawaii and Fiji. Two days before Obama’s announcement, Kiribati banned commercial fishing in the Phoenix Islands Protected Area, which, at 400,000 sq km, is nearly equal in size to California. But with only 100,000 people and no defense budget to speak of, Kiribati has no means of enforcing the decree. It wants other nations already doing the heavy lifting in the area — like Australia, France and the U.S. — to provide ships and new technology to protect its massive mid-ocean wilderness.

New Caledonia’s lofty ideals must also be measured against its unremarkable environmental record. Home to a quarter of the world’s known nickel reserves, the archipelago is said to be “made of nickel.” The foreign dollars earned from nickel mining and smelting account for more than 90% of all exports. It’s the reason New Caledonia is so much better off than the aid- and tourism-dependent nations it counts among its neighbors in the South Pacific.

But that wealth has come at a price. In the highlands of Grande Terre, strip mining has turned great valleys rust red in color and sliced off entire mountaintops. Most of the damage harks back to the start of the mining boom in the 1970s, when rehabilitation of the landscape — once nickel had been extracted — wasn’t mandatory. Environmental protection standards for mining are relatively high today but accidents continue to dog the sector. In May, a mine owned by Brazilian giant Value leaked 100,000 L of acid-tainted effluent into a river that flows into a World Heritage zone. It follows another accidental spill of 40,000 L of sulfuric acid in 2009 and another in 2008 that turned a river green.

“We must do better for our marine resources than we did for our terrestrial resources,” World Wildlife Fund’s New Caledonia bureau chief Hubert Géraux tells TIME. He commends the announcement of the Natural Park of the Coral Sea but says it’s just a framework and the real work is yet to be done. “The first stage has been realized, but now it is necessary to ensure the success of the next step and implement a management plan for the rezoning of the park,” Géraux says. “People are quite supportive, but it’s too early to tell.”

Professor Joshua Cinner of the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University agrees that just calling something a national park does not equate to protection.

“But I would not be cynical enough to believe a government would do something like this as a public relations exercise,” he says. “It’s being done in the kind of top-down manner which I really don’t believe in. But it could be part of a longer strategy that puts a framework in place for protection of marine resources on an absolutely massive scale.

“Either way, it’s always good to see governments talking about conservation,” he adds. “It creates intrinsic value just by just telling people that it’s there.”

Correction: The original version of this article misstated the name of an eco-tour operator. He is Manu Hernu, not Manu Hemu.

TIME China

What the GSK Sex Tape Says About Surveillance in China

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A Glaxo Smith Kline signboard outside their facilities in Shanghai on July 25, 2013. GlaxoSmithKline expects its performance in China to take a hit from Beijing's probe into bribery allegedly carried out by senior staff AFP—AFP/Getty Images

Surveillance, or the threat of surveillance, is a constant

Years ago, when my husband and I were living in Shanghai, a crew of men came to change the smoke-alarm battery in our bedroom. It seemed a lot of people to change a single battery, and they took their time about it. The leader of the battery-changing brigade was a man in a dapper pin-stripe suit. The smoke alarm was above our bed.

The men, all but one in uniforms from our apartment building yet unfamiliar to us, eventually departed. We had a lunch to get to, so we too left a few minutes later. As we walked out the back door of our apartment building, we saw the suited gentleman riding away in a black Toyota Crown, then considered the favored car of the Public Security Bureau. For several nights, my husband and I stared up at that alarm, wondering whether it was doing more than just sensing smoke.

This past weekend, the Sunday Times reported that a video of unknown provenance had circulated showing a British pharmaceutical executive having very friendly relations with a Chinese woman. Mark Reilly is the former China head of GlaxoSmithKline, the British pharmaceutical company that has been accused by Beijing authorities of bribery involving nearly $500 million. Reilly has been barred from leaving China and charges against him made in May potentially carry a long prison sentence. Other foreign pharmaceuticals have also been targeted in graft probes, presumably part of a nationwide anticorruption sweep by China’s President Xi Jinping.

The sex video, according to the Sunday Times, was “filmed clandestinely in Reilly’s Shanghai flat, [and] was sent by email to senior Glaxo staff including the chief executive Sir Andrew Witty.” The film clip accompanied one of many anonymous emails alleging financial impropriety at Glaxo — emails that were, in some cases, sent to a Chinese regulatory agency as well as company officials. The British newspaper reported on speculation that a Chinese ex-Glaxo employee might have been linked to these whistle-blowing missives but no proof has turned up in the public sphere.

Surveillance — or the threat of surveillance — is a constant in China. As a journalist, I may be more interesting to the powers that be than some other foreigners here. But other expat friends who’ve been followed, hacked or otherwise tracked in China include diplomats, NGO staff and businesspeople. Also, artists and academics.

Sometimes, the scrutiny can yield helpful consequences. A diplomat in China remembers commenting to his wife in his then nearly empty apartment that they were out of toilet paper. A few minutes later, there was a knock on the door and a bearer of new rolls arrived.

In most instances, it is in no way reassuring to have your email auto-forwarding mysteriously activated or to be tailed by a black Audi while on assignment in the Chinese countryside. Nor are foreigners the only ones subject to such treatment. The days of communist neighborhood-committee grannies poking their noses into residents’ sex lives may be over, but it’s hard to feel completely private in China. Each Chinese citizen still has a dedicated personal file kept by local authorities. The contents are supposed to be secret but a friend who once gained accessed to hers found, among other things, an old high school paper and a copy of a letter from an ex-boyfriend.

As for the smoke alarm, my husband and I eventually paid it no heed. You can’t be on guard all the time or you’ll end up paranoid. Besides, we weren’t hiding anything. Like other foreign reporters, if I work on a sensitive story involving, say, dissidents, I’ll take precautions. But otherwise, my daily life proceeds without incident or spy-sparring guile — no matter who may be watching.

TIME Iraq

Alarms Were Sounded on Blackwater Well Before the 2007 Iraq Shooting

Evan Liberty
Former Blackwater guard Evan Liberty, right, arrives at a federal court in Washington to stand trial on June 11, 2014 Cliff Owen—ASSOCIATED PRESS

Documents on Blackwater reveal that a U.S. State Department official warned of the military contractor’s poor oversight and arrogant attitudes weeks prior to the Nisour Square bloodbath

A U.S. State Department official wrote of Blackwater’s lack of oversight and its “environment full of liability and negligence” well before Blackwater guards killed 17 civilians and injured 20 others in Baghdad’s Nisour Square in September 2007, reports the New York Times.

Weeks prior to the shooting, the State Department had begun an investigation into the military contractor’s operations in Iraq — but the probe was aborted after Blackwater’s top manager threatened that “he could kill” the government’s chief investigator and “no one could or would do anything about it as we were in Iraq,” according to department reports obtained and published by the Times.

As tensions over the investigation worsened in August 2007, American embassy officials sided with Blackwater — and officials told State Department investigators to pull out of the probe because it disrupted the embassy’s relationship with the security contractor, according to the report.

Alarmed, Jean C. Richter, the investigator, wrote a scathing memo to State Department officials on Aug. 31, 2007. “The management structures in place to manage and monitor our contracts in Iraq have become subservient to the contractors themselves,” he wrote of Blackwater.

He added that the firm had a “hands off” management style, saw itself as “above the law” and that “they actually believe they ‘ran the place.’”

The State Department declined to comment to the Times on the abandoned investigation. Blackwater’s former chief executive, Erik Prince, said he was never told about the matter.

The Nisour Square shooting had an immediate impact on America’s occupation in Iraq. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki called for the termination of Blackwater’s contract. He also refused a treaty that would have allowed American troops to remain in the country after 2011.

There are currently four Blackwater guards on trial in Washington for their role in the shooting.

[NYT]

TIME Cuba

Google Boss Eric Schmidt Leads a Visit to Cuba

The New Digital Age - 2014 SXSW Music, Film + Interactive Festival
Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt speaks during the 2014 SXSW Festival in Austin on March 7, 2014 Heather Kennedy / Getty Images

The visiting team spent two days in the Cuban capital to encourage an open Internet

Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt has visited Cuba to promote “a free and open Internet,” the country’s independent online newspaper 14yMedio reported on Saturday.

Company executives Jared Cohen, Brett Perlmutter and Dan Keyserling also joined the trip, said the news site, which is run by dissident blogger Yoani Sanchez.

The visiting team reportedly “met with officials,” spoke “with youth at polytechnic schools” and visited the University of Computer Sciences.

According to AFP, Google’s visit was not reported in any official Cuban media.

In her blog, Generation Y, Sanchez wrote, “We didn’t ask him any questions, and we didn’t want any answers, we just told him who we are and what we are trying to do.”

U.S.-based Schmidt confirmed the business trip in a Google+ post and criticized the U.S. embargo on the Latin American country.

“Cuba will have to open its political and business economy, and the U.S. will have to overcome our history and open the embargo. Both countries have to do something that is hard to do politically, but it will be worth it,” he wrote.

Only government-approved professionals and specialists can access the Internet from their homes in Cuba.

[AFP]

TIME LGBT

Gay Pride Parades From Around the World

In 1969, a violent confrontation between raiding police and the patrons of the Stonewall Inn bar helped galvanize the formation of some LGBT activist groups. Now four decades later, millions all across the globe are celebrating the milestone

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