World News Brief, Wednesday June 25

John Kerry pushes for more conciliatory leadership in Iraq; Japanese PM Abe unveils economic reform package; another South Korean politician bows out of PM race in wake of ferry disaster; Syria hands over last of declared chemical weapons; Putin renounces right to use force in Ukraine; and more 

Top of the Agenda

Kerry Urges Inclusive Iraqi Government

U.S. secretary of state John Kerry on Tuesday urged Kurdish president Masoud Barzani to help form an inclusive government in Baghdad as Washington seeks a political resolution to the crisis in Iraq, which deepened as Sunni tribesmen reportedly wrested control of the Baiji oil refinery from security forces (WaPo). However, the Kurds' demands for greater autonomy and advances in the contested city of Kirkuk make such reconciliation unlikely (NYT). Kerry's visit to the Kurdish capital of Erbil follows an unscheduled visit to Baghdad, where he pushed for a more conciliatory leadership with or without Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki (WSJ), and coincides with the deployment of U.S. military advisers, whose arrival was facilitated by a legal immunity agreement similar to the one rejected by the White House in 2011, when it opted for a full withdrawal (NYT). The United Nations on Tuesday said at least 1,075 people, the vast majority of them civilians (AP), were killed in Iraq in June as a result of the fighting.


"ISIL's advance has highlighted all that has been wrong with the Iraqi government's Sunni strategy, which sacrificed political reforms in the interest of fighting 'terrorism' – a term it has used for all forms of Sunni violence but not for Shiite equivalents. This strategy enhanced polarisation and prepared the ground for the successful jihadi push in the north. International actors collectively failed to exert the necessary pressure on the Iraqi government to change its policy. Despite their recent conquests, jihadis are not on the verge of storming Baghdad. Nor is an all-out civil war inevitable; it could, however, be triggered by a disproportionate Iraqi Shiite and Iranian response that would cause Sunni ranks to close around the jihadis," writes the International Crisis Group.

"The question is how Obama should sequence his policy now. If he holds off on providing more military assistance while he waits for the Iraqis to negotiate such a political compact, the centrifugal forces that are already tearing Iraq apart will gain in strength. If on the other hand, Obama provides military assistance without fundamental political reform, he may only strengthen Maliki and reinforce a dangerous perception that the United States is siding with Shia over Sunni in a sectarian battle that has regional proportions….Nevertheless, President Obama and his team should opt for the more difficult path and decide to supply more military assistance without waiting to see political reforms fully enacted," writes CFR's Meghan L. O'Sullivan in Politico Magazine.

"Some have suggested that more sustained U.S. mentoring and advising—a residual force after the main withdrawal—could have averted the current catastrophe by making the Iraqi Army more competent and less partisan. But such notions vastly overstate U.S. leverage and influence. It's important to understand the limits of U.S. assistance: It can help build security institutions, but it cannot shape how those institutions are commandeered for personal, political or communal aims. Nor can it substitute for a government seen as reasonably equitable and legitimate," write Sarah Chayes and Frederic Wehrey for Politico Magazine.



Japan’s Abe Unveils ‘Third Arrow’ of Growth Strategy

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Tuesday unveiled an economic reform package to spur investment by cutting the corporate tax rate and loosening regulatory barriers (WSJ), but some question whether the premier's proposed relaxation of visa rules is sufficient to attract foreign startups (Japan Times).

This Backgrounder explains Abenomics, the premier's eponymous growth agenda.

SOUTH KOREA: President Park Geun-hye's nominee for prime minister, Moon Chang-keuk, withdrew his name from consideration (Yonhap) after saying that Japanese colonial rule over the Korean Peninsula was "God's will." He is the second nominee to quit as Park struggles to contain the fallout from the deadly ferry sinking in April.


Syria hands over last of declared chemical weapons

Putin renounces right to use force in Ukraine

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