The Overflow for July 31st

International News

The Flight of Islamic State

Many Islamic State leaders have fled Mosul with their families toward Syria ahead of a planned offensive by Iraqi forces on the city. Intelligence of increasing conflict, especially over financial issues, among ultra-hardline militants of the group known as Daesh in Arabic by its enemies.

"Many Daesh families and leaders in Mosul have sold their property and sneaked out towards Syria, and a segment even tried to sneak out towards Iraq's Kurdish region", Iraq's defence minister said in an interview on state television.

Islamic State has lost at least half the territory it seized in Iraq in 2014. The group has also lost territory in Syria, where it emerged amid a civil war which is now in its sixth year, but US-backed rebel forces there have had less success in beating it back.

Fighters in Mosul, the group's de facto capital in Iraq and the largest city under its control anywhere across its self-proclaimed caliphate, are thought to number in the thousands but probably under 10,000.

Obeidi said the biggest challenge will be protecting civilians, who he said number around 2 million. "We expect when operations begin in the city proper there will be large displacement. The smallest number we are expecting is about half a million people," Obeidi said.

The International Committee for the Red Cross says up to 1 million people could be driven from their homes in Mosul, and the United Nations estimates the number could be even higher. Ten million Iraqis already require assistance, including more than 3 million who have been internally displaced - about one-tenth of the population.


Fleeing Aleppo

More than 150 civilians, mostly women and children, left besieged eastern parts of Aleppo through a safety zone that Moscow and its Syrian ally say they have set up to evacuate people trapped in opposition-held areas. Syrian state television on Saturday showed scores of mostly women gathered in a government-controlled area of the city, saying how conditions in rebel-held areas were difficult and chanting praise for Syrian President Assad.

Russia's defence ministry said that 169 civilians had left since Thursday through three safety crossings. The ministry also said in a statement that 69 rebels had handed themselves in to the army.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government and its Russian allies declared a joint humanitarian operation for the besieged area on Thursday, bombarding it with leaflets telling fighters to surrender and civilians to leave. But the United Nations has raised misgivings about the plan and US officials have suggested it may be an attempt to depopulate the city - the most important opposition stronghold in the country - so that the army can seize it.

The Syrian opposition has called it a euphemism for forced displacement of the inhabitants, which it said would be a war crime.

The 250,000 civilians trapped for weeks inside the besieged rebel-held sector of Aleppo have by and large stayed away so far from the "safe corridors" that Moscow and Damascus are offering to those who want to escape.

Aleppo, Syria's biggest city before the war, has been divided since 2012 into government and rebel sectors. Seizing control would be the biggest victory for Assad in five years of fighting, and demonstrate the dramatic shift of fortunes in his favour since Moscow joined the war on his side last year.


The Turkish Shutdown

Turkey will shut down its military academies and put the armed forces under the command of the defence minister, President Erdogan said on Saturday, in a move designed to bring the military under tighter government control after a failed coup.

The changes, some of which Erdogan said would likely be announced in the government's official gazette by Sunday, come after more than 1,700 military personnel were dishonourably discharged this week for their role in the abortive July 15th attempted coup.

Erdogan, who narrowly escaped capture and possible death on the night of the coup, told Reuters in an interview last week that the military, NATO's second-biggest, needed "fresh blood". The dishonorable discharges included around 40 percent of Turkey's admirals and generals.

"Our armed forces will be much stronger with the latest decree we are preparing. Our force commanders will report to the defense minister," Erdogan said in an interview on Saturday with A Haber, a private broadcaster. "Military schools will be shut down... We will establish a national defence university."

He also said he wanted the national intelligence agency and the chief of general staff, the most senior military officer, to report directly to the presidency, moves that would require a constitutional change and therefore the backing of opposition parties.

Erdogan also said that a total of 10,137 people have been formally arrested following the coup.

UK News

"Gung-ho Approach"

British Prime Minister Theresa May was concerned about the security implications of a planned Chinese investment in the new Hinkley Point nuclear plant and intervened personally to delay the project, Vince Cable said on Saturday. The plan by France's EDF to build two reactors with financial backing from a Chinese state-owned company was championed by May's predecessor David Cameron as a sign of Britain's openness to foreign investment. But just hours before a signing ceremony was due to take place on Friday, May's new government said it would review the project again, raising concerns that Britain's approach to infrastructure deals, energy supply and foreign investment may be changing.

The decision could prove a test for May, with any attempt to renegotiate the terms of the project potentially straining relations with Paris and Beijing at a time when Britain is seeking to build trade deals following the country's vote to leave the European Union.

"When we were in government Theresa May was quite clear she was unhappy about the rather gung-ho approach to Chinese investment that we had," Vince Cable, Britain's former business secretary, told BBC Radio. He later told Sky News her concerns over China's involvement were linked to national security. "This was an issue that was raised in general but it was also raised specifically in relation to Hinkley," he said.

Britain and EDF first reached a broad commercial agreement on the project in 2013. China got involved two years later when Downing Street laid on a state visit for President Xi Jinping, designed to cement a "Golden Era" of relations between the two countries.

Cameron said he wanted to build a "lasting friendship" with Beijing and George Osborne, his chancellor, pitched Britain as China's "best partner in the West" even as other Western nations took a more cautious view of Chinese investment.


Zika Concerns

British health officials have urged pregnant women to consider postponing non-essential travel to Florida after the state confirmed the first cases of the Zika virus that were not linked to travel. Florida, which is a popular holiday destination for Britons, reported four cases of local transmission on Friday. Officials said that those infected had probably been bitten by a mosquito, and said they suspected the cases originated in a one-square-mile area north of downtown Miami.

"Pregnant women should consider postponing non-essential travel to affected areas until after the pregnancy," Public Health England, the government's public health agency, said. It said the risk in Florida from Zika was considered moderate based on the number and spread of cases.

Long Read

More than twenty years after the fall of apartheid in South Africa, inequality still prevails. In particular, inequality has become a stark feature of the urban landscape in South African cities. This gallery of aerial photos (one of which is seen above) shows how the barrier between wealth and absolute poverty is often little more than a tree line or a road.

To choose doubt as a philosophy of life is akin to choosing immobility as a means of transportation.
— Yann Martel