Category: Saudi Arabia


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Report: Iran may be month from a bomb | USA Today

 

Iran could produce enough weapons-grade uranium to build a nuclear bomb in as little as a month, according to a new estimate by one of the USA’s top nuclear experts.

The new assessment comes as the White House invited Senate staffers to a briefing on negotiations with Iran as it is trying to persuade Congress not to go ahead with a bill to stiffen sanctions against Iran.

“Shortening breakout times have implications for any negotiation with Iran,” stated the report by the Institute for Science and International Security. “An essential finding is that they are currently too short and shortening further.” [Read the full article]

 

Syria meets chemical weapons deadline | LA Times

 

GAZIANTEP, Turkey — The Syrian government has met an international deadline to submit a detailed declaration of its chemical weapons facilities and a proposal to destroy its toxic arsenal, the group overseeing the disarmament process said Sunday.

The determination means that the U.S.- and Russian-crafted plan to do away with Syria’s extensive chemical stockpile is proceeding on pace, even as Syria is convulsed by civil conflict that is now in its third year. [Read the full article]

 

Lebanon suffers under the strain of a refugee crisis now out of control | The Guardian

 

As you come through the military checkpoints on the way into Wadi Khaled, local mobile phones bleep with an unsolicited text: “The Ministry of Tourism welcomes you to Syria.”

This part of northern Lebanon, which juts like a knucklebone into Syria, is so close to the war that the villagers can watch the rockets land and palls of smoke rising across the hillsides. Children have swarmed up on to the first floor of the shell of a half-built house and are pointing excitedly to where the outlying villages of Homs begin. “I can see our house,” shouts Satash, six. [Read the full article]

 

Chemical weapons inspectors in Syria miss deadline | AP

 

BEIRUT (AP) — International inspectors overseeing the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile have missed an early deadline in a brutally tight schedule after security concerns prevented them from visiting two sites linked to Damascus’ chemical program.

Experts from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons were to have checked all 23 of Syria’s declared chemical sites by Sunday, but the organization said Monday that inspectors have visited only 21 because of security issues. While there are no consequences for missing the deadline, the group’s failure to meet it underscores the ambitious timeline as well as the risks its inspectors face in carrying out their mission in the middle of Syria’s civil war. [Read the full article]

 

AP Exclusive: Key operations in Haifa out of commission two straight days, major losses | USA Today

 

HADERA, Israel (AP) — When Israel’s military chief delivered a high-profile speech this month outlining the greatest threats his country might face in the future, he listed computer sabotage as a top concern, warning a sophisticated cyberattack could one day bring the nation to a standstill.

Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz was not speaking empty words. Exactly one month before his address, a major artery in Israel’s national road network in the northern city of Haifa suffered a cyberattack, cybersecurity experts tell The Associated Press, knocking key operations out of commission two days in a row and causing hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage. [Read the full article]

 

Turkey goes from honest broker to Iranian ally | Al Arabiya

 

A few years ago, Turkey was the only country that could talk to everyone in a Middle East where distrust among nations is a prevailing mentality. Mishandling crises in most states hit by the mass uprising, Ankara was left alone. Officials in Ankara preferred to describe its international standing “precious loneliness.”

For centuries, building alliances to balance against threatening states has been at the heart of successful foreign policy-making. The very gauge of success in foreign policy is to what extent a state can build coalitions to pursue common security interests. If a state is lonely and isolated, no matter how moral its policies are, it will have to shoulder the entire burden of securing itself. The Turkish government, however, points to “moral motives” behind its policies instead of its dire results. [Read the full article]

 

Car bombs kill scores in Baghdad, in sign of crisis in Iraq | Washington Post

 

IRBIL, Iraq — Nearly two years after the U.S. troop withdrawal, Iraq is in the midst of a deepening security crisis as an al-Qaeda affiliate wages a relentless campaign of attacks, sending the death toll soaring to its highest level since 2008.

In the latest violence, nine car bombs tore through markets and police checkpoints in Baghdad on Sunday, killing dozens of people. [Read the full article]

 

In Egypt’s Countryside, Vendettas Between Police and Islamists Simmer | The Daily Beast

 

In a hospital for police in Cairo, in one bed after another, if the patients were conscious, they told stories of horror. They had been beaten with in an inch of their lives. They had been burned with acid. They’d seen their buddies die around them. They’d been dragged through dusty streets behind trucks like the slaughtered American soldiers in Black Hawk Down. But as they lay there in the hospital in pain last month, few people heard their stories—few people, that is, outside the Egyptian army and security forces. And many of those soldiers and cops who did hear what happened to their comrades talked about “terrorism,” about “justice,” about “revenge.” [Read the full article]

 

Saudi Arabia’s message to Obama | Boston Globe

 

Is there an idiom in Arabic for cutting off your nose to spite your face? Saudi Arabia’s abrupt rejection on Oct. 18 of the UN Security Council seat to which it had just been elected was described as “bizarre” and “baffling,” a “perplexing” decision that left diplomats “gasping.” No member of the United Nations had ever done such a thing, and the Saudi government’s explanation was about as subtle as an uppercut.

“The . . . double standards existing in the Security Council prevent it from performing its duties and assuming its responsibilities,” the Foreign Ministry charged angrily, and the results have been “continued disruption of peace and security, the expansion of the injustices against peoples, the violation of rights, and the spread of conflicts and wars.” [Read the full article]

 

Give Syria peace, not a process | The Guardian

 

A group of foreign ministers declared last week that Bashar al-Assad “would not have a role in Syria” when a transitional governing body was established to move the country forward. For all the media excitement over the announcement, this Friends of Syria grouping merely reiterated a basic condition of the Syrian National Coalition, the main political opposition group, recognised by more than 100 countries as “the legitimate representative of the Syrian people”.

The public sidelining of Assad was a mere formality while efforts continue to convince the opposition not only to remain united in a single delegation, but to show up at an international conference in Geneva on 23 November. With many earlier promises still unfulfilled, Syrians opposed to Assad are used to lowering their expectations from the international community – but there are limits, and many are troubled by the current plans. [Read the full article]

 

In Syrian civil war, emergence of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria boosts rival Jabhat al-Nusra | Washington Post

 

REYHANLI, Turkey — While the emergence of al-Qaeda’s Islamic State of Iraq and Syria as a major force in the Syrian civil war has caused deep concern for many rebels, one group’s fighters claim its presence has given them a popularity boost.

Until ISIS asserted its place in the war earlier this year, Jabhat al-Nusra had the reputation of being the most radical wing of the opposition seeking to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. It was the first to claim responsibility for car bombings against government targets and was quickly designated a terrorist group by the United States. [Read the full article]

 

NATO Reduces Scope of Its Afghanistan Plans | New York Times

 

BRUSSELS — After months of tense negotiations over the size and role of a postwar presence in Afghanistan, senior North Atlantic Treaty Organization officials say they are planning a more minimalist mission, with a force consisting of fewer combat trainers and more military managers to ensure that billions of dollars in security aid are not squandered or pilfered.

The shrinking ambitions for the postwar mission reflect fears that the United States Congress and European parliaments might cancel their financial commitments — amounting to more than $4 billion a year, the largest single military assistance program in the world — unless American and NATO troops are positioned at Afghan military and police headquarters to oversee how the money is spent in a country known for rampant corruption. [Read the full article]

 

Kuwait Hookah Cafes Under Fire From Islamic Conservatives For Allowing Women | Huffington Post

 

KUWAIT CITY — KUWAIT CITY (AP) — One of the traditional pleasures of the Middle East — leisurely puffing on a water pipe filled with aromatic tobacco — has become ensnared in another of the region’s customs: that of Islamic conservatives decrying what they see as liberal Western decadence.

Hard-liners are denouncing some shisha cafes as a “moral menace” because they allow young men and women to mix freely. [Read the full article]

 

Kuwait upholds 10-year prison sentence for Twitter ‘insults’ | New York Daily News

 

KUWAIT CITY — A rights activist in Kuwait says an appeals court has upheld a 10-year prison sentence against a social media commentator for posts considered offensive to Islam and the rulers of fellow Gulf states Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.

Monday’s ruling highlights the escalating crackdowns in the Gulf on perceived online dissent and the deepening cooperation among Gulf nations, fearing political challenges inspired by the Arab Spring. [Read the full article]

 

Governing By Crisis In Cyprus: Lessons For The United States | Forbes

 

Six months ago Cyprus received a 10 billion euro bailout from the Troika – the European Union, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank. The Cyprus Financial Crisis was a devastating blow to Cypriots and halted their banking system. Banks closed for two weeks to prevent a banking panic. When they reopened, capital controls were placed on the people’s money and customers were met by armed guards at the branches. Depositors could not withdraw more than 300 euros a day from their bank accounts, couldn’t cash checks, and could only charge 5,000 euros a month on credit card purchases abroad.  The severities of these restrictions are compounded by the fact that Cyprus is a tiny island that produces very few manufactured goods. Many of these restrictions are still in effect and have caused massive economic contraction. [Read the full article]

 

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Videos reportedly out of Saudi Arabia are circulating online showing men harassing a group of women in a mall parking lot said to be in the eastern city of Dhahran. The men heckle and follow the women, one of whom responds by kicking a man who grabbed her.

The incident touched a nerve online. Many condemned the men’s behaviour, while others debated if the women could have avoided harassment.
Saudis online are using the hashtag #تحرش_شباب_بفتيات_بالشرقية (“Youth harassment of girls in Eastern province”), which was mentioned more than 60,000 times in a day.

[Watch the video]

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Spy Chief Distances Saudis From U.S. | WSJ

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia—Saudi Arabia’s intelligence chief told European diplomats this weekend that he plans to scale back cooperating with the U.S. to arm and train Syrian rebels in protest of Washington’s policy in the region, participants in the meeting said.

Prince Bandar Bin Sultan al-Saud’s move increases tensions in a growing dispute between the U.S. and one of its closest Arab allies over Syria, Iran and Egypt policies. It follows Saudi Arabia’s surprise decision on Friday to renounce a seat on the United Nations Security Council.

The Saudi government, after preparing and campaigning for the seat for a year, cited what it said was the council’s ineffectiveness in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian and Syrian conflicts. [Read the full article]

Why the snub? | The Economist

SPEED is not something normally associated with the quiet, subtle style of traditional Saudi diplomacy, yet the abruptness of the flip-flop performed by the kingdom on October 18th was stunning by any standard. In the morning, Saudi diplomats in New York were trumpeting their country’s election to a coveted two-year stint as a rotating temporary member of the UN Security Council. This was a cause for rejoicing and a “defining moment” in the kingdom’s history, enthused the Saudi UN ambassador, Abdallah al-Mouallimi.

Within hours though, word came from the Saudi capital, Riyadh, to can the celebration. In a step unprecedented since the creation of the UN—of which Saudi Arabia was, incidentally, a founding member—the kingdom declared that it would renounce the Security Council seat. The foreign ministry’s official explanation was turgid and petulant. The council had failed to bring peace to the Middle East, it said, noting in particular Palestine and the continuing civil war in Syria: [Read the full article]

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Israel PM Netanyahu calls on US to pressure Iran in nuclear negotiations | The Guardian

Just days after the first round of global nuclear talks with Iran, a rift appears to be emerging between Israel and its closest ally, the United States. Israel’s prime minister on Sunday called on the US to step up pressure on Iran, even as American officials hinted at the possibility of easing tough economic pressure.

Meanwhile, a leading Israeli newspaper reported the outlines of what could be construed in the West as genuine Iranian compromises in the talks. [Read the full article]

Al Qaeda group is operating on ransom money from the West | LA Times

WASHINGTON — Dominik Neubauer stared into the camera, the steel barrel of an assault rifle pointed at his head.

A Yemeni “tribe” had taken him hostage, the 26-year-old Austrian student said in English, a tear rolling down his left cheek. If they aren’t paid a ransom, he continued, “they will kill me seven days after this video is published.” [Read the full article]

U.S. tries to calm Saudi anger over Syria, Iran | Chicago Tribune

PARIS/KUWAIT (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry sought on Monday to calm rising tensions with Saudi Arabia, which has spurned a U.N. Security Council seat in fury at inaction over the crisis in Syria.

Saudi Arabia rejected a coveted two-year term on the council on Friday in a rare display of anger over what it called “double standards” at the United Nations. Its stance won praise from its Gulf Arab allies and Egypt. [Read the full article]

Israel’s elections bring ‘racism’ to the fore | Al Jazeera

Nazareth, Israel – In some parts of Israel, voters in Tuesday’s elections will be casting a ballot not on how well their municipality is run but on how to stop “Arabs” moving in next door, how to prevent mosques being built in their community, or how to “save” Jewish women from the clutches of Arab men.

While the far-right’s rise in Israeli national politics has made headlines, less attention has been paid to how this has played out in day-to-day relations between Israeli Jews and the country’s Palestinian-Arab minority, comprising a fifth of the population.

According to analysts and residents, Israel’s local elections have brought a tide of ugly racism to the fore, especially in a handful of communities known as “mixed cities”, where Jewish and Palestinian citizens live in close proximity. [Read the full article]

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Middle East turmoil is fuelling Ottoman nostalgia. But it’s a dead end | The Guardian

They called it the Sublime Porte. It was the seat of an empire that stretched from Algiers to Baghdad and Aden to Budapest. The name suggests something dreamlike and luxurious. In reality, the Ottoman state was an extraordinary and ruthless machine. Its administrators, plucked from their families as children so they would be loyal only to the sultan, fought wars, collected taxes and founded cities with an efficiency unmatched at the time.

But the most intractable problems of the modern Middle East are found where that empire once had its core: Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine. This is no coincidence. The civil war in Syria, in particular, has cast people’s minds back to the collapse of Ottoman power, and the arbitrary carve-up that created states which now, nearly 100 years later, seem on the brink of failure. [Read the full article]

Iran could develop nuclear weapons capability despite sanctions, report warns | The Telegraph

As the US Congress debate further sanctions, the report found that Iran’s banking system was under growing stress and would have little capacity to defend its currency if it came under renewed pressure.

The state of Iran’s finances helped explain the sudden insistence of Iran’s new president Hassan Rouhani on a “quick”, three-to-six month deal being brokered between Tehran and the international P5+1 grouping. Talks are due to open in Geneva on October 15. [Read the full article]

The Syria Deal That Could Have Been | The Atlantic

Despite Secretary of State John Kerry’s frenetic efforts, preparations for the “Geneva II” peace conference on Syria’s civil war are already foundering. The rebel movement has become increasingly radicalized against Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad and more fractured. A newly confident Assad, meanwhile, has somewhat relegitimized himself as a signatory to a new chemical-weapons ban negotiated by the United States and Russia under U.N. auspices, which his government is tasked with implementing over the next year. Defying global opprobrium over his use of sarin gas, Assad has also positioned himself in a series of high-profile TV interviews as a preferable alternative to Islamist rebels who want to create a fundamentalist state.

All of which should prompt a reexamination of the first Geneva conference in the summer of 2012, on which Kerry’s new push for peace is based. According to some officials involved, perhaps the greatest tragedy of Syria is that, some 80,000 lives ago, President Obama might have had within his grasp a workable plan to end the violence, one that is far less possible now. But amid the politics of the 2012 presidential election—when GOP nominee Mitt Romney regularly accused Obama of being “soft”—the administration did little to make it work and simply took a hard line against Assad, angering the special U.N. Syria envoy, Kofi Annan, and prompting the former U.N. secretary-general to quit, according to several officials involved. [Read the full article]

Blast from the past for Egyptian dissidents | Al Jazeera

Cairo, Egypt – Omar Assaf was dragged from his house by a dozen armed Egyptian special forces at 2am. The 30-year-old financial analyst – a father of three young children – was hauled off to prison last month wearing only shorts and T-shirt. Nobody knew what happened to him.

“My family went to all the prisons in Cairo to provide him with clothes, money and food. Police officers told them the same story over and over again – that he was not there,” Omar’s sister Aya Assaf told Al Jazeera. “They didn’t want us to help him.” [Read the full article]

Dignity for Iran equals an Iran free of nuclear weapons | Al Arabiya

“Either you let me play or I will spoil your game!”

This is the sound of an unhappy child that no one wants to play with but who just won’t take “no” for an answer; a sound that has been heard repeatedly in just about any unsupervised ball game. Sometimes the child even charges onto the field to snatch the ball.

This has been Iran for decades, playing the role on a global scale. Although, the difference is that Iran never wanted to play by the rules of the game, it wanted others to adhere to its version of the game, one where it could relive the “glory” of its past. [Read the full article]

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King Abdullah ibn Abdul Aziz in 2002

(CNN) — A leading Saudi cleric warned women who drive cars could cause damage to their ovaries and pelvises and that they are at risk of having children born with “clinical problems.”

Sheikh Saleh Al-Loheidan’s widely derided remarks have gone viral as activists claim a website urging women to defy their country’s driving ban has been blocked in Saudi Arabia. [Read the full article]

Just my two cents: When I think about the passion of Mr Obama to address the situation of gays in Russia, I wonder when he will address the situation of non-existence of women in Saudi-Arabia…oh…hang on, Saudi Arabia is a strategic ally of the United States. Allies are always right…allies are goooooood.

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Syrian Rebels: U.S. Distracted By Focus On Chemical Weapons | NPR

 

A satellite cellphone rings for rebel commander Bashar al-Zawi, at home with his family in the Jordanian city of Irbid. It’s a rare domestic break for this wealthy businessman turned rebel commander. But he is anxious to get back to his battalion of 5,000 fighters in southern Syria.

They are taking part in a rebel offensive that is squeezing the Syrian army around the city of Dera’a. Military analysts say the fight is one of the most strategically important battles in Syria’s civil war, because Dera’a, close to Damascus, is President Bashar Assad’s stronghold in the southwest. [Read the full article]

 

Assad says U.S. aggression against Syria still possible | Al Arabiya

 

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said in an interview broadcast Thursday that his country was committed to the convention against chemical weapons it signed under a U.S.-Russian deal.

Assad, speaking to Venezuela’s Telesur, said he saw “no obstacles” to the deal’s implementation but that he did not rule out a U.S. military strike against his regime. [Read the full article]

 

Disbanded Brothers | The Economist

 

THE Muslim Brotherhood has seen worse. During the 1950s and ‘60s Egyptian courts sentenced thousands of Brothers to brutal prison camps and a dozen to hang. For most of the time since its founding in 1928 the group was formally outlawed. Yet never has the secretive and highly disciplined organisation seen its fortunes fall so swiftly as now.

Less than three months ago a Brotherhood stalwart, Muhammad Morsi, was Egypt’s president, and his party Egypt’s strongest. Now Mr Morsi languishes in jail awaiting trial, along with most of the Brotherhood’s first- and second-tier leadership and perhaps 2,000 more fellow Islamists—close to the number of Egyptians, many of them Brothers, killed in the violent unrest that followed Mr Morsi’s ousting in July. [Read the full article]

 

Egypt minister says relations with US unsettled | AP

 

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Egypt’s relations with the United States are “unsettled” as the country struggles to redefine its national interests vis-à-vis other countries, the foreign minister said.

The U.S. was a close ally of Hosni Mubarak, Egypt’s longtime authoritarian ruler who was ousted in an uprising in early 2011. America counted on him to keep the peace with Israel and as a bulwark against the rise of Islamic fundamentalists in the Mideast. [Read the full article]

 

Opinion: Breaking from stalling tactics | DW

 

Finally some good news! Even the fact that Iran’s newly elected President Hassan Rouhani didn’t cause any further indignation with his speech at the UN General Assembly can be seen as a positive step. Although the Israeli delegation boycotted Rouhani’s talk from the start, no one left the room in protest. So far so good.

In contrast to his predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Rouhani neither denied the Holocaust, nor threatened the West or predicted the imminent destruction of Israel. Rouhani even left New York in the company of Iran’s single Jewish parliamentarian. And even more significant: in an interview with CNN, Rouhani judged Nazi crimes as reprehensible. [Read the full article]

 

Edward Said and his quest for a just peace | Al Jazeera

 

Edward Said died ten years ago – in September 2003, after a twelve-year battle with leukemia. One of the 20th century’s great intellectuals, Said, author of the masterworks Orientalism and Culture and Imperialism, was also a beloved professor to generations of students at Columbia University, a gifted amateur pianist and an opera critic for The Nation magazine. He was perhaps best known for his fierce defense of the rights of his people, the Palestinians, in numerous books and hundreds of essays and articles published worldwide.

September also marks another fateful 20th anniversary – that of the now-infamous Arafat-Rabin handshake on the White House lawn, which sealed the Oslo accords. The legacies of Oslo and its greatest critic, Edward Said, stand as polar opposites. Indeed, it was Said who was among the first to sharply criticise the accords, in part because, unlike many satisfied pundits of the day, he had actually read them. For this reason, his widow Mariam told me, he had declined a White House invitation to attend the ceremony in September 1993. Today, his words on Oslo are the soundings of a prophet. [Read the full article]

 

Rafsanjani and Khamenei: A brief history | Al Jazeera

 

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani have been two prominent figures in the Islamic Republic of Iran. Their friendship goes back two decades prior to the Islamic Revolution and their alliance has been quite decisive in the present power hierarchy of the Islamic Republic. At present, however, they seem to be at odds with each other, with Rafsanjani’s eye on Khamenei’s Office. Their relationship in the context of the foundation of the Islamic Republic will provide a better understanding of Iranian politics. [Read the full article]

 

Afghan Warlord: ‘The West Must Give Us Our Weapons Back’ | Spiegel

 

Though NATO claims it will be leaving behind a pacified Afghanistan when it withdraws its troops next year, there are already increasing signs that the former mujahedeen are reactivating their militias. The mujahedeen were the main military force that resisted the Soviet occupiers and the communist Najibullah regime — and later fought the Taliban. Their leaders, who represented diverse ethnic groups, were popular but also often notorious for their ruthlessness. Now, the mujahedeen want to arm their militias for renewed fighting and a possible civil war.

The mujahedeen feel the Afghan army is incapable of providing security in the country after NATO’s withdrawal. Despite the West’s efforts to nurture this fledgling military force, over the past three years one out of every three soldiers has deserted — a total of 63,000 men. [Read the full article]

 

The AP Yemen leak case: When speculation about White House spinning turns out wrong | Washington Post

 

“I think there was a little premature chest- thumping in this whole thing, and I`ve ordered a preliminary review. And I will tell you, this has been a damaging leak. We shouldn`t underestimate what really happened here. When you jeopardize our foreign service liaison partners, any of them that may or may not have been involved, or you jeopardize the conclusion of wrapping up all of the people involved, that`s dangerous to our national security…. This is not anything that should be used for a headline. Our national security should be exempt from any November at any time in any year.” [Read the full article]

 

Prostitution and Sex Abuse Spread as Lebanon’s Refugee Crisis Worsens | The Atlantic

 

EIN EL-HELWEH REFUGEE CAMP, Lebanon — “I asked him who gave him the money and he said: ‘no one’. I replied and told him that someone had to have given him the money. He replied: ‘no one fucked me’.”

The four of us—a woman named Sabeen, two NGO workers, and me—were crowded around a small table, drinking bitter Turkish coffee as the blistering sun shone through the barred windows. The room was stuffy, there was no electricity, and she was whispering, ensuring that no one would hear our conversation. The walls of the center, which is considered a safe haven for victims of abuse and asked for its name not to be used, were covered with signs reading, “Do not abuse me, I am a child.” [Read the full article]

 

Israel: New Unlawful West Bank Demolitions | Human Rights Watch

 

(Jerusalem) – Israeli military forces should cease actions in a West Bank Bedouin community that were apparently intended to displace the residents without lawful justification. The military demolished all homes in the community on September 16, 2013, and blocked four attempts by humanitarian groups to provide shelters, with soldiers using force against residents, humanitarian workers, and foreign diplomats on September 20. Under international humanitarian law in effect in the occupied West Bank, the deliberate unlawful forced transfer of a population is a war crime.

An Israeli court in August rejected a petition against military demolition orders by residents of Mak-hul and other Bedouin communities, on technical grounds. On September 24, more than a week after Mak-hul was demolished, the court temporarily suspended any further demolitions. [Read the full article]

 

Turkey should quit EU bid, says Erdogan ‘guru’ | AnsaMED

 

(ANSAmed) – ANKARA – After 45 years of waiting patiently at the door and eight of talks trudging forward at a snail’s pace, Turkey has become embittered and has started to go vocal on a possible withdrawal of its membership candidature. Two figures linked to Islamic Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan have made public statements to this effect in recent days. For the first time a minister, Minister for EU Affairs Egemen Bagis, said what many are thinking: Turkey ”will probably never be EU member”. Erdogan’s chief advisor, Yigit Bulut, followed by saying that ”Turkey should immediately get rid of the European Union scenarios”, since the country could instead take on the leadership of the ‘new world’ coming into being in the Middle East, Central Asia and Africa. Erdogan, nostalgic of Ottoman ‘grandeur’, would like to see Turkey as the new regional superpower and has long been less-than-enthusiastic about the ‘EU scenario’. Nevertheless, in the first few years of his Islamic-conservative Justice and Development Party government he did bring in EU-leaning political and economic reform, earning EU support in the contest of wills against Kemalist military officers, seen as ‘guardians’ of the secular state. Since the 2011 elections, Erdogan has changed policy, the analyst Emre Uslu writes in Taraf. He has shifted his focus to the Middle East and begun to distance himself from the West. [Read the full article]

 

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Middle east mapBandar Bush, ‘liberator’ of Syria | Asia Times

Talk about The Comeback Spy. Prince Bandar bin Sultan, aka Bandar Bush (for Dubya he was like family), spectacularly resurfaced after one year in speculation-drenched limbo (was he or was he not dead, following an assassination attempt in July 2012). And he was back in the limelight no less than in a face-to-face with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Saudi King Abdullah, to quote Bob Dylan, “is not busy being born, he’s busy dying”. At least he was able to pick up a pen and recently appoint Bandar as head of the Saudi General Intelligence Directorate; thus in charge of the joint US-Saudi master plan for Syria. [Read the full article]

Israel approves 900 new settler homes on eve of peace talks | The Independent

The long-awaited resumption of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks was threatened with collapse after Israel approved the building of 900 new homes for Jewish settlers in east Jerusalem – the latest in a wave of construction plans that has enflamed tensions ahead of the fragile negotiations.

Substantive peace efforts are due to resume in Jerusalem today for the first time in more than three years, following Israel’s scheduled release of 26 Palestinian prisoners overnight. That move was supposed to bolster Palestinian support for the US-brokered diplomacy, but it has been overshadowed by the disclosure since Thursday of Israeli proposals for more than 3,000 new settler units, including 1,200 in East Jerusalem – the area Palestinians envision as their capital – and new settlements in the West Bank announced Sunday. [Read the full article]

Egypt unrest: Clashes erupt in Cairo, police fire tear gas | CNN

Cairo (CNN) — Clashes broke out in downtown Cairo Tuesday, with supporters of deposed President Mohamed Morsy fighting residents and police, eyewitnesses said.

The fighting occurred near the Ministry of Religious Endowments. Police used tear gas to disperse the crowd. Morsy supporters also protested outside several government ministries earlier Tuesday. [Read the full article]

What’s the matter with Egypt’s liberals? | Washington Post

The narrative arc of Egypt’s liberal movement, just two years ago a remarkable story of overcoming impossible odds and helping to oust President Hosni Mubarak, has since taken a turn toward tragedy of its most classical form. The hows and whys are complicated, but the movement’s setbacks, at times self-inflicted, have been tougher to ignore since the July 3 coup that removed President Mohamed Morsi. Many of them have so enthusiastically embraced military rule – and, at times, violence against Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood supporters – that observers are wondering whether Egypt’s liberals can still really be considered liberals.

Just today, The Washington Post’s Bill Booth and Sharaf Al-Hourani report from Cairo that Egypt’s liberals are pushing for the military government to crack down on the Muslim Brotherhood’s sprawling – and child-filled – protest camp in downtown Cairo. The liberals, including the movement’s political leaders, “make these calls knowing that a crackdown by the military or police against a committed, cohesive, religiously inspired opponent could lead to bloodshed,” Booth and al-Hourani write. [Read the full article]

UN chemical weapons mission to Syria delayed | Al Jazeera

The departure of UN chemical weapons experts to Syria has been delayed because an agreement has not been reached with the Syrian government on arrangements for the investigation of three incidents of alleged chemical weapons use, the United Nations has said.

UN deputy spokesman Eduardo del Buey said on Tuesday that the investigation team led by Swedish chemical weapons expert Ake Sellstrom completed its logistical arrangements for the visit over the weekend. [Read the full article]

Arms Shipments Seen From Sudan to Syria Rebels | New York Times

Syrian rebels, frustrated by the West’s reluctance to provide arms, have found a supplier in an unlikely source: Sudan, a country that has been under international arms embargoes and maintains close ties with a stalwart backer of the Syrian government, Iran.

In deals that have not been publicly acknowledged, Western officials and Syrian rebels say, Sudan’s government sold Sudanese- and Chinese-made arms to Qatar, which arranged delivery through Turkey to the rebels. [Read the full article]

How to End the War in Syria | The Daily Beast

Syria has become the world’s endless nightmare. The war has entered its third year, causing more than 100,000 deaths and displacing millions. Short of a full-scale foreign military intervention that enables one side to achieve a decisive victory, the combatants in Syria are likely to remain locked in a war of attrition, which has transformed into a theater of proxy confrontations between Arab states and Iran; Russia and the West; Sunnis and Shias. Against the backdrop of tepid negotiation attempts, the debate in Washington has focused on whether to continue to arm the Syrian opposition or to mount airstrikes if Bashar al-Assad’s regime violates certain “red lines.” But the nature of the Syrian war has changed: the international community is now a party to the conflict. Because of this, the time has come for the United States to shift its focus to launching a robust, consistent diplomatic operation. [Read the full article]

How al Qaeda staged a comeback in Iraq | The Week

Al Qaeda’s affiliate in Iraq has claimed responsibility for a wave of bombings that has driven deadly violence in the country to its worst level in years.

The latest attacks — most of them committed by Sunni Muslim insurgents against Shiites — killed dozens of people during the Eid al-Fitr festival marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan. More than 670 people were killed over the month, making it the deadliest Ramadan in Iraq since 2007. [Read the full article]

Iraq: Why violence and oil don’t mix | CNN

Abu Dhabi (CNN) — We are seeing the deadliest sectarian violence in Iraq since 2008 and that is causing major setbacks for Baghdad’s aspiration to challenge Saudi Arabia as the top oil producer.

The latest figures from Iraq’s ministry of energy illustrate the direct link between the violence and the country’s oil output. In May, monthly production hit nearly 77 million barrels in the two major regions Basra and Kirkuk. That sunk, the ministry said, to fewer than 70 million in June as daily production tumbled to less than three million barrels a day. [Read the full article]

The Moderation Fallacy in Iran | National Review

The United States and its European partners have a long record of anticipating diplomatic breakthroughs when a new leader comes to power in a hostile state.

Remember Yuri Andropov, the former KGB boss who rose to power at the height of the Cold War? Never mind the central role he had in crushing democratic uprisings in Hungary and Czechoslovakia, or his brutal repression of domestic dissidents through such innovative techniques as widescale incarcerations in “psychiatric hospitals.” Upon his assuming the position of general secretary, Western leaders were quick to note that he was known to listen to Glenn Miller and drink Scotch. Presumably on that basis, he was described as “a man we can do business with.” It was only the downing of  a South Korean airliner by Soviet fighters, killing 269 passengers and crew, that brought an end to the illusion that Andropov would usher in an era of cooperation. [Read the full article]

Saudi Arabia Keeps Tight Grip on Yemen | Al Monitor

After the war came to an end and the Taif Agreement of 1934 was signed between Yemen and Saudi Arabia, the behavior and mindset of the kingdom in dealing with Yemen was that of the rich victor against the poor vanquished. The kingdom acquired three provinces from the historical country of Yemen — namely Jizan, Najran and Asir, whose surface area equals approximately half of that of Yemen.

Later on, the kingdom dealt with these regions with a heightened sense of Yemeni nationalism in a way that goes against the will and desire of these feelings. Examples can be seen during the September 1962 revolution, the June 13 movement and the 1990 unification of Yemen, in addition to the issues that preceded and succeeded these events and that have yet to be resolved. These include dealing with the 10% of the Yemeni population (2.5 million citizens) residing in the kingdom without taking into consideration the dignity of its Arab neighbor. [Read the full article]

Analysis – Yemen leader basks in U.S. favour as drone strikes fuel rage | Reuters

(Reuters) – As Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi cements his ties with Washington, Yemen’s interim president risks alienating his own people, who resent the U.S. drone war on al Qaeda in their country. [Read the full article]

Hadi’s White House visit on August 1, a mark of favour from the United States, coincided with an intensification of U.S. drone attacks on suspected members of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the Yemen-based group seen by the West as one of the global militant movement’s most aggressive branches. [Read the full article]

After Gezi, Is Turkey’s AKP Correcting Course? | Al Monitor

Reports of the political demise of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) in the aftermath of the Gezi Park protests were exaggerated. In fact, the findings of a think tank headed by an AKP deputy hint that not only is the ruling party alive and well, it may actually be undergoing a “course correction.” This correction, in turn, could have profound implications for next year’s local and presidential elections in Turkey.

Headed by Idris Bal, a UK-trained professor of international relations and AKP deputy for Kutahya province, the Eurasia Global Research Center’s (AGAM) findings criticize the government’s heavy-handed response to the protests. Instead of pointing fingers at Erdogan, however, the AGAM report (aptly given the objective-sounding title, “Analysis of the Taksim Events”) blames the prime minister’s advisers for “misinforming” their boss and unnecessarily forcing him to takes sides in the Gezi protests. It was Erdogan’s poorly informed subordinates, not Erdogan himself, who turned a small sit-in at Gezi Park into a nationwide uprising. It was a “strategic mistake,” reads the report, to blow out of proportion a matter that should have been for Istanbul residents, the district municipality of Beyoglu, and the metropolitan municipality of Istanbul to decide. [Read the full article]

 

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Middle east mapU.S. steps up drone strikes in Yemen | The Hindu

The U.S. has stepped up the intensity of its drone strikes on suspected al-Qaeda targets in Yemen, carrying out eight strikes in two weeks in response to fears of a terror attack in the capital, Sana’a.

Yemeni officials said at least seven Saudi Arabian militants were among those killed in the three strikes on Thursday, as the country was celebrating Id at the end of Ramadan. [Read the full article]

Yemen’s hunt for master bomber Ibrahim al-Asiri | The Telegraph

Under pressure to thwart what the West feared would be a major al-Qaeda terror attack, the country’s security forces offered to pay five million riyals to anyone who could help find the terror group’s master bomber.

However, the reward, issued for Asiri and 24 other leading members of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), is not as impressive as the figures sound. The equivalent in US dollars is just £15,000 — far less than the £103,000 that AQAP itself offered last December for anyone who killed Gerald Feierstein, the US ambassador to Yemen. [Read the full article]

Conspiracy Theories: The One Thing Everyone in Lebanon Has in Common | The Atlantic

Bilal, a Salafi sheikh, holds court at his well-furnished house in Bab al-Tabbaneh, a notoriously volatile Sunni neighborhood in the Lebanese city of Tripoli. The area, which has historically been a flashpoint for many violent conflicts with neighboring Alawites, is tense following June clashes between the Lebanese army and supporters of Sunni cleric Ahmed Assir in the southern town of Abra that left 46 dead. An uneasy truce has held in Tripoli since the army seized Assir’s compound and Ramadan started, but Bilal says he’s sure it won’t last, and he blames that on Iran, the militant group Hezbollah, and, oddly enough, on the U.S.

“Americans see us as Bin Laden, as terrorists,” he says with a sneer. “But when the world talks about Hezbollah, they call them a militia. We have brains. We know the Americans are behind everything that’s going on. They’re sitting watching the blood of Muslims being spilled, and they turn a blind eye.” [Read the full article]

Four suspected militants killed in Israeli drone strike in Egypt | The Telegraph

At least four suspected Islamist militants were killed in an Israeli drone strike over Egypt’s restive Sinai peninsula, Egyptian security officials have reported.

Although reports of Israeli drone use over Sinai have surfaced in the past, this is the first to come with official acknowledgement. [Read the full article]

Will the Military Break Egypt’s Stalemate? | New Yorker

“The phase of diplomatic efforts has ended,” Adly Mansour, the interim Egyptian President, said in a statement Wednesday. He was referring to efforts to get the supporters of Mohamed Morsi, the deposed President, to give up and go home. No big surprise; there was never going to be any compromise with the Muslim Brotherhood, which has been staging sit-ins in Cairo while Morsi is being held incommunicado. Mansour’s statement, which said that the Brotherhood was “fully responsible for the failure of these efforts and the subsequent events that may result,” was taken as a sign that in the next few days it seems very likely that their protests will be forcibly dispersed and there will be more blood on the streets. Despite this, the Brotherhood gathered again in large numbers on Friday. [Read the full article]

Zimbabwe signs secret deal to supply Iran with uranium to build a nuclear bomb | Daily Mail

Zimbabwe has signed a secret deal to supply Uranium to Iran for its controversial nuclear programme, according to a senior Government source in Harare.

Negotiations between the two countries, which would see thousands of tonnes of the raw uranium shipped to Tehran for enrichment, have allegedly been going on for two years, the Times reports. [Read the full article]

Judge Iran’s regime by its actions, not by empty words | The Globe and Mail

This past weekend, the Islamic Republic of Iran inaugurated Hassan Rowhani as its seventh president. In the weeks and months ahead, the world will be watching to see if the hopes and aspirations of Iranians will be fulfilled.

Canada’s skepticism of the regime’s commitment to genuine reform stands. Despite the expression of the Iranian people on June 14, Iran’s nuclear non-compliance, its deliberate decision to ignore its human-rights obligations, its ongoing sponsorship of terrorist groups, its support for Syria’s Assad regime, and its own regular and inexcusable anti-Semitic rhetoric continues unabated and undeterred. Mr. Rowhani’s own tome of literature chronicling Iranian subterfuge and clever protraction of nuclear negotiations does little to enhance his own credibility. [Read the full article]

Conspiracy convictions deepen Turkey’s divide | Al Jazeera

Political divisions in Turkey were on full display this week, as a court sentenced hundreds of former military officers, opposition politicians, journalists and academics for plotting to overthrow Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) in a conspiracy case that has gripped the nation.

The highest-profile defendant of the 275 on trial was former armed forces chief Ilker Basbug, who on Monday received a life sentence in jail, along with 17 others – including retired generals. [Read the full article]

In Turkey, Erdogan’s ‘mega-projects’ push forward | Jerusalem Post

ISTANBUL – An undersea rail tunnel linking Asia with Europe, the first in a series of multi-billion dollar construction projects in Istanbul backed by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is close to completion. Engineers are now conducting tests on the 8.5-mile tube, part of which runs beneath the busy Bosphorus Strait shipping channel.

The undersea tunnel – the world’s deepest at 56 meters (184 feet) – is scheduled to open to the public on the country’s 90th anniversary, October 29, and will begin to shuttle 1.5 million people a day between the city’s two sides according to government officials. Under construction since 2004, it is a cornerstone of a series of planned undertakings intended to modernize transportation in Istanbul. [Read the full article]

U.S. soars in world popularity charts post-Iraq—but will it last? | CNBC

Favorable global feelings toward the United States have returned to 2002 levels, matching generally warm, pro-American sentiments measured just prior to the Iraq War: 64 percent of the planet’s inhabitants tend to like America, according to numbers tabulated for NBC News by the Pew Research Center.

That equates to a 13-point rise in American favorability among the same 19 nations surveyed by Pew in 2007. The Pew team polled people in countries spanning from Pakistan, where only 11 percent of locals today back the United States, to Ghana, where 83 percent of the populace is pro-American, Pew figures show. [Read the full article]

Wave of bombings in Iraq during holiday kills 64 | Yahoo!

BAGHDAD (AP) — A wave of car bombings, mainly targeting cafes and markets around the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, killed 64 people Saturday out celebrating the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, officials said.

Violence has been on the rise across Iraq since a deadly crackdown by government forces on a Sunni protest camp in April, and attacks against civilians and security forces notably spiked during Ramadan. The surge of attacks has sparked fears that the country could spiral into a new round of widespread sectarian bloodshed similar to that which brought the country to the edge of civil war in 2006 and 2007. [Read the full article]

Saudi Arabia says terror arrests linked to Western embassy closures | Al Arabiya

Saudi Arabia’s arrest of two men suspected of plotting terror attacks is connected to the recent closure of Western embassies in the regions, Interior Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Mansour al-Turki told Al Arabiya on Thursday.

The interior ministry had said the surveillance of messages exchanged through social media led to the arrest of the two suspects, who hail from Yemen and Chad. [Read the full article]

Bullets and bank accounts | The Economist

AS SYRIA’S 2011 uprising against President Bashar Assad turned into a civil war, business in Damascus and Aleppo, the country’s two biggest cities, plunged and inflation soared. Early this year, when rebels took over the northern city of Raqqa—and with it a good chunk of Syria’s oil and agricultural land, two main sources of government revenue fell into rebel hands. On the battlefield the regime has held its own; when it comes to financing the fighting the situation is less clear.

Unemployment has balooned to 60% and government coffers are empty; oil production is down to 20,000 barrels per day, from 380,000. Oil sanctions and sabotage have cost the government at least $13 billion by its own reckoning. Farming, trade and manufacturing are running at less than a third of pre-war levels. The Syrian pound has tumbled from 47 to the dollar when fighting broke out to around 250 today. In Beirut UN experts reckon that 19% of Syrians now live below the poverty line, compared with less than 1% before the war. [Read the full article]

Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood faces uphill battle | USA Today

Syria’s banned Muslim Brotherhood may have an opportunity to stage a comeback after decades spent in exile. It is playing an increasingly providing assistance to military brigades it supports.

BEIRUT (AP) — For Syria’s banned Muslim Brotherhood, the uprising against President Bashar Assad that erupted amid Arab Spring revolts in 2011 provided a long-sought opportunity to stage a comeback after decades spent in exile. [Read the full article]

Deadly airstrikes in Assad northern Syrian stronghold | France24

Syrian regime air strikes killed more than 30 people Saturday in the Latakia province, bastion of the ruling Assad clan, and the northern city of Raqa, a monitory group said.

Seven children were among at least 13 civilians killed in an air raid on Raqa, the only provincial capital in rebel hands, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. [Read the full article]

UNHCR hails UAE humanitarian support in Pakistan | Gulf Today

ISLAMABAD: The UNHCR’s representative in Pakistan, Neill Wright, has lauded the outstanding and unprecedented role the United Arab Emirates has played under the leadership of the President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

The UAE has helped to improve the difficult conditions currently being faced by the people in Pakistan due to the floods and natural disasters which caused this humanitarian crisis. [Read the full article]

UAE’s pearling industry seeks to regain long-lost luster | Taipei Times

Abdulla al-Suwaidi dreamed of reviving a long-lost part of Middle Eastern culture when he seeded his first oyster with a tiny bead and placed it in the warm waters of the Gulf in 2004.

Almost a decade later, the cofounder and vice-chairman of RAK Pearls is finally seeing the fruits of his labor with the first auction of cultured pearls from RAK’s oyster farm off the coast of Ras al-Khaimah, one of seven emirates that make up the United Arab Emirates. [Read the full article]

Ya’alon: Israel respects Egypt’s sovereignty | Jerusalem Post

A day after international media reports claimed Israel struck a terrorist cell in the Sinai Peninsula, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon issued a statement stressing that Jerusalem “respects Egypt’s full sovereignty.”

He added that Israel is aware of Egypt’s stepped-up activities to combat terrorism in Sinai, adding that the “Egyptian army is fighting first and foremost to protect Egyptian civilians, as well as Egyptian sovereignty.” [Read the full article]

Egypt walks the wire in denying Israeli strike on Sinai | Times of Israel

Contradicting earlier reports, the Egyptian army spokesman said late Friday that there was no truth to reports of an Israeli drone attack on Egyptian soil. He also claimed there was no coordination at all between Israeli and Egyptian authorities with regard to what he termed “explosions in the Rafah region.”

The circumstances surrounding the strike that occurred early Friday evening near Rafah in the northern Sinai Peninsula, in which (it appears) that five Islamic terrorists were killed, were not immediately clear. Particularly elusive were the facts regarding who perpetrated the strike. Initial reports published by the Palestinian Ma’an news agency and then later by AP cited Egyptian officials in El-Arish who said that an Israeli drone fired missiles at a storage site for long-range missiles. They said the strike took place near the Kerem Hashalom crossing, and in the triangle between the Israeli, Egyptian and Gazan border. [Read the full article]

Netanyahu to Kerry: Palestinian incitement undermines peace | Jerusalem Post

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu complained to US Secretary of State John Kerry about continued Palestinian Authority incitement against Israel, even as a ministerial committee prepared to make good on Israel’s pledge to release Palestinian prisoners.

“Incitement and peace cannot coexist…Rather than educate the next generation of Palestinians to live in peace with Israel, this hate education poisons them against Israel and lays the ground for continued violence, terror and conflict,” Netanyahu wrote to Kerry in a letter over the weekend. [Read the full article]

Taking wing | The Economist

SOME 30,000 soldiers are slowly vacating their bases in Israel’s main city, Tel Aviv, and moving to the Negev desert. By the end of the decade, much of the country’s army will have migrated to four huge bases alongside Bedouin shanties. Tel Aviv’s developers, relishing the prospect of building on vast tracts of the country’s most valuable land, talk of turning swords into timeshares. They plan an 80-storey tower for the Kirya, the old British base in the city centre, which for the past six decades has been the headquarters of the general staff. Large parts of the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) expect to withdraw from coastal population centres. Overall, the men in uniform, who long dominated the state, are becoming more peripheral. [Read the full article]

US-run Israel-Palestine talks meaningless theatrics: Analysis | PressTV

A political analyst has denounced the planned resumption of talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) as “meaningless theatrics” aimed at covering up Washington and Tel Aviv’s agenda in the region.

“The so-called ‘peace talks’ initiated by [US Secretary of State] John Kerry between Israel and the Palestinian Authority are meaningless theatrics that are part of a stratagem concealing and obscuring the real intentions of the US and Israel in the Middle East,” said Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya in a Friday article titled “John Kerry’s Israeli-Palestinian talks are a cover for aggression and annexation” on Russia Today’s website. [Read the full article]

Qatar: Enemies dine together in the new Casablanca | The Star

As the magic of food, family and friends this weekend marks the end of the holy month of fasting for Muslims worldwide, what do Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman and their classic 1942 film, Casablanca, have in common with the today’s tiny, gas-rich Gulf state of Qatar and its capital city, Doha?

Well, the surprising answer is: quite a bit. In today’s world, the city of Doha — with its own blend of secrecy and intrigue — is beginning to look a lot like the Casablanca of the 1940s. [Read the full article]

Bahrain Protests 2013: August 14 Will Be Biggest Protest Yet | Policy Mic

Bahrain is bracing for a series of protests likely to be the most significant in over a year. Inspired by the Tamarod Movement, which helped bring down the Morsi government in Egypt, Bahriani activists will take to the streets on August 14, a date that marks the country’s independence from Britain.

On Friday, prominent Bahraini human rights defender Maryam Al Khawaja, Acting President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, was refused permission to board a British Airways flight from Copenhagen to Bahrain, apparently on the request of the Bahrain regime. She was allowed into the country earlier this year, and this denial is another indication of the government’s tension as the 14th approaches. [Read the full article]

Cyprus FinMin calls on House to pass bills to keep bailout plan on track | Famagusta Gazette

Finance Minister Harris Georgiades has warned that if the House does not approve bills aiming at implementing a memorandum of understanding agreed with the Troika, Cyprus’ bailout program will be derailed.

Speaking to the House Committee on trade and industry, Georgiades said that the Finance Ministry is preparing a total of fourteen bills that must be approved by the House to secure the next tranche of 1.5 billion euro which will be used exclusively to recapitalise the cooperative movement. [Read the full article]

Yet another bad idea | Cyprus Mail

THE NEWS, if confirmed, that the government intends “to appoint a fully political board” which will consist of non-executives, while the current executive directors of the Cyprus National Hydrocarbons Company (CNHC) will be demoted to department heads, is a huge blow to the future of our economy, and our hopes for a lean, accountable and transparent state. It is an open tender for more corruption and patronage. It will be seen as a provocation by the Turkish-Cypriots, leading to a choice of messy outcomes.

Lastly, it is not just a blow, but a revelation. It is a revelation of why our international lenders aren’t really impressed by our claims of an economic revival centered on exploiting our natural gas reserves. [Read the full article]

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Turkey: When Erdoğan Looks at Egypt’s Morsi, Does He See Himself? | Eurasianet

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is critical of Egypt’s military for unseating the country’s first democratically elected president, the Muslim-Brotherhood-backed Mohammed Morsi. At the same time, the July 3 coup in Egypt appears to be encouraging Erdoğan to maintain his own get-tough policies in Turkey, analysts say.

Turkey has experienced four military coups in recent history – in 1960, 1971, 1980 and 1997. Since coming to power in 2002, Erdoğan and his Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP) have carried out a no-holds-barred campaign to bring the Turkish military to heel. [Read the full article]

Turkey Tells Soccer Fans to Toe the Line | WSJ

ISTANBUL—The Turkish government’s many efforts to curb dissent following the mass protests that shook the country in June have reached an unlikely new terrain: the soccer field.

The famously raucous fans of Besiktas, one of Turkey’s three leading soccer clubs, must now sign a pledge when buying tickets for the season starting this month not to participate in chants during matches that could “trigger mass, political or ideological events.” [Read the full article]

Israel’s Security Paradox: Never Safer and Never More Uncertain | The Atlantic

For the moment, Israel’s enemies are focused on their own problems. But the regional turmoil could affect the way it negotiates with Palestine.

As Israel enters yet another round of peace negotiations with Palestinians, the fundamental concern that will guide its decision-making is security. And that’s one issue that creates a quandary unique to this moment in history. [Read the full article]

The ‘Jewish Voice for Peace’ is Anti-Israel & Anti-Peace | Jewish Press

The JVP claims to be a Jewish movement that values peace but instead promotes the BDS Movement, supports the “Palestinian right of return,” and works to undermine true peace and security for Israel.

The Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), classified as one of the ten worst anti-Israel organizations in the US by the Anti-Defemation League, partook in Harvard’s One State Conference, supports a Palestinian right of return, which remains the main obstacle to peace, and promotes the BDS Movement. According to a report published by NGO Monitor, they also seek to create a barrier between the American Jewish community and Israel with the goal of diminishing American support for the Jewish state. They work under the presumption that their Jewishness lends legitimacy to ideas that would otherwise not gain as much traction if uttered by a non-Jewish person. [Read the full article]

Former IDF intel chief: US coming around to an Israeli strike on Iran | The Times of Israel

US opposition to an Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear program may be softening, a former head of IDF intelligence said Wednesday.

“The American stance on an Israeli strike against Iran has changed dramatically recently,” said Amos Yadlin, who served as chief of the IDF’s Intelligence Directorate from 2006 to 2010. [Read the full article]

Iran’s new president prompts renewed Israeli threats | LA Times

JERUSALEM — Alarmed by the prospects of renewed U.S.-Iran negotiations and suggestions that the new Islamic leadership might chart a more moderate path, Israel is ramping up its threat to take unilateral military action against Iran’s nuclear program.

On Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Iran has continued to develop its nuclear program, even after the election of Hassan Rouhani, whom he has labeled a “wolf in sheep’s clothing.” [Read the full article]

Iran launch site ‘likely for testing ballistic missiles’, analysts say | The Telegraph

Iran has built a new rocket launch site which is likely to be used for testing ballistic missiles, according to military analysts publishing satellite images of the structure.

Pictures of the newly discovered site have been published weeks after the Iranian government said it was building new space launch bases for its domestic satellite programme. [Read the full article]

Iraqi Kurdistan ‘opens’ official crude oil trade route via Iran | Hurriyet Daily News

Iraq’s Kurdistan region has started to export crude oil by truck to an Iranian port for shipping to Asia, industry sources say, using a trade route that is likely to anger both Baghdad and Washington

Iraq’s Kurdistan region is exporting crude oil by truck to an Iranian port for shipping to Asia, industry sources say, using a trade route that is likely to anger both Baghdad and Washington. [Read the full article]

Egypt crisis: Country takes a step closer to ‘all-out war’ as peace talks break down | The Independent

Egyptians will celebrate one of the most significant days in the Muslim calendar this morning – but they will do so facing perhaps the gravest crisis since the fall of Hosni Mubarak two and a half years ago.

On the eve of the Eid al-Fitr festival, the holiday which marks the end of Ramadan, Egypt’s interim President, Adli Mansour, issued a bleak statement announcing that 10 days of talks to solve a dangerous impasse between supporters and opponents of Mohamed Morsi, the deposed leader, had failed. [Read the full article]

Egypt at ‘dangerous stalemate’ in political crisis | Reuters

(Reuters) – Egypt’s political crisis entered a tense phase on Wednesday after international mediation efforts collapsed and the army-installed government repeated its threat to take action against supporters of deposed President Mohamed Mursi.

Both sides called their supporters on to the streets on Thursday, while Mursi supporters in two protest camps in Cairo strengthened sandbag-and-brick barricades in readiness for any action by security forces. [Read the full article]

Syria opposition advances despite losing 62 fighters in ambush by President Assad’s forces | The Independent

The Syrian army killed 62 rebels in an ambush near Damascus today, just as the opposition looked to be making advances on two fronts in northern Syria.

Bloody corpses, some in uniform, were shown on Syrian television, which said the rebels were on their way to attack a government post near Adra, a north-eastern suburb of Damascus. The rebels were reportedly shot dead as they moved on foot along what they believed to be a secret route not known to the Syrian army. [Read the full article]

Car bombs kill 36 near Baghdad, Iraq | Global News

BAGHDAD – A wave of bombings, mainly targeting markets in and near Baghdad, killed 36 people on Tuesday, officials said, the latest in a surge of violence that has gripped Iraq.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, meanwhile, vowed to defeat “terrorists” behind the relentless attacks and chase them out of the battered country. [Read the full article]

The Pentagon Wants To Sell $2.7 Billion In Weapons To A Country On The Verge Of Collapse | Business Insider

The Pentagon is looking to bolster its military options for Syria’s civil war by sending $2.7 billion in weapons to Iraq, despite the country being on the verge of civil war.

The weapons deal would include 681 Stinger anti-aircraft missiles and 40 truck-mounted launchers, as well as three Hawk anti-aircraft batteries with 216 Hawk missiles, according to Agence France Presse. [Read the full article]

Iraq mired in deadlock as violence worsens | Gulf Times

A co-ordinated spate of bombings across Baghdad capped Iraq’s bloodiest Ramadan in years, with more than 800 people killed in spiralling violence that a paralysed government has failed to stem.

Experts say things could get even worse, as political deadlock with no end in sight feeds a worsening security situation in a country only a few years removed from a sectarian war in which tens of thousands of people died. [Read the full article]

Yemen Terror Alert: Don’t Panic, Says Obama | Sky News

US President Barack Obama has urged Americans not to panic, amid heightened fears of an imminent al Qaeda attack in Yemen and the wider Middle East.

The United States and Britain have told their citizens to leave the country immediately, and pulled out some diplomatic staff as security at missions across the region is stepped up. [Read the full article]

US drone strikes ‘buying time’ in Yemen | The Telegraph

An American drone strike on suspected al-Qaeda operatives killed seven in Yemen as local officials claimed its security forces had foiled a major plot to attack an oil facility to take foreign workers hostage.

Officials said the attack was related to Western security alerts that have force several countries to evacuate diplomatic staff from Yemen, as well as close embassies around the world. [Read the full article]

Saudi Arabia dangles lucrative arms deal in front of Russia in exchange for dropping Assad – report | RT

Saudi Arabia has reportedly offered to buy arms worth up to $15 billion from Russia, and provided a raft of economic and political concessions to the Kremlin – all in a bid to weaken Moscow’s endorsement of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

The diplomatic initiatives were anonymously voiced to Reuters by multiple Gulf state diplomats and senior leaders of the Syrian opposition, in the wake of last week’s meeting in Moscow between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Saudi National Security Council chief Prince Bandar bin-Sultan. The Saudi politician has orchestrated his country’s foreign policy in recent months. [Read the full article]

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