Middle East Monitor - Creating New Perspectives Bringing you the latest and up-to-date news from the Middle East. We go one step further, facilitating a better understanding of the issues facing the Middle East. https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/component/content/frontpage Wed, 29 Jul 2015 02:20:46 +0000 MEMO en-gb Building myths about refugees instead of a fair policy in the UK https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/europe/20079-building-myths-about-refugees-instead-of-a-fair-policy-in-the-uk https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/europe/20079-building-myths-about-refugees-instead-of-a-fair-policy-in-the-uk Amelia Smith

In the UK politicians have held immigrants responsible for the housing crisis, unemployment and the disarray in the NHS system. The British government has held them up to the charge of benefit tourism and says their reluctance to integrate or learn English has made British people feel uncomfortable. If they find work they are stealing our jobs. If they don't they are sponging off our welfare state.

With the media spotlight currently on men, women and children escaping Syria the Daily Mail has turned to Brits abroad and how they are affected by the crisis, as demonstrated by their headline on 27 May: "How many more can Kos take? Thousands of boat people from Syria and Afghanistan set up migrant camp in popular Greek island - with holidaymakers branding the situation 'disgusting'."

Besides buying into the idea that immigrants are responsible for all our problems (no jobs, miserable holidays) another commonly held myth is that immigration into the UK is a recent phenomenon. Yet part of what makes Britain the ethnically diverse melting pot we celebrate today is the people who have settled here throughout our history.

Immigration to Britain has been traced back to the Romans, who stayed for nearly 400 years. When Rome collapsed the Anglo, Saxon and Jute tribes came from the north of Germany. The Vikings, Normans, Huguenots and the Irish have all formed part of our history and aspects of our language, literature and architecture have been shaped by these communities and more.

When it suits us we have actively encouraged or forced immigration to take place. Between 1500 and 1800 a total of 30 million slaves were transported across the Atlantic to help build the British Empire by working in the fields and plantations of its colonies. Many buildings standing in London, Liverpool and Bristol today were built using slave money.

Post Second World War, Britain reached out first to Europe then to its colonies and encouraged thousands of people from the Caribbean, India, Pakistan and the West Indies to come to the country and help reconstruct the economy. Ironically many of these people were poor as a result of British colonial exploitation.

When it doesn't suit us, however, Britain has curbed immigration. Whilst workers from the West Indies may have been granted entry to the UK in the aftermath of the Second World War, the entry of Holocaust survivors was restricted on the basis they were not "assimilable". Yet it is widely believed Britain did everything it could in this period for Jewish people.

Over the past 30 or so years the UK has imposed visa restrictions on the following countries to curb applications for asylum from particular groups of people: in 1985 on Sri Lanka to deter Tamil Tigers; in 1989 on Turkey to discourage Kurds; in 1992 on citizens of the former Yugoslavia to stem the influx of victims of war; in 1995 on Sierra Leone to control victims of the civil war seeking refuge; in 2002 on Zimbabwe to restrict those claiming political asylum. There are many more.

With this in mind, the British value pedalled by politicians: 'tolerance', appears very empty. Similarly, claims that the benefits system in the UK is creating a "magnetic pull" for refugees aren't true. Britain harbours only around one per cent of the world's refugees with the world's poorest countries absorbing more than 80 per cent.

The language of immigration is essential. By describing Britain as a tolerant society, albeit a society struggling to deal with the influx of people who just want to put their feet up, the government can get away with all sorts. Introducing crippling benefits cuts, for example, or not offering our fair share of Syrian refugees a safe place to live in the UK.

Which leads us back to the island of Kos and the Syrians and Afghanis who are disrupting British holidaymakers. Thousands of British people live in Greece; some use the local healthcare system, some do not speak Greek. They are not accused of stealing benefits from the local communities because they are expats, not immigrants.

Expat is a term reserved for westerners and evokes superiority, affluence and privilege whilst the word immigrant is used to describe Africans, Arabs and Asians and is associated with inferiority and poverty. The former suggests someone who is contributing to the economy whilst the latter someone who wants to scrounge off the system.

The press continually refers to the thousands of people crossing the Mediterranean Sea and arriving in places like Kos as immigrants and in the process we forget they are men, women and children who have families and lives. By not giving them names we have succeeded in dehumanising them so much we are letting them drown. We would never let expats meet the same fate.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Amelia Smith) frontpage Tue, 28 Jul 2015 15:51:27 +0000
Can Turkey and NATO reconcile over Syria strategy? https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/blogs/politics/20078-can-turkey-and-nato-reconcile-over-syria-strategy https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/blogs/politics/20078-can-turkey-and-nato-reconcile-over-syria-strategy Bashar Al-Assad

When the US formed an international coalition to fight ISIS last year, Turkey was a reluctant partner. It has been accused, at best, of turning a blind eye to jihadist groups and, at worst, actively encouraging them in order to oust Syria's President Bashar Al-Assad. Turkey has always denied this charge. That seems to have changed this week, as the country has suddenly stepped up its military campaign, bombing both ISIS targets in Syria and Kurdish positions in northern Iraq.

NATO leaders held an emergency meeting in Brussels to discuss the Turkish military campaign. This was an unusual step; to call the meeting, Turkey used Article 4 of the NATO founding treaty, which covers incidents when members feel that their "territorial integrity, political independence or security... is threatened." This is only the fifth time in the 66-year history of the alliance that a meeting has been held on these grounds.

In the end, NATO voiced its "strong support" for Turkey following the emergency meeting. At a press conference, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said: "In the meeting there was full agreement on the statement and all allies expressed their strong support for Turkey. We all stand together united with Turkey. All allies condemn terrorism in all its forms."

This was by no means a foregone conclusion; Turkey's hard line position on the Kurds presented a dilemma for NATO leaders. Although the Kurdish YPG force has been working with the US to fight ISIS, Turkey – home to a long-running Kurdish insurgency – says that it sees no distinction and that both are terrorist groups. Over the past week, the Turkish authorities have arrested more than 1,000 suspected Kurdish and ISIS militants. The YPG has close ties to the PKK, the militant Kurdish organisation within Turkey that has fought a long civil war against the authorities, which has killed 40,000 people since 1984.

While the US in particular has formed a functional working relationship with Kurdish forces over the past year, seeing them as the best hope of tackling ISIS on the ground, Turkey has grown more hostile to these groups. There has been an upsurge of violence inside Turkey in the largely Kurdish south-eastern regions. In June's national elections, the Kurdish party secured representation in parliament for the first time. Critics of the Turkish government believe that President Erdogan may be emphasising tensions with the Kurds deliberately in order to rally support from Turkish nationalists, who have always opposed the peace process.

In calling for the NATO meeting, Turkey was hoping to draw attention to this renewed Kurdish violence. Yet, as the BBC's Paul Adams writes: "The suspicion lingers that Ankara may be looking to exploit its new status as an active participant in the campaign against [ISIS] to win support for - or at least mute criticism of - its ongoing battle with the Kurds." The Turkish position is nothing if not complex. Part of the reason it has been so reluctant to get involved in the conflict is that it did not want to help the Kurds at the forefront of fighting ISIS militants.

Of course, recent events and a changing reality on the ground have played a part in Turkey's change of strategy. A series of attacks within Turkey were the direct catalyst for action. The worst was a suicide bombing last week in Suruc, southern Turkey, which left 32 people dead. Turkey blamed an ISIS-trained militant. In the aftermath of the attack, Kurdish militants killed two police officers, claiming it was retaliation for Turkish support of ISIS. While one reading is that this increased violence within Turkish borders has prompted action against ISIS, another is that Turkey is willing to strike jihadists as a cover for pursuing its long standing enemy, the Kurdish militants.

Turkey and the US agreed a plan to create a "buffer zone" in Syrian territory along the Turkish border, currently controlled by ISIS. This would potentially create a safe zone for thousands of Syrian refugees. It will be easier for the US to act now that it can launch attacks from Turkish soil; the agreement increases the scope of the US operation significantly.

But is the cost of this military cooperation going to be that the US and its allies turn a blind eye to Turkish action against the Kurds? Turkey has denied allegations that its military has shelled Kurdish-held villages in northern Syria. If confirmed, these attacks would be the most serious incident yet of Turkey targeting Kurdish-controlled areas in the Syrian conflict.

Turkey has always had a different view to its NATO allies on how best to handle the Syrian conflict. The question now is whether these differences are reconcilable.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Samira Shackle) frontpage Tue, 28 Jul 2015 15:34:40 +0000
All eyes on Turkey during ECFR event https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/europe/20077-all-eyes-on-turkey-during-ecfr-event https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/europe/20077-all-eyes-on-turkey-during-ecfr-event President of Al-Sharq Forum, Wadah Khanfar

A number of prominent politicians, academics, journalists and experts met in London yesterday to discuss the changing role of Turkey in the Middle East. Hosted by the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) in partnership with Al-Sharq Forum, the event, entitled "Turkey and a crisis-ridden Middle East: Where next for Ankara?" was intended to chart a new course for Turkey within the region.

"If these things had happened 15 years ago, Turkey would have seen them as being far away and not relevant," said Ilter Turan, Emeritus Professor at Istanbul Bilgi University in reference to recent developments in Syria and Iraq, "Turkey's interest in the region is relatively recent."

Significant topics discussed at the event included the Turkish response to the rise of Islamic State (ISIS), the regional fallout of the nuclear deal with Iran, the stalling peace process with Kurdish militia group the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and the recent election setback for Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

The notion of Turkey's rising prominence in a "crisis-ridden" Middle East was intended, said President of Al-Sharq Forum Wadah Khanfar, to reflect the fact that across the region "our states are becoming less rational and our irrational actors are becoming more organised" – no doubt a reference to the growing threat from militant and rebel groups such as ISIS, the PKK, Jabhat Al-Nusra and others.

However, Khanfar was also critical of Western attitudes towards the region, saying that: "The Americans think that ISIS is going to stay for at least 20 years. Why are the Americans giving credibility to ISIS in this way? Is this a new Middle East in which ISIS is a part? At the moment there is no synchronisation of how we feel in the region and what the Western capitals are thinking."

Other speakers offered a more nuanced analysis of the ISIS threat; most notably the head of Cordoba Foundation Anas Al-Tikriti who affirmed that: "As it stands, I don't think ISIS as a group can maintain itself." Instead, he offered one of three alternative scenarios: mutation, expansion or splintering of the group.

Another significant issue raised at the event was the ongoing peace talks between Turkey and Kurdish factions, made all the more timely by the recent PKK attacks on Turkish gas pipelines and Turkish airstrikes against PKK positions in Iraq last week. Hemin Hewrani, the head of the Foreign Relations Office in the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), was keen to stress that "the KDP does not support and does not endorse the PKK," but highlighted that "it is Turkey that has changed towards [the Kurds]; we in Kurdistan have always been part of the solution."

On Saturday evening, two Turkish soldiers were killed and four others injured in a car bomb Ankara claimed was planted by the PKK in retaliation to Turkish air strikes against PKK camps in northern Iraq. The previous week, 30 people died when an ISIS suicide bomber targeted the Turkish town of Suruç near the Syrian border. The victims were mostly left-wing activists who had reportedly been intending to travel to the Kurdish enclave of Kobane to deliver humanitarian aid.

In response, Turkey has asked Nato to hold an extraordinary council meeting to discuss the ongoing operations against ISIS in Syria and the PKK in northern Iraq.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Tue, 28 Jul 2015 15:22:24 +0000
ICC prosecutor rejects judges' decision to re-investigate Freedom Flotilla attack https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/europe/20076-icc-prosecutor-rejects-judges-decision-to-re-investigate-freedom-flotilla-attack https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/europe/20076-icc-prosecutor-rejects-judges-decision-to-re-investigate-freedom-flotilla-attack Fatou Bensouda

The prosecutor at the International Criminal Court has appealed against the decision of a special panel of judges that the court must reconsider its decision not to open a criminal investigation into the Israeli attack on the Freedom Flotilla in May 2010. The Israeli government has praised her move.

Fatou Bensouda had decided not to open an investigation into the allegation that war crimes were committed by Israeli soldiers when they seized the Mavi Marmara, the main ship in the Gaza-bound flotilla that sought to break the siege imposed on the territory. Nine Turkish citizens were killed by the Israeli commandos when they boarded the vessel in international waters.

According to Bensouda, the judges' decision ten days ago altered the mandate given to her under the Rome Statute that founded the International Criminal Court, and sharply expanded the court's jurisdiction. She claimed that the special panel decided that the ICC made technical errors during its work only in subjects that were not agreed upon. Against this backdrop, she argued that the special panel of judges surpassed the powers granted to them by the statute.

Bensouda asked from the ICC Appeals Court to cancel the request to reconsider its decision on the Freedom Flotilla and to dismiss the appeal filed by the Comoros Islands in this regard. The Comoros was the first entity to file a complaint with the ICC in May 2013.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Tue, 28 Jul 2015 14:53:46 +0000
The stalemate in the Palestinian political system https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/middle-east/20075-the-stalemate-in-the-palestinian-political-system https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/middle-east/20075-the-stalemate-in-the-palestinian-political-system Majed KayaliThe Palestinian political system is characterised by a statute of limitations due to the fact that the same factions have formed the ruling elite and the same tactics have been implemented for decades. At least, this is what can be said since the establishment of the Palestinian territories over the course of the past quarter of a century. The majority of the Palestinian establishment, from the Palestinian Authority to political factions to popular organisations, are exhausted and no longer hold the same standing in Palestinian communities. The PLO no longer holds the same prestige as it did before it transformed itself from a liberation movement into a political party.

Since the situation continues to deteriorate, the Palestinian political system is at an impasse; moreover, the prevailing political elite have now become too conservative in terms of their policies. The reality on the ground has remained the same. The political elite has not thought to change their policies despite Israel's blatant decision to derail the Oslo Accords and despite the PA Central Council's vote in March to halt negotiations and security coordination with Israel and mobilise the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. The ruling elite within Palestine has a monopoly over decision-making mechanisms. At this point in time, the Palestinian Authority no longer has anything left to add or offer and threatens the vitality of society. We must recognise the rate of Palestinian educational achievements and the increase in military resistance over the decades.

The reason for such a discussion is the removal of Yasser Abed Rabbo from his post on the Palestinian Authority's executive committee in a way that suggests the decision was done both in haste and a bad mood. More importantly, the reactions to this decision reveal that that this particular layer of Palestinian policy makers are in conflict amongst themselves but ultimately care about maintaining the prevailing status quo, which includes the dynamic present among different Palestinian political factions. Members of the PA care only about preserving their place within the political system and within society despite the fact that they no longer have anything new to add. They have previously gone so far as to announce publically their failure and their inability to provide any new solutions. Abed Rabbo admitted to the failure of the Oslo Accords and he was one of those closest to Mahmoud Abbas in his political circle. Abbas himself even went so far as to threaten Israel with the dissolution of the Palestinian Authority and said that he would hand the occupation the key and go home (rather than answer to the Palestinian people).

The question that begs an answer at this point has nothing to do with the legitimacy or lack thereof of Abed Rabbo's removal, or anyone else for that matter, because this has happened before and with Abbas himself when he was the president of the first government during the Arafat era. The question has to do with the legitimacy of the PLO, keeping in mind that the last official meeting of the national council took place in 2006 and it is the only meeting to have taken place inside the 1948 territories after the establishment of the Palestinian Authority. This meeting was held in response to the US request to amend the National Charter and it resulted in a majority of 504 votes in favour of the motion, 54 in in opposition and 12 abstentions. The story did not end there as it led to another unofficial meeting, known as the Palestine National Conference (in Gaza, late 2008), which was conducted in the presence of former US President Bill Clinton.

One must note that President Arafat gave a speech at that time, in which he said: "Our people stand for a just and comprehensive peace... we will not tolerate or allow anyone to tamper with the security of the two sides... I would like to remind everyone that the National Council decided in 1996 to change and amend our charter by abolishing any items that counter our dedication to peace. We reject and condemn terrorism. On behalf of the PLO I would like to send a message to President Bill Clinton to consider the amendments that we have made. I call on members of the government, the national council and the central committee to raise their hands in approval."

It is also useful to note that the Oslo agreement did not derive its legitimacy from that of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (nor was this the case during the Fatah conference that was one of a kind and took place in 2009). It is well known that this unfair agreement reduced Palestine to the 1967 territories, therefore limiting the struggle to a fraction of the Palestinian population, and the entire Palestinian liberation movement to nothing more than a political authority. At that time, Yasser Abed Rabbo was a participant and a lead actor in what allowed these developments to pass. It was also revealed that he partook in secret negotiations that were based on an illegitimate framework.

On top of all of this, all of these situations lead us to question the legitimacy of the Palestinian system, which has built its platform at the expense of other existing Palestinian factions. We must keep in mind that we are speaking of factions that do not possess any real historical, objective or resistance-based justifications and of a political system that has been monopolised by Fatah since the 1960s. In fact, many of the individuals in question are now in their seventies and eighties. Abed Rabbo has been a member of Fatah's executive committee for nearly four decades. The same applies to Mohammad Zuhdi Al-Nashashibi, Abu Al-Lutuf and even Mahmoud Abbas himself, who has enjoyed a leading role in the PLO for more than 25 years. Abbas has been president of the PA and the PLO simultaneously for ten years and we have yet to see him appoint or nominate a vice-president.

It is important for us to ask the following question on this occasion: why have certain people remained in power? How have they remained in the lead and why? Furthermore, how were the Oslo Accords agreed upon and signed behind the backs of the Palestinian people more than twenty years ago? What was the framework for Oslo's legitimacy?

Yasser Abed Rabbo's "resignation" is not the first of its kind; the Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish and the director of the PLO's office in Beirut, Shaifq Al-Hout, both resigned from their posts in response to the Oslo Accords and the way that the agreement was implemented. Others also resigned at the time, including chief negotiator Haider Abdul-Shafi as well as Hanan Ashrawi. At that time Darwish wrote the following: "Look at the Palestinian Liberation Organisation carefully for its organisations, its circles and its offices are all out of service and they are all up for sale... I ask for nothing more than an organisation that, in the end, negotiates on the behalf of its people while maintaining its humanity and dignity. This organisation has reached its end and you all must admit to this whether you choose to follow this settlement to the end or leave it now. What is left is for the PLO to sign this agreement with Israel and at that point it will be transformed into something else..."

According to Shafiq Al-Hout, "It is no secret to anyone that the PLO is suffering from political, organisational, and economic crises. The current leadership must take responsibility for all of these crises. I must admit that I am no longer capable of taking responsibility for decisions that are implemented in the name of the PLO without my permission or the permission of other members. They are doing this on our behalf and in our name and there are many others who are also not willing to take responsibility for such decisions. We cannot accept this nor can we take responsibility for such actions..."

Yet, the resignation which had the biggest effect was that of Mahmoud Abbas when he stepped down as prime minister in 2003, and from any leadership position within Fatah (which he later recanted). Abbas notoriously sent an angry letter to Arafat, which stated: "This government has come under the worst kinds of incitement and distortion and put obstacles and barriers in the way... including bloodshed, humiliation, accusations of treason and the compromise of our reputation. As the prime minister of the government, I can no longer take any responsibility for these occurrences, I leave them to you to figure out how best to deal with these matters."

Abbas also gave a lengthy presentation to the Palestinian Legislative Council during which he claimed that he was subjected to questioning and accused of working against the interests of the Palestinian government. There are three conclusions to be made here. The first of them is that Palestinian organisations that were launched in the sixties have now come to their end in terms of the speeches that their members have given and in terms of their means of resistance. This has definitely proven to be the case when it comes to the Palestine Liberation Organisation and its transformation into the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. We are currently witnessing an entirely different entity.

Second, Palestinian leadership functions completely independently of the will of its people due to the lack of a regional framework of support and the dysfunctional balance of power in Israel's favour. The status of the Palestinian political elite does not depend on the influence it has on its people.

Third, the Palestinian problem has very little to do with following this option or that option, but instead can be credited to the deteriorating situation within the organisation itself, which lacks a tradition of democracy and representation, the spirit of struggle and any semblance of political accountability. In fact, the current status quo has gone so far as to deter Palestinian leaders from their goal of national liberation because their sole concern at this moment in time appears to be to maintain their political status.

Translated from Quds net, 21 July, 2015.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Majed Kayali) frontpage Tue, 28 Jul 2015 14:41:17 +0000
Attaining 'unity' away from the PA is vital for Hamas https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/blogs/politics/20074-attaining-unity-away-from-the-pa-is-vital-for-hamas https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/blogs/politics/20074-attaining-unity-away-from-the-pa-is-vital-for-hamas Ramona Wadi

Turmoil and discord continue to characterise the Palestinian unity government as it persists in adhering to the imperialist agenda concocted during "Operation Protective Edge" last summer. Last June, PA President Mahmoud Abbas sought to alleviate Israel's alleged fears during French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius's visit to Jerusalem, stating that internationally-recognised conditions would form the basis for participation in the unity government.

According to Ma'an, Fatah official Azzam Al-Ahmad stated last Saturday that Hamas has to relinquish its rule of Gaza as a precondition to participating in the diplomatic endeavour that panders to international interference. Al-Ahmad said Hamas official Moussa Abu-Marzouk was "unqualified" to discuss the formation of the unity government, going so far as to accuse Hamas of "foiling" initiatives and work.

The latest ploy by Fatah is merely an exhibition of consistency with what US officials insisted should prevail as an outcome during Israel's brutality, namely the complete marginalisation of Hamas in order to extend Fatah's rule over Gaza, thus facilitating Israel's colonial expansion.

Unlike Fatah, which has consistently relied upon security coordination with Israel in detaining members of the resistance movement as well as utilising the veneer of diplomacy and international platforms to promote the further deterioration of Palestinian territory and rights, Hamas is far removed from reliance upon fabricated dispute. The intention to ostracise Hamas has been gradually revealed through a series of calculated moves that will ultimately increase political discord at a diplomatic level. Palestinians, however, are unlikely to subjugate themselves willingly to further ridicule, thus creating the potential of strengthening resistance which is the foundation upon which political unity should be constructed.

To speak of political unity, however, carries significant difficulties that would entail constructing an alternative definition of unity. Since Abbas's attempts at achieving unity have been based upon the prevalent trend of subservience to Israel and the international community, the unity government's objective will become an extension of that foundation. In the same manner that Abbas has marginalised Hamas, allegedly in the name of unity, Hamas should embark upon a definition of unity that encompasses resistance factions, as well as the Palestinian population.

What Abbas and the unity government have defined as "unity" incorporates only a blatant, self-serving agenda of exploitation – a convenient political tactic that has applauded the ramifications of "Operation Protective Edge" in the form of construction delays agreed upon during the discussions regarding the UN's deceptive plans to purportedly rebuild Gaza. It is worth noting once again that Hamas was eliminated from all major decision making processes despite its role in defending Gaza.

Demanding that Hamas cedes control of Gaza to the PA is an example of the illogical and puerile rhetoric spouting from an entity that bolsters its existence by practicing the same tactic – handing over Palestine to Zionist colonialism. It also explains the concept of "unity" from the PA's perspective – a gradual distortion and asymmetry suffered by Palestinians that completes the map for Israel. It is therefore imperative upon Hamas to rethink unity as a concept thoroughly embedded in resistance, and one that is willing to fracture conventional definitions and applications in order to remain loyal to the aim of liberating all of colonised Palestine.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Ramona Wadi) frontpage Tue, 28 Jul 2015 14:32:03 +0000
Davutoglu calls for safe zone in Syria https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/20073-davutoglu-calls-for-safe-zone-in-syria https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/20073-davutoglu-calls-for-safe-zone-in-syria File photo of ISIS militants.

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said that this is the time to set up a safe zone in Syria against ISIS's attacks, noting that the Turkish-US understanding regarding the fight against ISIS should include support for moderate Syrian opposition groups.

In an interview with CNN yesterday, Davutoglu said that since the beginning of the Syrian crisis, Turkey has defended the need to form a safe zone for two reasons: the first is to ensure that a place is found within Syria to accommodate Syrian refugees, pointing out that Turkey is currently hosting nearly two million Syrian refugees.

Secondly, he said, a safe zone would prevent the flow of terrorist groups and would be a safe haven for the Syrians who are exposed to attacks from both the Syrian regime and terrorist groups. "If that was done before, [the] Assad regime wouldn't be killing so many people, or pushing them to Turkey, Jordan, Iraq or Lebanon. There wouldn't be any place or power vacuum for ISIS to be active," he told CNN.

In response to a question as to whether the safe area would be available for training and arming the opposition, Davutoglu affirmed that a comprehensive approach should be pursued.

Davutoglu pointed out that Turkey had agreed with the United States to open its air bases to serve the fight against ISIS and all terrorist groups in Syria, as part of the international coalition, adding that at the same time there must be a strategy for the future of Syria, therefore Turkey and the US should support moderate opposition groups.

"To have a safe area for [moderate opposition forces] to control and to receive refugees there will be a strategic asset for the future of Syria and the fight against terror at the same time," he said.

Answering a question about the operations launched by Turkey against the Kurdistan Workers party (PKK), Davutoglu said that "this fight is against PKK ... not against Kurds."

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Tue, 28 Jul 2015 13:33:41 +0000
90% of Gaza's factories could stop work due to power crisis https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/20072-90-of-gazas-factories-could-stop-work-due-to-power-crisis https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/20072-90-of-gazas-factories-could-stop-work-due-to-power-crisis Gaza Cement FactoryThe Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions in the Gaza Strip has said that 90 per cent of the remaining factories may have to stop production due to the power shortages. The territory's only power plant has stopped working for the seventh day in a row due to fuel shortages.

In a published statement, the union said that workshops and factories in the Gaza Strip are currently working at less than 20 per cent of their capacity as a result of the electricity crisis. This, it stressed, has led to huge losses across the economy.

The power crisis also aggravates the situation of workers and increases the unemployment rate. In an earlier statement, the union explained that last year's Israeli war on the Gaza Strip led to a rise of 70 per cent in the poverty rate amongst workers, with unemployment hitting 60 per cent.

In a related context, the Palestinian NGO Network warned of the seriousness of the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip due to the continuation of the power cuts. The network added that the power shortages have seen a number of key sectors shut down, including health, water and sanitation. It called on all Palestinian parties to assume their moral and legal responsibilities in order to stop the deterioration and put pressure on the authorities to provide the strip with its power needs.

At present, the energy authority supplies the Gaza Strip with electricity on the basis of 6 hours on, 12 hours off. It relies on power supplied by Egypt and Israel. In densely populated areas of the coastal enclave, power cuts can last more than 20 hours at a time, say residents.

The Gaza Strip requires about 400 megawatts of electricity a day but only has 212 megawatts available, of which Israel provides 120 and Egypt provides 32 megawatts (especially in Rafah), to combine with the meagre 60 megawatts provided by the only power company in Gaza.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Tue, 28 Jul 2015 13:17:57 +0000
Oman will not participate in Joint Arab Force https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/20071-oman-will-not-participate-in-joint-arab-force https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/20071-oman-will-not-participate-in-joint-arab-force File photo of Oman's Foreign Minister Youssef Bin Alawi [left] and Palestinian President Mahmoud AbbasThe Sultanate of Oman will not participate in the Joint Arab Force, Foreign Minister Youssef Bin Alawi announced on Monday. "Omani armed forces are forbidden to operate outside the Gulf Cooperation Council framework," he explained. "Nevertheless, we are counting on the Arab states' ability to create such a force due to current developments."

Describing his country's relations with Iran as "good", Bin Alawi insisted, "Relations should be good, and based on common interest and beneficial to all parties."

Of the sultanate's vision for a political solution to the Yemeni crisis, the foreign minister said that Oman hopes for a negotiated political agreement for its neighbour, "despite the current military intervention" by outside forces. "What we have heard from both sides is a desire to resolve the crisis in Yemen through political understanding," he added.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Tue, 28 Jul 2015 12:34:05 +0000
Veteran South African activist Denis Goldberg: Israel 'an apartheid state' https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/20070-veteran-south-african-activist-denis-goldberg-israel-an-apartheid-state https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/20070-veteran-south-african-activist-denis-goldberg-israel-an-apartheid-state Denis GoldbergSouth African Jewish anti-apartheid stalwart Denis Goldberg believes the Israeli occupation of Palestine and the use of separate laws for different groups of people makes Israel an apartheid state.

"There is no doubt in my mind that Israel is an apartheid state," Goldberg, who fought alongside late South African President Nelson Mandela and other activists against apartheid, told a gathering in Johannesburg.

"Having lived through apartheid in South Africa, I cannot allow in my name the same kind of oppression to go on," Goldberg said at an event discussing lessons for the Palestine-Israel conflict from those who struggled against apartheid.

The Jewish anti-apartheid activist, who was sentenced to life imprisonment in the historic Rivonia Trial during the apartheid era in South Africa in 1964, said he has to speak out against Israel's segregationist polices.

"When I come across the deliberate exclusion of people from the benefits of their wealthy societies, whether on class, race or religious grounds, I have to speak out," he said.

Goldberg said he has a responsibility as a human being to uphold justice, truth and righteousness, "just as I did as a first-generation white South African" who opposed apartheid.

He said that he does not oppose Jews, but the Israeli government's Zionist polices.

"I have to be an opponent of the exclusionist policies of Zionism, but let me say straight away that I have to be opposed to the exclusionary policies of the feudal Arab states of the Middle East as well," he said.

Goldberg said some people ask why Israel is an apartheid state, when it is not like how South Africa used to be during the apartheid era. They say that in Israel there are some Palestinian members of parliament, and that the Palestinians have equal rights.

"Well I say you don't need to be like South Africa to be an apartheid state, there is a definition in international law through the UNESCO declaration on apartheid," he said.

He said what constitutes apartheid is government laws, regulations and policies that distinguish between groups of people on the basis of race or religion.

He also faults Israel for destroying the Palestinians' livelihood and economy by uprooting their centuries-old olive trees, water and irrigation systems.

Goldberg said the situation in Israel is not as complicated as the Zionist lobby tries to make it seem.

"It's simple: the dominant group excludes the indigenous people from their equal rights within the borders of Israel itself and in the occupied territories, in breach of international law," he said.

He said these actions showed an attitude that Palestinians were considered lesser people, which is similar to what happened in South Africa during the apartheid era when blacks were barred from voting.

The anti-apartheid activist added that South Africans have a moral duty to protest what is happening to the Palestinians.

He also advised Israelis and Palestinians to start thinking of how to live together, giving the example of Northern Ireland where Protestants and Catholics learned to live together despite their differences.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Tue, 28 Jul 2015 12:29:00 +0000
Libya: Gaddafi's son sentenced to death https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/20069-libya-gaddafis-son-sentenced-to-death https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/20069-libya-gaddafis-son-sentenced-to-death Saif Al-Islam GaddafiA Libyan court sentenced Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi and two other former leaders to death on Tuesday.

The appellate court sentenced Gaddafi, the son of the former ruler Muammar Gaddafi, to death by firing squad. Former intelligence chief Abdullah Senussi and former Prime Minister Baghdadi Mahmudi received the same sentence.

Saif al-Islam Gaddafi's verdict was issued in absentia, since he is being held at Hadaba prison in western Libya's Zintan town.

The defendants were indicted for corruption, misuse of powers and committing war crimes during the Libyan uprising in 2011 that ended the autocracy of long-standing leader Mu'ammar Gaddafi.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Tue, 28 Jul 2015 12:07:15 +0000
War and Occupation in Iraqi Fiction https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/media-review/book-review/20068-war-and-occupation-in-iraqi-fiction https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/media-review/book-review/20068-war-and-occupation-in-iraqi-fiction War and Occupation in Iraqi Fiction book

Author: Ikram Masmoudi

Publisher: Edinburgh University Press, 2015

Hardcover: 248 pages

ISBN-13: 978-0748696550


Review by Nahrain Al-Mousawi

The Iraqi war canon has been overtaken by American military accounts. US military titles have been published and promoted with regularity while war literature by Iraqi authors has consistently been ignored or left untranslated. In Iraqi literature, the occupation is presented as almost an exclusively American event. Post-occupation Iraqi fiction, or post-2003 fiction, is largely absent from the literary accounts of the war in the US. This is why Ikram Masmoudi's War and Occupation in Iraqi Fiction, published this year, is a necessary and welcome intervention.

Masmoudi addresses this dearth by revealing how post-occupation fiction by Iraqis represents "their relation to war and sovereign power", not only in relation to the "new Iraq" but also in a broad historical context. She reveals that the post-2003 Iraqi war canon is made up not only of US occupation literature, but also addresses the "Ba'athification" of culture, particularly since the seventies, the Iran-Iraq War in the eighties and the 1991 Gulf War, as well as the latest US invasion and occupation of Iraq. According to Masmoudi, this new crop of post-2003 literature taking on issues from decades past is a natural (albeit delayed) result of the Saddam era of censorship. And, while writers sometimes engaged in auto-censorship by cloaking controversial writing in mythology and symbols to get past the censors, much literature was effectively repressed until the fall of the Saddam regime. When the pressure valve was lifted, many past phenomena were given a platform, like accounts of desertion during the Iran-Iraq War.

Beyond novels featuring the deserter figure like Asātidhat Al-wahm (The Professors of Illusion, 2011) by Ali Badr and Hubūt Al-malāʾika (The Descent of the Angels, 2013) by Muhammad Óasan, literary excavations of the past also expose in the Gulf War "the myth of a clean, precise and bloodless war". Masmoudi analyses a variety of novels, like Baghdad Mālbūrū (Baghdad Marlboro, 2012) by Najm Wālī, Mā baʿd al-aubb (2003, Beyond Love (2012)) by Hadiyya Hussein, and ¤ayāʿ fī Óafr Al-Bātin (Loss in Óafr al-Bātin, 2009) by ʿAbd Al-Karīm Al-ʿUbaydī, which resituate "the geographical horizon of this conflict from the virtual space of the monitor screen where the war was displayed and inflated into a worldwide war back into the forgotten real space—the desert of Óafr al-Bātin."

There are moments, especially in the introduction, when the author delves for pages into Agamben's theoretical concepts or topics like the development of the Iraqi novel, which could've really been collapsed into a few paragraphs. Often, she leans too heavily on theory without referring back to her own analyses and allowing the theory to serve her arguments in order to make a theoretical framework really hers. She leads with the Agambenian concept of homo sacer, or bare life, of the Iraqi individual as "'he who can be killed and not sacrificed' without his killing becoming a murder... abandoned by the law, exposed and targeted, having only their given natural life, their zoe," in establishing four major figures of Iraqi narratives, like the war deserter, soldier, suicide bomber and camp detainee.

Yet, Masmoudi's own discoveries and observations about post-2003 Iraqi fiction are far more intriguing. In Green Zone (Al-Mintaqa Al-khadrāʾ, 2009), she discusses the dangerous role of the Iraqi translator as native informant and marked traitor. She also explores the new power dynamics between the occupied and occupiers; through an analysis of the novel's intense sexual relationship between a Christian woman who leads the division of translators in the Green Zone and a US colonel, she explores the new privileged and compromising relationship between Iraqi minorities and architects of the occupation. Moreover, we get a glimpse into some of the bizarre tactics of the Fallujah siege wherein "loudspeakers are attached to rifles, tied to the soldiers' belts, hung from the towers, and tied to the Humvees" to play piercing heavy metal music, children's cries, men's screams in order to enervate the militants. Moreover, Masmoudi highlights the uniquely timely feature of this neglected war literature, wherein war novels are not written after the war (as is usually the case), but it is written during the war, thus "they look as though they come directly and immediately from the battlefield and the arena of killing; and this makes them closer to journalistic-style reports coming from the lines of fire."

Exploring this neglected literature "wherein the sight of bodies piled up beyond the morgues' capacity" is a regular feature is not only a necessary intervention amid the predominantly American narratives, but it begs the question: why haven't most of the novels been translated? Considering the number of post-occupation novels published and distributed, let alone just written, why has most of the Iraqi war canon been left untranslated? In what ways do we, as writers and readers, participate in the same atmosphere of censorship under which Iraqis lived for decades by not demanding that the literary voices of Iraq be made at least minimally accessible?

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Nahrain Al-Mousawi) frontpage Tue, 28 Jul 2015 11:55:54 +0000
OIC: Violations against Al-Aqsa Mosque feed extremism https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/20067-oic-violations-against-al-aqsa-mosque-feed-extremism https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/20067-oic-violations-against-al-aqsa-mosque-feed-extremism Iyad bin Amin Madani, secretary general of OIC

The Secretary-General of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Iyad Amin Madani has strongly condemned the storming of the Al-Aqsa Mosque by extremist settlers under the protection of the Israeli occupation forces.

In a statement carried by the Saudi Press Agency (SPA), Madani warned that storming Al-Aqsa, closing its gates, and the brutal assault carried out against Muslim worshipers are a provocation to the Islamic states' feelings and a flagrant violation of numerous UN resolutions and international conventions.

Madani held "Israel fully responsible for the consequences of the continuation of these systematic violations against Al-Aqsa Mosque" which he said "feed religious conflict, extremism and instability in the region."

He called on the international community, especially the UN Security Council, to shoulder its responsibilities to put an end to these dangerous and repeated Israeli violations against holy places.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Tue, 28 Jul 2015 11:25:11 +0000
Tension mounts between Egyptian intelligence services over Sinai https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/20066-tension-mounts-between-egyptian-intelligence-services-over-sinai https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/20066-tension-mounts-between-egyptian-intelligence-services-over-sinai Egyptian President, Abdel Fatah Al-Sisi

Tension is mounting between Egypt's general and military intelligence agencies, the two main arms of the North African country's national security apparatus due to overlapping jurisdictions in the fight against terrorism in the north of Sinai, the French Intelligence Online magazine has reported. The publication claims that Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi favours the military intelligence agency and does not seem to have much confidence in its general intelligence counterpart.

"Publishing the names of general intelligence officers who have been removed from their posts," said the online report, signals a "final dismissal from the service." It is "a violent jolt" to the agency, especially at this time, as the battle continues on the ground.

Al-Sisi issued a decree this week transferring general intelligence personnel to several public ministries, including the ministry of electricity and ministry of finance. The decree is effective from 1 August.

Observers believe that the way that these moves have been made public signals presidential dissatisfaction with the general intelligence agency's performance, and aims to issue a public warning about the continuation of the current situation.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Tue, 28 Jul 2015 11:01:49 +0000
Saudi transfers $60m to the PA https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/20065-saudi-transfers-60m-to-the-pa https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/20065-saudi-transfers-60m-to-the-pa Flag of Saudi Arabia

The Saudi ambassador to Egypt Ahmed Abdulaziz Qattan announced that the kingdom will support the Palestinian Authority's budget with $60 million.

Qattan said in a statement released by the Saudi Embassy media office in Cairo yesterday: "The Saudi Fund for Development has transferred a total of $60 million to the Palestinian Finance Ministry." This is equivalent to the kingdom's monthly contributions to support the Palestinian National Authority's budget for the three months from April to June.

"Saudi Arabia will always support the Palestinian cause at all levels," Qattan said adding that "the kingdom has been keen, since January 2013, to increase its share in the Palestinian Authority's budget from $14 million to $20 million a month."

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Tue, 28 Jul 2015 10:31:16 +0000
UNRWA has not decided to suspend the school year https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/20064-unrwa-has-not-decided-to-suspend-the-school-year https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/20064-unrwa-has-not-decided-to-suspend-the-school-year UNRWA

Director-General of the Department of Palestinian Affairs in the Jordanian government Mahmoud Al-Aqrabawi yesterday held an urgent meeting with service and consultative committees in the Palestinian refugee camps to discuss the latest developments regarding UNRWA's financial crisis, Al-Arab Al-Yawm reported.

UNRWA Director of Operations in Jordan Roger Davies and a number of senior Jordanian officials attended the meeting, which was aimed at discussing reports that UNRWA plans to postpone the start of the upcoming academic year and the organisation's inability to pay teachers.

Al-Aqrabawi stressed that the Jordanian government will continue to support UNRWA in order to guarantee its services. At the same time, he reiterated that the government refuses any decrease in their services.

The Jordanian foreign minister had sent more than 50 messages to donor countries asking them to support UNRWA, Al-Aqrabawi said.

The Jordanian officials discussed the potential negative repercussions of the decrease of the level of UNRWA services on the Palestinian refugees, calling for donors to urgently offer their support to the organisation.

Davies denied reports that UNRWA is to postpone the start of the upcoming school year.

He also said that the organisation is to submit a report to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and all 193 UN member states.

The report explains the repercussions of UNRWA's budget deficit for this year. It also explains the plans adopted by UNRWA which are expected to be implemented as an alternative measure in case the financial crisis is not resolved.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Tue, 28 Jul 2015 10:29:06 +0000
Saudi minister slams 'aggressive' Iranian statements https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/20063-saudi-minister-slams-aggressive-iranian-statements https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/20063-saudi-minister-slams-aggressive-iranian-statements Saudi foreign minister, Adel Al-JubeirSaudi Arabia's foreign minister condemned what he described as "aggressive statements" by Iran on Monday after Tehran accused Bahrain of stoking tension in the region. A spokeswoman for the Iranian Foreign Ministry, Marzieh Afkham, accused Saudi ally Bahrain of making "unfounded accusations" against Iran as it "seeks to stoke tension in the region."

Speaking at a joint press conference with EU foreign policy head Frederica Mogherini, Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir said that Afkham's claims are "unacceptable for us."

Earlier, the Bahraini interior ministry revealed that it had detained two men caught trying to smuggle weapons from Iran. "Such tactics are counter-productive," added Afkham, "and do not affect in any way the Islamic Republic of Iran's desire to continue its policy... and regional cooperation to combat terrorism and extremism."

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Tue, 28 Jul 2015 10:11:42 +0000
Let’s be realistic about Kurdistan; it’s a deeply unpleasant autocracy https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/middle-east/20062-lets-be-realistic-about-kurdistan-its-a-deeply-unpleasant-autocracy https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/middle-east/20062-lets-be-realistic-about-kurdistan-its-a-deeply-unpleasant-autocracy Alastair Sloan

In May last year, who in the West had heard of the "Peshmerga"? Wasn't that a kind of scarf? No, the BBC, CNN and Sky News told us, these were warriors for freedom, brave Kurds, rallying against the ISIS threat when the Iraqi army had fled in disarray. Even Marie Claire, the woman's lifestyle magazine, did a piece on them, highlighting with some justification the role that female fighters play in their ranks.

What's more, the Peshmerga weren't scary Arabs, which meant we could send them guns. And boy did we send them guns. The United States air-dropped Russian-made weapons almost immediately, although where they had bought them remains unclear. Then Washington agreed to send, via Baghdad, fifteen thousand hand grenades, eighteen thousand assault rifles, forty-five thousand mortar rounds, forty thousand RPG rounds and nearly three thousand RPG launchers.

Germany, in a rare example of the government exporting weapons to a live conflict zone, armed four thousand Kurds with equal alacrity, sending troop transport vehicles, Milan anti-tank rocket launchers, armour-piercing bazookas, heavy machine guns, sixteen thousand rifles, eight thousand pistols and six million rounds of ammunition.

Despite its slashed defence budget, even Britain joined in, gifting half a million more bullets, forty heavy machine guns and an unspecified number of mortars and sets of body-armour. While a British presence in Iraq is almost comically small ("David Cameron is not in Iraq"), the British Army has deployed its considerable expertise in training Peshmerga forces on how to avoid and defuse mines and improvised explosive devices (IEDs). We have also supplied fifty tonnes of non-lethal and medical equipment, according to the Ministry of Defence; meanwhile, RAF pilots have helped to deliver a further "three hundred tonnes" on behalf of other nations.

This, apparently, is still not enough. "Ninety per cent of the burden of this war is on the shoulders of the Peshmerga," claimed Masrour Barzani, the chief of the Kurdish intelligence corps, "and ninety per cent of the work is done by the Peshmerga, but we are only getting ten per cent of the weapons." Barzani's brothers are both leading Kurdish generals. His father, Masud, is President of Kurdistan.

Now, let's be clear, the Peshmerga are certainly brave and they are certainly holding back ISIS, but their rulers, the Barzani clan, are dictators and gangsters. Masud Barzani isn't meant to be president; there is a strict two term limit on the post, which he's just ignored. When a Kurdish poet wrote a satirical piece recently poking fun at the Barzani family, he was arrested and executed. If Kurdish businessmen don't pay the right bribes to the Barzanis, they too face arrest. Numerous journalists writing critically about the clan have simply disappeared.

"You son of a dog, if you publish that magazine tomorrow, I'll entomb your head in your dog father's grave," one newspaper editor was told. Eighteen months later, he was shot dead outside his home. When Arab Spring-inspired street marches hit Kurdistan in 2011, there were over three hundred and fifty attacks on journalists by the Barzanis' thugs. There have been hundreds more since then.

The Barzanis also appear to be overseeing a campaign of ethnic cleansing, both directly in Iraqi Kurdistan and via their affiliated fighters in Syria. They deny these charges, but diplomats and several aid workers attest to seeing Sunni Arabs driven from their homes in their thousands, their former dwellings burned to the ground. Many of the displaced Sunnis have lived there for decades, having been encouraged to move there by Saddam Hussein.

Looting, arson and forcible removal hardly seems a recipe for ongoing stability, and with the West simply standing by, often the only place for the Sunni Arabs to go is into ISIS-controlled territory.

You will see or hear almost none of this in the Western media. CNN, Bloomberg and other major outlets have all interviewed Masrour Barzani, giving him a platform to call for yet more weapons to strengthen his nascent mafia state. The Kurds remain lionised in the media to the extent that former soldiers and Western adventurers have been inspired to fight alongside them. In reality, there are no good guys in this fight.

So while the Western arms continue to pour in for the Barzani clan and their troops, are we helping "degrade and destroy" ISIS, or simply propping up another local dictatorship? The Iraqi Kurds certainly haven't shown any desire to attack ISIS beyond their own borders. Hats off to the Peshmerga for the work they've done, but let's be realistic about what Kurdistan is; a deeply unpleasant autocracy run by mafia bosses who kill, imprison or displace anyone who gets in their way.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Alastair Sloan) frontpage Tue, 28 Jul 2015 10:01:03 +0000
One year after the Israeli war, Gaza grapes grow again https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/20061-one-year-after-the-israeli-war-gaza-grapes-grow-again https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/20061-one-year-after-the-israeli-war-gaza-grapes-grow-again Palestinians farming grapes

Palestinian farmer Khalid Shamalakh harvests his grapes hoping he will be compensated for the losses he made last year because of the Israeli assault on the Gaza Strip.

Shamalakh, 38, whose farm is approximately eight dunams (0.008 square kilometres), said his land was damaged during the Israeli war and he hopes this season will be better than the previous one.

While picking grapes, Shamalakh spoke to the Anadolu Agency, saying: "We could not harvest the grapes last year because of the Israeli war. There was a great danger as the Israeli occupation targeted farmers and damaged large areas of farms during the 51-day war."

He continued: "There were ground, air and sea attacks last year, but this year is quiet and we move around our farms safely."

Last summer, Israel launched a 51-day war on the Gaza Strip killing approximately 2,260 people and wounding more than 11,000. Thousands of farmlands were damaged.

Shamalakh expected Gaza to produce enough grapes this season, saying that larger quantities were expected to be on sale soon. He said prices will fall because of the increased supply.

Fayez Abu-Shamalah, an official in the Palestinian Ministry of Agriculture, said approximately 6,700 dunams (6.7 square kilometres) of farmland were being used to grow grapes.

The ministry estimated that the Israeli war caused $550 million in losses to farmers.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Tue, 28 Jul 2015 09:27:08 +0000
Morocco warns Israel against imposing new status quo in Al-Aqsa https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/20060-morocco-warns-israel-against-imposing-new-status-quo-in-al-aqsa https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/20060-morocco-warns-israel-against-imposing-new-status-quo-in-al-aqsa File photo of Israeli soldiers marching outside Dome of the Rock in Al-Aqsa compound

Morocco yesterday condemned Israeli police and troops who stormed Al-Aqsa Mosque, calling on the international community to protect it "in order to avoid inciting Muslims' feelings", Jordan's Al-Ghad newspaper reported.

On Sunday, a large number of Israeli police and troops escorted tens of Israeli Jewish settlers, including Israeli Housing Minsiter Uri Ariel into Al-Aqsa Mosque. They clashed with Muslim worshipers, fired tear gas and bullets wounding a number of them.

In a statement, the Moroccan foreign ministry said: "Morocco condemns this dangerous and unacceptable escalation which harms the sanctity of Al-Aqsa Mosque, paving the way ahead of controlling it and dividing it." The statement also warned Israel of imposing a new status quo in the mosque.

"The kingdom of Morocco, whose King Mohamed VI heads the Jerusalem Committee, is following up on the situation in Jerusalem... It calls for the international community to take on its responsibilities regarding the protection of the mosque and protecting Palestinians from the Israeli aggression."

Israel occupied West Jerusalem in 1948 and East Jerusalem, where Al-Aqsa Mosque is located, in 1967. The international community does not recognise the Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem and considers all its changes, including the settlements, illegal.

Despite intensive and radical Israeli changes in East Jerusalem, including the expulsion of Palestinians, confiscation of their properties and violations against Al-Aqsa Mosque, the international community has not taken any tangible measures to deter Israel.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Tue, 28 Jul 2015 09:23:24 +0000
About 300 Moroccan jihadists killed in last two years https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/20059-about-300-moroccan-jihadists-killed-in-last-two-years https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/20059-about-300-moroccan-jihadists-killed-in-last-two-years libyan fighters

Approximately 300 Moroccans involved with jihadist movements have been killed in the last two years, AFP reported the Moroccan Interior Minister Mohamed Hassad as saying.

Speaking to reporters, Hassad said: "Today, there are 1,350 Moroccan jihadists. Since the first departures in 2013, the number of deaths is around 300, exactly 286."

He added: "This number is too high. It means that around one fourth of the people who left the country were killed in one and a half years... Those who travel there, they travel to die."

Hassad explained: "More than 30 [jihadist] networks were dismantled since 2013. A large number of them were recruiting... Twelve networks were dissolved in the last 12 months."

The minister described the danger of an attack on Moroccan soil as "real" and reiterated that the country "is doing everything to undermine this danger."

He stressed that "Morocco is a potential target of ISIS", noting that his country has a record in fighting terror.

"We will continue this policy," he said, stressing Morocco maintains cooperation with European countries to tackle this problem.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Tue, 28 Jul 2015 09:12:08 +0000
Turkey-Iran gas pipeline blown up in Agri province https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/europe/20058-turkey-iran-gas-pipeline-blown-up-in-agri-province https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/europe/20058-turkey-iran-gas-pipeline-blown-up-in-agri-province Taner Yildiz

The Turkey-Iran natural gas pipeline has been blown up in eastern Turkey's Agri province, Turkish Energy and Natural Resources Minister Taner Yildiz said late Monday.

According to a statement released by the Turkish Energy Ministry, Yildiz said that the suspected sabotage attack took place 15 kilometers inside the country's eastern border with Iran.

"The explosion caused a fire breakout; however in a short time we managed to extinguish it. After repairing it, the gas flow will resume," he said.

"We have taken measures to meet the natural gas demand in the area. Turkish citizens and industrialists should be at ease," he added.

Tehran increased gas deliveries to Turkey by one billion cubic meters of gas per year during 2014. Iran, Russia and Azerbaijan export about 10 billion cubic meters per year, 27 billion cubic meters and 6.6 billion cubic meters of gas per year to Turkey respectively.

The statement added that the power line between Cizre and Silopi districts of south-eastern Sirnak province had been attacked on July 24.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Tue, 28 Jul 2015 08:52:26 +0000
Turkish Cypriot, Greek Cypriot leaders make progress in talks https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/europe/20057-turkish-cypriot-greek-cypriot-leaders-make-progress-in-talks https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/europe/20057-turkish-cypriot-greek-cypriot-leaders-make-progress-in-talks Mustafa Akinci. [File photo]

Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot leaders made progress in their discussions over the contentious issues of property and the criteria over territorial rights as talks over a shared vision of a united Cyprus continued Monday, the UN said.

The progress was made when Turkish Cypriot leader, Mustafa Akinci, and the Greek Cypriot leader, Nicos Anastasiades, met for another round of talks on Monday in the UN-controlled bufferzone in Lefkosa.

"Regarding property, the leaders agreed that the individual right to property will be respected," the UN secretary-general's envoy on Cyprus, Espen Barth Eide, said in a statement after the meeting.

"Dispossessed owners and current users shall have various choices regarding their claims over affected properties," he said, adding: "These different choices shall include compensation, exchange and reinstatement".

Eide said that the exercise of any such choice shall be subjected to an agreed criterion.

"There shall be a list of categories of affected properties. There shall be an independent property commission mandated to resolve property claims based on mutually agreed criteria," he said. "The property commission shall comprise of equal number of Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot members," he added.

Tens of thousands of Cypriots were displaced during disputes between the communities.

Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot leaders have not only been discussing security, territory, property and energy resources but even agreeing on somewhat less-critical disputes, like the origin of the local hellim (or halloumi) cheese.

The UN envoy said that two leaders also underlined their commitment to maintain the momentum of the process and decided that their next meetings will be held on September 1 and September 14.

He said that over the coming days the "negotiators will have joint sessions with the Working Groups on European Union Matters, Property and the Economy to more effectively guide their work".

Cyprus island has been divided into Turkish Cypriot government in the northern third and Greek Cypriot administration in the southern two-thirds after a 1974 military coup by Greece was followed by the peace operation of Turkey as a guarantor power in Cyprus.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Tue, 28 Jul 2015 08:50:21 +0000
Abbas will not resign, Fatah senior official says https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/20056-abbas-will-not-resign-fatah-senior-official-says https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/20056-abbas-will-not-resign-fatah-senior-official-says Azzam Al-Ahmad

Member of Fatah Central Committee Azzam Al-Ahmad yesterday denied Israeli reports that Palestinian Authority (PA) and Fatah President Mahmoud Abbas will resign in two months, Al-Khaleej Online reported.

Al-Ahmad stressed that the reports were false, adding that the issue has not been discussed and that Abbas has not reproached the topic.

"The Israeli occupation wanted to cause a state of instability in the internal Palestinian situation by broadcasting such news," Al-Ahmad said.

He went on to denounce the latest Israeli violations against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa Mosque.

He said that the PA is to hold a meeting to discuss the Israeli violations and to try to put pressure on the occupation in order to "stop its unacceptable escalation against the Palestinians and their national rights."

Israeli TV Channel One reported that Abbas it to resign within two months adding that the new Secretary of the Fatah Executive Committee and Chief PA Negotiator Saeb Erekat would succeed him.

It also reported that a secret meeting was held between Erekat and the head of the Israeli Negotiating Team Silvan Shalom in Amman five days ago.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Tue, 28 Jul 2015 08:43:16 +0000
Abbas: Egyptian military coup was a 'miracle' https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/20055-abbas-egyptian-military-coup-was-a-miracle https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/20055-abbas-egyptian-military-coup-was-a-miracle Palestinian Authority President, Mahmoud Abbas [File photo]

Palestinian Authority (PA) and Fatah President Mahmoud Abbas praised the military coup in Egypt, describing 30 million people taking to the streets voluntarily to call for the coup a "miracle", Palestinian news agency Safa reported.

"If this real miracle did not take place, we, the Arab and Islamic nations, would have been staggering and trapped in the hands of darkness and dark powers," he said, "but, fortunately, this miracle was achieved."

Abbas stressed his support for Egypt and all what it is doing regarding "fighting terrorism and extremism everywhere." He said that he supports its efforts, which aim to get rid of terrorism in the Sinai and all Egyptian cities in order to afford safety and security for the country and people.

"We are the people who know Egypt the most," he said, "we benefit most from its support and aid which has been offered to us since before 1948. There have been thousands of martyrs and wounded, as well as tens of thousands of Egyptian fighters who fought for the sake of Palestine."

"We do not forget the wars which Egypt went into in order to protect Palestine and the Palestinians. Now it is involved in political wars for the sake of the Palestinian issue and for the sake of peace in Palestine, as well as for the sake of achieving the Palestinian goals."

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Tue, 28 Jul 2015 08:17:02 +0000
Joint Israeli-Egyptian efforts to tackle Daesh/ISIS in Sinai https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/20054-joint-israeli-egyptian-efforts-to-tackle-daeshisis-in-sinai https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/20054-joint-israeli-egyptian-efforts-to-tackle-daeshisis-in-sinai ISIS militants.

An Israeli military analyst revealed information on Sunday about joint Israel-Egypt intelligence efforts to tackle Daesh/ISIS in Sinai, Haaretz has reported. Amos Harel described the group in Egypt as the most "well-organised and highly skilled terrorist organisation" in the Middle East.

He said that the joint efforts concentrate on looking for the military leadership of the organisation. Until now, he claimed, neither Israel nor Egypt have any information about the real leader of the group, who "enjoys strict military power". Both countries remain "in the dark" about the leader's identity.

The analyst told Haaretz that Daesh/ISIS has carried out several attacks against Israel, including launching a number of rockets towards the Negev Desert. He expects that more will take place in the near future, but the Israeli army is preparing to deal with them.

According to Harel, Daesh/ISIS in Sinai uses developed weapons smuggled from Libya and Sudan. He said that the organisation in the peninsula carries out two or three attacks regularly every day.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Mon, 27 Jul 2015 14:58:31 +0000
Assad: Thousands have deserted the Syrian army https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/20053-assad-thousands-have-deserted-the-syrian-army https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/20053-assad-thousands-have-deserted-the-syrian-army Syrian fighters

Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad said yesterday that any political resolution to the current crisis, which has been raging for five years, must include "fighting terror".

Despite his assertion that "everything is available" for the army, Al-Assad admitted that there is a "shortage in manpower". In the televised speech, he noted that though thousands of soldiers deserted the army, recruitment rates have increased in the past two months.

"The obstacle in the way of the [military] forces is not related to planning, but we have a fatigue problem," he said. "It is normal for the army to get tired but fatigue is one thing and defeat is something else."

Al-Assad said that any army in the world that fights for more than four years would get tired but "the army's fatigue does not mean that defeat is in its dictionary."

He spoke of the Syrians' "will and confidence" that the army will triumph. "There is no collapsing. We will persevere and achieve victory."

The Syrian conflict started in March 2011 as a popular uprising against the regime. It has resulted in 230,000 deaths, including more than 11,500 children, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and 80,000 of the regime's soldiers and fighters.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Mon, 27 Jul 2015 14:41:32 +0000
Hamas: The resistance knows how to respond to the desecration of Al-Aqsa https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/20052-hamas-the-resistance-knows-how-to-respond-to-the-desecration-of-al-aqsa https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/20052-hamas-the-resistance-knows-how-to-respond-to-the-desecration-of-al-aqsa Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Hamas stressed that the resistance factions in the West Bank know how to respond to the violation of Al-Aqsa Mosque's sanctity after hundreds of Israeli soldiers and settlers stormed mosque complex to mark the Tisha B'Av holiday, a Jewish holiday commemorating what Jews believe to be the destruction of the First and Second Temples.

In a statement issued yesterday Hamas said that the Israeli Minister of Agriculture Uri Ariel, who was at the forefront of the settlers. It reminded Ariel of the resistance and its operations that rocked Israel after then-Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon stormed Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Hamas noted that the new Israeli incursion into Al-Aqsa, which comes in light of Israel's ongoing attacks on Palestinians, is a shame for those who engage in security coordination with the Israeli occupation.

It demanded that the Palestinian Authority and Fatah refrain from restricting the resistance's activities in the West Bank, and release all resistance fighters detained in the Palestinian Authority's jails.

Hamas called on the Palestinians of the West Bank and Arab-Israelis to rise up against the aggression witnessed at Al-Aqsa, praising the role played by those who stayed in Al-Aqsa and bravely stood up to the settlers.

The statement added that the settlers threw copies of the Quran which were in the mosque and attacked female worshippers, saying the Israeli occupation has crossed a "redline" following which they will face dire consequences.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Mon, 27 Jul 2015 14:36:54 +0000
Hamas plans another visit to Saudi and improved relations with Egypt https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/20051-hamas-plans-another-visit-to-saudi-and-improved-relations-with-egypt https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/20051-hamas-plans-another-visit-to-saudi-and-improved-relations-with-egypt Islamic Resistance Movement-Hamas

Senior leaders of the Hamas movement revealed that a delegation from the movement, headed by its political bureau chief Khaled Meshaal, plans to pay another visit to Saudi Arabia next month in the context of developing relations between the two sides.

Saleh Aruri, a member of Hamas's political bureau, said yesterday that the movement's leadership will once again visit Riyadh within a month to discuss the relationship between the two sides and a number of issues, including Gaza's reconstruction.

Aruri revealed the content of the meetings that took place between the two parties in the previous visit, stressing that they "were not greeting or courtesy meetings as portrayed by others" adding that the Hamas leadership met with the king, the crown prince and the deputy crown prince.

Hamas's representative in Lebanon Ali Baraka told Alarabi newspaper that a new development in Hamas's relationship with Egypt, pointing out that in April the head of the Egyptian intelligence service, Major General Khaled Fawzi, visited Doha and met with Qatari officials and asked them to mediate between the two to normalise relations.

Egypt laid down three conditions for reconciliation, according to Baraka, non-interference in its internal affairs, controlling Gaza's border with Sinai, and security cooperation to prevent any terrorist attacks on the Egyptian army in the Sinai.

The Hamas official added that the movement has agreed to the terms. "Egypt's security is a Palestinian interest." Hamas's terms, on the other hand, included opening the Rafah crossing and removing the "terrorist" label that Egypt designated to Hamas, "because it is a national liberation movement", Baraka explained.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Mon, 27 Jul 2015 13:35:23 +0000
Assad rejects any compromise solutions https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/20050-assad-rejects-any-compromise-solutions https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/20050-assad-rejects-any-compromise-solutions Bashar Al-Assad

Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad has acknowledged that his regime's military capabilities have been depleted by the country's ongoing conflict, but refused to accept any compromise solutions, Anadolu has reported. Furthermore, he insisted that the Syrian army is still "capable of carrying out its responsibilities."

Al-Assad said that he issued a general amnesty for those Syrians who have not turned up to military recruitment depots because, he claimed, hundreds have pledged to complete their compulsory military service.

The Syrian president made his remarks during a speech broadcast on Syrian state television. Praising Iranian and Hezbollah fighters in Syria, he said: "Syria is not for the people who live in it or hold its passport. It is for its defenders. Only Iran has offered military expertise and our brothers in the Lebanese resistance [Hezbollah] fought with us."

He said that China and Russia are the "safety valves" in the UN Security Council, and thanked both countries as well as Iran and Hezbollah. The Iranian nuclear agreement, the president added, is a "very big victory."

Meanwhile, he accused the Syrian opposition of carrying out external agendas, noting that there is a difference between constructive opposition and "conspirator" opposition. "There are two components on Syrian soil," Al-Assad claimed. "The terrorists and the Syrians."

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Mon, 27 Jul 2015 13:23:36 +0000
Palestinian and Syrian refugees trapped on uninhabited Greek island https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/20049-palestinian-and-syrian-refugees-trapped-on-uninhabited-greek-island https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/20049-palestinian-and-syrian-refugees-trapped-on-uninhabited-greek-island illegal migrants trying to search for a better lifestyle

A group of Palestinian and Syrian refugees appealed for help on Sunday after they landed on an uninhabited Greek island known for its harsh environment, the Safa news agency has reported.

The refugees sent an urgent appeal for help, calling on anyone and everyone to contact the Greek navy to ask them to find and save them.

According to Safa, the refugees' boat set off from Turkey and landed on the island, but it did not give any more details about the incident.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Mon, 27 Jul 2015 12:16:45 +0000
Al-Sisi sacks 19 more senior intelligence officers https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/20048-al-sisi-sacks-19-more-senior-intelligence-officers https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/20048-al-sisi-sacks-19-more-senior-intelligence-officers Image from yesterday when President Sisi attended a military officers' graduation ceremony in CairoIn a measure intended to get rid of his military opponents, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi has sacked 19 senior intelligence officers, Arabi 21 news website reported on Sunday. The officers were apparently asked to leave the General Intelligence services and work in different civil ministries, including electricity, industry and tourism.

Observers say that this is the fourth batch of intelligence officers to be sacked since October 2014, when Al-Sisi sacked ten officers, bringing the total up to 40. According to reports, some of them were asked to leave following their own request and others were sacked because they suffer health problems and became unfit for their positions. Some were given early retirement.

The commentators claim that such measures are intended to get rid of Al-Sisi's political opponents in the military and others who do not support his plans for running the country. The latest move was described as an "unprecedented massacre" of senior officers working in a sovereign security service.

Arabi 21 said that Al-Shorooq newspaper published a report about supporters of former presidential candidate Ahmed Shafiq being among the senior officers retrenched to different "sovereign services" in Egypt.

Earlier, Kuwaiti Parliamentarian Naser Al-Dowaila tweeted that a "number of innocent officers in the Egyptian General Intelligence Services, who had no relationship with the revolution, were arrested." Arabi 21 said if this information was accurate, it would confirm that Al-Sisi has begun a purge of his opponents.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Mon, 27 Jul 2015 12:18:03 +0000
UNRWA to delay opening 700 schools due to cash shortage https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/20047-unrwa-to-delay-opening-700-schools-due-to-cash-shortage https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/20047-unrwa-to-delay-opening-700-schools-due-to-cash-shortage UNRWA Food Aid in GazaThe United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) held an extraordinary meeting for its consultative committee in Amman on Sunday to discuss its financial crisis, Jordan's Al-Sabeel newspaper has reported.

The agenda included the increasing dangers caused by the probable delay of the start of the school year due to a budget deficit estimated at $101 million. If this happens, around half a million Palestinian refugee children studying in 700 schools across the Middle East will not go back to their studies in September.

According to Al-Sabeel, the committee discussed a special report prepared for submission to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and all 193 UN member states. It explains the repercussions of UNRWA's budget deficit for this year. It also explains the plans adopted by UNRWA which are expected to be implemented as an alternative measure in case the financial crisis is not resolved.

In the report, UNRWA said that it only has enough money to maintain its basic services, such as running healthcare centres, offering vaccinations, providing primary healthcare services and a number of other urgent provisions, until the end of 2015.

The agency called on all donors, partners and UN member states to resume their funding in order to be able to open schools on time for the new academic year and not to lose this valuable investment in Palestinian refugees. Education is considered to be UNRWA's most successful project in the Middle East. It noted that maintaining a continuous education process is a question of dignity, rights and regional stability.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Mon, 27 Jul 2015 12:13:03 +0000
Sudanese president in Mauritania despite ICC arrest warrant https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/20046-sudanese-president-in-mauritania-despite-icc-arrest-warrant https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/20046-sudanese-president-in-mauritania-despite-icc-arrest-warrant Sudanese president, Omar al-Bashir

Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir arrived in Mauritania yesterday to attend a summit, despite an international arrest warrant issued against him in 2009 by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

Sudan's SUNA news agency reported: "President Omar Al-Bashir left this afternoon to Mauritania along with a Sudanese delegation to participate in a meeting of the Great Green Wall initiative."

Last month South Africa refused to arrest Al-Bashir during an African Union summit, and threatened to withdraw from the ICC after an outcry.

Mauritania is not party to the Rome Statute of the ICC.

Over 300,000 people were killed and more than two million displaced during the conflict in Darfur.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Mon, 27 Jul 2015 12:15:20 +0000
Erdogan: Fight against PKK will continue https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/europe/20045-erdogan-fight-against-pkk-will-continue https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/europe/20045-erdogan-fight-against-pkk-will-continue Tayyip Erdogan

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said yesterday that the fight against the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) will continue.

During a telephone conversation with his Iraqi counterpart Fuad Masum, Erdogan stressed the need to continue the fight against the PKK unless the group halts its terrorist operations.

Sources from Erdogan's office said the two presidents discussed the fight against terrorism.

The unnamed sources said Masum expressed his understanding for the operations carried out by Turkey following the recent terrorist attacks, expressing his condolences to the families of the victims of the attacks.

Erdogan described the Islamic State and PKK as a "virus spreading in the region", stressing that Turkey will face all terrorist organisations.

Meanwhile, Masum pointed out that PKK's violence will affect the peace process launched by Ankara to end terrorism and find a radical solution to the Kurdish issue as well as the region as a whole.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Mon, 27 Jul 2015 12:11:13 +0000
Couscous: The food of life https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/media-review/film-review/20044-couscous-the-food-of-life https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/media-review/film-review/20044-couscous-the-food-of-life Couscous film drama

Set in the French port of Sète, Couscous takes us through the dramas in the family life of central character Slimane Beiji, a 61-year old immigrant from Tunisia. The film, showcased as part of the Shubbak Festival and directed by Tunisian- born director Abdellatif Kechiche, is an intense and sumptuous epic of human emotion.

We first meet Slimane in the shipyard he has worked in for the past 35 years. His hours are to be cut, because, in the words of his cruel boss, he's "tired and ... tiresome". We follow him as he leaves the shipyard on hearing the bad news, collects fresh fish from the fisherman in the port, and delivers it to the important women in his life.

First, he stops off at his ungrateful ex-wife Souad, who already has a freezer-full of uneaten fish. Second, he visits his bullish daughter who is busy chastising her child for not using the potty. Lastly, Slimane visits his lover Latifa and her daughter Rym, who sees him very much as a father figure. They run the exhausted looking hotel where Slimane rents a room.

This is our first introduction to Slimane's relationship with his family. We learn more during a Sunday lunch; an extended scene in which his first family - three married daughters, two sons, their wives and husbands - gather at the house of his ex-wife. Kechiche shoots the dialogue in a way that makes you feel part of the family; he uses fast panning shots from face to face to convey familial warmth. Slimane is discussed but is conspicuously absent from the dinner.

Financial worries eat at Slimane, who desperately wants to leave a legacy to his much loved family. His sons try to encourage him to go back to Tunisia to start a business. He,however gets to work on realising an old dream; turning a dilapidated old boat into a fish restaurant. With Rym as his sidekick, they try to secure various loans and licences to get their project off the ground, but face a bureaucratic maze. It is not just the authorities that stand in the way; friends mock him behind his back ("Make a restaurant out of a boat? What's he got, a screw lose") and his love, Latifa, feels humiliated when it turns out Souad, his ex-wife, will be the cook.

Rym, an intelligent and headstrong young woman, guides Slimane through the process. A natural businesswoman, she is focused on ensuring the un-commanding presence of Slimane does not prevent him from succeeding. In the end, a plan is conceived; the restaurant will throw a massive dinner and those who have stood in their way will be invited. It is a night the pair hope will prove all the doubters wrong- and the stakes are high.

The big day arrives. Like in many other points in the film, Kechiche lingers on seemingly dull and menial domestic duties, like the peeling of potatoes in preparation for the dinner- but it is in these moments that the workings of the family are laid bare and it is this technique which provides the film with its richness and complexity.

The evening ahead is full of drama and painful suspense. Latifa refuses to attend and Rym refuses to go without her; instead watching the festivities taking place from the window of the run-down hotel her mother owns. The love life of Slimane's cheating, feckless son explodes with grave consequences. Slimane has to leave his own party. Meanwhile, guests soon become impatient as things being to go a little pear shaped. While the night is the realisation of Slimane's dreams, it is the strong female characters that take control when things go wrong; his habitual silence works as a vessel for their complex passions. Will Slimane's plan work out?

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Jessica Purkiss) frontpage Mon, 27 Jul 2015 12:01:01 +0000
The synergy of European laissez-faire attitude to migration responsibilities https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/europe/20043-the-synergy-of-european-laissez-faire-attitude-to-migration-responsibilities https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/europe/20043-the-synergy-of-european-laissez-faire-attitude-to-migration-responsibilities EU member states flags

In times when Europeans are experiencing a political shift to the right, immigrants are haunted by legacies of neo-imperial, economic exploitation as well as the long-term effects of the only-recently defunct colonial machinery. After thousands of refugees fleeing war in their own countries died trying to reach Europe's borders, the EU responded by tightening regulations, blurring the boundaries between assistance, re-settling and pressing them back. The outcome is a testament to an ideological shift that endangers all Europeans, as politicians attempt to make mainstream the political right-wing spin that matches capitalist elitism. It resembles an anti-solidarity campaign that is strengthened by a political ontology of culture as static and "organic" – neither adaptable nor socially attainable - and Europeans as guardians of an imagined independent community.

What the public discourse on current migration issues lacks is the historical and economic contextualisation of the migrants. In order to tackle an issue fully, one needs to know the context, not merely a brief about its symptoms. Rather than politicising their influx, I suggest that we need to understand their background and relations with Europe case by case, especially, for example, those fleeing Eritrea, Sudan and Syria, the three main countries from which the migrants come. Furthermore, there is a need to assess critically the right-wing European foundations of the claims that newcomers will not work or contribute to society, nor fit in naturally, given that we can see Sweden adapting successfully and believing in the migrants as social benefactors.

Last week, the new Danish government proposed to allocate a considerable budget to campaigning against immigration. The inspiration was taken from Australia, whose "No Way" campaign, launched last year, warns people considering refuge in Australia that there is "no place, for them". Indeed, these campaigns are directed against certain ethnicities and nationalities, through distribution and language.

The Danish "liberal" right-wing parties, Venstre and Dansk Folkeparti, are in favour of translating a similar campaign into Arabic, targeting the increase of refugees from Arab-speaking countries. Venstre, though, has announced some internal ambiguity on the matter, arguing against political "tokenism" and for a more humanist approach. Inger Støjberg, the new Danish Minister of Integration, belongs to the populist, centre-right Venstre Party; she has been tested in several debates on her current policies, including one which allows Denmark to assess migrants according to their home country against a UN issued document, listing the most socially and economically "appropriate" and suitably "developed" countries, in the conviction that Japanese culture, for example, would have more in common with Denmark's. The UN has discouraged this strategy as inappropriate. Similarly, the majority of parties in the Danish parliament have called the new government's policies "distasteful". The assumption of Dansk Folkeparti and Venstre is a naïve concept of culture and coexistence disproved in countless of instances and historical events, that it is static, and never in dialogue; one that "grows from the Danish soil" and thus can never be embodied by "Others". This falsely legitimises a fear of the Other from whom we cannot learn, mix culturally or cooperate; and thus whose presence we shall fear. This was also seen in the recent election in Denmark, when parties vied with each other to see who was more xenophobic; collecting votes by rejecting the fact that Denmark is or will ever become, multicultural.

Denmark is the only EU country planning to discriminate against refugees according to their home country. However, the Danish example is indicative of many other current European tendencies regarding immigration. The tone is directed towards American-style "homeland security" with an obsession over the risk of unemployment and economic consequences and their own "limited hosting capacity". As seen in the Swedish attitude, however, recent studies argue that immigration can be an economic and social success for host countries.

From push backs to press back strategies

Current migration policies in the EU are stricter and more comprehensive than before. The EU has no cohesive framework for governing the influx of people who risk their lives in the hope of a better future. With not one but 28 migrant policies, this explains why asylum practices are increasingly obscure and bureaucratic, deploying agencies to help fulfil its functions of search, rescue and re-settlement of refugees.

I spoke to a representative of the EU migration department, who explained the new "four pillars" of the EU migration policies: reducing incentives to come to Europe; a strong asylum policy; a new policy on legal migration; and the saving of lives with the securing of external borders. Re-settlement plans are now linked to the UNHCR which, in war-torn and provisional hosting countries like Lebanon, determines appropriate asylum-seekers and flies them into Europe. People have the right to claim asylum through a legal pathway in Europe; the resettlement plans are crucial in order to avoid people risking their lives by flying them in from their provisional refuge, according to the aforementioned representative.

However, the modest promise of the EU to resettle 20,000 out of the millions of war victims over the course of 24 months – rather than the UN-recommended maximum of 12 months - is going to be problematic, as no apparent changes in asylum criteria are being made. As this number is merely a symbolic promise of humanitarianism in the EU, the million other displaced people with perfectly legitimate asylum claims will be turned away, but on what grounds?

Focusing on two things, namely the uncovering of illegal smugglers ("illegal immigrants") and bolstering border countries, the idea is allegedly to understand the ways in which "smugglers convince and attract" desperate people to risk their lives. I recall many stories from people, such as Palestinians in Lebanon, who have no statehood, rights or dignity to claim, and for whom no convincing is needed before embarking on this kind of trip. By recasting desperation as illegal and coerced, the rhetoric seems displaced from reality, an attempt to see the symptoms before the issues.

The bulk of media material on "new" migration policies is more an expression, perhaps, of the EU's internal insecurities about keeping its borders secure; about "fortress Europe". The EU tripled the budget for Poseidon and Triton in order to increase its capabilities for "search and rescue" and to a larger extend increase the management of the influx vis-à-vis the fragmented body that governs the now seven digit number of refugees attempting to come to Europe. The rhetoric of the new initiatives are dividing irregular immigration; "illegal migration" versus the "legal" kind, in a globalised world that has always had migrants.

The European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) think-tank published a review on EU migration policies, arguing for better cooperation with neighbouring countries, but the focus on "illegal" rather than "migration" shuts down the potential of a productive dialogue that could have developed a more full-bodied migration and asylum policy. The dialogue should be broader and address all migration and mobility and not just its dysfunctionality. As such, irregular migration policy has to be a part of such a policy as well as a common asylum policy.

On the question of the extent to which colonial and neo-imperial legacies providing the basis for migration are included in EU negotiations, the representative I spoke to pointed immediately to the EU commission's allocated aid to post-colonial countries. Whereas this was not the intended response, I gather that somehow, rather than reflecting and contextualising the situation that member states have legacies within, the solution is to buy themselves out of their responsibilities for the problems creeping up on their shores.

The countries ranging at the top of the migrant's home countries are Syria and Eritrea. Look at the colonial and European legacies in the foundation of the realities that cause people to flee; both are former colonies, of France and Italy then Britain respectively. Syria is also a major host of Palestinian refugees, whose plight has been created by colonial machinery.

After Syria's independence, authoritarian leaders disengaged and controlled the population for whom no avenue of political participation or resistance was allowed; they were effectively kept in check by the much-feared Mukhabarat secret police. A common post-colonial trend was to leave countries vulnerable to coups. Syria was under Emergency Law from 1963 to 2011, when most constitutional protection for citizens was suspended; its system of government is considered to be non-democratic. The Assad clan has been in government since a Ba'athist coup d'état in 1970, after 20 years of coup attempts, against whom Syrians have revolted, on various grounds, due to the regime's colonial strategy of divide and rule. The net result is the current war in Syria since 2011, during which over two million people have been displaced and many human rights organisations have called for war crimes and crimes against humanity to be investigated.

The north-east African country of Eritrea was the second last to gain independence from British administration, but was only recognised internationally as independent in 1993. In the 1940s, Britain and Italy fought over the land before the British placed Eritrea under military administration. London then dismantled and confiscated Eritrean industries as war compensation and remained in charge until 1950. It has a very complicated, historical background with the involvement of several EU countries in destabilising, annexing and colonising the Eritreans who are now fleeing economic deterioration and instability.

I believe that such considerations are central to the reasons for "irregular" flight from one's home country. The structure of both Syria and Eritrea are marked heavily by colonial legacies, an uncomfortable truth that public debates in Europe would rather dismiss as an "outdated" factor.

Sweden and the economic and social realities of migration resettlement

Sweden is one of the EU Member States with the highest number of asylum seekers. More than 70,000 refugees from Syria have sought asylum in Sweden since the conflict started in 2011. For the period 2015-2016, the Swedes plan to resettle an additional 1,500 Syrian refugees; this means that Sweden will have settled 3,000 Syrian refugees in the three years from 2013 to 2016.

According to Johan Nylander, operations coordinator at the Swedish Employment Office, who is responsible for the introduction of newly arrived refugees (a broad responsibility that encompasses many areas), the fact of being one of the most hospitable countries for refugees in the EU presents challenges when so many people need help and protection. "But those challenges are in many ways short term," he said, as he explained the need for Sweden to have migrants wanting to resettle; the population of Sweden is getting older, and in the coming years needs more people in the workforce in order to continue its economic development.

Arbetsförmedlingen has recently published a report stating that in order for Sweden as a country to keep its economic development it is dependent upon people from abroad moving there. Furthermore, the OECD has found similar positive effects of migration.

Together with Germany, Sweden is the main destination in Europe for asylum seekers from Syria. They are given a permanent residence permit in Sweden, and have the right to family reunification. During the time that their applications are being processed they have wide-ranging rights in terms of access to the labour market, housing, health and medical care and financial support.

Kerstin I. Lindblad, Deputy Director at the Swedish Ministry of Justice, told me, "Resettlement is and has been a priority for Sweden for many years." Indeed, the government in Stockholm devoted one-third of the 1,900 places of the yearly refugee resettlement quota to Syrian refugees in 2013-2014.

"We are concerned that the resettlement needs, both present and future, will continue to outpace the available slots," said Lindblad. This makes increased participation in resettlement activities a high priority on the EU as well as on the international agenda. "We strive to convince more states to commit themselves to refugee resettlement and show solidarity and pledge their fair share," she added.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Henriette Johansen) frontpage Mon, 27 Jul 2015 11:16:48 +0000
UK pledges $110m to help Jordan support Syrian refugees https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/europe/20042-uk-pledges-110m-to-help-jordan-support-syrian-refugees https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/europe/20042-uk-pledges-110m-to-help-jordan-support-syrian-refugees Desmond Swayne

Britain's Minister of State for International Development Desmond Swayne announced that the UK has pledged a further $110 million to support Jordan's response plan for Syrian refugees.

During a meeting with Jordan's Minister of Planning and International Cooperation, Imad Fakhoury, in the capital Amman, Swayne said this raises the amount pledged by the UK to $340 million.

Fakhoury reviewed the current economic challenges and the burden borne by the Kingdom in light of the situation in the region, including hosting a huge number of Syrian refugees, which has put immense pressure on the country's infrastructure and economy. He called on international powers to bear their responsibility in helping Jordan continue its humanitarian mission.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Mon, 27 Jul 2015 10:27:47 +0000
Iraqi diplomat: 200 Iranian advisers are helping Iraqi troops fight ISIS https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/20041-iraqi-diplomat-200-iranian-advisers-are-helping-iraqi-troops-fight-isis https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/20041-iraqi-diplomat-200-iranian-advisers-are-helping-iraqi-troops-fight-isis Flag of Iraq

Nearly 200 Iranian military advisers are assisting the Iraqi forces in their fight against the Islamic State (ISIS), Iraqi Ambassador to the US Lukman Faily revealed.

In an interview with the Daily Beast newspaper, Faily spoke of how effective Iranian advisers were adding that the Iraqi government would be less welcoming of US advisers being deployed on the front lines with Iraqi troops.

The Iraqi government has long denied claims by Iraqi Sunni parties that Iran was involved in the fight against ISIS.

Sunni groups claim Iranian fighters were involved in violations including killing, looting and sabotage committed by allied Shia troops against Iraq's Sunni population.

Images of Iran's Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani walking among Iranian fighters in Iraq were also released.

The Daily Beast did not specify when Faily made the statement which was published in an article yesterday.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Mon, 27 Jul 2015 10:20:13 +0000
NATO calls emergency meeting at Turkey's request https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/americas/20040-nato-calls-emergency-meeting-at-turkeys-request https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/americas/20040-nato-calls-emergency-meeting-at-turkeys-request Jens Stoltenberg

NATO announced that ambassadors of the group's 28 member states have been called to an emergency meeting to be held tomorrow in Brussels at the request of Turkey.

"The allies were summoned under Article IV of NATO's founding Washington Treaty," a statement by NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said yesterday.

"Turkey requested the meeting in view of the seriousness of the situation after the heinous terrorist attacks in recent days, and also to inform allies of the measures it is taking."

"NATO allies follow developments very closely and stand in solidarity with Turkey," it added.

A statement issued by the Turkish Foreign Ministry earlier in the day said Ankara had called for an emergency NATO meeting to discuss its response to ISIS and Kurdish opposition forces with continued air strikes over the weekend.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Mon, 27 Jul 2015 10:11:40 +0000
Houthis reject Saudi backed ceasefire https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/20039-houthis-reject-saudi-backed-ceasefire https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/20039-houthis-reject-saudi-backed-ceasefire Abdul Malik al Houthi

The leader of Yemen's Houthi movement Abdul-Malik Al-Houthi has rejected a humanitarian truce announced by the Saudi-led coalition claiming the truce will only benefit the Islamic State (ISIS) and Al-Qaeda.

"The battle will continue and the war is not over," Abdul-Malik posted on Twitter. However, Houthi spokesperson Hamad Al-Bukhaiti denied reports that Abdul-Malik has a Twitter account or that he posted the message.

The ceasefire was due to take effect at 23.59 Yemen time (20.59 GMT) on Sunday evening.

Meanwhile, local witnesses said Yemeni forces backed by the Saudi-led coalition clashed with Houthi fighters over the largest air base north of Aden yesterday hours before the truce was due to begin.

The group has controlled the Anad airbase, 50 kilometres north of Aden, since the start of the civil war.

The group also seized 16 trucks loads of humanitarian aid from the World Food Programme in the Hodeida province.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Mon, 27 Jul 2015 09:15:47 +0000
Egypt must drop charges against Al Jazeera journalists, says ARTICLE 19 https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/20038-egypt-must-drop-charges-against-al-jazeera-journalists-says-article-19 https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/20038-egypt-must-drop-charges-against-al-jazeera-journalists-says-article-19 Baher Mohamed, Mohamed Fahmy and Peter Greste (L-R)

The retrial of three Al Jazeera journalists must be discontinued and charges against them dropped unconditionally, says ARTICLE 19, an organisation which campaigns for freedom of expression. The group also called for the release of all detained journalists in Egypt.

Baher Mohamed, Mohamed Fahmy and Peter Greste face a verdict on 30 July in their retrial for "spreading false news", and "aiding and abetting terrorism".

Baher and Mohamed were imprisoned for 411 days. They are currently on bail pending the outcome of the retrial, ordered after their initial convictions were ruled unsafe by Egypt's highest court.

The third Al Jazeera journalist, Peter Greste, was also jailed for 400 days following the initial trial before being deported. He remains on trial in absentia, even though he is unable to defend himself.

ARTICLE 19's Executive Director, Thomas Hughes comments: "Baher Mohamed, Mohamed Fahmy, and Peter Greste should not be on trial at all: journalism is not a crime. These charges must be dropped, and they must be free from threat of imprisonment.

"These cases are part of a wider crackdown on the exercise of human rights in Egypt: the space for dissent is shrinking. The threat of imprisonment is just one repressive tool of many to shut down legitimate debate. It not only poses a threat to the safety and freedom of journalists, but leads to self-censorship."

Eighteen journalists are believed to be behind bars in Egypt, and many more are facing trial.

The imprisonment of journalists is characteristic of the new media environment in the country: entire media outlets, including Al-Jazeera and Anadolu, a Turkish news agency, have been banned or forced to close their offices.

New laws affecting freedom of expression awaiting approval by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi look set to further erode the rights and activities of bloggers and journalists.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Mon, 27 Jul 2015 09:12:38 +0000
Iran deal a defeat for the Israel lobby https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/inquiry/20037-iran-deal-a-defeat-for-the-israel-lobby https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/inquiry/20037-iran-deal-a-defeat-for-the-israel-lobby Asa WinstanleyThe US and several other nuclear-weapon-owning states recently signed an agreement with Iran that would allow the Islamic Republic to continue its peaceful nuclear energy programme while sanctions are progressively lifted. At the same time, Iran has agreed to strict limits on its programme.

The Israel lobby, especially in the US, is responding by absolutely freaking out. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has reportedly stated that he plans to "kill himself" trying to convince the US Congress to reject the deal.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (probably the most powerful part of the Israel lobby) is reportedly pumping $20 million into a new campaign group which is supposed to "educate" the public about "the dangers of the proposed Iran deal".

Notice the subtle wording in the latter quote: "proposed". In fact, this is not just a proposal, it is a done deal. President Obama has said he will veto any move in the Congress (where Israel and AIPAC are influential) to block the agreement. It seems likely Netayahu's efforts will go nowhere.

On HuffPost Live, journalist Glenn Greenwald thinks this is a defeat for the Israel lobby: "I don't think that they're going to win this fight. And when they don't, when they actually lose it I think that this kind of aura of invincibility that has surrounded the Israel lobby for so long will be severely compromised and weakened in a way that will be very positive"

With the slight danger of speaking too soon, I have to say I agree. Although the Israel lobby is obviously still rich, powerful and influential, this is a major defeat.

This lobby, much like Israel itself, relies on a myth of invincibility. While it is not an either/or situation, much of the lobby's influence is only possible because the US elite is already amenable to being influenced when it comes to Israel. The preponderance of the US establishment overwhelmingly considers Israel to be a strategic asset to US imperial interests in the region (and even in the world: witness Israel's historic role in arming repressive regimes such as apartheid-era South Africa and the former dictatorships of Latin America). But for various reasons, this US government considers it in its own interest to strike this deal with Iran.

I say all of this with no illusions. In order to placate the lobby, Obama sent $1.9 billion in extra US weapons to Israel, with more to follow. There is no serious rift here between Israel and the US. Such disagreement as there is largely irrelevant to the overwhelming fact of US support for Israel, it's occupation of Palestine and every single one of its wars.

At the same time, the deal shows that the lobby is not invulnerable, as it would like us to think it is. There are other signs.

Last week, the Palestinian Return Centre won recognised NGO status with the UN in New York. The Israel lobby went pretty crazy during the preceding weeks and months in an attempt to block it.

It came down to a vote in a 54-member committee. The lobby's efforts did have an effect, with many member states abstaining from the vote (Britain disgracefully voted for an Israel proposal to block their recognition), but in the end their efforts were narrowly defeated.

Israeli spy agencies have carried out a campaign against the PRC over the last few years, stating in 2010 that it was "banned" from operating in Israel. This was a misleading claim, since, as a organization run by members of the Palestinian diaspora (it is based in London) it does not operate within Israel. Rather, this was a thinly-veiled attempt to make the group appear illicit. Israel claimed that PRC was a Hamas "affiliate" yet presented no evidence of this. PRC denied it.

Clearly, Israel has no convincing evidence of this otherwise, one imagines, it would present it to the British authorities, who would then have banned the group years ago. Hamas is outlawed in the UK as "terrorist" organisation.

The upshot of all this is this: yes, the Israel lobby is still powerful. Yes, Israel still wages daily violence against Palestinians. But I believe that the current historical trend shows the power of the Israel lobby to be on the wane. We need to continue shedding light on it and pushing back against it.

An associate editor with The Electronic Intifada, Asa Winstanley is an investigative journalist who lives in London.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Asa Winstanley) frontpage Sun, 26 Jul 2015 12:32:33 +0000
Fresh Yemen truce collapses amid ongoing violence https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/20036-fresh-yemen-truce-collapses-amid-ongoing-violence https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/20036-fresh-yemen-truce-collapses-amid-ongoing-violence File photo of anti-aircraft fire by Houthi rebels at Saudi-led warplanesDespite the announcement of a new cease-fire, warplanes and helicopters from a Saudi-led international air coalition early Sunday attacked several positions in Yemen held by the Shia Houthi militia, eyewitnesses reported.

"Apache helicopters struck a Houthi patrol near the [Saudi-Yemeni] border in Hajjah province's Harad district and carried out seven airstrikes on Houthi positions in Muthallath Ahim village [in the same province]," one witness in Hajjah said.

Coalition warplanes also struck Houthi positions in Yemen's Amran, Al-Jawf, Maarib and Lahij provinces, according to witnesses.

On Saturday, coalition commanders had called for a five-day "humanitarian cease-fire" to begin on Sunday at the request of Yemeni President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi, who remains based in Saudi capital Riyadh.

Coalition commanders also vowed to respond with force to any military action taken by the Houthi militia, which remains in control of much of the country.

The latest truce was soon broken, however, when five people were killed late Saturday after Houthi militiamen attacked the south-western city of Taiz with artillery fire, according to witnesses and local medical sources.

The artillery attacks were confirmed by the Houthi-run Almasirah television channel, which reported early Sunday that militiamen had struck several districts of Taiz.

Fractious Yemen has remained in turmoil since last September, when the Houthis overran capital Sanaa, from which they have since extended their influence southwards to other parts of the country.

In March, Saudi Arabia and its Arab allies announced the launch of an international air coalition, which over the last four months has continued to pound Houthi positions across war-torn Yemen.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Sun, 26 Jul 2015 12:26:01 +0000
Amid attacks, Egypt renews Sinai state of emergency https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/20035-amid-attacks-egypt-renews-sinai-state-of-emergency https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/20035-amid-attacks-egypt-renews-sinai-state-of-emergency File photo of Egyptian military reinforcements arriving in the Sinai to support ground troops thereThe Egyptian authorities have extended an ongoing state of emergency in certain parts of the volatile Sinai Peninsula for an additional three months.

According to Egypt's official gazette, Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab on Sunday issued a decree - effective immediately - extending the state of emergency in several areas of the violence-wracked North Sinai province.

The decree also included the imposition of a night time curfew in certain parts of the peninsula.

Last October, following a militant attack that killed dozens of soldiers, the authorities imposed a state of emergency - for the first time - in certain parts of Sinai.

Since then, the state of emergency has been renewed twice.

Since mid-2013, when Mohamed Morsi - Egypt's first democratically elected president - was ousted by the military, northern Sinai has become the epicentre of a deadly insurgency that has largely targeted Egyptian security personnel.

In the more than two years since, Egyptian security forces have waged a fierce campaign against militants in the volatile peninsula, which shares borders with both Israel and the blockaded Gaza Strip.

On the same day that the state of emergency was extended, at least 18 policemen deployed in North Sinai were injured by a roadside bomb.

And earlier this month, at least 17 soldiers were killed in coordinated attacks on security checkpoints by militants said to be linked to the Daesh group, which last year overran vast swathes of Syrian and Iraqi territory.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Sun, 26 Jul 2015 12:20:34 +0000
Israeli settlers, troops storm Al-Aqsa, injuring dozens https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/20034-israeli-settlers-troops-storm-al-aqsa-injuring-dozens https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/20034-israeli-settlers-troops-storm-al-aqsa-injuring-dozens File photo of Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site for MuslimsDozens of Palestinians - and four Israeli soldiers - were injured on Sunday when Israeli security forces stormed occupied East Jerusalem's flashpoint Al-Aqsa Mosque compound and clashed with Muslim worshippers.

Eyewitnesses told Anadolu Agency that Israeli police had fired teargas and rubber bullets at Muslim worshippers near the compound's iconic Al-Aqsa and Al-Qibali mosques.

"Israeli forces sealed the Al-Aqsa gates, preventing worshippers from entering the mosque," eyewitnesses said.

Mosque Director Omar Al-Qiswani, for his part, told Anadolu Agency that he - along with six mosque guards - had been attacked by Israeli security forces while trying to prevent Israeli troops from storming the mosque.

Early Sunday, scores of extremist Jewish settlers - led by Israeli Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel and backed by dozens of Israeli police and soldiers - stormed the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound.

"About 140 settlers, accompanied by about 40 Israeli police and Special Forces troops, forced their way into the mosque compound via the Al-Magharbeh Gate," Sheikh Azzam Al-Khatib, director-general of Al-Aqsa affairs, told Anadolu Agency.

Israeli forces, he said, had fired rubber bullets and teargas at some 300 Muslim worshippers who had gathered near the Al-Qibali and Al-Aqsa mosques to protest the settlers' arrival.

"About 25 Palestinians were injured by rubber bullets, while at least 45 others suffered teargas inhalation," Al-Khatib added.

Israeli media, meanwhile, reported that four Israeli soldiers had been hurt in the melee, two of whom had since been taken to hospital for treatment.

For Muslims, Al-Aqsa represents the world's third holiest site. Jews, for their part, refer to the area as the "Temple Mount," claiming it was the site of two prominent Jewish temples in ancient times.

In recent months, groups of extremist Jewish settlers – often accompanied by Israeli security forces – have repeatedly forced their way into the Al-Aqsa complex. The frequent violations anger Palestinian Muslims and occasionally lead to violent confrontations.

Israel occupied East Jerusalem during the 1967 Middle East War. It later annexed the city in 1980, claiming it as the capital of the self-proclaimed Jewish state in a move never recognized by the international community.

In September 2000, a visit to Al-Aqsa by controversial Israeli politician Ariel Sharon sparked what later became known as the "Second Intifada," a popular uprising against the Israeli occupation in which thousands of Palestinians were killed and injured.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Sun, 26 Jul 2015 12:10:10 +0000
UK eases ban on travel to Iran https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/europe/20033-uk-eases-ban-on-travel-to-iran https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/europe/20033-uk-eases-ban-on-travel-to-iran Philip HammodThe British Government has declared Iran a safe place for travel for its citizens after the nuclear deal between the P5+1 countries and Tehran.

US Congress began Monday a 60-day review of the agreement reached July 14 between Iran and the UN Security Council's five permanent members - China, France, Russia, the UK and the US - plus Germany.

"Our policy is to recommend against travel to an area when we judge that the risk is unacceptably high. We consider that continues to be the case for specific areas of Iran, notably along Iran's borders with Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan," UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said.

"But we believe that in other areas of Iran the risk to British nationals has changed, in part due to decreasing hostility under President Rouhani's Government," he added.

Hammond said that British citizens could contact with the Swedish or EU diplomatic missions in Tehran for consular services.

On July 17, British Prime Minister David Cameron told Iranian President Hassan Rouhani that the UK wanted to reopen its embassy in Tehran.

"The prime minister made clear that he remained committed to re-opening the British embassy in Tehran and they agreed that foreign ministers should continue to work together to resolve the outstanding issues before this can happen," said the spokesman.

The embassy was closed in 2011 after it was stormed by protesters.

Bilateral relations between Iran and Britain have improved since diplomatic relations were suspended in 2011. Back then, Iranian protesters had attacked the UK embassy in Iran and Britain responded by expelling Iranian diplomats.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Sun, 26 Jul 2015 12:06:47 +0000
US anti-ISIS envoy condemns PKK attacks https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/americas/20032-us-anti-isis-envoy-condemns-pkk-attacks https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/americas/20032-us-anti-isis-envoy-condemns-pkk-attacks Brett McGurkUS President Barack Obama's envoy to the anti-ISIS coalition "strongly condemned" the PKK's attacks and fully respected "Turkey's right to self-defence".

In a series of tweets sent out Saturday night, Brett McGurk urged Turkey and the illegal Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, to de-escalate ongoing hostilities and "remain committed to the peaceful 'solution process' for a just and sustainable peace".

On Friday night and in the early hours of Saturday, Turkish air forces bombed for the first time in the last two-and-a-half years PKK camps in northern Iraq.

Separately, Turkish police have detained a total of 590 people, including at least 37 foreigners, who are suspected of having ties with terrorist groups across Turkey, according to Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.

The airstrikes and the nationwide anti-terror operation come after 32 people were killed in the southeastern Turkish province of Sanliurfa on Monday in a Daesh-suspected suicide attack. Following the attack, four Turkish police officers were killed in various attacks; the PKK claimed responsibility for at least one of the attacks.

Amid the ongoing hostilities, Turkey finalised on Wednesday its permission for US warplanes to use Turkish bases, including the strategic Incirlik military facility, to carry out airstrikes against Daesh.

McGurk denied that the escalating violence between Turkey and the PKK was linked to the recent understanding.

"There is no connection between these airstrikes against PKK and recent understandings to intensify US-Turkey cooperation against #ISIL [Daesh]," McGurk said.

The PKK is listed as a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the US and the European Union.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Sun, 26 Jul 2015 11:57:39 +0000
What to expect from the retrial of Al-Jazeera staff in Egypt https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/africa/20031-what-to-expect-from-the-retrial-of-al-jazeera-staff-in-egypt https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/africa/20031-what-to-expect-from-the-retrial-of-al-jazeera-staff-in-egypt Al-Jazeera StudioWith less than a week left before the 30 July retrial of the remaining two Al-Jazeera journalists detained in Egypt, tensions are running high over what might happen next. The Egyptian government is currently holding Mohammed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed on charges of inciting terrorism and being a threat to national security; their colleague Peter Greste was held on the same charges until February. Not only do the journalists and Al-Jazeera deny the allegations, but there has also been insufficient evidence to support the charges. All of the journalists have suffered since their arrest by the Egyptian authorities on 29 December 2013, facing psychological torture and solitary confinement.

The allegations stem from coverage of the protests against the 2013 coup that toppled Mohamed Morsi, Egypt's first elected president, and subsequent reports about the coup regime's violation of human rights. Egyptians from across the spectrum joined the struggle for the democracy that people had died for; not all of them were Muslim Brotherhood supporters. Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, who was the general behind the coup, went on to condemn the Brotherhood as a "terrorist" organisation and banned its political wing, the Freedom and Justice Party.

The hardening of the media crackdown in Egypt is making journalism an increasingly dangerous profession in the country. Both analysis and news are forbidden to stray from the state narrative, which in many cases simply consists of lies to cover up unjustified institutional violence. The killing of journalists is indiscriminate and even pro-regime reporters have been subject to state violence, as authorities act on an "assault now investigate later" basis. Mayada Ashraf was a pro-regime journalist who was killed by the authorities. On 28 March last year she was covering nationwide protests sparked by the announcement that Al-Sisi was going to resign from the army and run for president. Her last piece referred to the Muslim Brotherhood as terrorists and she worked for Al-Dustoor, an outlet that is known for its pro-regime stance. Her colleague Alam Hassanan said that protestors were running away from the police and she was running with them when she was shot in the back of the head.

Anti-regime journalists, however, suffer the most. At the very least, they are spied on, stalked and threatened. Many have been sentenced to death for "harming national security." The latest example of this is Walid Abdel Raouf Shalaby, who was sentenced to death in April. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, Egypt is now the sixth most dangerous country in the world for the profession.

Censorship is also a problem that has reached an all-time high degree in Egypt, because of the increased capabilities of the authorities to crack down on civilians. Ordinary Egyptians have been arrested and tortured for a Facebook status or a tweet and a disproportionate number of journalists who have been subjected to state abuse work online; print journalism has always been rather staid in its views and undemocratic.

Many media outlets have either been banned or forced to close their offices as a result of the crackdown, including Al-Jazeera and Turkey's Anadolu News Agency. Massacres have also been denied; Neshron News, for example, claimed that fewer than 40 people "died" (they weren't killed) in the Rabaa Al-Adawiyya massacre, when it has been confirmed by international organisations, including Human Rights Watch, that Egyptian security forces killed over 1,000 people on that day. Even religious rhetoric has to match government policy on "modernising Islam" by encouraging women to take off their hijabs; at the same time, though, there has been a violent cracking down against homosexuals (who have never been tolerated in Egyptian society to begin with) to ensure that the proposed "modernisation" does not lead to a Westernisation of morals.

It must be taken into consideration that the legal system in which Al-Jazeera's lawyers are trying to prove their journalists' innocence is the same system that arrested 78 children last November for allegedly sympathising with the Muslim Brotherhood; tortured female students who were taking part in peaceful protests; hosted mass executions; and arrested thousands of perceived Brotherhood sympathisers indiscriminately without any reason or fair trial and subjected them to the most barbaric torture, including electrocution, rape and excruciating stress positions.

The Egyptian security forces did not warn Al-Jazeera's journalists that their reports were breaching national security, nor did the company receive a diplomatic warning about its staff. Instead, it was accused of paying $1.5m to people on the street to fabricate protests for the reporters to cover; no evidence has been submitted to support such claims. The journalists were simply arrested and branded as terrorists with no evidence. In addition, the Egyptian government attempted to tarnish Al-Jazeera's integrity because neither the journalists nor the company were prepared to parrot state propaganda.

The likely outcome of retrial is unpredictable. With a history of delaying the hearings in this case, it is very likely that it will be postponed yet again, given that the legal system is proving itself not only to be incompetent, but also politically motivated and brutal. The state of both the judiciary and the media in Egypt depict the extent of paranoia and insecurity within the political elite.

The only hope for a positive outcome is that Peter Greste was released and the German and Egyptian authorities bowed to pressure from the international community when Al-Jazeera journalist Ahmed Mansour was detained in Berlin at the Egyptian government's request for "harming Egypt's national security". It is highly unlikely that the journalists will be sentenced to death, but they could well serve a jail term. With the Egyptian judiciary being one of the most unstable and politicised institutions in the country, though, nothing should come as a shock.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Diana Alghoul) frontpage Sat, 25 Jul 2015 12:57:23 +0000
Why Saudi and other Gulf states need to rescue Egypt from itself https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/middle-east/20030-why-saudi-and-other-gulf-states-need-to-rescue-egypt-from-itself https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/middle-east/20030-why-saudi-and-other-gulf-states-need-to-rescue-egypt-from-itself File photo of Egypt's Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi with Saudi Arabian King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud in Riyadh earlier this yearThe crisis in Egypt is growing in complexity and severity by the day.

In the meantime, major Arab states, foremost among them Saudi Arabia, behave as if they have decided to ignore Egypt and its exacerbated crisis. But no one should behave as if Egypt has vanished completely from the map. After all, Egypt is the most populous Arab state and one of the most significant; there is a pressing need for it to return to the regional balance of power. To protect Egypt from the blowing winds of violence and chaos, it is imperative to intervene in order to stop its decline into more political madness. Who has a greater responsibility to intervene than those who contributed to the creation of this crisis in the first place?

Riyadh says that Yemen today is the utmost priority and that it is not yet prepared to handle any other issue. There is no doubt that the war in Yemen was a major decision and it simply could not be postponed. It is only natural for the war, which has now dragged on for longer than expected, to become the main preoccupation for the Saudi leadership. War has always been one of the major affairs of the state, of any state, and what Yemen is witnessing is a highly complex war.

In addition, the current Saudi leadership, it is argued by some voices in Riyadh, was not the one that welcomed the coup in Egypt and who supported it with tens of billions of dollars. Perhaps it is true that the current Saudi leadership views the situation in Egypt without any positive feelings and may indeed see it as a heavy burden. There seems to be some truth to the rumours about muzzled disagreements between the current Saudi administration and Cairo, in contrast to the position of the previous Saudi administration, which saw then-General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi as the deliverer of Egypt.

In other words, Saudi Arabia sees the situation from two perspectives, and neither of them is less important than the other: the prerequisites of the war in Yemen and the concerns of Arab regional security.

On one hand, as it failed to convince Pakistan and Egypt to make substantive military contributions to the Yemeni war - and although Riyadh does not fully trust the role Cairo would play, or would want to play, in the Yemeni crisis - Saudi Arabia has been keen not to lose any of the war coalition members, regardless of the significance of the member's contribution. In the middle of war, Saudi officials say, every effort should be exerted in order to gain more friends and avoid losing any friends. If Saudi Arabia were to allow a substantive change in the Egyptian position on Yemen, such a change would have major reverberations across the region.

On the other hand - and although Riyadh does not approve of many of the domestic measures adopted by the Egyptian regime - military rule is not a new development in Egypt. During the official talks session with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan several months ago, Saudi Minister of Defence Prince Muhammad bin Salman said that the Egyptian army has been ruling Egypt one way or another since 1952, and that the current regime is nothing but a continuation of that situation. The prince said that there were states, it would seem, where nothing works but this type of governance. Such a stance, of course, is consistent with Saudi disinterest in democratic changes, whether in Egypt or elsewhere. In addition, the Saudi leadership believes that the interplay of the past four years within the Arab world has led to the collapse of the state and the loss of stability in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Libya and to a tangible destabilisation in Lebanon and Tunisia.

With a population of 90 million, Egypt is the most populous and most central Arab state. Should the state be allowed to fall and should security and stability be lost, Egypt would leave a huge impact on the entire Arab neighbourhood. Consequently, it would become almost impossible to restore security and stability to the region.

To sum up, the Saudi leadership views the Egyptian situation through a purely pragmatic perspective, which seems to be free from the ideological delusions of the previous leadership of the late King Abdullah. Today, Riyadh appears to have unburdened itself of the responsibility for what is going on and of what may take place in the biggest of all Arab countries. In fact, such an attitude is neither possible nor acceptable.

First, it is not acceptable because states are living and continuing political and legal entities. It is not possible, irrespective of the justifications, to say that the Saudi Arabia of today is not responsible for what Saudi Arabia did yesterday. What Egypt witnessed of the interruption of the march toward democratisation and the coup against the elected government was not just the product of an internal balance of power, notwithstanding the argument about the size of the opposition to president Mohamed Morsi. What Egypt witnessed was also, and perhaps even in a bigger way, the product of a regional balance of power that pushed, with the power of persuasion and the promises of financial and economic support, for the return of the army to power. Undoubtedly, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, and to a lesser extent Kuwait, represented the heaviest and most significant weight in this balance. No sooner had the Sisi government held the reins of power than tens of billions of dollars started pouring from the three Gulf states into the coffers of the new regime. Such a huge flow of cash into any Arab state in modern times, during the period from the summer of 2013 to the end of 2014, was a major factor in helping the regime stay.

Second, the assertion that Egypt is heading toward stability, and an external intervention may threaten such stability, is not true and does not rest on an accurate assessment of the situation. Egypt today is less stable than it was in the summer of 2013 and even less stable than at any time since the downfall of the Mubarak regime. At the economic level, the Morsi government managed during its sole year in office to elevate all major economic indices in the country and to improve its public finances. Yet, despite the huge foreign financial aid and the rapid cut in economic subsidies (which amount to one-third of the Egyptian budget), Egypt's economic situation continues to deteriorate further and further. At the political level, most of the 3 July, 2013 roadmap promises remain unfulfilled. Today, the Sisi's regime stands almost without any of its early allies who provided it with the illusion of political legitimacy. Anti-regime demonstrations have continued since the summer of 2013 despite the apparent division within Egyptian society. It is only the ruthless crackdown by security agencies and the complete capitulation of the judiciary, which is protecting the regime from wide-ranging political explosion. At the security level, state violence perpetrated against the people and loss of hope in the future have led to the eruption of an armed opposition in Sinai, as the Peninsula has turned into what resembles a war zone. In the meantime, other parts of the country are witnessing varying levels of armed opposition and bombings.

Third - and here is where the Egyptian crisis is more flagrantly revealed: against the backdrop of the regime's realisation of its predicament, it has started to pursue a series of bloody repressive measures that is about to reach its height. The regime has moved from issuing heavy sentences against peaceful protesters and vengeful sentences against the January revolution activists, to organising kangaroo trials for the leaders and cadres of the Muslim Brotherhood, including former President Mohamed Morsi himself. It has also moved from issuing life sentences against a large number of leaders, to issuing a series of death sentences against high-ranking Brotherhood leaders and Morsi.

Escalating violence across the country is a classic escape policy resorted to by oppressive regimes, especially when the are faced by popular mistrust and opposition. This is exactly what Egypt is witnessing. If such sentences were carried out - a development that cannot be ruled out - the country would slide into a deep abyss. Thus far, the overwhelming majority of the regime's opponents, both Islamists and non-Islamists, are keen to avoid violence and the use of arms. But who would be able to restrain them should the regime continue to escalate the level of official state violence?

Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf states, which contributed to the creation of this crisis-ridden situation, are responsible, and their responsibility obliges them to intervene in order to rescue Egypt from its own self.

Dr Basheer Musa Nafi is a historian studying Islamic and Middle Eastern History. This article was first published by the Middle East Eye.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Dr Basheer M. Nafi) frontpage Sat, 25 Jul 2015 12:52:36 +0000