Middle East Weekly Roundup: July 26th, 2016
The Levant and Turkey
Israeli Foreign Ministry Director-General Dore Gold met with the President of Chad Idriss Deby at the presidential palace in Fada. Chad is the latest African nation to be visited by a top Israeli diplomat. According to spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon, the meeting represented an important step in establishing a stronger relationship between the two countries. The Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu has recently stated that he would like see Israeli embassies spread throughout Africa and to have every African country represented in an embassy in Israel.
Airstrikes launched this Tuesday July 19th in northern Syria kill dozens after mistaking civilians for ISIS targets. The number of civilian casualties varies from source to source, with totals ranging from 56 to 212. Although there is still no confirmation on who is behind the attack, monitoring groups and media suspect it was perpetrated by US-led coalition aircraft as a result of faulty intelligence. As Washington Post specialist Max Bearak notes, if that were to be the case, it would be the “highest civilian toll from any action by the coalition since it formed in 2014“.
According to Human Rights Watch, about half of the approximately 500,000 school aged children that are registered in Lebanon as refugees are not in school. Lebanon is hosting roughly 1.1 million registered Syrian refugees and has allowed Syrian children to enroll in free public schools. Nonetheless, refugees are still faced with challenges in sending their kids to school. They have very limited resources and Lebanese policies on residency and work for Syrians are keeping a significant number of children out of the classroom. Of the Syrian refugees registered with the United Nations Refugee Agency in Lebanon, approximately 500,000 are between 3 to 18 years of age, which is considered school-age by Lebanon’s Education Ministry.
Turkey has suspended nearly 8,000 police across the country, widening a major purge of suspected supporters of a failed army coup. The interior ministry said approximately 8,777 people have been removed from their posts, including 7,899 members of the police and security forces. Erdogan has pledged the “cleansing” of state institutions will continue, with recent reports of judges and educators being targeted. Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said earlier this week that more than 7,500 suspects had been detained in connection with the coup attempt.
President Erdogan announced a three month state of emergency earlier this week after a five hour meeting with his security council. The declaration will grant Erdogan wide reaching powers. The European Convention on Human Rights will also be suspended. The emergency allows the president and cabinet to bypass parliament when drafting new laws and to restrict or suspend rights and freedoms.
Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman arrived in Washington D.C. to head the Saudi delegation in the second upcoming anti-ISIS coalition meeting. The meeting has been organized to discuss developments in the coalition’s military operations against ISIL, as well as other related issues. He will lead the Saudi delegation to the 2nd meeting on ISIL at a U.S. military base in Maryland. His delegation includes the Adviser at the Royal Court Dr. Mohammed Al-Issa, Adviser at the Royal Court and General Supervisor of the Office of Defense Minister Fahd Al-Issa, Adviser at the Royal Court Raafat Al-Sabbagh, the Chief of General Staff, General Abdulrahman Al-Bunyan, and Military Adviser to the Defense Minister Major General Ahmed Asiri. It also includes Adviser at the Royal Court Dr. Azzam Al-Dakhil, Adviser at the Cabinet’s Secretariat Ahmed Al-Khatib, and Saudi Ambassador to Iraq Thamer Al-Sabhan.
Qatar’s Advisory Council has approved a draft law that would increase scrutiny of public money in an effort to combat corruption. The law would give more financial authority, as well as independence to the State Audit Bureau who reports to the Emir. The State Audit Bureau has the right to audit and inspect the finances of ministries, banks and organizations primarily funded by the government, as well as state joint ventures with foreign agencies.
A court in Bahrain dissolved the main Shia opposition group Al-Wefaq. The ruling comes amid an increasing crackdown on opposition figures. Al-Wefaq was shut down last month under an emergency court order after it was accused of undermining the state, spreading sectarianism, violence and having connections to terrorist activities. Bahrain blames Iran and Lebanon’s armed Shia group Hezbollah for involvement in Bahrain’s unrest. They deny any involvement.
Three months of UN brokered talks in Kuwait have thus far failed to make any progress between the Iran-backed Al Houthi rebels and the government, which is supported by a Saudi-led coalition. Both sides having been holding firm to their positions and have failed to adequately compromise. Kuwait has been hosting the Yemen peace talks and has grown frustrated with the lack of progress. According to Kuwait’s Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled al-Jarallah, Kuwait has issued an ultimatum to the warring parties to strike a deal within 15 days or leave the country.
Iran and Iraq
According to Economy Minister Ali Tayebnia, Iran is exploring a return to international debt markets for the first time since 2002. The country is seeking to finance its economic recovery after the nuclear deal. He further stated that they are currently negotiating with rating agencies and expects Iran to secure a credit rating in the near future, which would help attract bond investors. In 2012 and 2013 Iran’s economy had negative growth. In 2012, it had a negative economic growth of 6.8% and in 2013 it had a negative economic growth of 1.9%. However, in 2014 economic growth was positive by 3%. In a recent interview Tayebnia stated that according to their forecasts Iran will experience a significant recovery this year.
French President Francois Hollande stated that France will not be sending ground troops to combat ISIL in Iraq in August. Rather, it will be sending heavy artillery and military advisors next month. A statement was made following a high-level security meeting in Paris, Hollande’s fourth since ISIL claimed the attack in Nice on July 14 killing 84 people. The president also reiterated that the French aircraft carrier Charles De Gaulle would be deployed in the region in late September to help in ongoing operations against ISIL, also known as ISIS.
Earlier this week Egypt’s President al-Sisi stated that he wants to push forward peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians. During his speech on state TV, he said, “It is a sincere effort to make everyone face their responsibilities and warn of the consequences of delays in achieving peace.” Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu, who met Shoukry during his visit, welcomed Sisi’s offer.
Tunisian authorities have dismantled an ISIL linked cell that was planning attacks in Sousse. The interior ministry stated that said the cell was dismantled in the Kalaa Kbira area, and that it “planned to carry out terrorist acts in Sousse against key sites in the city.” The statement also indicated that the cell’s members had received combat training and watched videos on how to make explosives. The country’s security forces are on high alert after attacks in Tunis and Sousse last year, as well as an attempt by members of the terrorist organization to take control of a town near the Libyan border earlier this year.
Morocco has officially requested to join the African Union. The request was officially made during the African Union summit, which was hosted in Rwanda from July 17 to the 19th. King Mohammed VI of Morocco sent a message stating that the time had come for his country to retake its place within its institutional family. The request was made after leaving the African Union approximately thirty-two years ago due to the membership of Western Sahara. Morocco considers Western Sahara as part of its territory. However, the Sahrawi people’s Polisario Front movement is demanding self-determination for Western Sahara and wants a referendum on independence.
In other news:
Refugee crisis: one out of every 113 people in the world have fled their homes
Recent Oxfam report stresses that six of the countries with the highest GDPs (US, China, Japan, Germany, UK, and France) are hosting only 8.8 % of the world’s total refugees and asylum seekers. Together, these countries account for more than half of the global economy. In contrast, Jordan, Turkey, Palestine, Lebanon and South Africa -which together make up less than 2% of global GDP-, are hosting more than half of the world’s total. The number of refugees and asylum seekers has reached unprecedented levels (65 million), meaning that 1 out of every 113 people in the world have fled their homes. “The international displacement we are seeing is an unprecedented and complex challenge requiring a coordinated global response,” noted Oxfam International Executive Director Winnie Byanyima.
ISIL claims responsibility for powerful blasts that kill at least 80 people during Kabul protest
Explosions targeting the Hazara minority group in Afghanistan during a large demonstration kills at least 80 people and has wounded more than 230 people.
The attack occurred on Saturday, near one of the most heavily protected areas of the Afghan capital. ISIL has claimed responsibility for the attacks further illustrating their expansion beyond Syrian and Iraqi borders. In the past ISIL has carried out attacks in the eastern part of the country. But not as far as Kabul.
There is growing concern that these attacks are indicative of the terrorist organization’s growing capability in the Afghanistan.