MENA Week in Review

Below is a roundup of some of the top articles and news highlights from around the MENA region over the last week:

U.S. Policy:

  • Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey visited Israel and Jordan this week to discuss “how regional alliances and partnerships can help contain the evolving threats of terrorism and civil unrest in the Middle East,” according to the American Forces Press Service. Dempsey also emphasized the need to increase the self-defense capabilities of U.S. partners, “whether those partners are Turks, through our NATO channels; Lebanese armed forces; Jordanian armed forces; Israelis — and as well, the Iraqis.”
  • Jordanian officials have reportedly requested manned surveillance aircraft from the U.S. to monitor the Jordanian border with Syria. The U.S. has already stationed 1,000 troops, a number of F-16 aircraft, and Patriot missile batteries in Jordan. Chairman Dempsey noted on Wednesday that Jordan expressed “frustration with our foreign military sales process” because of their slow pace.
  • Defense News reports that “since July 25, the Pentagon has notified Congress of more than $4 billion worth of Foreign Military Sales to Iraq that includes everything from infantry carriers to ground-to-air rockets,” with more deals expected to come. Read the full article for more details.

Egypt:

  • After weeks of threats, Egyptian security forces cleared pro-Morsi sit-ins at Rabaa Adaweya and Midan al Nahda on Wednesday. While casualty estimates vary, the Egyptian Ministry of Health reported at least 638 have been killed (including 43 security forces) and thousands injured since Wednesday. CNN reported that at least 30 churches were attacked and burned by mobs. The military also declared a curfew and a month long state of emergency, drawing comparisons to Egypt’s decades long state of emergency under Mubarak.
  • The Egyptian government claimed it was taking action against “criminal plan to demolish the pillars of the Egyptian state.” Interim Vice President Mohamed ElBaradei resigned in protest, saying “It has become difficult for me to continue bearing responsibility for decisions that I do not agree with and whose consequences I fear.” International condemnation has been almost universal; several countries recalled their ambassadors, and only UAE and Bahrain issued statements supporting the military’s actions.
  • Secretary of State John Kerry said Wednesday that the U.S. “strongly condemns today’s violence and bloodshed across Egypt,” describing it as “deplorable.” Secretary of Defense Hagel, who has been in continuous contact with the Egyptian government, said Thursday that he told Egyptian Minister of Defense Gen. Al Sisi that, “The Department of Defense will continue to maintain a military relationship with Egypt, but … the violence and inadequate steps towards reconciliation” put that relationship “at risk.”  President Obama issued a statement Thursday declaring, “The United States strongly condemns the steps that have been taken by Egypt’s interim government and security forces” and canceling Operation Bright Star, a joint U.S.-Egyptian military exercise that had been scheduled for next month.

Yemen:

  • U.S. embassies throughout the Middle East and North Africa reopened this week with the exception of the U.S. embassy in Yemen, where Yemen-based Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) continued its combative actions. Al Qaeda fighters were blamed for killing five Yemeni soldiers guarding a liquefied natural gas terminal on Sunday and three Yemeni soldiers stationed in the southwestern city of Hawtah on Tuesday. Meanwhile, on Monday, AQAP’s leader Nasser al-Wahishi vowed to free militants from prisons in Yemen, following other Al Qaeda-linked prison breaks in Iraq and Pakistan.
  • Responding to the heightened terror threat, the U.S. continued its apparent drone strike campaign in Yemen, during which nine suspected strikes killed at least 37 people in the last two weeks. The New York Times reported that the latest campaign expanded the target list “beyond the high-level leaders [the U.S.] has always said are the main objective of the attacks.” The Times also stated that the effectiveness of the strikes remain unclear, a point echoed by numerous Yemen observers over the past two weeks. For additional information, read Gregory Johnson’s Foreign Policy article, Spencer Ackerman’s Guardian article, and the following sources in The National, The Christian Science Monitor (via Gulf News), and Al Monitor.

Other Regional News:

  • A bomb exploded in a Hezbollah dominated neighborhood in the Lebanese capital of Beirut, killing at least 22 people. The Associated Press noted that a number of Hezbollah targets have been attacked in the past few months, possibly related to group’s support of the Assad regime in Syria. A previously unknown group claimed responsibility for the attack, calling Hezbollah agents of Israel and Iran.
  • Opponents of the Bahraini regime participated in strikes and marches across the country on Wednesday, though the Associated Press wrote that a “tight security clampdown appears to have stopped large-scale demonstrations in the city.”
  • Peace talks between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators began this week, as Israel released 26 of the over 100 Palestinian prisoners it promised to free as a good faith measure to restart the talks. This week, Israel also announced a buildup of over 1,000 housing units in East Jerusalem and West Bank settlements, a move that Secretary Kerry called “to some degree expected” but also “outside of that level of expectation.”

 

This post was co-written by Leslie Adkins and Dan Resnick

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