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

  • Jordan’s Prime Minster announced Monday that the United States is providing technical assistance against possible Syrian chemical threats. The U.S. has been working with Jordan in an effort to minimize potential dangers to the kingdom from Syria’s civil war.
  • Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey warned against limited U.S. military intervention in Syria, reported the Associated Press. In a letter sent Monday to Representative Eliot Engel (D-NY), who has advocated for potentially firing U.S. cruise missiles at Syria, Dempsey argued that providing more humanitarian assistance was the United States’ best option.
  • Senior national security officials met to discuss the situation in Syria on Thursday after news of a potential chemical attack. According to the New York Times, officials were unable to reach a decision. President Obama said in an interview on CNN on Friday that “the notion that the U.S. can somehow solve what is a sectarian, complex problem inside of Syria sometimes is overstated.”

Syria

  • Opposition leaders claim that the Syrian government used chemical weapons in a Damascus suburb, with death toll estimates ranging from hundreds to over a thousand.  Groups have also circulated unverified photos and videos to support their claims. The Syrian government denied using chemical weapons.
  • After an emergency session Wednesday afternoon, the United Nations Security Council United Nations issued a statement calling for an immediate inquiry into the claims. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon sent a top UN official to Syria to urge Assad to allow UN weapons inspectors, who arrived in Syria Monday to investigate previous attacks, and access the affected area. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said if allegations of the attacks are proved true, “there would have to be reaction with force,” but “there is no question of sending troops on the ground.”

Egypt

  • Egyptian Interim Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi said in an interview with ABC that while a cut in U.S. military aid would be bad for the Egyptian military, Egypt would be able to survive. The comments come after The Daily Beast reported Monday that the White House had quietly suspended most military aid to Egypt. The White House in response said Tuesday that it was “inaccurate to suggest that we’ve cut off aid to Egypt,” although various programs and weapons systems are being evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Contradictory reports, the Washington Post claims, are likely partially the result of the Obama’s public caution, and partially because “the structure of U.S. aid programs is confusing and involves a poorly understood law.”
  • European Union members decided to suspend export licenses to Egypt for weapons or materials that could be used for internal repression. The 5 billion Euros ($6.7 billion) of aid that the EU pledged to Egypt last November remains unaffected, though most of it will likely not be disperse because of instability.
  • Israel has been lobbying both U.S. and E.U. officials to support and continue to aid to Egypt’s military-backed government, and the New York Times reports Israel may have even reassured Egypt that the U.S. would not cut off aid despite its threats. These reports come amid news that security cooperation over the instability in Sinai between the Egyptian and Israeli armed forces have reached record highs.

Yemen

  • The government of Yemen apologized Wednesday to Southern secessionists for the 1994 civil war and to rebels in the North where fighting has been ongoing since 2004. The Yemeni government has been engaged in national dialogue negotiations with various groups including the Southern representatives until August 13, when the Southerners withdrew from the process.

Lebanon

  • Two car bombs exploded in front of mosques in Tripoli, Lebanon, killing 27 and injuring more than 350, following the sermons of two Salafist preachers critical of Hezbollah and Bashar al Assad. Hezbollah issued a statement condemning the bombings.
  • Hezbollah has stepped up neighborhood patrols in southern Beirut after a bomb exploded in a Hezbollah dominated neighborhood last Thursday, while the head of the Lebanese Armed Forces General Jean Kahwaji announced the military is fighting a “total war against terrorism.”

Libya

  • Prime Minister Ali Zeidan defended his decision to continue paying military brigades not integrated into Libya’s armed forces, despite calls from many citizens to halt payments until they disband or join government security forces.

This post was written by Leslie Adkins, CIP Transparency and Accountability Asia Intern.

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