MENA Week in Review – October 11

Below is a roundup of some of the top articles and news highlights from around the Middle East and North Africa over the last week:

Egypt:

  • The United States announced on Wednesday that it will withhold some security assistance to Egypt “pending credible progress toward an inclusive, democratically elected civilian government through free and fair elections.” According to a briefing by senior administration officials, the Obama administration is holding the delivery of major weapons systems, including F-16 fighter jets, M1A1 tank kits, Harpoon missiles, and Apache Helicopters, as well USD 260 million in cash assistance. Other forms of security assistance, such as counterterrorism and counter-proliferation aid, will continue. A number of publications have covered reactions to this announcement, including Egypt’s condemnation, Israel’s skepticism, and a mixed-reaction from Capitol Hill.
  • Egypt experienced its most violent weekend since security forces cleared pro-Mohammad Morsi sit-ins on August 14, with six people killed this past Friday and at least fifty one people killed on Sunday. Sunday, which marked a national holiday celebrating the military’s 1973 war with Israel, saw clashes between ex-president Morsi supporters and security forces. On Monday, at least nine soldiers and police officers were killed in attacks that targeted security forces in three different cities around the country. The White House condemned the violence against civilians and security forces, but emphasized, “The Egyptian government has a responsibility to protect all Egyptians and create an atmosphere in which all Egyptians can exercise their universal rights …”
  • A number of articles were published this week detailing the impact of the military’s counterterror campaign in Sinai on the area’s residents.

Libya:

  • On Saturday, U.S. Special Forces conducted raids in Libya and Somalia. The operation in Tripoli resulted in the capture of Al Qaeda leader Abu Anas al-Libi, who was indicted for his participation in 1998 attacks on U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. For more information about the raid, read our blog.
  • Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan was kidnapped and released on Thursday by a militia known as the Operations Room of Libya’s Revolutionaries, one of many groups helping the government carry out internal security duties in the country. There are conflicting reports as to whether the kidnapping was retaliation for the raid conducted by U.S. forces on Saturday. Many observers note that this situation reflects the dysfunction of the Libyan government and the continued strength of the militia groups in the country.
  • Also on Saturday, fifteen Libyan soldiers were killed while guarding a checkpoint near the city of Bani Walid, a stronghold of the former Qaddafi regime.
  • In an interview with the BBC conducted last week but released on Wednesday, PM Zeidan requested international assistance to combat both the rising militancy in the country and the problem of arms trafficking in and out of Libya.

Bahrain:

  • Courts in Bahrain sentenced nine Shiites to life in prison on Monday for allegedly making bombs that were used in attacks in 2011, while sentencing eighteen Shiites to five to seven years in prison on Thursday for attacking a police station. In the past two weeks 122 Shiites have been jailed in the country.

Iran:

  • The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday that Iran is preparing to make a series of concessions over its nuclear program ahead of P5+1 talks next week, including halting Uranium enrichment to level of 20% purity, enhancing international inspections of its facilities, and possibly closing its secretive Qom facility. Israel’s Intelligence Minister reportedly called the offer “laughable,” while Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is urging the international community not to remove its sanctions on the country.

Iraq:

  • In an interview with Al Monitor this week, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki spoke about Iraq’s growing internal violence, as well as regional issues such as the Syrian civil war and Iraq’s relations with its Turkish and Iranian neighbors. Al-Maliki argued that the most significant cause of the rising violence in Iraq is “the sectarian tension in the region that is directly related to the developments in the Syrian crisis and its repercussions on the Iraqi arena.”
  • Al Qaeda claimed responsibility on Monday for the previous week’s rare attack in the Kurdish city of Erbil. Al Qaeda stated that the attack was retaliation for statements by the regional president that offered support to PM al-Maliki and Kurdish rebels in Syria in their fights against Al Qaeda.

Syria:

  • International inspectors began overseeing the destruction of chemical weapons and related production equipment on Sunday, and a second team of inspectors was sent to the country on Tuesday to boost these efforts. The New York Times reported that the inspectors cannot actually destroy any material – this task is left to Syrian forces – but rather they are there to verify that the process is proceeding according to plan. Secretary of State John Kerry gave credit to the Assad regime for enabling these efforts to progress quickly.
  • The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which is overseeing the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday.

Tunisia:

  • Tunisian leaders signed an agreement on Saturday by which the Ennahda led government would step down in favor of a nonpartisan government within three weeks of the start of a national dialogue. It is hoped that this agreement will end months of political gridlock following the assassination of opposition politician Mohamed Brahmi in July.

Yemen:

  • Yemen’s National Dialogue suffered a setback this week after Southern separatists and Houthis walked-out of a final plenary session, claiming their voices have been marginalized.

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