Morocco: Islamists lose ground

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King Muhammad VI announced on 10 October the formation of a new government (new ministers listed at link)  in which according to Reuters the Islamists have lost ground. The centre-right National Rally of Independents (RNI), which is close to the palace, will replace ministers from the conservative Istiqlal party. "It is obvious that the palace …

Saudi women not driving yet

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The question of women driving in Saudi Arabia, regarded by some as peripheral but by others as symbolising the wider question of women's role and rights (as well as having practical importance), has been prominent recently in both the traditional and the social media. A statement last month by Shaikh Salih bin Saad al-Luhaydan, a judicial …

The Israel/Palestine peace talks

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Peace talks which are planned to reach a solution within nine months have been taking place in secret since July. Very little information about them has been made public. Speaking at a meeting of donors on 25 September John Kerry said that the two sides had met seven times since 29 July, although Netanyahu and President …

Libya: the long arm of the… law?

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On 28 September Nazih Abd al-Hamid al-Ruqai, also known as Abu Anas al-Libi, was reportedly arrested in Tripoli by US special forces and taken on board a US warship where he is now being interrogated. He had been indicted in a New York court for involvement in the 1998 terrorist attack on the US …

Jordan under pressure

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The kingdom of Jordan has always lived under the shadow of Syria, larger and widely perceived in the Arab world as more legitimate. The civil war, which began in Deraa just over the border, has put Jordan under great pressure. The number of refugees is now estimated at 580,000, more than ten percent of the Jordanian population. A …

Egypt: a turn for the worse

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Commemoration of the fortieth anniversary of the 1973 war with Israel, which rebuilt Egyptian self-respect after the military catastrophes of 1956 and 1967, turned into an occasion for continued and more violent confrontation with supporters of ex-President Mursi. Thousands of demonstrators clashed in Cairo and elsewhere and at least 50 people were killed, most of …

Tunisia: political compromise in sight

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An end may be in sight to the 10-week political crisis in Tunisia which followed two political assassinations earlier in the year. The governing Ennahda (al-Nahda) party, linked to the Muslim Brotherhood, and the opposition have agreed to the appointment of a caretaker government until fresh elections can be held. The agreement was mediated by the …

US/Iran: have a nice day

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The BBC reported that after the telephone conversation between Presidents Obama and Rouhani on 27 September the social media fizzed with excitement; ‘One of the most extraordinary tweets from the @HassanRouhani twitter account was: "In a phone conversation b/w #Iranian & #US Presidents just now: @hassanRouhani: "Have a Nice Day!" @BarackObama: "Thank you. Khodahafez [Goodbye]." ’ …

Lebanon: refugee burden grows

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An International Support Group for Lebanon was inaugurated in New York on 25 September, chaired by the UN Secretary-General and including Lebanon, US, UK, France, Russia, China, the EU, the Arab League, the World Bank and various UN agencies. A summary of the first meeting is at link. According to the World Bank "Lebanon …

Iraq: still bleeding

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According to the UN 979 Iraqis were killed in acts of terrorism and violence in September (compared with 804 in August). Nearly half were in the Baghdad governorate. On 29 September a series of car bomb explosions killed six policeman in Erbil, the capital of the previously relatively peaceful Kurdish region in the north. On 2 October …