Sinai: trafficking, torture, kidnapping

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In recent postings about Egypt we have referred to lawlessness in Northern Sinai, Egyptian territory adjoining Israel and Gaza. This is the route through which refugees, mainly from Eritrea and Sudan, try to make their way to Israel hoping to go on from there to Europe. A new report The Human Trafficking Cycle: Sinai and Beyond makes shocking reading; the authors are a human rights activist based in Sweden and two academics at Tilburg University in the Netherlands. According to the report, since 2009 …

Fighters from Syria: another Afghanistan?

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Usama bin Ladin was the most prominent example of a phenomenon now widely understood, Islamist extremists paid and trained by America and the West to fight the Soviet army in Afghanistan whose extremism and military skills were then turned against the West. The US-led invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq produced another wave of extremists with more …

Peace talks continue: Mandela evoked

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John Kerry has again engaged in intensive meetings with Israel and Palestine to advance the talks which are due to conclude in March. We thank Caroline Cracraft for a New York Times report of 5 December that the US is taking a more active role in the talks, outlining its own proposals particularly on security. A …

Yemen: a violence spectacular

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A series of attacks on the Yemeni defence ministry on 5 December killed at least 52 people. Frank Gardner of the BBC comments ‘This is what's called "a complex attack", using a carefully timed combination of a suicide car bomb followed up by an armed assault. It was aimed at the heart of Yemen's defence and security …

Libya: sparks of hope

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Since the outbreak of fighting in Tripoli on 15 November in which nearly 50 people civilian protesters were killed by militias using heavy weapons, the news from Libya has been mixed. It would be exaggerating to say that Libya has turned the corner. But there are some signs that the government with the support of the population …

Saudi positions: policy and paranoia

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The impact on Saudi Arabia of developments over Syria and Iran, and Saudi reactions to them, continue to generate heated debate. The Hizbullah leader Hasan Nasrallah has told Lebanese TV that the suicide bombing of the Iranian embassy in Beirut last month which killed 25 people, and was claimed by a Lebanese Sunni group, was linked …

Lebanon: the impact of war

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All Syria's neighbours are affected by the civil war. But Lebanon's relationship with Syria is uniquely close, comparable with Ireland's relationship with Britain but more complex. Mount Lebanon, the Lebanese heartland, has for centuries been the refuge of numerous minorities, ethnic and above all confessional: Muslims and Christians each subdivided as well as Druses and …

The Gulf states and the Iran deal

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In our posting of 27 November we mentioned that Saudi Arabia’s official response to the Iran interim deal was cautiously positive. Reactions elsewhere in the Gulf have reflected the varying interests of the Gulf states but have generally been more positive. According to the Kuwait Times the Gulf Cooperation Council foreign ministers meeting in …

Egypt

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draft constitution, political soap opera In our posting of 28 November we referred to US concern over a new "protest law" which hampers the move towards democracy; on 30 November the US defence secretary Chuck Hagel telephoned the ian defence Minister and military leader Abd al-Fattah al-Sisi and said that the ian government's approach to free speech would be seen …

Iraq: continuing violence

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In the latest of many similar outrages 18 men were abducted and murdered on 29 November by men wearing military uniforms in Meshahda, a predominantly Sunni area near Baghdad; a police official told Reuters "It is definitely al-Qa’ida because this is the area where they are operating." The victims may have been seen as supporters of the Shia-led …