Syria: Drawing the poison

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It will take some time for the various parties concerned to assess the idea which appeared suddenly on the public agenda yesterday 9 September, that the Syrian crisis could be resolved if the Syrian government hands over its chemical weapons for destruction. Is it realistic? Does it solve the problem? First mentioned "rhetorically" by John Kerry in …

Libya: uncertainty

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The Libyan government has been largely unable to deal with a number of serious problems facing it: independent militias, "federalism" amounting to separatism in Cyrenaica, interruption of oil supplies by strikers, power and water cuts, political/tribal assassinations. In a three-minute clip published by the BBC the Libyan writer Ghazi Gheblawi reflects on Libya after the Arab …

Egypt: new alignment?

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There are conflicting reports as to whether Egypt's government has decided to dissolve the Muslim Brotherhood, following accusations that it abused its status as an NGO by storing weapons and explosives. At least one man was killed in week-end clashes between demonstrators and security forces in a number of cities. Egypt has launched its biggest military …

Iraq: can the government cope?

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There have been two particularly bloody incidents in the last week. On 1 September Camp Ashraf, the former headquarters of the Iranian opposition People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) was attacked, reportedly by the Iraqi army which the government has denied; according to UN figures 47 were killed. On 14 September at least 16 people, including …

Egypt: pushed off the headlines

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A bomb attack attempt on the minister of the interior on 5 September in Nasr City, Cairo, injured at least four people. The minister was unhurt. A Chinese-owned supertanker in the Suez Canal in eastern Sinai was fired on reportedly with machine guns and an RPG on 31 August. According to a note by the …

Syria: military action and its consequences

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Syria seems likely to top the agenda at the G 20 meeting in St Petersburg today 5 September. In Washington the administration are preparing for debates in Congress on 9 September. In a statement on 3 September President Obama said he had decided to take action, something limited and proportional which would …

Israel and Saudi Arabia: unlikely partners

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The stagnant and relatively predictable Middle East scene of recent years has been rudely disturbed, following the Arab Spring, by the election of an Iranian president who appears to seek a more conciliatory policy towards both the Arab world and the wider world, the unpredictability of post-Mubarak Egypt, the end of Sunni domination in Iraq …

Poison gas: a world policeman – or not?

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Following rapid developments in London, Washington and Paris on the issue of military action in Syria, President Obama has pressed the pause button by referring the matter to Congress without recalling it for an emergency session; the debates are expected to take place on 9 September, so after the G 20 summit in …

Oman

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A visit by Sultan Qaboos bin Said of Omar to Iran has provoked speculation that it was an effort to mediate between Tehran and Washington. Sultan Qaboos is not a frequent traveller. But has important common interests and good relations with Iran, and the visit concluded with the announcement of an agreement by to buy Iranian gas worth …

Qatar: storm in a World Cup

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Qatar under the new Amir Tamim bin Hamad has not withdrawn from the forward policies of his father but has so far not tried new ones. One very high profile project, the football World Cup in 2022, is in jeopardy (but Qatari shaikhs have joined the Ruler of Dubai as big spenders on the British …