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 …

Egypt: volume turned down

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Speaking at a military/police seminar on 1 October the army chief General Abd al-Fattah al-Sisi said that the transitional phase to elections should be speeded up to restore stability; continuing reports that he will stand for president are continually denied. The EU foreign policy high representative Catherine Ashton, the only major political figure who has visited Mursi …

Syria: wrangling, fighting – and chemical weapons

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As the international context of the Syrian civil war changes dramatically, with work on the ground on eliminating chemical weapons due to start today 1 October and the prospect of a Geneva II conference becoming firmer, the bloodshed continues. So does the political wrangling, perhaps at heightened level, with the Saudi Foreign Minister in …

Israel and America

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The Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is due to meet President Obama in Washington today 30 September, three days after Obama's telephone conversation with President Hassan Rouhani of Iran. Netanyahu has increasingly become personally identified with maintaining pressure on Iran to abandon its nuclear programme, but has been unable to carry all his own cabinet with him, let …