Iran nuclear: after the interim agreement

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John Kerry told the US house foreign affairs committee on 10 December that "I would state to you unequivocally… the national security of the United States is stronger under this first-step agreement than it was before." He asked Congress to hold off imposing new sanctions at present; "This is a very delicate diplomatic …

The Gulf states, the GCC and America

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We have described in earlier postings the near-crisis in US/Saudi relations over disagreements on the Arab spring, Egypt, Syria and Iran, and the reaction of other Gulf states to Iran in particular. One Emirati commentator Mish’al al-Gergawi wrote in the Dubai-based Gulf news on 4 December of a sense of betrayal across the Arabian gulf; “A new generation is taking the helm in many Arab Gulf states. Questions abound over where it will direct their interests and capacities and address the region’s …

Saudi Arabia: twitter and dissent

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Human rights and political dissent in Saudi Arabia are constantly examined by NGOs and the media. Like all nations they are also routinely reviewed by the UN Human Rights Council; at the last review in October according to a Reuters report Britain, the US and Germany raised issues including the abolition of male guardianship …

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 …