NSN Middle East Update

December 15, 2011

As Iraq and the United States mark the departure of American forces, this weekend marks one year since Mohamed Bouazizi, a Tunisian street vendor, set himself on fire, launching protests that took down dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and ignited the region-wide political movement known as the Arab Spring. After a year of tragedy, triumph, peaceful change and bloodshed, it seems the region’s biggest changes may yet be to come. Egypt has begun its first post-Mubarak election and faces challenges in civil-military and sectarian relations and economic and political reform – even as Israel returned its ambassador, marking an improvement in relations.  Conflict in Syria, which has already claimed 5,000 civilian lives, continues. President Saleh is stepping down in Yemen, yet the situation on the ground remains tense.  Libya’s new government is bringing oil production back online while dealing with the difficulty of transitioning and dismantling militias. One year later, the Middle East’s transition is, perhaps, at the end of the beginning.

 

Egypt

Egyptians went to the polls for the first time since the ouster of Hosni Mubarak to elect a new parliament in a multi-round election. The party of the moderate Islamist Muslim Brotherhood is leading with 40 percent of the vote, giving a boost to the political Islam movement and increasing confidence in the results of the most recent round of voting from rural districts. The interim military government reiterated that the new parliament would have full authority over the drafting of a new constitution, days after announcing it would oversee parliament’s activities. In a sign of expanded acceptance of the new Egyptian rule, Israel is sending a new ambassador to Cairo three months after protestors stormed the Israeli embassy.

 

News

Egypt’s Rural Voters Get Their Turn in Elections

New York Times, 12/14/11

Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood Claims Wins in Run-Off Votes

BBC, 12/7/11

Egypt’s Military Retracts Plan to Extend Influence Over Constitution

New York Times, 12/9/11

New Israeli Ambassador to Egypt Slated to Arrive

Associate Press, 12/11/11

 

Commentary and Analysis

The Inevitable Rise of Egypt’s Islamists

Thanassis Cambanis, The Atlantic, 12/8/11

Egyptian Elections: Some Perspective, Please

Steven Cook, Council on Foreign Relations , 12/5/11

Syria

Clashes between government forces and protestors continue to escalate, as army defectors join the ranks of the opposition movement. Assad’s government remained defiant amid calls from the Gulf Cooperation Council to allow foreign observers into Syria, as the United Nations estimated that over 5,000 people have been killed since the violence began months ago. Amid the violence, the government went ahead with local elections in an attempt to display stability.  U.S Ambassador Robert Ford, meanwhile, returned to Syria to meet with the growing opposition.

 

News

Syrian Army Defectors Ambush Soldiers in Hama

New York Times, 12/14/11

As Syrians Urge Local Voting, U.N. Puts Toll From Clashes Past 5,000

New York Times, 12/13/11

Defectors Fight Syrian Troops As Opposition Begins General Strike

Voice of America, 12/11/11

Commentary and Analysis

Straight Talk with Iraq About Syria

Brian Katulis, Center for American Progress, 12/9/11

Syria’s Brave but Divided Opposition Will Have to Take Down Assad on Their Own

Mehdi Hasan, The Guardian, 12/11/11

On the Front Line with Syria’s Free Army

Justin Vela, Foreign Policy, 12/8/11

 

Libya

Near Tripoli’s airport, army forces clashed with rebel fighters, leaving one dead and highlighting the struggle Libya’s new government has had dismantling the many militias that overthrew Qaddafi. Libya’s central bank and a subsidiary are expected to have UN sanctions against them lifted. U.S. officials have reported that they have secured more than 5,000 surface-to-air missiles.  Libya’s oil production is quickly ramping back up. And Mexican officials have broken up a plot to smuggle one of Qaddafi’s sons from Niger to a resort town on Mexico’s Pacific Coast.

 

News

Libya’s Rebels Without a Cause

BBC, 12/15/11

Libya Central Bank Expected to Have Sanctions Lifted

Reuters, 12/14/11

Plot to Smuggle Qaddafi Son Into Mexico Is Disrupted, Government Official Says

New York Times, 12/7/11

Commentary and Analysis

Libya’s Sarir, Messla Oil Fields Producing at 73% of Capacity

Christopher Stevenson, Bloomberg, 12/12/11

The Hunt for Libyan Missiles: 5,000-Plus Secured So Far, Official Says

Lee Ferran, ABC News, 12/12/11

 

Yemen

Embattled President Ali Abdullah Saleh left power after 33 years, and a transitional unity government has been formed to guide the country until new elections are held in February. Both supporters and opponents of Saleh, who have been clashing for months, withdrew from the city of Taiz, Yemen’s commercial capital, in a sign that the negotiated power transfer may be taking hold among the populace, though widespread concerns remain.

 

News

Yemen ‘To Release Detained Protestors’

BBC, 12/13/11

Yemen Swears In National Unity Government

Associated Press, 12/10/11

Rival Yemeni Forces Quit Streets of Taiz, Official Says

Reuters, 12/9/11

Commentary and Analysis

A House Divided

Tom Finn and Atiaf al Wazir, Foreign Policy, 11/28/11

Dictator Pledges to Step Down, but Yemen’s Crisis Is Not Over

J. Dana Stuster, The Atlantic, 11/24/11

 

Around the Region

 

News

Kuwaiti Leader Dissolves Parliament

New York Times, 12/6/11

OPEC Sets Higher Production Ceiling

NPR, 12/15/11

 

Commentary and Analysis

 Don’t Fear Political Islam – Yet

Fareed Zakaria, CNN, 12/6/11

Will the GCC stay on top?

Marc Lynch, Foreign Policy, 12/15/11

Kuwait’s Short 19th Century

Nathan Brown, Foreign Policy, 12/15/11

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