Weekly Roundup 6/19

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Picture: King Abdullah of Jordan
– This week King Abdullah gave a speech outlining political reforms that could take place. The full text can be found online. The speech came a week before the King is set to visit Washington.

– One concession that the King made was to announce plans to allow for an elected cabinet. However, he failed to mention when this might happen.

-A group of angry demonstrators stormed the French news agency AFP’s headquarters in Amman. They were angry over what they considered inaccurate reporting about the King’s visit to the town of Tafileh earlier in the week.

– It turns out that the blog, “A Gay Girl in Damascus” was actually a hoax run by American man.

– The crackdown continued this week, especially in the north. Mass arrests of citizens continued at rate of at least 300 people per day, and thousands have fled to Turkey.

– The regime is showing signs of stress. President Assad’s cousin and prominent Syrian businessman Rami Makhlouf announced that he would be stepping away from his business activities in order to pursue charitable activities. Among other things, he will donate all profits from his 40% stake in SyriaTel to charity. The regime also sacked the head of state television Reem Hadad. Some activists are hoping that trusted army generals will eventually replace the President.

– The international community began to step up its rhetoric against Syria this week:

– The Arab league issued its first statement condemning the crackdown in Syria. However, members remain divided on whether to suspend Syria’s participation in the meetings.

– The UN released a report this week citing brutalities of the Syrian crackdown. The international community is still barred access to the country. In the security council, Russia and China continue to oppose an official condemnation.

– The EU announced plans to issue new sanctions next week that target the Syrian economy.

– Earlier in the week the United States called the violence in Syria “outrageous.” On Saturday Secretary of State Clinton wrote an op-ed in Asharq al-Awsat, outlining US policy on Syria. She said that the Assad regime is “certainly not indispensable.”

– This past Friday protestors once again took to streets across Syria. Twenty-four unarmed civilians were reported dead.

– On Monday Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati formed the long-awaited new cabinet, which consists of 40 ministers. The majority of the members (18) come from the Hezbollah backed March 8th coalition.

– The March 14th Coalition and the west are worried about increased influence from Syria, Iran and Hezbollah. The president rebuffed those claims by saying that the new government is “100 percent Lebanese.” The March 14th in particular has been intensifying its opposition.

-Two Dutch diplomats were kidnapped and brought across the Syrian border. They were quickly release when Syrian officials realized what happened.

– Fateh and Hamas have agreed on a new unity government. PA President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal will announce the details this coming week in Cairo.

– In an effort to restart peace talks, US officials met with Israeli, Palestinian, Jordian and Egyptian officials in Amman this week. The new US Envoy to the Middle East Dennis Ross, and White House official David Hale will lead the talks.

– This week the Muslim Brotherhood’s “Freedom and Justice Party” announced that it was joining a coalition of secular parties, the most prominent of which is the Wafd Party.

– Secularists in Egypt want the constitution to be rewritten before elections take place as opposed the other way around, as is currently planned.

– Members of Mubarak’s old National Democratic Party have been banned from participating in political activities for at least 5 years. Critics say that this move is undemocratic.

– Leading democracy activist, Mohamed ElBaradei may not run for the presidency because he is unsure if he will be able to enact real reform. However, the first ever female presidential candidate has announce her plans to run for office.

– The curfew, which began January 28th and has been reduced from a peak of 17 hours a day to 3, is set to be lifted.

Protests continued in Pearl Square this week, the first mass protests since the lifting of the emergency law on June 1st. Protesters called for the “reform” of the regime, rather than the fall of it.

– The King has named the speaker of the lower chamber to chair national dialogue talks, set to begin in July while two Shiite members of parliament were put on trial for calling for regime change. Trials continued throughout the country, doctors arrested in March alleged that their confessions were extracted through torture, a female student was arrested for reciting a poem critical of the regime at a rally and seven activists have been sentenced to 1-7 years in prison.

– The Bahraini regime also announced they were suing The Independent newspaper, specifically citing recent articles by Robert Fisk. And the U.S. has added Bahrain to their list of human rights abusers.

– On the second anniversary of Ahmadinejad’s reelection, police swinging clubs broke up hundreds of protesters in the capital and an activist on a hunger strike died in protest of abuses. His cellmates say the activist, Hoda Saber, was beaten prior to his death and Reporters Without Borders say Iranian prison authorities are responsible for his death for lack of proper medical treatment.

– Some heated moments in parliament this week over an MP with alleged connections with Iran, while protesters put pressure on the PM.

Saudi Arabia:
Women in SA protested the driving ban this week, while women in Washington DC showed solidarity by driving around the Saudi embassy.

Mixed reports on both the progress of talks between the VP and opposition as well as the state of Saleh’s health. Protests continue.

Airstrikes and fighting with Islamic militant groups continued, killing scores. Gunmen with connections to Al Qaeda have attacked cities in the south and vow continued anti-government violence.

– Fighting taking a toll on life in the capital amid mixed reports on whether Saleh will return from Saudi Arabia.

– Law on the formation of political parties considered this week, as well as legislative action on the budget. Marches will continue while the military is increasing border security, preventing Libya spill over.

– France urges Algeria to “turn the page” on past relations between the country.

Military and diplomatic pressure on Qaddafi increases, while he remains defiant in hiding.

Buildup amongst Islamic groups early this week to the King’s announcement of constitutional reforms. Reforms, announced on Friday, cut some of the King’s powers but some opposition groups quickly said the concessions were not enough, and are expected to take to the streets again. Meanwhile increased food subsides raised the deficit.

– More aid has been pledged while the debate over increasing political participation continues. The trial of former president Ben Ali to start with the former head of regime in absentia.

This entry was posted in Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Other, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey, Yemen. Bookmark the permalink.

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