Weekly Roundup 6/26

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Picture: Morocco’s Referendum – Who Will Vote?

– Morocco’s King Mohammed VI responded to demands for reform by proposing a new constitution that will be put to a vote on July 1. The more moderate opposition parties are campaigning for a “yes” vote, while others are pushing for a boycott of the referendum. Today tens of thousands took the streets on both sides of the issue.

– The Lebanese army will stay on alert in Tripoli (city in northern Lebanon), for the next three to six months incase it needs to manage spillover from the conflict in Syria.

– Lebanese authorities have released all Syrian refugees who had been detained for not having proper identity papers. Most refugees arrived from the north.

– Rhetoric between the recently formed March 8th government and the March 14th opposition has intensified over the past two weeks. On Thursday, an official stated that the March 14th coalition seeks to topple the government through democratic means such as street protests.

– Last Sunday members of the Syrian opposition announced the formation of a “National Council,” although no one really knows exactly who these people are or who they represent.

– Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad announced what, if implemented, would be two major concessions. In his speech on Monday, he called for a national dialogue and political reforms. However, protestors did not believe him and took to the streets chanting ‘Liar!’ The next day Assad announced a second round of general amnesty, although for many this measure is too little too late.

– Foreign Minister Walid Moallem made two odd statements this week. First, he reiterated the regime’s commitment to reform a day after the President’s speech. But this lost most of it legitimacy because it occurred on the same day that security forces raided the dorms of students who refused to join pro-government rallies at the University of Damascus (killing 3, wounding many others). Moallem’s second statement came in response to European plans to impose further sanctions on Syria. He said that sanctions would be tantamount to war, and that “we will forget that Europe is on the map.

– A small number of western journalists have been allowed back into Damascus, although they are under supervision by government minders. This is the first time since the start of protests in March that journalists have openly reported from inside Syria.

– On Thursday there were reports of Syrian troops massing near the Syria-Turkey border in the north. Some see this more as a signal to Turkey than an actual military operation.

– On Friday the EU officially announced further sanctions on Syria. This included sanctioning three members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard who are accused of facilitating Assad’s crackdown.

– Also on Friday, the largest number of demonstrators yet took to the streets in defiance of the regime. As many as 20 protestors were killed when the government continued it’s crackdown on protestors. 

– Egyptian Bedouins are demanding their rights as citizens. They say that currently they are treated as second-class citizens.

– Mohammed el-Orabi was appointed the new Egyptian Foreign Minister. El-Orabi, the former ambassador in Berlin, is replacing Nabil Elaraby was recently named the new chief of the Arab League.

– Last Sunday, the Egyptian Minister of Planning and International Cooperation (Fayza Abul Naga) declined a loan from the World Bank because the terms were ‘incompatible with national interest.’

– Deputy Prime Minister Yehia El-Gamal handed in his resignation, which was accepted by PM Essam Sharaf but turned down by SCAF chairman and de facto President Hussein Tentawi.

– The state security court sentenced a businessman and two Israelis to twenty-five years a piece in prison for spying for Israel. The Israeli citizens were sentenced in absentia.

– Activists have threatened a million-man march on July 8th to protest the army general’s corrupt roadmap to democracy. They are demanding that elections, which are currently scheduled for September, be postponed until after a constitution is put in place.

– Today Senators McCain and Kerry met with field Marshal Tentawi and we reassured that a transition to civilian rule could happen quickly. The two politicians were traveling as part of business delegation to Egypt.

– It has been a tough week for the media in Jordan. First, an assailant vandalized an Al Jazeera reporter’s car in Amman, and then the Minister of State for Media Affairs and Communications, Taher Odwan, resigned in protest of the lack of media freedoms. This was a blow to a government that is trying to weather the Arab Spring.

– In other news, the Jordanian government has granted citizenship to tens of thousands of Palestinians over the past three months.

-Despite recent setbacks in the unity deal between Fatah and Hamas, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas says that he is committed to moving forward with the process.

– Israeli PM Netanyahu reportedly agreed to 1967 borders as the basis for peace negotiations if Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state and resolve the refugee issues outside the Israeli borders.

– Abbas says that if the US can offer a viable solution to overcome the impasse in talks with Israel, that Palestine won’t seek statehood at the UN this September.

– A top Bahrain Cleric and U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon condemned the recent sentences given to 21 political activists, human rights activists, and opposition leaders. Eight were sentenced to life in prison, while 12 others go long jail terms.

– The government is planning to lift the ban on a leading opposition party (Waad), in the lead up to a national dialogue aimed at easing tensions in the small island nation.

– Early in the week tens of thousands took to the street calling for Saleh’s son to give up power. The US is also urging an ‘immediate transfer of power.’

– The Yemeni state television administrator fired the news editor and 30 announcers for taking a anti-regime stance and siding with the youth revolution.

– Amid conflicting reports about when he will return to Yemen, President Saleh met with top political advisor Abdul-Karim al-Eryani in Riyadh. He health is said to be improving. Saleh was seriously injured in an assassination attempt, along with other top regime figures, including Deputy Minister of Religious Endowments and Guidance Mohammed Yahya Al-Fusil, who died in Riyadh earlier this week.

– This week at least 100 Yemeni soldiers were killed while battling militants in the southern town on Zinjibar. In addition, 60 prisoners escaped from jail, many of suspected of being members of Al-Qaeda. That said, the opposition, led by General Moshin has vowed to be a dependable ally in the fight against terrorism.

– Yemen’s economy is on the brink of collapse. There is a severe fuel shortage, and other basic services have been interrupted or suspended. The economy has lost over USD 5 billion over the last three months.

-Next week the UN is sending a team of human rights investigators to Yemen. The three-member delegation will spend ten days assessing the situation in the country.

-The prime minister of Kuwait – the nephew of the country’s ruler- survived a no-confidence vote in parliament.

– The rift between President Ahmadinejad and the more conservative parliament continues to widen. They continue to clash over issues big and small.

– Iran freed human rights activist Emadeddin Baghi after he spent a year in jail for spreading “propaganda against the regime.”  The government also set a new date for the trial of the two American hikers still in custody. The trial is supposed to conclude by the end of August.

– The US has had a mixed week when it comes to Libya. Late last week NATO admitted to civilian deaths during a raid, an announcement that came in the lead up to a house vote on whether or not to continue funding operations. This caused skepticism among the public and NATO allies. Two days later the US imposed further sanctions on nine companies owned by the Libyan government. This Friday the house voted not to approve the campaign in Libya, but also voted against restricting funding for operations.

– It is being reported the Libyan rebels are holding secret talks with opposition members in Tripoli as well as indirect talks with members of the Gaddafi government.

– International officials and the opposition have created a detailed plan to rebuild Libya after Gaddafi leaves office. This comes as the defected foreign minister predicts that Gaddafi may leave within a few weeks.

– As of June 22 nineteen states recognized Libya’s National Transitional Council (NTC) as legitimately representing the Libyan people. Many others have implied legitimacy by sending diplomatic visitors or hosting rebel leaders. Even China has begun to warm up to the rebels. They even welcomed top foreign affairs official Mahmud Jibril to China for talks.

– Clashes between Qaddafi forces and rebels are moving to the Nafusa mountains southwest of Tripoli.

– This amusing article talks about how ousted Tunisian President Ben Ali was tricked into leaving the country.

– To add to his wounds, Ben Ali and his wife were sentenced to 35 years in jail and fine of about $50 million. This was on the first of 93 cases against them. In addition, Ben Ali’s nephew was sentenced to 15 years for writing nearly half a million dollars worth of bad checks.

– The World Bank approved a $500 million 30-year loan to help support Tunisia through the transition process.

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