Weekly Roundup: Turkey releases the recording of Khashoggi’s murder, deadly flooding in Jordan, the Libyan National Elections are cancelled


Algeria

Algerian prosecutors freed six generals detained over charges of corruption and wrongdoing. Dozens of other officials remain incarcerated. This summer, numerous military officials were fired without explanation by Algerian president Abdelaziz Bouteflika. It is unclear what the implications of releasing these officials will have on the current state of politics in Algeria. Additionally, 15 days after the Ministry of Interior ordered a ban on the niqab for all civil servants, educational institutions received orders from the Education Minister, Nouria Benghabrit-Remaoun, to forbid female employees and educators from wearing the niqab in the workplace.

 

Egypt

On November 4th, during the World Youth Forum in Sharm El Sheikh, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi was confronted with a question by one of the participants about the oppressive NGO Law. He used the question as an opportunity to announce that he will consider revising the controversial law. The law restricts the activities of NGOs and the channels of funding pursued by NGOs. The law has been criticized by human rights organizations as a means to target the opposition and undermine civil society in Egypt. Prime Minister Moustafa Madbouly announced that he would be putting together a committee to review and amend the law.

 

Tunisia

Tunisian president Beji Caid Essebsi criticized prime minister Youssef Chahed’s decision to reshuffle the government, and expressed that he was “displeased” by the news. Essebsi further stated that he felt “things are not going in a good direction”, but denied any rift between himself and Chahed. On Monday November 5th, Chahed appointed 13 new ministers.

 

The Tunisian government faces allegations from Human Rights Watch that it has been monitoring the cellphones of men suspected to be homosexual. Human Rights Watch further alleges that Tunisian prosecutors are using the information to prosecute men under the Tunisian sodomy laws. Those found guilty face up to three years in prison.

 

Morocco

King Mohammed VI of Morocco announced that Morocco is “ready for a direct and frank dialogue with our sister nation, Algeria” on Tuesday, November 7th. Algeria shut its land border with Morocco in 1994, after Morocco imposed visa regulations on Algerian travelers. The two countries have long been at odds over the Western Sahara, which Morocco claims as its own territory. Additionally, Algeria backs the Polisario Front, a Sahrawi secessionist movement that calls for self-determination which operates in the Western Sahara. The announcement comes as Rabat continues to push forward development in the Western Sahara.

 

Lebanon

On Saturday, November 10th, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah conducted a televised speech. The leader of Hezbollah demanded that Hezbollah’s Sunni allies be given a portfolio in the Lebanese government. He refused to join any government that does not have six Sunni lawmakers from outside the Future Movement. Prime Minister Hariri has formerly declined cabinet seats to the “March 8” Sunni camp, resulting in the ongoing disagreement. This newest announcement may set Lebanon up for a political crisis, as it has dashed hopes in the formation of a new government in the near future. Additionally, Nasrallah warned Israel that Hezbollah would respond to any attack on Lebanon, and also encouraged Lebanon to maintain control of its rocket arsenal, contrary to current diplomatic pressures.

 

Syria

On November 6th, Russia’s envoy for Syria, Alexander Lavrentiev, met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus. The discussion focused on talks concerning Syria post-war restoration, the Russian-Turkish memorandum on Idlib which was signed on September 17th,  the status of refugees, and Lavrentiev briefed Assad on the results from the October 27th meeting with Turkey, France, and Germany.

 

Iran

The Trump administration imposed its renewed sanctions regime on Iran on November 5th. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on November 9th said Iran must listen to the US, “if it wants to eat”. The following day, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif parried that Iran would “not just survive, but advance without sacrificing its sovereignty”. The New York Times and BBC have documented that US restrictions on Iran are affecting imports for medicine, agricultural products and food, all of which are supposed to be exempt on humanitarian grounds. Pompeo said the US would work to make sure that did not happen, while adding, “They [the Iranian government] have to make a decision that they want to use their wealth to import medicine, and not use their wealth to fund… death and destruction.”

 

Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qassemi on November 5th announced that Iran was prepared to work with the governments of Norway, Sweden and Denmark in investigating a recent alleged assassination plot. Swedish police previously arrested a Norwegian citizen of Iranian origin on his way to Denmark. Denmark alleges the individual intended to assassinate an exiled leader of the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahvaz (ASMLA), a separatist group that has a history of carrying out attacks in Iran. Denmark recalled its ambassador from Iran over the incident, and called for fresh EU sanctions. ASMLA initially took credit for the September 23 terror attack in Ahvaz in Iran, but retracted its statement. Iran says several European states are “harboring terrorists”.

 

On November 10th Iranian women were officially allowed to attend a high-stakes soccer match for the first time since 1981. The occasion was Iran’s hosting of the final of the Asian Champions League, where Japan’s Kashima Antlers clinched the title ahead of Iran’s Persepolis. The unofficial ban on women in stadiums had previously been carried out under the pretext of protecting women from the brutish behavior of male fans.

 

Iraq

As the protests and unrest in Basra continue, the people of Basra are calling for the establishment of a federal region. The citizens of Basra have often felt marginalized by the government regardless of the economic gains the province provides for the Iraqi state. Many protestors believe that establishing a separate administrative region will give Basra the autonomy it needs to resolve its current economic stability.

 

Qatar

On November 11th, the Israeli government allowed Qatar’s cash transfer of $15 million by suitcases to Gaza  after months of negotiations to pay the salaries of the civil servants in Gaza and ease the crisis. Qatar has also been supplying the strip with fuel in response to its electricity crisis despite the Palestinian Authority’s objection. Qatar’s envoy to Gaza, Mohammed Al-Emadi, said “The policy of the state of Qatar in support of the Palestinian cause during the past years leaves no room for doubt or explanation.”


Saudi Arabia

The Saudi-led coalition announced on November 10th that the U.S. is stopping aerial refueling of warplanes bombing Yemen, dialing back support for the coalition as criticism of the kingdom grew in Washington over the conflict’s civilian impact, exacerbated by the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. That same day, Norway took steps to reduce its military relationship with the kingdom by announcing the country’s plan to suspend issuing new licenses to export defense-related equipment to Saudi Arabia. Meanwhile, the Kingdom is boosting ties with the Philippines. Saudi Arabia is exploring possible cooperation in key areas with Manilla, including defense, trade and investment, following a commitment made on Friday, November 9th by the two countries to strengthen bilateral relations.

 

President Erdogan stated on November 10th that Turkey gave the recordings of the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi to Saudi Arabia, Britain, the US, Germany and France, in the first official public acknowledgement that Khashoggi’s final moments were recorded. On November 11th, the US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, told the Crown Prince that the US would hold accountable all involved in the killing of Khashoggi, in a telephone call that also discussed the conflict in Yemen.The UK foreign secretary is also flying to Saudi Arabia on Monday November 12th to request that the crown prince cooperates more fully with the Turkish investigation into the murder.


Saudi Arabia and Iraq agreed to work together to stabilize the oil markets following a meeting in Baghdad with the country’s respective oil ministers on November 10th. On November 11th Saudi Arabia announced it would be cutting oil production by as much as half a million barrels a day starting next month.

 

Kuwait

Heavy rains have left one dead and mass flooding across Kuwait. A state of emergency was put into place in Kuwait this Saturday November 10th, following higher than average rainfall in the state. The Kuwaiti government has been forced to mobilize the national guard to help deal with the flooding and to clear critical roadways for passage.

 

Libya

Libyan envoy to the United Nations Ghassan Salame announced on November 8th that plans to hold a national election next month have officially been cancelled. Representatives of the country’s two rival governments, along with Western allies, adopted a peace plan in May that aimed to hold elections on December 10th. While abandoning this earlier target, Salame also expressed hopes that elections would now be held sometime in the Spring of 2019. Details of the new peace plan will likely be discussed this week in Palermo, as the Italian government is set to host a two-day conference on Libya starting November 12th. Representatives of the internationally recognized government based in Tripoli are expected to attend, while Italy is still awaiting confirmation from Khalifa Haftar, a leading figure in the rival Eastern government.

 

Jordan

This week, Jordan has continued to be inundated with flash floods across the country, claiming 12 more lives and causing the evacuation of hundreds. Jordan dams have reached more than 26% of their storage capacity. Crown Prince Al Hussein bin Abdullah has been coordinating with the Civil Defense and monitoring search and rescue efforts. Experts are expressing concern regarding Jordan’s lack of preparation for a changing climate, citing issues like the government’s inadequate policies surrounding land use planning and the rising refugee population.

 

Palestine/Israel

In response to an Israeli incursion into the Gaza Strip which led to the deaths of a Hamas commander, six other Palestinian militants and an Israeli colonel, over eighty rockets were fired from the blockaded Palestinian territory into Israel. While rockets continue to be fired on Israel, so far only one Israeli has been critically wounded after a rocket struck a bus in the southern Negev region of Israel.

Israel’s Iron Dome missile defence system has thwarted several rockets but they have still hit the Israeli cities of Sderot, Ashkelon, Be’er Sheva and Netivot (all near the Gaza Strip); and in one case even as far as the Dead Sea area. Hamas has warned Israel of further escalation if it continues to retaliate.

 

Bahrain

Bahrain reportedly invited the Israeli minister of economy and industry, Eli Cohen, to attend the “Startup Nations Ministerial Conference” and discuss future economic cooperation between the two countries. The invitation comes after the Netanyahu, Kara, and Regev visits to other Arab Gulf countries. Analysts view this as another sign of Bahrain warming up to Israel in the past 12 months.

 

Turkey

President Erdoğan said that Turkey has given recordings that show Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder in Istanbul’s Saudi consulate to a number of countries, including the US, Saudi Arabia, Germany, and France. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been the first leader to acknowledge that Canada received the tapes of Khashoggi’s murder.

 

On November 10, an explosion at a military base in Turkey’s southeast killed and wounded a number of soldiers. Officials reported the explosion was an accident and banned media from covering the incident. On November 12th, a Kurdish news organization reported that the Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK) claimed responsibility for the attack.

On November 12th, a boat carrying 15 migrants attempting to reach Greece sunk off of the Turkish coast, killing at least five, according to the Turkish coast guard. The same day, Minister of Interior Süleyman Soylu said that Turkey plans to bolster its eastern and southern borders with walls, cameras, and sensors to hinder drug trafficking, irregular migration, and terrorism.

 

Yemen

Fierce fighting continues at port city of Hodeidah between the Saudi-backed coalition and the Houthis. Civilians have been killed by airstrikes as well as by Houthi shelling and landmines. Consultations with Yemen’s warring parties to finalize logistical arrangements for a new round of peace talks are underway according to the U.N. special envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths’s official twitter account on Nov 9th with the aim of scheduling the meeting at the end of the year. Griffiths’ latest effort to revive peace talks in September fell through after the Houthis failed to attend. Fighting appears to have subsided as of the morning of Nov 12th.

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