November 18th – November 24th, 2013

Each week, the Middle East News Review looks at the top five stories impacting the Middle East. For the week ending November 24, 2013, the top five stories include the election of a new chair of Israel’s Labor party; the bombing of the Iranian embassy in Beirut; OPCW’s plan for destroying Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile; diplomatic tensions between Egypt and Turkey; and the agreement reached between Iran and Western powers over the Iranian nuclear program.


Herzog defeats Yacimovich in Landslide to Head Israel’s Labor Party

Long-time Labor minister and son of a former Israeli president, Issac Herzog won a decisive victory over outgoing Labor party chairwoman Shelley Yacimovich. Herzog’s win is seen as an opportunity for the Labor party to rebuild itself and return to a position of power within Israeli politics. More broadly, Herzog’s win is viewed in some quarters as the beginning of a revitalization of left-wing political parties that may ultimately offer a real challenge to the dominance of Israeli politics by right-wing parties such as Likud, Yisrael Beiteinu and Habayit Hayehudi.
Israel’s Labor Party Elects Isaac Herzog as its New Chairman (Haaretz)
Son of Israeli Ex-President Takes Helm of Labor Party, Urges Peace (New York Times)
New Labor Leader Herzog Dreams of Center-Left Bloc (Ynet News)



Bombing at Iranian Embassy in Beirut Kills 23, Wounds 150 

A pair of explosions outside the Iranian embassy in Beirut killed 23 people and wounded scores more. The Abdullah Azzam Brigades, an al-Qaeda aligned militia, claimed responsibility for the bombings and demanded the release of prisoners in Lebanese prisons. In addition, the Azzam Brigades demanded the withdraw of Hezbollah forces from Syria. The bombing was widely seen as a slip-over effect from the conflict in Syria and a minor blow to Assad and supporters of his regime.
Iranian Embassy Targeted in Beirut Bombings; Diplomat among Dead (LA Times)
Beirut Bombs Strike at Iran as Assad’s Ally (New York Times)

Devastating blasts hit Iran embassy in Beirut (Al Jazeera)



OPCW Approves Plan to Destroy Syrian Chemical Weapons

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) announced that a plan for destroying Syria’s chemical weapons has been approved and is scheduled to be concluded by the middle of 2014. While Norway has indicated that they will provide the ship and military escort to transport the weapons to the destruction site, no country has yet agreed to undertake the destruction. Recently, Albania rejected the possibility of stockpiling and destroying the weapons; other countries are still considering the possibility and OPCW may ultimately decide to destroy the weapons at sea.
OPCW Approves Road Map for Syria Chemical Weapons Destruction (CNN)
OPCW Adopts New Syria Chem Weapons Plan after Albania Refuses to Host Stockpile Dismantling (RT)

Syria Weapons ‘Could be Destroyed at Sea’ (Al Jazeera)



Egypt Expels Turkish Ambassador; Turkey Declares Egyptian Ambassador “persona non grata”

In the latest flare up between Turkey and Egypt, the Egyptian government expelled the Turkish ambassador in response to Turkish President Erdogan’s call for former Egyptian President Mohammad Morsi to be released from prison. Criticizing Erdogan’s comments as an interference in internal Egyptian affairs, the downgrading of diplomatic relations is simply the latest episode in Turkish-Egyptian friction over regional power alignments.
Egypt, Turkey Expel Each Others Ambassadors, Testing Ties (NPR)
Egypt Expels Turkish Ambassador (BBC)
Egypt Expels Turkey’s Ambassador, Further Fraying Diplomatic Ties (New York Times)



Iran Reaches Agreement over Nuclear Program

In response to a grueling sanctions regime and prolonged international isolation over its nuclear program, Iran reached an agreement with the United States, France, Germany, Britain, China and Russia that will result in a curbed nuclear program in exchange for a relaxing of some economic sanctions. While broadly viewed within the international community as a definitive step towards avoiding armed conflict, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared the agreement a “historic mistake” and vowed that Israel was not bound by the agreement.
World Powers Clinch Breakthrough Iran Nuclear Deal (Chicago Tribune)
Israel’s Netanyahu calls Iran Deal ‘Historic Mistake’ (Washington Post)
Accord Reached With Iran to Halt Nuclear Program (New York Times)

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October 18th, 2015

Mapping the Dead in the Latest Israeli-Palestinian Violence

Basma Atassi at Al-Jazeera has put together a great storymap that explores the latest violence between Israelis and Palestinians. Complete with pictures, text and place location, this resource allows you to get a good sense of where, when and how the violence is occurring. Definitely worth a look.

October 16th, 2015

Netanyahu, Context & Responsibility

At the center of this current iteration of violence in Israel and Palestine stands the Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. Netanyahu has reacted to this violence as if he was surprised that Palestinians would resort to violence when for decades he has done everything within his power to thwart the establishment and growth of a responsible Palestinian civil society, expanded settlements with the explicit aim of crippling an emerging Palestinian state, and undermining the responsible leadership of Mahmoud Abbas at every possible opportunity.

October 8th, 2015

Abbas, Netanyahu and Responsible Leadership

Abbas is demonstrating his commitment to deescalating tensions and calming the violence that is a direct result of Netanyahu’s persistent efforts to whip Israeli society into a panicked frenzy about an existential threat lurking behind every corner.

June 30th, 2015

Our Dictator in Cairo – Abdel Fatah el-Sisi

So, once again, the foreign policy of the US has chosen perceived immediate stability over the somewhat more bumpy and unpredictable evolution of democracy in the Middle East. It’s not the first time we’ve done this… it’s sort of our thing at this point… we’re pro’s out it.

June 22nd, 2015

The Many Victims at Mother Emmanuel

The problem with Gosnell and others who make these arguments is that they believe intentionality serves as some magical “Get out of Jail Free” card that absolves perpetrators of the violence they commit. Further, and in many ways far more problematic, is the realization that Gosnell and others only want to use this logical canard to absolve themselves or other like them. No such compassion regarding intentionality and the multiplicity of victims derived from violence will ever be used with the families of the 9-11 hijackers. In the end, the fundamental mistake that Gosnell and others make over and over again is that they focus on issues of intentionality rather than on issues of responsibility.

March 4th, 2015

Mr. Netanyahu Goes to Congress

There are two things to never forget when considering Netanyahu’s views of regional threats. First, he is desperately seeking his “Churchill moment”. Second, he has a record of being blinded by his own biases and is never, ever a sober analyst of a situation

February 16th, 2015

Cursed Be The Peacemakers?

This video, produced by Israeli settlers in the West Bank, has been released as part of the current Israeli political contest where the extreme right wing of Israel is attempting to maintain the rightist complexion of the Israeli government. For me, the truly offensive aspect of this video is how it makes the case that working for peace between Israelis and Palestinians or defending Palestinian and Israeli human rights somehow makes you a threat to the country.

February 14th, 2015

The Danger of Molly White’s Islamophobia

Rep. White is the new poster child for the anti-Muslim bigotry, Islamic hatred and Islamophobia that is so deeply embedded in American society that it can hide in plain sight.

July 15th, 2014

In Focus: The Gaza Strip

As Israeli bombs are dropped throughout the Gaza Strip and Hamas missiles are launched into Israel, the media coverage has focused on discussing Gaza as a known yet ill-defined entity. We are made aware of roughly where it is (next to Israel), who lives there (Hamas) and what happens there (rockets are made and launched). But this reductionist view of Gaza doesn’t provide any insights into the common, everyday lived experience of the 1.8 million Palestinians who live in the 360 sq. km that makes up the Gaza Strip.

July 14th, 2014

Middle East News Review #28

The Middle East was plagued with news of violence this week. In Israel, Palestine, Iraq and Libya, episodes of violence resulted in death and destruction. Iran continued its negotiations with the US and EU this week in the hopes of reaching an agreement over the country’s nuclear program and removing the economic sanctions that have crippled its economy. In Iraq, violence between the militant group ISIS and the Baghdad government reached new heights as 29 people were found massacred in an apartment and Human Rights Watch condemned the government for mass executions carried out earlier this year. The direct physical violence in Iraq was mirrored this week with political turmoil as the government of Nouri al-Maliki erupted into conflict with the semi-autonomous Kurdish government.