November 25th – December 1st, 2013

Each week, the Middle East News Roundup looks at the top five stories impacting the Middle East.  For the week ending December 1, 2013, the top five stories include the approval of new housing units in Israel’s West Bank settlements; escalating violence in Iraq; the Syrian opposition’s refusal to join peace talks; US plans to destroy Syrian chemical weapons at sea; and reaction to the Iranian nuclear deal.

Israeli Ministry of Defense Approves 800 New Housing Units in West Bank Settlements

While the approval of new settlement housing units by the Israeli government is not newsworthy in and of itself and while the number of units approved is modest compared to other instances that have exceeded several thousand units, the approval of this settlement expansion is noteworthy due to its timing. At the exact moment that the Israeli government was attempting to make its case against the Iranian nuclear and gather international support for continued economic sanctions, the settlement expansion announcement was viewed by many commentators as a distraction that effectively neutered Israel’s criticism of the Iran deal and further isolated Israel both regionally and internationally.
Israel pushes forward with settlement plans (Washington Post)
A ‘Homeland’-style Iranian mole must be directing Israel’s settlement policies (Haaretz)
Israel approves new settlements in the West Bank only weeks after halting similar project (RT)



Escalating Violence in Iraq Leaves Dozens Dead in Execution-style Massacres

Violence in Iraq has been escalating over the past several weeks. A string of bombings in mid-November left scores dead and wounded and this week police discovered the bodies of 18 men who had been shot through the head. News accounts indicate that the men, all supporters of Iraq’s Shia-led government, had been taken from their homes by al-Qaeda militants dressed in military uniforms and summarily executed.Earlier in the week Iraq police found the bodies of 13 people in Baghdad who were killed in execution-style shootings. While the two incidents are not currently believed to be connected, the killings are part of the most deadliest year in Iraq since the sectarian violence of 2006-2007.

Abductors in army uniform execute 18 in Iraq (Al Jazeera)

‘The near future of Iraq is dark’: Warning from Muqtada al-Sadr – the Shia cleric whose word is law to millions of his countrymen (The Independent)
18 Sunnis kidnapped in Iraq later found shot dead (Washington Post)


MC_3 Syrian Rebels Balk at Peace Talks and Rule Out Cease Fire 
The Free Syria Army, led by General Salim Idriss, indicated that the FSA would not participate in the upcoming rounds of peace talks in Switzerland that are currently scheduled for late January 2014. Seen as a blow to those advocating a negotiated settlement that leads to a transitional government in Syria, the FSA rejection of peace talks and call for continued resistance is most likely a reaction to a string of defeats it has suffered at the hands of regime forces over the past several months.

Syrian rebels rule out peace talks ceasefire (Al Jazeera)

One Syrian rebel group balks on peace talks, another uncertain (LA Times)
Free Syrian Army says no ceasefire for Geneva peace talks (Reuters)


MC_2 US to Destroy Syrian Chemical Weapons at Sea
In response to numerous countries’ refusal to accept Syria’s stockpile of chemical weapons for destruction, the United States has agreed to take charge of the task. The agreement between the United States and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) would require the US to provide a specially outfitted ship with the technology necessary to destroy the weapons as well as finance the actual destruction. Currently US authorities are searching for a Mediterranean port where the ship can complete the destruction.
U.S. offers to destroy Syrian chemical weapons (Washington Post)

US offers to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons (Al Jazeera)

Syrian chemical arms ‘to be destroyed on US Navy ship’ (BBC)


MC_1 World Reacts to the Iran Nuclear Deal
Last week’s agreement between Iran and the United States, France, Germany, Britain, China and Russia saw varied reaction from leaders around the world. Israeli PM Netanyahu called the deal a “historic mistake”, hawks in the US Congress panned the agreement as soft and conservative commentators labeled the deal as “worse than Munich”. Conversely, the American public, UN Secretary-General and numerous leaders across the world viewed the agreement as a positive development that likely averted armed conflict. Only time will tell which side is correct.
Where does the Iranian nuclear deal leave Binyamin Netanyahu? (The Guardian)
Israel’s Netanyahu calls Iran Deal ‘Historic Mistake’ (Washington Post)
The ‘Munich’-Iran deal analogy is absurd (Washington Post)
Americans back Iran deal by 2-to-1 margin: Reuters/Ipsos poll (Reuters)

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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.