December 9th – December 15th, 2013

Each week, the Middle East News Review looks at the top five stories impacting the Middle East.  For the week ending December 15, 2013, the top five stories include a disruptive winter storm; revelations about a missing ex-FBI agent in Iran; cracks in the Iran nuclear deal; fresh protests in Egypt; and a rapidly changing landscape in the Syrian civil war.

MC_5 Winter Storm Wreaks Havoc on the Region
A powerful winter storm struck the eastern Mediterranean this week and its impact was felt from Egypt to Turkey. Heavy rains, hail and snow disrupted traffic, damaged property, taxed government services and placed thousands of people in grave danger of hypothermia and exposure. In Gaza, the torrential rains exacerbated the precarious lives of its citizens who have been unable to prepare adequately due to the persistent blockade imposed by Israel. Similarly, Syrian refugees, who lack proper shelter and sufficient heating due to the Syrian civil war, suffered from the quantity of snow that fell.
From Syria to Gaza, winter storm takes its toll (Haaretz)
Syria’s child refugees face death and disease in winter storms, aid agencies warn (The Telegraph)
Egypt Sees First Snow Storm In Years (Sky News)


MC_4 Ex-FBI Agent Missing in Iran had ties to CIA
It was revealed this week that former FBI agent Robert Levinson, who in March 2007 went missing in Iran, was working for the CIA when he was visiting the Iranian island of Kish and disappeared. While the fact that Levinson was engaged in intelligence gathering for the CIA came as little surprise, it was the nature of Levinson’s operation that was newsworthy and potentially damaging for the United States.According to the initial report by the Associated Press, Levinson was working with CIA analysts who were running an operation without proper oversight by CIA management. This revelation, which the AP held for three years, is both problematic and embarrassing as the United States and Iran engage in a process of rapprochement in their often turbulent relationship and attempt to finalize a deal regarding Iran’s nuclear program.

Missing American in Iran was on unapproved mission (Associated Press)

Reports: American missing in Iran worked for CIA
(Al Jazeera America)
Former FBI agent missing in Iran was working for the CIA – report (The Guardian)


MC_3 Cracks Begin to Appear in the Iran Nuclear Deal
This week, in response to Congressional demands to ratchet up the pressure on Iran, the Obama administration blacklisted more than a dozen companies and individuals believed to be assisting Iran in acquiring equipment for its nuclear and missile programs or evading the sanction regime against Iranian oil. While the move was not a technical violation of the interim agreement concerning the Iranian nuclear program, analysts believe the decision reveals the complex and problematic landscape that the Obama administration must navigate in order to maintain support in Congress while effectively negotiating with Iran.
Iran Says U.S. Move Puts Nuclear Deal in Jeopardy (Wall Street Journal)
Iran nuclear talks halted amid row over US sanctions (BBC)
U.S. sanctions move angers Iran, Russia sees threat to nuclear deal (Reuters)


MC_2 Fresh Anti-Military Protests in Egypt End in Violence
Since the ouster of Egyptian President Mohammad Morsi in July 2013, the country has experienced almost daily protests and demonstrations against the military by Morsi supporters. This week, there was a noticeable uptick in the size of the demonstrations as well as their suppression by government forces. News agencies reported use of tear gas, water cannons and live fire by the military as they attempted to disperse the protesters, which left several dead, dozens wounded and scores under arrest.
Egyptian police fire teargas and water cannon on protesters (Reuters)
Clashes during Egypt anti-military protests (Al Jazeera)
Egypt’s Security Forces Disperse Islamist Protests (ABC News)


MC_1 Major Setbacks for Rebels in the Syrian Civil War
The Syrian rebels face a series of setbacks this week in their fight to overthrow the regime of Bashir al-Assad. Early in the week it was reported that the United States and United Kingdom were withholding non-lethal aid to the rebels but would continue to provide humanitarian aid. The US and UK decision was a reaction to reports that Islamist rebel forces had seized bases belong to the Western-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA). These Islamist forces, which according to some reports include al-Qaida elements, are of great concern among US and UK officials due to their long-term political agendas both in Syria and regionally. In addition, this week the FSA was forced to respond to media reports that their leader, General Salim Idris, had fled Syria and sought refuge in Turkey.
Top Western-backed rebel commander denies reports of fleeing Syria (RT)
Internal splintering of Syrian rebel groups leads U.S., U.K. to suspend aid (PBS Newshour)

US and UK suspend non-lethal aid into Syria (Al Jazeera)

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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.