The Middle East Channel

Radical Cleric Abu Qatada Challenges Court as Trial Begins in Jordan

Radical Muslim cleric Abu Qatada denied terrorism charges and challenged a Jordanian court's authority to try him on Tuesday. Abu Qatada was convicted in absentia for bombings in 1998 and a foiled terror attack  in 2000 in Jordan against American and other Western targets. However, according to Jordanian law, he had the right to be present for a retrial. He was granted asylum in Britain in 1994, however security services began to view him as a threat, and fought for eight years to deport him. Abu Qatada returned to Jordan in July, upon an agreement that he would be tried by a civilian court and after Britain and Jordan ratified a treaty on torture. On Tuesday, Abu Qatada said he did not recognize the Jordanian court because it included a military judge, violating his extradition terms. The trial has been adjourned until December 24. If convicted, Abu Qatada could face 15 years in prison.

Syria

The United Nations is planning its first aid airlift into Syria from Iraq this week. According to the refugee agency, UNHCR, it will begin delivering food and winter supplies to the mainly Kurdish northeastern cities of Hassakeh and Qamishli, with up to 12 flights scheduled between Thursday and Sunday. Meanwhile, Syrian government forces are continuing an offensive in the mountainous Qalamoun region after overtaking much of the town of Nabak Monday and gaining control over a strategic highway connecting Homs with Damascus. On Tuesday, regime forces bombarded the town of Yabroud, reportedly the last rebel stronghold in the area, launching airstrikes and shelling the town with heavy artillery. The government campaign in the region is aiming to cut off an opposition supply route that runs across the nearby border with Lebanon. The Spanish newspaper El Mundo has reported two of its journalists have been kidnapped in Syria. According to El Mundo, reporter Javier Espinosa and freelance photographer Ricardo Garcia Vilanova were abducted on September 16 along with four members of the Free Syrian Army and are being held captive by the al Qaeda linked Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

Headlines  

  • Egyptian police arrested 144 pro-Morsi protesters after clashes at Al-Azhar University injured five people, meanwhile Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed Badie appeared in court for the first time since his arrest in August.
  • Iraqi forces clashed with gunmen trying to enter the country from Syria Monday, reportedly succeeding in turning them back after two hours of fighting.
  • A Dutch couple abducted in Yemen in June was released over the weekend, and is in good health, according to Yemeni and Dutch officials.
  • Water ministers from Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan held what were described as successful talks Monday on Ethiopia's Blue Nile dam project

Arguments and Analysis

'Egypt's Trouble With Women' (Alaa al Aswany, New York Times)

"During the revolution, millions of Egyptian women went out and bravely faced snipers' bullets, but those who gained power played down their bravery and attempted to sideline them. After the 2012 election that brought the Muslim Brotherhood to power, there were only 10 female members of Parliament out of a total of 508. President Mohamed Morsi's later attempt to rewrite the Egyptian Constitution would also have removed the only female judge on the Supreme Constitutional Court.

In short, the Islamists strove to eradicate the gains Egyptian women had made. They tried to overturn the law punishing doctors who carried out female genital mutilation, and refused to consider the marriage of minors as a form of human trafficking by claiming that Islam permitted a girl as young as 10 years old to be married.

Women's rights are a bellwether of the current conflict in Egypt. The revolutionaries are fighting for equality, whereas the reactionary forces of both the Brotherhood and the Mubarak regime are trying to strip women of their political and social rights and make them subject to men's authority."

'Sanctions Hawks Losing the Plot' (Matthew Duss, American Prospect)

"It's worth noting here that new U.S. sanctions would contravene of the terms of the Geneva agreement, which stipulates that no new sanctions will be passed during the six-month interim period in which the broader comprehensive deal is negotiated. They would put the United States at odds both with its P5+1 partners and the broader international community, whose cooperation has been essential to the sanctions' effectiveness, and who have made clear that further reductions to Iran's oil sales would be difficult for them to manage. It could also dramatically undermine Iranian confidence that the Obama administration can follow through on the eventual comprehensive deal that addresses all aspects of Iran's nuclear program in exchange for much broader sanctions relief. After all, if the president can't even hold his own government to this modest first-phase agreement, how can he be expected to sell a larger, probably more controversial one?

Yet for some in Congress, these risks are worth the possibility, however remote, that even more pressure on Iran -- at precisely the moment that Iran is doing the thing that pressure was supposed to make them do, compromise -- could produce a better result. 'From my perspective, it strengthens the administration's hand' and positions the United States 'for the possibility that [a permanent] agreement cannot ultimately be struck,' New Jersey Democratic Senator Robert Menendez told The Washington Post. 'It would make clear to the Iranians if they don't strike a deal, this is what's coming.'"

--Mary Casey & Joshua Haber

Shadi Alnsoor/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

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