The Middle East Channel

Egypt Apologizes for Constitution Banner Error

Egypt has apologized for a mistake on a banner promoting the country's new draft constitution. The banner, which appeared at a televised news conference on Sunday aimed at promoting the new charter, was supposed to say "a charter for all Egyptians" in Arabic, however the word "Egyptians" was misspelled, looking like the word "determined." Additionally, three of the five people pictured on the banner were westerners, with the photos taken from foreign stock libraries. The images were intended to represent individuals from different parts of Egyptian society. The State Information Service apologized for the misspelling, saying the banner had been a donation from an NGO. However, it did not mention the photos. The blunder was an embarrassment for the Egyptian government as it attempts to garner popular support for the document ahead of a mid-January referendum. 

Syria

The United Nations has announced that a long-delayed peace conference on Syria planned for January 22 in Geneva, will actually be held in the Swiss town of Montreux. The conference has been moved "due to logistical reasons" because of a lack of hotel space in Geneva. Meanwhile, public health researchers have found that the Syrian government excluded Deir al-Zour, the Syrian province where polio broke out this year, from a 2012 vaccination campaign. The World Health Organization discovered 13 cases of polio in the province in November. The Syrian regime claimed that most of the residents had fled the area, however hundreds of thousands of people had remained. A British surgeon has reportedly died while imprisoned in Syria. The 32-year-old orthopedic surgeon, Abbas Khan, had traveled to Aleppo to help civilians, and was detained by Syrian authorities for over a year.

Headlines  

  • Israeli and Lebanese military officials met with representatives from UNIFIL, the U.N. peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon, in efforts to diffuse tensions after cross border shootings.
  • A car exploded early Tuesday near a Hezbollah base in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley killing the driver and injuring two Hezbollah members.
  • Attacks across Iraq targeting mainly Shiites killed up to 92 people Monday making 2013 the most violent year in the country since 2006 to 2007.  
  • Turkish police detained 37 people Tuesday, including prominent businessmen and sons of three cabinet members in an investigation into alleged fraud and bribery having to do with public funds. 

Arguments and Analysis

'Three Months in Rouhani's Iran' (Farideh Farhi, Lobe Log)

"There is no doubt in my mind that the political calm that currently exists in Iran has been profoundly shaped by the extraordinary events of recent years and the utter failure of major political players from both sides of the spectrum to purge their opponents from the political process. Certain issues continue to weigh heavily on everyone's mind and conscience, especially the continued detention of key politicians. I cannot even begin to tell you what a conflicted experience it was to join a good number of women activists in giving a raucous welcome to Shahindokht Mollaverdi, the new Vice President for Women and Family Affairs, during a ceremony held in the presidential building on Pasteur Street. These activists from across the political spectrum were very pleased with the appointment of Mollaverdi, an impressive lawyer and formidable promoter of women's rights, and showed their joy loudly, completely ignoring Islamic decorum by whistling and shouting. The loudness inside the building, however, was a stark contrast to the silence everyone exhibited as we passed Mir Hossein Mousavi and Zahra Rahnavard's home down the road across from the presidential building. Even the location of this home, enclosed by ugly aluminum barriers, is reflective of the imposing and expectant patience that characterizes the mood of Iran. Rouhani and his team have so far exceeded expectations and proven adept in their respect of this mood at least rhetorically. That mere respect has earned them kudos, but their heavy burdens linger."

'No Israeli-Palestinian peace without Gaza' (Geoffrey Aronson, Al-Monitor)

"If Washington were truly watching, it would not be oblivious to the vibrant, if bloody relationship that Israel and Hamas/Gaza have forged in the last decade of conflict, war and mutually suspicious engagement. They would conclude that it is Gaza, not the West Bank, which for some time has been the most dynamic front of the conflict. And Washington would conclude that any effort to forge a comprehensive agreement must necessarily include, if not start with Gaza.

'Allen cannot make suggestions regarding security, without addressing Gaza at all,' observed a senior Arab diplomat who has been briefed on the recent security proposals of Obama's security envoy, retired Marine Gen. John Allen, by Palestinian officials. 'Ramallah has complained about this. And you can't expect a DOP [declaration of principles] to succeed without including Gaza, or pretending that it only addresses the West Bank.'

Nevertheless, US officials continue to see Gaza as a manageable afterthought -- believing that Israel only needs to reach an agreement with Abu Mazen first and that Gaza will, somehow 'take care of itself.' Wishful thinking, however, falls far short of policy."

--Mary Casey & Joshua Haber

Egyptian Presidency/Pool/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

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