Five Turkish police commissioners were fired a day after dozens of allies of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan were detained in a corruption probe. The investigation has been led by the financial crimes unit, in what has been seen as a challenge to Erdogan. In early morning raids on Tuesday, at least 52 people were detained including the sons of three cabinet ministers, a municipal leader, the chief executive of a state bank, and several prominent businessmen. In what appeared to be retaliation, the heads of five departments of the Istanbul police force were removed from their posts on Wednesday, including the leaders of the financial crimes and organized crime units, both of whom were involved in Tuesday's arrests. Tuesday's raids are believed to have been an attack on Erdogan by a former ally, Fethullah Gulen, an Islamic scholar what has been living in exile in the United States since 1999 when he was accused of plotting against the secular state. On Tuesday, Erdogan vowed not to bow to threats aimed at dividing the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), saying, "Nobody inside or outside my country can stir up or trap my country."
The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has outlined the plan for the transport of Syria's chemical weapons arsenal before being destroyed at sea. Russian armored trucks will move the chemical weapons from 12 sites around Syria to the port of Latakia, where they will be loaded onto Danish and Norwegian ships. They will then be shipped to an unnamed Italian port to meet the U.S. Navy ship on which the most toxic chemical materials are slated to be neutralized. Meanwhile, the family of a London surgeon who died in a Syrian prison after being held for over a year is criticizing the British government for not doing enough to secure his release. A British Foreign Office minister accused the Syrian government of effectively murdering the doctor. U.S. Ambassador to Damascus Robert Ford said the Islamist Front has rejected talks with the United States, after Secretary of State John Kerry mentioned a possible meeting with the alliance of Islamist factions. Additionally, western countries met with the Syrian National Coalition at a Friends of Syria meeting in London, where they indicated that peace talks planned for January may not lead to the removal of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
- Turkey and Iran were among the top detainers of journalists this year as 211 journalists remain imprisoned worldwide.
- Three Iranian military personnel were killed when their vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb Wednesday in southeast Iran, near the borders with Pakistan and Afghanistan.
- Amnesty International is calling for improved treatment of migrant workers in Qatar who face abuses including "severe food shortages" and conditions that may amount to forced labor.
- Around 200 African refugees are finishing a two-day journey from an "open" detention facility in the Negev desert to Jerusalem protesting their detainment in Israel.
- Several attacks across Iraq Wednesday killed 11 people, including a suicide bombing that targeted Shiite pilgrims northeast of Baghdad.
Arguments and Analysis
'Syria: Why the worst-case scenario has prevailed' (Fahad Nazer, CNN)
"In the minds of some Sunni Muslims around the world, the trepidation that the West is voicing over the prospect of Al Qaeda or other militant Islamists coming to power in Syria and the implications of such a scenario for religious and ethnic minorities is read as tacit acquiescence to what they see as a 'genocide' -- a term the usually-reserved Saudi foreign minister has been using lately -- against their Sunni brethren. To them, the West is saying 'better the Sunnis than the minority Christians, Alawites, Shia and Druze.'
This perception has already led to a serious rift between Saudi Arabia -- the leader of the Sunni world -- and the U.S.
In a strongly-worded statement explaining why it was declining a coveted two-year seat on the United Nations Security Council a few weeks ago, Saudi Arabia cited the continuing carnage in Syria as one of the main reasons why it felt the international body was not fulfilling its mandate. It also accused the world of standing 'idly' by.
These two divergent assessments must be reconciled. The truth is that Assad and al Qaeda are two ugly faces of the same coin.
The sooner the international community realizes that, the sooner the only viable option becomes clear: both of them have to go."
'First steps toward silencing dissent in Israel' (Daniel Sokatch, Haaretz)
"Since Israel's disengagement from Gaza, ultra-nationalist settlers and their supporters have looked for a legal foundation to prevent the state from ever ceding control of an inch of the West Bank or East Jerusalem. Some of them have decided that their best bet to prevent a peace agreement is to transform Israel into an ethnically homogenous state untethered from the requirements of liberal democracy. This Israel of their dreams is unabashedly and permanently militaristic, xenophobic, repressive of dissent and dismissive of universal norms of human and civil rights.
Putting a few radical NGOs out of business isn't the long-term objective here, although from their standpoint it surely wouldn't hurt. The real goal is to eventually define Israel's Jewish-and-democratic formulation in a way that can silence opposition and impose impossible strictures on freedom of speech and minority rights, and it is this objective to which attention must be paid. Only vigilant attention and expanding public understanding and support for Israeli democracy will prevent the loss of the Israel envisioned by its founders, intended to embody the best Jewish and universal values: Democratic, egalitarian, and free."
--Mary Casey & Joshua Haber
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